Easton Star-Democrat

Addicted to Sherlock

Baker Street Irregulars band together in Easton

By DAVE WILLIAMS Staff Writer (November 29, 1993)

Sitting under hats like the ones worn by his favorite characters,

Michael Whelan reads one of his many Sherlock Holmes novels.

EASTON - In Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Man With the Twisted Lip," the Bar of Gold was the name of an opium den, described as "the vilest murder-trap on the whole riverside."

But the Denizens of the Bar of Gold is not a group for those addicted to narcotics, but rather for Sherlock Holmes addicts, who can't get enough of the exploits of the fictional London detective and his stalwart companion Dr. Watson.

The group, which will have an organizational dinner at the Tidewater Inn Dec. 11, is to be a "scion," or chapter of the Baker Street Irregulars, a national group named for the street urchins who served as Holmes' eyes and ears on the street. The group was founded in 1934 by literary critic Christopher Morley.

"Most of the people involved in the Sherlock Holmes thing tend to be very literary. They like books. They like mysteries. They're captivated by the Victorian time of Holmes and Watson,'' said Michael Whelan the group's founder. "I suppose there's a little bit of romantic in them."

Whelan gives talks on the Holmes phenomenon and collects literature and memorabilia, including posters from some of the more than 250 movies about Holmes and original drawings from the books.

He said he's been an avid Holmes fan since he was a teenager living in Chicago, when he went with a friend into a bookstore owned by a man who turned out to be the editor of the Baker Street Journal, a publication for Holmes enthusiasts.

"We went down to see this guy's bookstore, and he had maybe three (building) stories of things, of stuff on Doyle," Whelan said.

Most scions of the Baker Skeet Irregulars name themselves di-rectly after stories by Doyle, such as The Red Circle in Washington or The Speckled Band in Austin, Texas, he said.

Whelan said he named his group for the infamous opium den because "I just thought it was an outrageous name." But he said the group will not live up to the reputation of the denizens of the real Bar of Gold.

"I think the strongest thing that'll be served at the dinner will be alcohol," he said. "I don't want people thinking that we're starting a dope ring on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

Whelan said the Denizens of the Bar of Gold isn't the first group to take on a risque name. "When I got out of college I joined a group called Hugo's Companions, named after Hugo Baskerville" from "The Hound of the Baskervilles," he said. "And of course, Hugo's companions were a bunch of drunken louts."

The organizational dinner meeting will include a quiz on "The Man With the Twisted Lip," from which the group takes its name, as well as "a surprise guest coming in who's going to give a talk on a subject that's associated with the name of our scion," he said.

"There's nothing very rigorous or organizational about these groups," said Whelan, noting that the dinner is open to the public. "It's mostly for just good fun."