R.1, R.3, R.4, R.6, R.7, R.9, W.3, SL.1, SL.2, L.4, L.6

Sherlock Holmes and the Midnight Killer

Can the world’s most famous detective solve a mysterious murder—before the killer strikes again?  

Art by Carolyn Risdale

A Famous Detective
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created the character of Sherlock Holmes in 1887. Over the next 40 years, Doyle wrote 60 stories about the clever detective.


Baker Street, London, England, 1883

N1: Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson sit in their messy apartment. 

N2: Mrs. Hudson comes in. 

Mrs. Hudson: There is a young lady here to see you. She is very upset. 

N3: Helen enters, her eyes full of fear.  

Helen: Mr. Holmes, I am so afraid.

Holmes: Tell us more. 

Helen: My name is Helen Stoner. I live with my stepfather, Dr. Roylott. 

Watson: Very rich, those Roylotts!

Helen: Not anymore. Their money is long gone. 

Watson: Ah. 

Helen: When my mother died, she left her fortune to me and my sister, Julia.  

Holmes: Go on.  

Helen: My stepfather controlled this money as long as Julia and I lived with him. 

Holmes: I see. 

Helen: But Dr. Roylott has changed. He no longer works. And he has such a temper. 

Watson: Really?

Helen: His only friends are a monkey and a cheetah. 

Watson: He keeps wild animals? 

Helen: Yes. He collects them from India. 

Holmes: Where is your sister now? 

N1: Helen wipes away a tear. 

Helen: Julia died two years ago. It was right before her wedding . . . 


The Roylott Estate, England, 1881

N2: Flash back to two years earlier. 

N3: Rain beats against the windows of an old house.

N1: Inside are three bedrooms connected by a hallway. 

N2: Julia’s room is in the middle. 

N3: Dr. Roylott’s room is on the left. 

N1: On the right is Helen’s room, where Julia and Helen talk quietly.

Julia: The past few nights, I’ve heard an odd whistle around midnight. 

Helen: Is it an animal?

Julia: Perhaps . . . I’m sure it’s nothing. Good night.

N2: Julia goes to her room. She and Helen turn their lights out. 

N3: The village clock strikes midnight. After a long silence, a scream rings out.


N1: Helen runs into the hallway. She hears a low whistle and then a clanging sound.

N2: Julia opens her door. Her face is twisted in horror. 

Julia: It was the band! The speckled band!

N3: Julia falls to the floor. 

Helen: Help! Help! 

Roylott (coming to Julia’s side): She is dead.


Baker Street, London, 1883

N1: We return to Holmes and Watson talking to Helen. 

Holmes: Julia’s doors and windows were locked? 

Helen: Yes. Always.  

Holmes: Any marks on her body? 

Helen: No. And no poison was found. 

Holmes: What is “the speckled band”? 

Helen: A ring, maybe? I don’t know.

Holmes: My dear, why are you coming to us now?

Helen: I am getting married soon. Two days ago, Dr. Roylott moved me into the room where Julia died. 

Watson: Why?

Helen: He said my room needs repairs. And last night, I heard that low whistle. Whatever killed Julia is after me!

Holmes: We must inspect your house.

Helen: My stepfather will be out today.

Holmes: Good. We will come this afternoon. 

N2: Helen leaves. 

Holmes: Watson, Miss Stoner is in great danger.


On the train, a few hours later

N3: Holmes stares out the window.

Watson: What are you thinking, Holmes?

Holmes: Roylott gets that fortune only while those girls live with him. 

Watson: Correct. If they marry and move away, Roylott is left with nothing. 

Holmes: So Roylott killed Julia—and now plans to kill Helen.

Watson: Yes. But how?

Holmes: I don’t know. But there is not a moment to spare.


The Roylott Estate, that afternoon

Art by Carolyn Risdale

What Is A Bell Rope?
Bell ropes were common in the homes of people with servants. You would pull a rope that hung from the wall, and it would ring a bell in the servant’s part of the house. The servant would then know to come and serve you.  

N1: Helen brings Holmes and Watson inside.

Helen: I’m so glad you’re here. 

N2: In Julia’s room, Holmes looks at every detail.

N3: He points to a rope hanging next to the bed. 

Holmes: Does that rope ring a bell that calls the maid?

Helen: Yes, it’s a bell rope. My stepfather installed it a few years ago. Julia never used it. 

