HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND
By Kelly Moran
Sherlock Holmes at the Volcano
Sherlock Holmes once visited the Big Island – and now he’s coming back!
Holmes was an early crime-scene investigator. Keen-eyed and sharp-witted, this most famous of fictional detectives solved murders that baffled the police of the Victorian era by focusing on seemingly insignificant clues. Would we have “C.S.I.” on TV today without having first seen Holmes tracing footprints, or examining threads, pebbles and fingerprints with a magnifying glass?
Though based in London, he visited the Kingdom of Hawaii in November of 1890 with his friend and biographer Dr. John Watson. It was supposed to be a restful vacation at the Volcano House, but they found themselves confronted by a mysterious calamity of madness and murder with supernatural overtones, that came to be known as “The Volcano Horror.” To discover the cause, and to identify the killer, they had to take a dangerous plunge into a realm of terror and death, right there on the edge of the crater!
This all happens in a stage play written, produced and directed by my friend Hal Glatzer, referencing one of the short stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
“Sherlock Holmes & The Volcano Horror” will be performed in the Theater at the East Hawaii Cultural Center, in downtown Hilo, at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday March 4, 5 and 6; and at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday March 12 and 13. Tickets are $10 (EHCC members $8), and are available now from the EHCC Box Office: 935-9085.
Several of the actors also appeared in “The House Without A Key,” Glatzer’s Charlie Chan mystery, which was presented at EHCC a year ago, including Jake McPherson (as Holmes), and Steve Peyton (as Watson).
In Sherlock Holmes’s day, the Volcano House was a one-story log cabin, built in 1877, with a lanai on its long side and a big fireplace in the parlor.
It could accommodate 35 guests, and was owned by Wilder’s Steamship Company, an inter-island line. Since there was only a trail to Kilauea from Hilo – not even a road – most visitors were tendered ashore at Honuapo, in Ka’u, and driven uphill in horse-drawn carriages. When a new Volcano House was built next door, in 1891, the old log cabin became an extra guest-wing.
In 1921, a grand 100-room hotel replaced them both on the rim of Halema’uma’u crater, and the 1877 building was moved a few hundred feet back from the edge, to be used only for storage. That was fortunate because, when a fire in 1940 destroyed the big Volcano House, the old building was spared, and was pressed into service as a lodge once more, until the current Volcano House was completed in 1941.
After that, the old building sat unused and deteriorating until the 1970s, when it was rescued by a team of historically-minded carpenters. They restored it to its original appearance, and made it into what it is today: the Volcano Art Center, in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Go there now, and you can almost see Holmes and Watson talking and smoking by the fireplace, or sitting on their lanai, gazing out over the crater . . . .
I learned “The Story of the Volcano House” from a book of that name by Gunder E. Olson, that’s available in the Park’s gift-shop and at Basically Books, on the Bayfront in Hilo.
For more information about “Sherlock Holmes & The Volcano Horror,” phone Hal at 808-895-4816 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.