Missing Passenger Samuel Harper


Michael Tymn

I am a freelance journalist and am writing a magazine article about William T. Stead. One of my references is "The Secret Conan Doyle Correspondences," by Leslie Vernet Harper, published in 1986. This book has a chapter in which Samuel Harper, said to be the prototype for Sherlock Holmes, describes his final moments on the Titanic and then tells of being rescued after being in the sea for an hour or so. The scene described by him appears to have inspired the scene in the 1997 movie, "Titanic," in which the two main characters hang on to the poop deck railing and ride the vessel down. The other person with him was Irene Corbett, of whom Harper was a chaperon.

In searching the passenger manifest, I cannot find Harper's name and a Google search yielded nothing on him. Apparently, Irene Corbett was not on the original manifest as White Star Lines initially denied any knowledge of her, but later admitted she was a victim.

The aforementioned book has an article written by May Futrelle, who clearly was a passenger along with her husband Jacques Futrelle, in which she says that she dined with Harper the evening before the disaster. Also, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is said to have seen Harper off in Southhampton when the ship sailed.

Harper was supposedly exiled from England some years earlier because of suggesting that the Prince of Wales was somehow involved in the Jack the Ripper case. He was a detective of some kind then and, as mentioned above, is said to be Conan Doyle's model for Sherlock Holmes.

My guess is that Harper may have been traveling under an alias, possibly not wanting to be recognized while visiting England. He would have been 58 in 1912 and there are not too many survivors in that age range on the survivor list. There was one "Samuel," of about that age who claimed to be a crew member, but it could be that Harper found that by posing as a crew member after being rescued by the Carpathia he would not be identified.

Anybody know anything about this mystery? If so, please e-mail me at [email protected]

Thank you.
I've done a bit of research and I'm convinced you are on a wild goose chase. Samuel Harper was a fictitious character in a fictitious book. The Library of Congress filed it as 'biographical fiction'.

According to a Holmes fan club, the book is about a plan to prevent the murder of former British prime minister. Arthur Balfour. It involves real and imaginary people.

It's well known that Conan Doyle was inspired by Joseph Bell and Sir Henry Littlejohn, who were known for their powers of observation and deduction. Another point is that Irene Corbett is most unlikely to have had a chaperone, even in 1912. The mistake made by White Star about her not being on the ship was corrected within five minutes. (See newspaper report on this site).

If everybody who made remarks about the Prince of Wales had been exiled, it would have taken a fleet of Titanic's to carry them.

The book has some kind of connection with the Mormons, but their site merely lists it a Mormon literature, without details.

Overall, I suggest that as a source of facts it's worthless.