Reichenbach Falls, Bernese Oberland, Switzerland
© Chris Milne/Alam
The scene of a literary crime
Remarkable enough in itself, this 800-foot mountain waterfall is also the site of one of fiction's most enduring showdowns between good and evil. Just outside Meiringen, Switzerland, the Reichenbach Falls are the backdrop for 'The Final Problem'—the 1893 Sherlock Holmes story where, on a precipice near the falls (which in the 19th century gushed with far more power than our recent image shows), the genius detective enters a death duel with the criminal Professor Moriarty. In the end, both men plummet to their presumable doom.
Though the action in 'The Final Problem' was set on May 4th, it's May 22 that's celebrated as Sherlock Holmes Day since it's author Arthur Conan Doyle's birthday. The doctor-turned-author created Holmes with 'A Study in Scarlet' in 1887 and intended to kill off his famous protagonist with 'The Final Problem' to move on with his literary life. Nonetheless, pressure from Doyle's anguished, sleuth-starved public led him to 'resurrect' Holmes (but not Moriarty) a decade later with 'The Adventure of the Empty House.' In all, Doyle issued four novels and over 50 short stories starring Holmes over four decades—and they've inspired countless other books, plays, radio dramas, movies, TV shows, comics, and video games that feature the super-sleuth.