Holmes and Watson must fight against an seemingly supernatural hound that has been haunting the Baskerville family for generations.
Dr James Mortimer calls upon Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson in London to ask for advice. He explains that he is a doctor working in a tiny village called Grimpen in Dartmoor in Devon. One of his friends and patients, Sir Charles Baskerville, an elderly but extremely wealthy baronet, has recently been found dead from an apparent heart attack in the grounds of his country house, Baskerville Hall. An autopsy revealed that Sir Charles had a weak heart and had spent many years suffering from heart disease. However, Dr Mortimer has found an old paper about Sir Charles's family.
Written in 1742, the document is set a century earlier in the 1600s, about a supposed legend. At that time, Baskerville Hall was inhabited by Sir Hugo Baskerville, a wild, profane and godless man. Sir Hugo had become infatuated with the daughter of a yeomen who held lands near to the Baskerville estate. One night, when the girl's father and brothers were out, he abducted her and locked her in his room. One night with his friends, he discovered that the girl had escaped and he chased her across the moor. His friends overheard him say that he would sell his soul to the devil, to overtake the girl. When his friends caught up with him, the girl had died of exhaustion and fear. Then a huge, gigantic and enormous hound appeared and tore out the throat of Sir Hugo Baskerville, killing him. Some of the friends died of fear that very night and the rest were broken men for the rest of their lives. The hound is then said to purge and haunt the entire family, whose deaths have been bloody, violent, and mysterious.
Dr Mortimer explains that Sir Charles had become obsessed with the legend of the Hound. He believed it he had heard it on the moor, and refused to go out on the moor after dark. He was taking a holiday in London to recover the day before he died, on Dr Mortimer's advice. Sir Charles had been found dead in an alley of yew trees. He had stood at the gate for ten minutes and then appeared to walk on tiptoe back to the house for some reason. However, Holmes thinks he was running. Although there was not a mark of violence on the body, Sir Charles had a most ghastly expression on his face. He was found by his caretaker, Barrymore. Mortimer also reports the footprints of a gigantic hound were found near Sir Charles' body.
Sir Charles had two brothers. One, Rodger, was the black sheep of the family and a wastrel who was not unlike Sir Hugo in personality and appearance, he fled to Cuba to avoid creditors. He is believed to have died there of yellow fever/influenza in 1876, unmarried and childless. The other unnamed brother has been in France, who has raised a son, Sir Henry Baskerville, who is the heir to Sir Charles's estate and fortune and the last of the Baskervilles. Dr Mortimer explains that he has come to Holmes because he believes Sir Henry's life will be in danger when he returns to Baskerville Hall. Holmes agrees to investigate.
Sir Henry arrives in London and receives a letter advising him to keep away from the moor. Holmes deduces that whoever wrote the letter was aware of Sir Henry's movements and that the baronet is being followed in London. Sir Henry also tells Holmes that he bought a new pair of brown boots and one of them has been stolen from his hotel. As they leave, a taxi follows them. Holmes and Watson get the registration number, 2704, and catch sight of a man with a beard. The caretaker at Baskerville Hall, Barrymore has a beard. Later Sir Henry has one of his old black boots stolen and the brown one is found.
Holmes suggests that John Watson accompanies Sir Henry to Dartmoor and stays by his side in case of danger. Watson is to write reports to Holmes detailing any significant information. Sir Henry, Dr Mortimer and Dr Watson arrive in Devonshire and learn that a vicious murderer named Selden has escaped from the nearby prison and is presumed to be hiding on the moor. Once at Baskerville Hall, the Baskerville family's caretaker Barrymore, explains that he and his wife cannot be easy in their minds at the hall after the death of Sir Charles and that they will stay only until Sir Henry can find staff to replace them. He also reveals that he and his wife intend to set up a pub, called The Baskerville Arms, with some money that Sir Charles left them in his will.
During the night, Watson hears a woman crying and at breakfast Sir Henry says that he thought he also heard the sobbing. When Mrs Barrymore appears that morning she has red eyes and was clearly the lady who cried in the night time. Mr Jack Stapleton introduces himself to Dr Watson. Stapleton tries to elicit an outline of Watson's suspicions as to the death of Sir Charles but Watson insists that he is just visiting Sir Henry. Stapleton says that he knows the moor better that anyone else and claims to be able to traverse the dangerous mire to the heart in order to further his hobbies of botany and entomology. Stapleton tells Watson that he used to be a schoolmaster but that the school was forced to close and he retired to the moor. He also shows Watson the Grimpen Mire, a mire which one false step means certain death, and states that he saw a pony drown in it. Indeed, at that precise moment, Watson sees another pony go under, something which horrifies him.
