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You are a natural Sherlock Holmes

Article by Author of How To Instantly Size Up Strangers Like Sherlock Holmes

Sherlockian Holmesian

“…Much practice has made it second nature to me.”
Sherlock Holmes, A Study in Scarlet

Sherlockian Holmesian

Many people believe that because Sherlock Holmes is a fictional character, you cannot do what he did in real life. They say that the methods Sherlock Holmes used to size up strangers are not practical. They claim Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created stories where Holmes’s solutions to problems would always turn out correct. Conan Doyle did not believe that and neither do I.

Conan Doyle based Sherlock Holmes’s mental skills on a real live person. His name? Dr. Joseph Bell. Mr. Bell lectured at the University of Edinburgh medical school in Scotland in 1876. Doyle watched first hand as Doctor Bell would meet strangers and tell their occupations, trades and where they recently came from by just glancing at their appearance. Conan Doyle also possessed these same Holmesian mental skills. In fact, he used these skills to exonerate two innocent men for crimes they did not commit.

The mental skills that Conan Doyle used in real life to solve cases and Sherlock Holmes used throughout the Canon to size up strangers come natural to you. You already possess them. In fact, people do basic Holmesian mental skills in their everyday lives all the time. For example, when you see a woman with a large stomach, you instantly know she is pregnant and may even estimate how far she is with the baby by how large her stomach is. This is a Holmesian type deduction.

How about if you see a man with a black eye and swollen lips? You instinctively know he recently had a physical altercation. Or when you see a man or woman with wedding rings on their fingers, you instantly know they are married. Or a woman who believes her man is cheating. She looks for physical signs such as lipstick on his collar or a perfume scent she does not wear on his body. She may notice condoms in his wallet (they have sex without condoms). These are obvious common sense everyday evaluations that we make without even thinking about it. They are also basic Holmesian styled deductions. The average person does them occasionally. The difference with Sherlock Holmes is that he does it consistently.

Sherlock Holmes trained himself to perform these mental gymnastics through practice and study. You, too, can learn these mental skills. In fact, there are websites where users practice using Sherlockian techniques to size up strangers. For example, at the, Reddit users observe photographs that other users send in. They figure out the owner’s gender, age, country, education, hobbies and handedness from the visual cues (books, posters, furniture placement, jewelry, etc.) they detect in the photographs.

People who watch celebrities and politicians on television, in magazines and in newspapers are also performing Holmesian type deductions. They observe any minor changes in the celebrities weight, appearance, facial features, fashion, body language and behavior. They hang on to a politician’s every word and gesture to determine when the politician is lying or telling the truth. These people are using a form of Sherlockian analysis, even though they may not realize it.

In my new book How to Instantly Size-Up Strangers Like Sherlock Holmes, I show readers exactly how to apply the Sherlock Holmes method. Moreover, I have personally made Sherlockian type deductions. For example, once while sitting in a pizza shop, I observed four Caucasian males walk in. They wore dark two-piece suits with earpieces that secret service agents wear. I noticed at least two of them had gold shield on their belts. I saw bulges under their suit jackets that appeared to be guns. I pegged them as detectives or involved in law enforcement.

Although I sized up the four men as being in law enforcement, I am still learning, and am by no means an expert or on Holmes’s level. But I do know someone in real life who could do what Holmes did. My mentor Thomas Stanziale, Sr., could size up people just like Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Joseph Bell. I saw him do it many times and became interested in learning how to do it myself. After seeing him in action, I tried to do what he did. I wrote the book to help me improve my skills, since a person understands and learns more as they explain and teach others.

I’ve been practicing the techniques each day trying to get better. I’ve had successes and failures in sizing up people. I am a union shop steward at work in the United States Postal Service and use the techniques when I deal with people on my job. I have to size up people constantly to tell if they are speaking the truth or not, to help them resolve their problems and so forth.

My knowledge of Sherlock Holmes comes from all the research I did to write the book. This research relies on both study and real world application of the techniques within the book. I believe people can learn Sherlock’s method if they put forth the effort, study and really train. We all can apply the basic deductions. These are the ones where you deduce a stranger’s age or weight by their appearance. Or you tell where someone is from by their accent or the clothes they wear.

It is the intermediate and advance logical deductions that most people must practice and train to improve their skills. It’s not easy to guess a stranger’s job, health, hobbies, sexual orientation, country of origin, education or read minds without extensive study and training. But it is possible to do it. When Arthur Conan Doyle wrote about Sherlock Holmes and his methods, his inspiration came from seeing a real live person actually do them. You already have the natural skills to become like Sherlock Holmes. You just have to study and train yourself in his methods to reach your full potential.

Written by Mark A. Williams, Sr.
- Date: 2/08/2015 - © All Rights Reserved.


1. Arthur Conan Doyle describes how Dr. Bell sized up students in his autobiography,
Memories and Adventures, Page 330.

2. See Wikipedia, Arthur Conan Doyle, Section 1.8:
Correcting Injustice, Endnotes 48 and 49.

Sherlockian Holmesian

Sherlock Holmes book

Sherlockian Holmesian

The following review was written by Revati, editor of the site. Mr. Williams kindly sent her the book in efile format.

How to Instantly Size-Up Strangers Like Sherlock Holmes by Mark Williams is a very interesting and enjoyable book. It is not a light reading, however, you have to concentrate on it. I recommend this book to everyone who is interested in learning the methods used by the world’s greatest detective.

It is a great advantage if the reader thoroughly knows the Arthur Conan Doyle Canon. The author shows at least three examples for every single technique Sherlock applied, so you can see in practice when and how Holmes used his special knowledge. At the same time, the weaknesses of some unscientific methods are mentioned as well (phrenology, graphology).

Mr. Williams stresses that everybody makes mistakes, and no one becomes like Sherlock Holmes overnight. The Baker Street genius practiced his method for many years; he worked hard to master the techniques. The author suggests that anyone who wants to follow Holmes’s example has to be determined, persistent and patient. It is helpful to reread the Canon many times – you can always find something new in it, something that you missed before.

The author also gives many practical tips. His opinion is that reading, developing the five senses, using your memory, and constant practice are very important in learning the methods of Sherlock Holmes. He recommends lots of books, magazine articles, websites and videos that make this learning process simple. The book contains exercises, which are easy to follow. I highly recommend it to all Sherlockians. How to Instantly Size-Up Strangers Like Sherlock Holmes is approved by The Conan Doyle Estate Ltd.

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