Intuition & Insight

by Margie Deck & Nancy Holder

In our recent read of page 5, we wondered why Dr. Hardcastle disbelieved his own senses when he doubted his hearing of the eerie sounds emanating from the Blue John Gap. Now, on page 7, we find him discounting his intuition—what we might call a “gut feeling”—as it warns him of danger. These intuitive warnings, seemingly evidenced by “a most unpleasant sinking” of his heart and the trembling of his hands, are difficult for him to control despite his decision to consider his insight about the possible meaning of the mud impression to be “absurd.”

According to a study of continuity in intuition and insight, “Intuition and insight can be deployed on the same continuum. Intuition is the unconscious ability to create links between information; insight is a process by which a sudden comprehension and resolution of a situation arises (i.e. euréka).” The researchers’ results were consistent with the idea that “that intuitive decisions in various tasks are based on the activation of pre-existing knowledge, which is unconsciously retrieved, but nevertheless can elicit an intuitive impression of coherence and can generate insight.”

The undesired trembling of the hands is certainly a result of information unconsciously retrieved; it is a well-known indicator of the human flight or fight response, the hormonal surge, particularly of adrenaline, that primes the body to either participate in a battle or to swiftly run away. The increased tension in the muscles can cause the involuntary shaking.

We do not know why Arthur Conan Doyle chose to characterize Dr. Hardcastle as a man who ignores his intuition—he clearly valued it. Sherlock Holmes did as well. Holmes discusses it many times, including his lament about Scotland Yard from “The Adventure of the Three Garridebs”: “There may be an occasional want of imaginative intuition down there, but they lead the world for thoroughness and method.”

Near the end of this page, after Hardcastle recaptures his nerve, he takes a great precaution for his future safety that is entirely dependent on his eyesight. Poor fellow, this method is not going to help him when circumstances lead him to “sudden and desperate disaster.”

Perhaps he should have heeded his intuition.

Copyright 2024 Margie Deck & Nancy Holder


What Is That Mark?

by Paul Thomas Miller

Dr. James Hardcastle’s account of the mark describes something large (both in depth and breadth) and ill-defined. It is clear that he thought it was the footprint of an animal despite his efforts to convince himself otherwise. For example, because of the print’s isolation, he concludes that the creature must have a long stride. What animal, then, might have produced such a mark? Let us consider the known fauna of Derbyshire.

continued . . .

Conan Doyle and Elephants

by Phil Bergem

Conan Doyle makes a comparison to an elephant twice in “The Terror of Blue John Gap,” once in reference to the creature’s footprint and another time writing “in size it was far larger than the largest elephant.” A question arises if, when the story was written in 1910, he had ever seen an elephant himself.

continued . . .


front cover & matter: a (home) • bcd    back cover: e

text: 123456 • 7 • 8 • 9 • 10 • 11 • 12 • 13
14 • 15 • 16 • 17 • 18 • 19 • 20


The autograph manuscript of “The Terror of Blue John Gap” reproduced above is courtesy of Dartmouth College Library, Rauner Special Collections, MS-93: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.


of passages worn by the subterranean streams wound away into the

depths of the earth. I was standing there wondering whether I had better

return or whether I dare venture further into this dangerous

labrynth, when my eyes fell upon something at my feet which

strongly arrested my attention.

The greater part of the floor of the cavern was covered with

boulders of rock or with hard encrustations of lime [deleted: . But / inserted: but] at this particular

point there had been a drip from the distant roof which had left a

patch of soft mud. In the very centre of this there was a huge mark,

[deleted: a great irregular / inserted: an ill defined] blotch, deep, broad, and irregular, as if a [deleted: great]

great boulder had fallen upon it. No loose stone lay near however,

nor was there anything to account for the impression. It was

far too large to be caused by any animal, and besides there was

only the one, and the patch of mud was of such a size that

no conceivable stride could have covered it. As I rose from the

examination of that singular mark, and then looked round into

the black shadows which hemmed me in I must confess that I

felt [inserted: for a moment] a most unpleasant sinking of my heart, and that, do what I

would, the candle trembled in my outstretched [deleted: [illegible]] hand.

I soon recovered my nerve however when I reflected

how absurd it was to associate so huge and shapeless a mark with

the track of any known animal. Even an elephant could not

possibly have produced it. I determined therefore that I would not

be scared by vague and senseless fears from carrying out my

exploration. Before proceeding I took good note of a curious

rock formation in the wall by which I could recognize the entrance

of the Roman tunnel. The precaution was very necessary for the

great cave, so far as I could see it, was intersected by passages.

Having made sure of my position, [deleted: and / inserted: and reassured myself by] examin[deleted: ed / inserted: ing] my spare

candles and my matches, I advanced slowly over the rocky &

uneven surface of the cavern.

And now I come to the point where I met with such

sudden and desperate disaster. A stream some twenty feet broad

The full story as it was printed in The Strand is available at
The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia.