Arthur Conan Doyle &
“The Terror of Blue John Gap” Influences

by Charles Prepolec

While ‘The Terror of Blue John Gap’ is one of ACD’s most often reprinted non-Holmes short stories, the only writer on whom it appears to have had any major influence is ACD himself (‘The Horror of the Heights’ is almost an inversion of the tale, with exploration going up into the air, instead of down under the ground, and in "When the World Screamed" also riffs on it), as he moved towards an expansion of the theme with THE LOST WORLD, which in turn did have a major influence on the likes of Edgar Rice Burroughs with his various Pellucidar stories, including AT THE EARTH’S CORE (1914), as well as his standalone THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT (1924). While Bram Stoker’s THE LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM (1911) has some minor points of similarity, the background would suggest more a folklore basis (The Lambton Worm), with perhaps a nod to Hyne’s ‘The Lizard’ rather than ACD’s story.

On a different note, one might consider ‘The Terror of Blue John Gap’ an early outing in the cryptozoology field, specifically in the Bigfoot/Sasquatch/Yeti line that would gain popularity in the 1950s, but it’s something of a leap from prehistoric cave bear to a giant hairy man of the American Pacific Northwest. Or is it? Teddy Roosevelt, who ACD met personally, wrote about a Sasquatch account he’d heard in his memoirs, and there were news reports of marauding grizzly bears nicknamed ‘Bigfoot’ coming out of America in the 1890s, so anything is possible.


Charles Prepolec MBt, BSI (The Man with the Twisted Lip) is co-editor of four Sherlock Holmes fiction anthologies (with J. R. Campbell) for EDGE SF & F - Gaslight Grimoire: Fantastic Tales of Sherlock Holmes (2008), Gaslight Grotesque: Nightmare Tales of Sherlock Holmes (2009), Gaslight Arcanum: Uncanny Tales of Sherlock Holmes (2011) and Gaslight Gothic: Strange Tales of Sherlock Holmes (2018), plus Professor Challenger: New Worlds, Lost Places (2015); as well as co-editor (with Paul Kane) of Beyond Rue Morgue: Further Tales of Edgar Allan Poe's 1st Detective (2013) for Titan Books.