The Real Hound of the Baskervilles

The Hound of the Baskervilles is one of the most popular stories about the detective Sherlock Holmes, focusing on Holmes’ investigation into a phantom dog that has been terrorizing a family. What is relatively unknown however is the origins of the story which is as popular as the story itself
(Sir) Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, attempted to kill off the character in ‘The Final Problem,’ but due to public dissatisfaction and protests, he later revealed in ‘The Empty House’ that Holmes had survived. During a visit to his friend Bertram Fletcher Robinson in Norfolk and a subsequent trip to Dartmoor, Doyle discovered elements that inspired him to create a new story for his famous detective, even though he had not originally intended it to be a Holmes tale. Robinson told him about a phantom dog with fiery red eyes, known by various names such as ‘black shuck’ or the ‘yeth hound,’ said to haunt both the Norfolk countryside and Dartmoor, believed to be a manifestation of the Devil or even the Devil’s pet.

Doyle was intrigued not only by tales of a ghostly dog but also by the 17th-century squire, Cabell. Suspecting his wife of infidelity in 1677, Cabell chased and killed her, leading to a deadly confrontation against her faithful hound who was determined to avenge his mistress. Both Cabell and the hound died during the fight, with the dog’s spirit haunting subsequent generations of the family. Villagers later built a large building around Cabell’s tomb to attempt put his soul to rest.

Capbell’s wife’s death and his confrontation with her dog inspired a chapter in Doyle’s story. It depicts Hugo Baskerville, infatuated with a farmer’s daughter, pursuing her over the Moor, swearing his soul to the Devil if he captures her – a fate similar to Squire Cabell’s. Hugo’s friends find both him and the girl dead, with a sinister black hound standing over their bodies. This haunting beast later torments the next generation of the family until its true identity is revealed at the end, concluding the story.

Doyle discovered the name Baskerville through Harry Baskerville, a coachman and guide for both Doyle and Robinson. He knew of a Baskerville family living near the Welsh border four years ago in 1897. This family had intermarried with the Vaughan Family, who owned a large black Labrador. This inspired Doyle to create a rival family, the Stapleton Family, in his story. They turn out to be the owners of the haunting dog, which they trained to be savage, devilish, and ghostly. The Stapletons are indirectly related to the Baskerville family and share a rivalry against them.


The English countryside where the story is set is beautiful and exotic. However thanks to its often foggy and misty atmosphere, the haunting and mysterious lands of Dartmoor in Southern England make it easy to envision the supernatural and it is no wonder that these lands have earned the moniker ‘The Devil’s Playground’

Baskerville Hall is believed to be based on one of three possible houses near Dartmoor: Fowelscombe in Ugborough parish (the seat of the Fowell Baronets); Hayford Hall near Buckfastleigh (also owned by John King of Fowelscombe), and Brook Hall in Buckfastleigh parish, about two miles east of Hayford, the actual home of Richard Cabell. Another claim suggests that Baskerville Hall might be based on a property in Mid Wales, built in 1839 by Thomas Mynors Baskerville, a relative of the Baskerville family known to Doyle as a family friend during his stay there. Formerly named Clyro Court, the house was later renamed Baskerville Hall.


In ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles,’ Doyle reintroduced Holmes after nine years, preceding ‘The Final Problem.’ Published in 1902, it is hailed as the finest Holmes story to date.


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