Mr Stapleton's sister, Beryl, speaks with Dr Watson privately and, mistakenly assuming that he is Sir Henry, urges him to return immediately to London. Upon realizing that she is mistaken she asks Watson to persuade Sir Henry to leave. When Sir Henry meets Beryl, an attraction develops between them. Sir Henry makes the lady a proposal of marriage but to his surprise Jack Stapleton appears, verbally abuses him and behaves as though Sir Henry's attentions to his sister are extremely inappropriate.
Stapleton later apologizes to Sir Henry and gives the explanation that he fears losing his sister's company if she should marry. He asks Sir Henry to content himself with Miss Stapleton's friendship for three months before resuming any thoughts of love and marriage. Sir Henry agrees and the two men make peace with each other.
One night Watson observes Barrymore take a lamp to a window and seemingly send a signal out into the darkness. Sir Henry and Watson sit up and catch Barrymore at his stealthy task. Mrs Barrymore steps in and explains that Selden, the escaped convict hiding on the Moore, is her brother and that she and her husband have been supplying him with food out of pity.
Watson and Sir Henry set out onto the moor to tackle Selden whose location is indicated by a light on the moor. Once on the moor the cry of a hound emanates from the centre of the Grimpen Mire. The two men catch sight of Selden and give chase but he manages to outrun them. Before returning to the hall Watson glimpses the figure of a tall, thin man standing on the nearby tor.
Barrymore requests that Sir Henry and Watson do not reveal to the police that Selden is on the moor since arrangements have been made to send the escaped man to South America. Sir Henry and Watson agree and in return Barrymore reveals an important piece of information.
On the day of his death Sir Charles received a letter from someone in Coombe Tracey with the initials L.L. and the writing indicated that the sender was a woman. After Sir Charles' death Mrs Barrymore was cleaning out a grate and found the remains of the letter which had been partially burnt. The remaining piece urged Sir Charles to burn the letter and "be at the gate by ten o'clock." Dr Mortimer tells Watson that L.L. might stand for the name Laura Lyons.
Watson makes an expedition to the Neolithic stone houses on the moor in the hope of locating the mysterious man he glimpsed standing on the tor the night he and Sir Henry pursued Selden. Watson finds an occupied house and waits for the tenant to return, he is surprised and delighted to find that it is Holmes himself who has been sharing the moor with Selden. Holmes tells Watson that a close intimacy exists between Jack Stapleton and Laura Lyons and that the woman Mr Stapleton presents as his sister is in fact his wife. Stapleton was the man dogging Sir Henry in London and it was his wife who sent the warning letter.
Stapleton made a fatal mistake by telling Watson that he was once a school master, as this information has allowed Holmes to trace him. As Holmes and Watson talk they hear the dreadful cries of both a creature and of a man in terror. They rush out onto the moor and discover what appears to be the prostrate body of Sir Henry Baskerville who has seemingly fallen to his death in an effort to escape something which horrified him.
Holmes and Watson are devastated but Holmes examines the body and discovers that it is in fact Selden the convict who has been killed. Watson recalls that Sir Henry gave Barrymore some of his old clothes and the butler clearly passed these on to Selden. Holmes explains that a very real hound has been set out with the scent from the boot stolen in London and the clothes Selden was wearing sealed his fate. The reason a second boot was stolen is that initially the stolen item was new and therefore unworn, useless for trying to give the hound its scent to pursue.
Stapleton approaches and is hard pushed to hide his disappointment that it is not Sir Henry who has been killed. Stapleton says that he had invited Sir Henry over to Merripit House. It is clear that Stapleton wishes to use Sir Henry's attraction to his wife as bait to lure the baronet onto the moor and then loose the house upon him.
Once at Baskerville Hall that evening Holmes notices a resemblance to Stapleton in the portrait of Hugo Baskerville. He concludes that Stapleton is part of the family line and wishes to succeed to the estate. Holmes gives Sir Henry the impression that he and Watson are returning to London and tells him to keep the appointment he has to dine at the Stapleton's. Sir Henry is instructed to walk home alone across the moor. In reality Holmes does not intend to leave and has arranged that Inspector Lestrade should join them.
Holmes reveals to Laura Lyons that Stapleton is married. Laura feels betrayed by Stapleton who gave her the impression that he would make her his wife. Laura tells Holmes and Watson that Stapleton urged her to make an appointment with Sir Charles on the night of his death and then to forgot keeping it.
That night Holmes, Watson and Lestrade hide themselves on the path not far from Merripit House. Sir Henry begins his walk across the moor and the hound comes after him. The hound makes an attack on Sir Henry but Holmes manages to kill it. The animal that Stapleton had chosen to pass for the Hound of the Baskervilles was exceptionally large and covered in phosphorous to give it a glowing, supernatural appearance.
