In the beginning of Sherlock Holmes (2009), Lord Blackwood attempts to kill a young woman during some sort of dark ritual and is thwarted just in time by Holmes and Watson. Blackwood himself was not going to do it, instead he put her in some sort of "spell", causing the girl to attempt to stab herself.

woman in a white dress laying on a slab with a black hooded figure standing at the head of the slab

Given that the "supernatural powers" of Lord Blackwood were revealed as nothing more than "conjuring tricks", why did the girl try to stab herself at the direction of Blackwood?


3 Answers 3


I never saw a definitive explanation, but there are three theories:

  1. Hypnotism (a person with Blackwood's personality and charisma is likely to be a good hypnotist). This is somewhat confirmed by the script (after Holmes stops Blackwood):

    The girl has snapped out of her trance, and is backing away from them as best she can

  2. Somewhat related to the first possibility, please note that the cult members frequently allow the cult leader to exercise nearly total control, up to suicide (see Jim Jones for one of the more dramatic examples, that gave name to the "drinking cool-aid" expression).

    Also, while extremely rare in actuality, sacrifice has happened on the more extreme end of BDSM circles and is an unexpectedly popular thing for many in BDSM as a fantasy.

  3. The "victim" was an actress who was supposed to act like she was about to kill herself, considering that Blackwood pretty much arranged for his own arrest.

  • 8
    3 would be even more Machiavellian than I'd have expected...but possible.
    – Jeff
    Commented Nov 27, 2011 at 17:41

She was probably a mixture of drugged and hypnotised.

Observe the power of auto suggestion in the film with the public thinking that Blackwood is a demon. Even the order (who are well-educated people) have convinced themselves they have magic powers.

With the right conditioning, a cocktail of drugs and a touch of Hollywood "magic" (special effects) she could easily have been moved to attempt suicide.


Blackwood needed to be arrested and 'killed' so that the public would be aware and afraid of him.

Once the public found out about it, his reputation would go before him and others, including senior members of the Houses of Parliament, would be more susceptible to blackmail. To be publicly executed, he would need to commit a crime to go with his air of magic so what better way than asking members of his cult to commit suicide and making it look like he had control over them?

Basically, the girl was an actress and it was all a big publicity stunt.

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