N1: Holmes pulls the rope. 

Holmes: It’s fake. 

Helen: What?

Holmes: This rope is connected to nothing. See? It’s just hooked to the wall above that small hole.  

Watson: You’re right!

Holmes: Strange. A bell rope without a bell. 

N2: In Dr. Roylott’s room, they find a bed, a chair, and a safe with a bowl of milk on top. 

Holmes: Milk. Do you have a cat?

Helen: No.

N3: Holmes examines the seat of the chair. 

N1: On the floor, he spots a whip with a loop at the end.

Holmes: Miss Stoner, when your stepfather returns, tell him you are ill. 

Helen: All right.

Holmes: Pretend to go to Julia’s room, but go to your old room and lock the door. Your life depends on it.

Helen: Yes, Mr. Holmes.

Holmes: Watson and I will spend the night in Julia’s room.


The Roylott Estate, later that night

N2: The house is very quiet and dark.

N3: Holmes and Watson whisper in the middle bedroom. 

Holmes: Stay alert, Watson. This could be deadly. 

N1: The village clock chimes at midnight. 

N2: Then there is a sound of soft rushing air.

N3: Holmes strikes a match, then beats at the bell rope with his cane.  

Holmes: Do you see it, Watson? 

Watson: See what?

N1: A low whistle sounds, and Holmes freezes. 

N2: Moments later, they hear a scream. 


N3: They hurry to Dr. Roylott’s room. The doctor is in his chair—dead. 

N1: A strange yellow band with brown speckles is wrapped around his head. 

Watson: Look! It’s the speckled band.

N2: The band starts to move. 

Watson: It’s a snake!

Holmes: Yes, a deadly Indian swamp adder. 

N3: Holmes scoops up the snake with the looped whip. 

N1: He carries it to the safe and locks it inside.

Art by Carolyn Risdale

The Scene of the Crime 
The drawing above shows the inside of the Roylott estate—Dr. Roylott’s room on the left, and Julia’s room on the right. Holmes later finds a hole in the wall that separates the two rooms. Remember this—it’s important to solving the crime!


On the train, the next morning

N2: Watson and Holmes are taking Helen to her aunt’s house.

Helen: Mr. Holmes, I must know. How did you solve it?

Holmes: With the doors and windows locked, the danger had to come from Roylott’s room. 

Watson: How did you know Roylott had a snake? 

Holmes: He kept wild animals. A snake was a logical guess. And its poison is hard to trace. 

Helen: But how did he do it? 

Holmes: The seat of his chair looked like someone had been standing on it. That’s how he pushed the snake through the hole. 

Helen: Then it slithered down the bell rope to the bed. 

Holmes: When Roylott whistled, the snake returned.

Watson: Ah, he used the milk to train it!

Holmes: Yes. The clanging sound was the doctor shutting the snake in the safe. 

Watson: How did he know the snake would kill? 

Holmes: He sent the snake in night after night until it found its victim. 

Helen: But you were waiting this time. 

Holmes: Indeed. I hit it with my cane, making it angry. 

Watson: Then it went back through the hole . . . 

Holmes: And bit the first person it saw: Roylott. 

Helen: So many little clues, Mr. Holmes! You added them up and saved my life. 

Holmes: My dear, to a great mind, nothing is little! 

Art by Carolyn Risdale

Crime Fighting  
Sherlock Holmes solved crimes by using his brain and collecting clues. Can you list the clues he used to figure out how Julia died?

Making an Inference

Art by Carolyn Risdale

The Speckled Band  
There is no such snake as the Indian swamp adder—the author made it up. But many people believe he based it on the Indian cobra (above).

You’ve just read “Sherlock Holmes and the Midnight Killer.” Now it’s time to try this activity. 

Tip: An inference is something that isn’t stated but can be figured out from clues in the text.

What to do: Be a detective! Detectives use clues to figure out things that are unexplained. Read the questions below about the story. Make inferences to answer each question with at least one complete sentence.

At the end of Scene 3, Holmes says, “Watson, Miss Stoner is in great danger.” How does he know?

In Scene 5, why does Holmes tell Helen to pretend she’s going to sleep in Julia’s room? 

In Scene 6, why do you think Holmes lights a match before beating at the bell rope with his cane?

At the end of the play, Holmes and Watson are taking Helen to her aunt’s house. Why do you think she’s going there?

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