The View from Sherlock Peoria (66)
September 6, 2003
Peoria's Other Sherlockian Society
Eventually, most fair-sized cities with a Sherlock Holmes club tend to wind up with something else a second Sherlock Holmes club. Whether its from a schism in the membership, a desire not to drive across town to meetings, or the ego of a founder whos hoping to boost his credentials for getting into the Baker Street Irregulars, second scion societies can pop up when you least expect them. And so it is with Peoria.
Peorias primary Sherlockian society, the Hansoms of John Clayton, have been around since 1977, and I learned of them in 1979, joining up as soon as I could. Peorias second Sherlockian society, the Reichenbach Cliff Divers were not quite so easy to find or desiring of my presence in their ranks.
To say that Peorias second society is reclusive would be something of an understatement. Even though I live in the same town as this bunch, the only was I first learned of their existence was through a footnote in the June 1985 issue of The Baker Street Journal, which cited an article in a publication called Reichenbachian Cliff Notes. I had met the author of the article cited in the footnote, a fellow named Ligon, who now lived in St. Louis, and contacted him to see how I could subscribe to Reichenbachian Cliff Notes. Oddly enough, he wasnt at all sure, even though he knew that the journal originated in Peoria, Illinois.
Ligon sent me an extra copy of Reichenbachian Cliff Notes that he had, volume one, number eight, from December of 1985. It was missing pages, contained some kind of punk rock piece I could barely understand, an article tying Dr. Frank N. Furter from Rocky Horror Picture Show in with an untold tale of Sherlock Holmes (the remarkable worm one), and a collecting column by "Peasely Dungerabber ." The editor was listed simply as "KJP" and no mailing address was given for the publication.
I spread inquiries about the journal among my Sherlockian friends, and eventually netted another copy this one coming all the way from Wally Conger in California. This one was volume one, number ten, for May of 1986. "KJP" turned out to be Kendall Pagan, an eccentric Peoria Sherlockian who had some small run-ins with the Hansoms of John Clayton and was also the writer of the article in the BSJ that had started my quest. This May 1986 had more punk rock references, photos from a seminar Id never heard of, a tribute to a Sherlockian Id never heard of, a "pastiche of the week" in which the Scotland Yard men of the Holmes stories all gang up and beat Holmes to a pulp, more by Peasely Dungerabber, and as before missing pages.
By this time, my friend and future neighbor Bob Burr had joined me on the search for the mysterious Reichenbach Cliff Divers, and somewhere in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Bob made some sort of back-alley connection to the group. I even suspect he had gotten his own spy amongst their ranks, because even though he usually couldnt tell me when their meetings would be before they took place, he could usually tell me something of them after. And Bob also became a good source for other issues of the Cliff Diver journal, Reichenbachian Cliff Notes. Thanks to Bob, my collection of Reichenbachian Cliff Notes (or "R. Cliff-Notes" as the cover reads) now stands as follows:
Volume 1, Number 8, December 1985
Volume 1, Number 10, May 1986
Volume 12, Issue 43, January 28, 1988
New Series, Volume 1, Number 8, August 1991
Summer Fun Issue, 1996
Volume 14, Issue 5, Sometime in the years 1997-2003
At some point in the last few years, Kendall Pagan, the original editor of the journal and apparent founder of the Reichenbach Cliff-Divers, passed away. I am told that he was the foremost Sherlockian bungee jumper and one of his little adventures went awry. I think the club, and its bizarre journal, still continue, but as always, I seem to be the last one to know . . . even living in the same city.
Your humble correspondent,