14. The Terror of Blue John Gap (1910)



‘The Terror of Blue John Gap’ is a horror-monster short story written by Conan Doyle in 1910. A little gem of a story, it harks back to some of Conan Doyle’s early gothic fiction while giving a taste of things to come in The Lost World (1912).

You can read the short story here: https://www.arthur-conan-doyle.com/index.php?title=The_Terror_of_Blue_John_Gap

The episode can be heard below:

Synopsis


Whilst taking a rest-cure in the Derbyshire Peak District, Dr James Hardcastle learns of the sinister local legendry surrounding the long-abandoned Roman mine-working known as Blue John Gap. Although sceptical about the tales, despite having heard eerie sounds in the vicinity himself, Hardcastle is seized by the spirit of enquiry and adventure and decides to explore. However, deep within the Gap, his light gives out and it seems he is not alone…

Writing and publication history

Written in April/May 1910, shortly after Conan Doyle had returned from holiday in Cornwall.

First published in the UK in The Strand Magazine (August 1910) and collected in The Last Galley: Impressions and Tales (1911).

Literary inspirations

Jules Verne, Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1864)

Edward Bulwer-Lytton, The Coming Race (1871)

H. G. Wells, The Time Machine (1895)

C. J. Cutcliffe Hyne, ‘The Lizard’ (Strand Magazine, June 1898)

Henry Tukeman, ‘The Killing of the Mammoth’ (McClure’s Magazine, October 1899)

James De Mille, A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder (Harper’s Weekly, 1888)

Frank Mackenzie Savile, Beyond the Great South Wall (1901).

Jules Lermina, L’Effrayante Aventure (1913), (UK tr. Panic in Paris)
Wardon Allan Curtis, ‘The Monster of Lake LeMatrie’ (Pearson’s Magazine, August 1899)

Palaeontology

Richard Owen
William Smith (1769-1839) - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Smith_(geologist)

Georges Cuvier (1769-1832) - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Cuvier

Richard Owen (1804-92) - coined the word “dinosaur” in 1842 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Owen

Arthur Smith Woodward (1864-1944) - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Smith_Woodward

Edwin Ray Lankester (1847-1929) – possible inspiration for Professor Challenger - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ray_Lankester

The Blue John Gap

Blue John (mineral) - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_John_(mineral)

Castleton - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castleton,_Derbyshire

Treak Cliff Cavern - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treak_Cliff_Cavern

Treak Cliff tours - https://bluejohnstone.com/

The Princess Bride (1987, dir. Rob Reiner)

The Lair of the White Worm (1988, dir. Ken Russell)

Passing mentions


Charles Dickens, Bleak House (1853)

Bram Stoker, The Lair of the White Worm (1911)

The Lambton Worm legend - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lambton_Worm

William Adam, Gem of the Peak (1843)

Quatermass and the Pit (BBC, 1958-9, wr. Nigel Kneale)

Related Conan Doyle works and Sherlockian connections

‘The Haunted Grange of Goresthorpe’ (1877) - https://www.arthur-conan-doyle.com/index.php?title=The_Haunted_Grange_of_Goresthorpe

Rodney Stone (1896) - https://www.arthur-conan-doyle.com/index.php?title=Rodney_Stone

The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902) - https://www.arthur-conan-doyle.com/index.php?title=The_Hound_of_the_Baskervilles

The Adventure of the Priory School (1905) - https://www.arthur-conan-doyle.com/index.php?title=The_Adventure_of_the_Priory_School

‘The Silver Mirror’ (1909) - https://www.arthur-conan-doyle.com/index.php?title=The_Silver_Mirror

The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot (1910) - https://www.arthur-conan-doyle.com/index.php?title=The_Adventure_of_the_Devil%27s_Foot

‘The Romance of Medicine’ (speech given on 4 October 1910) - https://www.arthur-conan-doyle.com/index.php?title=The_Medical_Session:_St._Mary%27s_Hospital

The Lost World (1912) - https://www.arthur-conan-doyle.com/index.php?title=The_Lost_World

The Wanderings of a Spiritualist (1921) - https://www.arthur-conan-doyle.com/index.php?title=The_Wanderings_of_a_Spiritualist

Memories and Adventures (1924) - https://www.arthur-conan-doyle.com/index.php?title=Memories_and_Adventures

The Land of Mist (1926) - https://www.arthur-conan-doyle.com/index.php?title=The_Land_of_Mist

Works referenced


Dana Martin Batory & William A. S. Sarjeant, 'The Terror of Blue John Gap': A Geological and Literary Study’ (ACD – The Journal of the Arthur Conan Doyle Society, No. 5, 1994)

Douglas Elliott, The Curious Incident of the Missing Link: Arthur Conan Doyle and Piltdown Man (Bootmakers of Toronto Occasional Papers, No. 2, 1988)

Michael Harrison, In the Footsteps of Sherlock Holmes (1958)

Mark Jones and Paul M. Chapman, ‘Exploring the Edge of the Unknown: Arthur Conan Doyle and the Borderlands of Science,’ forthcoming in Science and Sherlock Holmes, ed. Dana Richards (BSI Press, 2022)

Next time on the Doings of Doyle…

A double dose of Etienne Gerard for our first encounter with Conan Doyle’s Napoleonic Hussar hero - ‘How the Brigadier Held the King’ and ‘How the King Held the Brigadier’ (1895).

Acknowledgements

Thanks to our sponsor, Belanger Books: www.belangerbooks.com, and to our patrons on Patreon.

Image credits: Thanks to Alexis Barquin at The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopaedia for permission to reproduce these images. Please support the encyclopaedia at www.arthur-conan-doyle.com.

Music credit: Sneaky Snitch Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com). Licensed under Creative Commons:  By Attribution 3.0 License. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

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