Welcome to
“The Terror of Blue John Gap” Project
& All Our Questions

by Margie Deck & Nancy Holder

When the ACD Society announced its agreement with Dartmouth College’s Rauner Special Collections Library to publish the autograph manuscript of Arthur Conan Doyle’s tale “The Terror of Blue John Gap,” a ripple of quiet excitement passed through the world of serious Doylean scholars, as the manuscript has not been widely reproduced or circulated. A twitter of interest also appeared from the collective fandom of Doyle’s work—a fandom perhaps mostly made up of those who entered his world via the door labeled Sherlock Holmes and decided to stay for dinner, to taste some of the other options Doyle had on offer.

And a tasty treat this story is, too. Doyle is in fine form in this tale that first appeared in The Strand Magazine in September 1910. Dana Martin Batory & William A.S. Sarjeant, writing for The Journal of The Arthur Conan Doyle Society in 1994, noted, “Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s short science fiction story ‘The Terror of Blue John Gap’ is a good example both of Conan Doyle’s extraordinary use of past experiences as a source of inspiration and of his expertise in creating high-quality tales out of casual reading and research.”

We cannot disagree, but we have questions. Is it science fiction? Is it horror? Is it a tale of the supernatural? What past experiences did Doyle call on to write this story? Why was he inspired to write it? What is Blue John anyway? What is so terror inducing?

Fear not! We plan to use these pages to answer these questions. We are inviting a wide range of Sherlockians, popular culture scholars, and writers of many sorts to comment on these aspects of the tale and many others. We hope the work here encourages readers to explore all of Doyle’s work not only for the masterpieces like The Hound of the Baskervilles but also for the perhaps not as well-known gems like “The Terror of Blue John Gap.”

To kick us off, please find to our right, Paul Chapman, one-half of the mighty podcast Doings of Doyle, giving us a quick look at Doyle’s structure and care of his manuscripts, accompanied by Derrick Belanger showing us how this timeless story can enthrall and inspire more than a century after Doyle dipped his pen.

Copyright 2022 Margie Deck & Nancy Holder


Arthur Conan Doyle & the Treatment of Manuscripts

by Paul Chapman

Arthur Conan Doyle could be careless in the treatment of his manuscripts (unlike, for example, Dennis Wheatley, who dignified some of his manuscripts with Sangorski & Sutcliffe fine bindings), and it is interesting to see that he chose to bind The Terror of Blue John Gap in vellum, which he also did with some Sherlock Holmes manuscripts, including The Abbey Grange, The Dying Detective, and The Lion’s Mane. Sadly, he was more cavalier with The Hound of the Baskervilles, which was dismantled and distributed piecemeal during its original promotional drive. Other manuscripts, such as How the Brigadier Rode to Minsk, remain entire, but unbound.

continued . . .

“The Devil’s Tongue of Blue John Gap”

by Derrick Belanger

Almost from the moment he could walk, Emory Gadfeld wanted to flee from the fields of Blue John. Flee from the hard labor that stooped the backs of the field workers. Flee from the mines, and their unusual purplish stones which caused an eerie violet mist to spring from the mouths of the miners. Gadfeld hated everything about the farming and mining village. He hated working with his hands, hated the lack of culture and sophistication of his peers, and hated the squalor most of the locals lived in, never knowing or caring about the depravity of their situation. Gadfeld dreamed of escaping to the city, to London, Paris, or New York where people were witty, talked in double entendres, and appeared as glamorous as those he watched on cinema screens.

continued . . .

A Few Words on
“The Devil’s Tongue of Blue John Gap”

by Derrick Belanger

I first read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Terror of Blue John Gap” when I was 14 years old. I had been reading the Sherlock Holmes stories with a voracious appetite and wanted to know what else the good doctor had to offer with his writings. When I came across “The Horror of the Heights,” I read what is still one of my all-time favorite stories. I didn’t realize he had penned weird fiction in the vein of Arthur Machen, Robert Chambers, and the authors in the Lovecraft circle. Soon after, I began devouring Doyle’s horror stories at the same rate that I was eating up Holmes. I read “Lot 249,” Doyle’s story which changed the genre of mummy fiction from romance to horror; “The Parasite,” which showcased Doyle’s alternate take on the vampire; and, of course, “The Terror of Blue John Gap,” another story which fits the category of weird fiction.

continued . . .


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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.


Blue John Gap.

A Conan Doyle.

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