“The Lowest and Vilest Alleys”: A Mobile Game Influenced by “The Valley of Fear”

During the lockdown, your Gazetteer has played a lot of escape-the-room games on an iPad. These are basically what it says on the tin: The player is trapped somewhere and must solve puzzles and/or find objects in order to escape.

One day I downloaded a game called Alleys, which locks you inside a theme-park reconstruction of an English coal-mining town where, you soon learn, something mysterious and terrible once occurred. In addition to the usual tasks of the genre, you gradually discover pieces of the backstory as you play. It’s not a great game, but it is diverting and challenging without being too difficult, and the graphics are impressive. It was created by Shi-Chi Shen of Taiwan and is quite the accomplishment for a solo programmer.

Imagine my surprise when I learned that this English town was located in the Vermissa Valley, and the villains were called The Scowrers. Shen must be a devoted fan of the Master, because scattered throughout the game are Sherlockian references, and not just to The Valley of Fear. For example:

Hmm, those names sound familiar …. But who is Dan Raines?

There are some clues that were left by someone described as a Pinkerton detective, but when you find them, these are the notes that accompany them:

Do not be misled: This is not a Sherlock Holmes game, and the storyline will win no awards, but I had fun both solving the puzzles and keeping an eye out for Canonical references.

Yes, Mycroft, we truly do hear of Sherlock everywhere.

The Charles Augustus Milverton Virtual Picnic

Once again we must cancel an event: Watson’s Picnic, originally scheduled for June 11, because of that dastardly COVID-19.

We are instead planning a virtual picnic with a discussion of “Charles Augustus Milverton,” a gripping story of blackmail, burglary, and murder. Attendees are encouraged to bring their devices outside, weather permitting, and to enjoy picnic food while talking about the story and listening to presentations.

Sidney Paget, The Strand, April 1904

We ordinarily have our Blind Auction at Watson’s Picnic; we are working on the logistics of holding it over Zoom.

To avoid conflicting with a meeting of The Parallel Case of St. Louis, we have moved the date one week later: It will be held on Saturday, June 18. Details are on the Events page; keep an eye on that or our Facebook page for any changes or updates.

At our virtual meeting today, we had several fascinating presentations about “The Priory School” We also welcomed as a new member Rich Krisciunas (from Michigan!). As Rich is already a member of several Scions, he will skip the Egg phase and go straight to a full membership.

Physical distancing doesn’t have to mean social isolation. All interested guests are welcome to join us, as Rich did. The one advantage of the virus is that it is making it more common for us to meet Sherlockians from geographically distant locations!

“His Orders Were to Stay in the House”: More Upcoming Virtual Gatherings

That fiendish pandemic is still preventing Sherlockians from gathering socially. Fortunately, we now have videoconferencing, and three more free virtual gatherings have been announced.

  • Saturday, June 19, 12:30 pm PT: NMSOBC meeting to discuss “The Priory School.” Email bluecarbuncle1971@gmail.com for the Zoom info.
  • Saturday, June 27, 5 pm PT (virtual cocktail hour, 4:30 pm): The Torists International, a scion society based in Chicago, invites all Sherlockians, friends, and family to “an infinitely introspective program.” The meeting will include a eulogy for Sherlockian scholar and Torist co-founder Tony Citera; the investiture into the Torists of the winners of the Beacon Society-Joel Senter Memorial Contest 2020; a presentation on the sources of the ciphers in “The Dancing Men”; and a reading of Vincent Starrett’s 221B. Register here; email Jonathan Shimberg for more info.
  • Saturday, October 10, 10 am PT: Save the date for the virtual Left Coast Sherlockian Symposium! Speakers will include Mina Hoffman; Leslie Klinger, BSI; Bonnie MacBird, BSI, ASH; Angela Misri; and Rob Nunn. Visit the Symposium website for more info or to register.

Stay well, everyone, and when you must go out, wear a mask!

“You Scintillate Today!”: Register for Free Virtual Scintillation of Scions XIII

Bring fellow Sherlockians into your dreary lockdown! A Scintillation of Scions, the annual literary symposium sponsored by Watson’s Tin Box of Ellicott City, MD, has announced SOS At Home, a virtual version of this year’s event.

The symposium will take place over Zoom on Saturday, June 13, 2020, at 12 noon ET (that’s—*gulp*—9 am for us Left Coasters). It is free, but you must register at the SOS website.

Scheduled Events

  • Talks by Ray Betzner, Ashley Polasek, Steve Mason, Julie McKuras,Howard Ostrom, Daniel Stashower, and Dana Richards
  • Some sort of version of the running of the Silver Blaze (Southern Division)
  • A screening of the 1976 comedy-mystery The Return of the World’s Greatest Detective, featuring Larry Hagman (!) as Sherman Holmes—an L.A. cop who falls off his motorcycle, strikes his head, and wakes up believing he’s Sherlock Holmes—with Jenny O’Hara as his social worker, Dr. Joan Watson. (We wouldn’t miss this obscure non-classic for the world!)

The organizers are also working on interactive options for attendees, including a Zoom conference room. Any questions? Email the organizers at scintillation.of.scions@outlook.com

While you’re registering, be sure to check out the Swag Shop or consider a donation to help defray the cost of the event. Your Gazetteer is wavering between these two shirts:

An enthusiastic “Halloa!” goes out to the folks at Scintillation of Scions who are volunteering their efforts to help us celebrate our love of Holmes and Watson despite the pandemic. Let us come Together Apart.

See you all on June 13th!

“I Confess that I Covet Your Skull”: Get Gruesome with a Virtual Tour of the Mütter Museum

Tired of scrolling through Netflix? Unable to stomach the internet’s endless torrent of bad news? How about a virtual tour of a medical museum?

The video below is from the Mütter Museum at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Highlights include the Giant Megacolon, Albert Einstein’s brain, and—of interest to numerous Canonical characters—the Hyrtl Skull Collection. (No corpses being beaten, I’m afraid.)

Don’t forget your calipers!

Stay well, stay safe, stay sane, stay home!