This is a followup question to my own answer on another Sherlock question regarding the Season 3 finale "The Last Vow", from which I will shamelessly copy contents below.

During their visit in Bakerstreet, Magnussen lists Sherlock's weaknesses (as we find out later) in his mind.

Sherlock's pressure points

There are only six points being listed here (and infinitely scrolled, likely for effect, to indicate that there are more than usual):

  • Irene Adler (see File)
  • Jim Moriarty (see File)
  • Redbeard (see File)
  • Hounds of the Baskerville
  • Opium
  • John Watson

While I don't think all of them make sense as a pressure point on Sherlock, I at least understand what they are and why Magnussen might think that he could use those topics against Sherlock.

That is, all of them except one: "Hounds of the Baskerville"

What does "Hounds of the Baskerville" mean in this context, and why does Magnussen think he can use this to blackmail Sherlock?

If I remember the plot of the Baskerville episode correctly, there never really were any hounds and it was instead some kind of experimental biochemical weapon that was produced by a secret government/military facility. I don't see how that could be used against Sherlock, or anything else that Sherlock did during that case that could be used to blackmail him. He infiltrated the secret complex with his brother's ID, but that was discovered, so not really blackmail material.

Is there any indication in the show that explains this point on Magnussen's list?

  • 3
    After Season/Series 4 I would love to know what Magnussen's file for "Redbeard" says.
    – Oliver_C
    Commented Mar 30, 2017 at 19:56

5 Answers 5


The only real indication in the show is Sherlock's behaviour during that case. He was very on-edge after seeing the 'hound', immediately afterwards he looks agitated and leaves without a word, before sulking at the pub. He's confused by what he saw, and perhaps for the first time ever questioning his own senses and reasoning, it even drives him to drink.

Perhaps Magnussen knows about this and the file details what happened to them on the Moors and how simple it would be to slip him some psychotics and watch him self-destruct from self-doubt or drugs to numb his senses.

Sherlock Sulking

Of course this is all just conjecture, it's possible Steven Moffat simply gave them a few of those names and the graphics designers just filled in the rest to make it a more interesting shot.

  • 3
    I'm not sure how that pressure point would work in practice. Do as I say, or I'll give you frightening hallucinations!
    – Oliver_C
    Commented Jun 10, 2014 at 10:16
  • I thought Sherlock's apparent confusion was just part of the trick to fool Watson.
    – Taladris
    Commented Jun 10, 2014 at 13:53
  • 1
    @Taladris Hmm, I don't think so, he seemed genuinely moved by that, escaping into, even for Sherlock, overly logic deductions and overly cold reactions as a distraction/overreaction. But maybe I just want to believe that. If you really have some reasonable doubt of the truth of his confusion, I guess that might make for an interesting question on its own.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Jun 10, 2014 at 14:28
  • I'm interested in the mechanics of this rumour. Let's say a hundred people got to know about the experimental deliriant. But only a few (actually, I can't readily name others besides John) actually witnessed Sherlock confess to being scared out of his senses. So, how did Magnussen get to know this bit? Did John blog about it?
    – Chiffa
    Commented Sep 17, 2015 at 2:38
  • 1
    @Chiffa possibly the same way he found out about Redbeard -- via Richard Brook: sherlockmeta.tumblr.com/post/75197976198/… -- although I can also imagine John writing a draft blog about Sherlock's fear during that incident, deciding not to publish it, only to have the hard drive stolen or broken into by Magnusson's thugs.
    – Gaurav
    Commented Sep 25, 2015 at 22:47

Magnussen's knowledge of Sherlock may be incomplete

As an arch-blackmailer, Magnussen's modus operandi is to gather potentially compromising information in order to gain power - leverage - over others.

MAGNUSSEN: Let me explain how leverage works, Dr. Watson. For those that understand these things, Mycroft Holmes is the most powerful man in the country. Well. Apart from me.

The information Magnussen gathers need not be necessarily complete, or even accurate. There just needs to be sufficient implied knowledge of compromising information in the words used that Magnussen can take control of another person via blackmail.

MAGNUSSEN: Knowing is owning.

WATSON: But if you just know it, then you don’t have proof.

MAGNUSSEN: Proof? What would I need proof for. I’m in news, you moron. I don’t have to prove it, I just have to print it.

In fact "Hounds of the Baskerville" is a misprint of sorts, since we know that there were no hounds and that HOUND proved to be an acronym.

Conclusion: Magnussen has picked up the phrase "Hounds of the Baskerville" from a third party source, but probably has little contextual information. Nevertheless he lists it as a potential point of pressure for use against Sherlock.


I think it is an inside joke. There are a number of plot inconsistencies in the "Hounds of the Baskervilles" episode: John was or was not exposed to the aerosole chemical weapon when Sherlock was? So how did John hallucinate in the lab (because the chemical obviously was not in the sugar)? Where does the second dog (at the very end of the episode) come from? The first dog (at appears to be monstrous and John kills it) is obviously dead -- so where does the second one come from? LOTS of lose ends and inconsistencies. Although the episode is compelling, in part because of the wonderful performances, it is weak link dramatically speaking in the whole series. Magnuson's observation seems to be the writers commenting (meta-narratively) upon themselves and THEIR weaknesses!


I think it's more about Sherlock knowing and having access to government secrets, which CAM might want to gain access to.


Drugs (gas) caused the hallucinations (seeing the hound). Sherlock, John, and others were all affected at different times. That could be why HOB was listed as a pp for Sherlock. Also in that episode Sherlock told John that he, John, was his only friend. That, too, could be a reason for pp... I think this is probably why.

Or, the gas itself, making Sherlock see James Moriarty, that is possibly a reason for it, he's not scared of the hound, but the drug itself.

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