Holmes, Watson and Lestrade search Merripit House and find Mrs Stapleton tied up in a locked room. She reveals that her husband will have fled into the heart of the mire, where there is an old tin mine. With his haste and the foggy night she considers it impossible that he will survive the attempt. The next day when the fog has cleared Beryl Stapleton reveals the pathway to the centre of the mire. There is no sign of Jack Stapleton, and he is presumed dead, having been dragged under the boggy waters of the mire.
Stapleton was in fact the son of Rodger Baskerville, who had married after being exiled to South America. Stapleton had married Beryl García in Costa Rica but was forced to leave after he purloined public money; once he got to England he got into more trouble while running a school in the north. When he heard of the family fortune, Stapleton immediately began plotting to remove those who stood between him and the succession. The hound that they killed was from Ross & Mangles from Fulham Road, London. It was the most savage and largest in their possession. Stapleton bought the hound, carried it over the hills by the railway line, where he kennelled it in the Grimpen Mire. He half-starved it, beat it and brutalised it, thus further encouraging its aggressive behaviour.
With the case complete Holmes and Watson return to London and Sir Henry takes a long voyage around the world in the company of Dr Mortimer to recover from the strain of his experiences.
- Chapter 1: Mr Sherlock Holmes
- Chapter 2: The Curse of the Baskervilles
- Chapter 3: The Problem
- Chapter 4: Sir Henry Baskerville
- Chapter 5: Three Broken Threads
- Chapter 6: Baskerville Hall
- Chapter 7: The Stapletons of Merripit House
- Chapter 8: First Report of Dr Watson
- Chapter 9: The Light upon the Moor
- Chapter 10: Extract from the Diary of Dr Watson
- Chapter 11: The Man on the Tor
- Chapter 12: Death on the Moor
- Chapter 13: Fixing the Nets
- Chapter 14: The Hound of the Baskervilles
- Chapter 15: A Retrospection
- The tale was originally serialised (in 1901-2) in The Strand Magazine, for which Conan Doyle was paid the then-princely sum of between £480 and £620 per episode, probably equivalent to roughly eighty or ninety times that amount in modern terms.
The novel is one of the most commonly adapted works of the Sherlock Holmes Canon, if not the most adapted one. The tone and faithfulness of each adaptation can vary wildly. Here are some of the more notable ones.
- "Der Hund von Baskerville", a 1914 German-language, silent era film, produced by the Union-Vitascope film studios in Berlin. This was the first ever film adaptation of the story, as well as the first foreign language adaptation. The film starred German actor Alwin Neuss and curiously omits the character of Dr. Watson altogether. The film was presumed permanently lost for many decades, but was eventually rediscovered. Another German-language film adaptation of the novel was made in 1929, with a cast of mostly British and American actors. It was the final adaptation to be made during the silent film era.
- "The Hound of the Baskervilles", the first British, English-language feature film adaptation from 1921, produced by British film company Stoll Pictures. It starred Ellie Norwood and Hubert Willis, and was part of a series of Sherlock Holmes silent film adaptations by the studio.
- "The Hound of the Baskervilles", a 1939 feature film, produced by 20th Century Fox. Starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. This was the first film of the long-running Rathbone-and-Bruce film series of the 1930s and 1940s.
- "The Hound of the Baskervilles", a 1959 Hammer Film Productions feature film. Starring Peter Cushing and André Morrell.
- "The Hound of the Baskervilles, Part One" and "Part Two", a 1968 two-part episode of the 1960s BBC television series, starring Peter Cushing and Nigel Stock. It is the only two-part episode of the entire series and premiered in September and October 1968.
- "The Hound of Baskervilles", a 1981 two-episode adaptation, represented the third miniseries in the Soviet series The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson. It starred Vasily Livanov and Vitaly Solomin.
- "The Hound of the Baskervilles", a 1982 standalone, four-part BBC miniseries for the Sunday Classics block. Starring Tom Baker and Terence Rigby.
- The Hound of the Baskervilles, a 1983, British-American television co-production, part of a short-lived 1980s series of Sherlock Holmes television films. Starring Ian Richardson and Donald Churchill.
- "The Hound of the Baskervilles", the 1988 feature-length episode of the ITV / Granada Television series, starring Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwicke.
- "The Hound of the Baskervilles", a 2000 Canadian adaptation, part of a series of four television films. Starring Matt Frewer and Kenneth Welsh.
- "The Hound of the Baskervilles", a standalone 2002 BBC adaptation, starring Richard Roxburgh and Ian Hart.
- "The Hounds of Baskerville", the second episode of the second series of the BBC series Sherlock, is loosely based on this story.
- "Hounded", the sixteenth episode of the fourth season of the CBS series Elementary, is loosely based on this story.
- In 2010, Frogwares, publishers of the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes games, published an unrelated hidden-objects PC game featuring a loose adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles.