Let’s face it. We all love the suspense, intrigue, and thrill of the chase. Authors know it, filmmakers know it, and those that have laid their lives down to become real-life sleuths know it too!
Everything from the BBC’s outstanding series Line of Duty to the timeless Sherlock Holmes wouldn’t exist without the inspirational unsung heroes that have lived through the ages. From the gritty Victorian London Streets where Scotland Yard built its legacy to the inception of the FBI in the early 1900s.
As Shakespeare and Sherlock once said, “The Game’s Afoot!” In this article we will introduce four inspiring real-life detectives that have helped shape history:
Victorian England is notorious for its mystery, fear-streaked cobbled alleyways, and unmasked villains. It was the time of Jack the Ripper, haunted dreams and unthinkable horrors. In addition, it was also home to one of the original popular private detectives of the day – Ignatius “Paddington” Pollaky.
Throughout the 1860s-70s, Pollaky earned a reputation as a dazzling, reputable investigator. Scotland Yard frequently consulted with Pollaky. For example, he was consulted in cases that involved criminals from Europe.
The Hungarian-born detective could speak a remarkable six languages. He had a deep interest in the inner workings of the criminal mind that made him a formidable detective. Often found alongside his dear chums Charles Dickens and Jack Whicher, Pollaky was a revered detective in his own right.
One of his most famous cases was the 1860 Roadhouse murder, which was fictionalised in Kate Summerscale’s celebrated book, The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher. Pollaky was frequently on-hand during the case. Further, it is also thought, that he may have been one of the first to deduce that the four-year-old Francis “Saville” Kent had been murdered at the hands of a family member.
William J. Burns
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is quite the authoritative voice in the matter of sleuthing. Remarkable William J Burns earned the title “America’s Sherlock Holmes” from the creator himself!
Famed for leading some of the most widely covered crimes of the early 20th century. Burns earned a reputation for his uncanny ability to weed out the unseen elements of the scene before him. From the 1910 deadly bombing of the Los Angeles Times building to apprehending the notorious dynamiters, John J. and James B. McNamara, Burns was a force to be reckoned with.
Even the most remarkable detective minds cannot solve every case. For Burns, that would become one of the most prominent cases of domestic terrorism, which remains unsolved. In 1920, The Wall Street Bombing laid waste to 38 and wounded around 400 people. He concluded that Communist sympathisers were responsible. However, not enough substantial evidence was ever found.
Allan J. Pinkerton
The Glasgow-born Allan J. Pinkerton earned his stripes at the head of the Union Intelligence Service throughout the American Civil War. He pursued some of the most iconic outlaws of the day, including the infamous Jesse James.
The Scotsman was instrumental in thwarting Abraham Lincoln’s would-be assassins. He embraced uncommon practices of the time, such as hiring women and minorities. Practically unheard of in the late 19th century.
At the height of its power, his innovative Pinkerton National Detective Agency was the largest private law enforcement organisation in the world. To this day, Pinkerton’s legacy lives on as a subsidiary of Securitas AB. It operates as Pinkerton Consulting & Investigations Inc.” and “Securitas Critical Infrastructure Services, Inc.”
William E. Fairbairn
Post World War I, Shanghai, China, was one of the most dangerous cities in the world. The country was divided, and home to a robust smuggling trade which included human trafficking and a rippling drug and gun trade.
Enter former British Royal Marine William E. Fairbairn. Fresh from landing on Chinese soil, Fairbairn enlisted with the Shanghai Municipal Police. He quickly learned that working as a plainclothes detective was akin to walking through a war zone.
Firstly, to combat the land’s chaotic lawlessness, including his involvement in over 600 combat situations with Shanghainese criminals, he became head of the SMP. Secondly, Fairbairn is responsible for organising one of the world’s first SWAT teams. Moreover, he also developed the close-quarters combat fighting system called Defendu.
Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service recruited Fairbairn during World War II. After that, he quickly established the Defendu combat style amongst the men. Alongside Eric Sykes, he developed the Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife. British commandos and the American OSS quickly adopted the blade throughout the war.
In conclusion, many believe that Fairbairn is the inspiration for Ian Fleming’s James Bond character “Q.”
There you have it. Even the greatest sleuthing minds of the past have met their match in some of the most memorable cases in history. Do you have what it takes to crack the case? Book in your next escape room adventure to find out!