Alternate Theories

The alternate theories presented here have been amalgamated from various sources.
If you'd like to see your theory here, post or link to it on the Comments page.

Fact 1 It would appear that Sherlock knew he would be in a position where he would have to fake his death. It is therefore safe to assume that the location he chose (the rooftop of Bart's) played a crucial role in the success of his plan.

Fact 2 In the first episode of this second series, Irene Adler fakes her death. When John comes face to face with her afterwards, he says, "You were dead. On a slab. We matched your DNA". She replies, "DNA is only as good as the records you keep". It should be safe to assume that Sherlock was able to falsify his DNA records.

Clue 1 The night before, Sherlock told Molly Hooper that he needed her. Before anyone rushes to think that this was a romantic need, it would be wise to point out that Molly is the mortician or coroner at Bart's. Sherlock would most likely have needed her access and skills to cover up his death.

Clue 2 When standing on the edge of the roof of Bart's and talking to John, Sherlock asks John to move to a specific location. From this perspective, John doesn't actually see Holmes hit the pavement. While this would be the most important clue, there is more to take away from this than might first appear. Rewind back to when John steps out of the cab. He begins walking towards Bart's. He manages to get quite close to the building, close enough to see the 'kill-zone' with the garbage truck and the bus stop, before walking back at Sherlock's request. This would mean the 'kill-zone' itself is benign, devoid anything that might give the game away at a glance.

Clue 3 As Sherlock steadies himself on the ledge atop Bart's, he ties his scarf round his neck. One could argue that this is because he is about to fall, however it is far more likely that he needed the scarf there.

Clue 4 In the third and final episode, The Great Game of the first series, Sherlock reveals the utility of the homeless network. While impressing upon their ability to gather information effectively and efficiently, he explains that if a person wanted to hide in the city because he would instantly be recognised and remembered in any hotel, inn or B & B he or she would hide amongst the homeless.


Given the amount of cognitive exercise and the flexing of mental acuity, there are no doubt, red herrings planted to throw those over thinking this too much. Listed below are the bits (clues?) that may or may not have any relevance.

The Fog from the Hounds of Baskerville

In the previous episode, Sherlock uncovers a fear toxin that 'shows the brain exactly what it expects to see'. Notice the wording - 'the brain sees exactly what it expects to see' is a peculiar description of what is essentially a hallucinogen.The main problem with getting John exposed to the toxin is it is dispersed aerially and is intended for mass effect. Focusing the toxin to enter one, and only one person's bloodstream would be near impossible without some modifications to the delivery mechanism.

John gets knocked down by a cyclist as he moves towards the body lying on the pavement. He seems shaken (almost shell-shocked) getting back to his feet. The cyclist is nowhere to be seen. This is where conjecture goes wild and theories abound.

Maybe the tarmac was coated with a liquidised version of the fear toxin. John inhales (his nose is to the ground in the scene) the toxin and 'sees what he expects to see'. This is supported by the fact that Sherlock planted the idea earlier in his head by saying, "That's what they do, don't they? Leave a note?".

The question is, if John is injected with the toxin, where and when did it happen?

  1. The cyclist injects John with a hypodermic needle/syringe.
  2. The toxin coats the tarmac where John falls and so he inhales it.
  3. One of the people dragging John away from Holmes's body injects him.

In the third scenario, the toxin will have had the least amount of time to take effect so is unlikely. The second or the first seem better.

John may also have been exposed to the toxin earlier (this is where things get exponential). It would explain why he saw Holmes jump. Under the influence of the toxin John saw what he expected to see - Sherlock jumping. Sherlock may not have jumped at all. The people coming to his aid would all be part of the con.

The girl who screamed 'Sherlock'

As soon as Sherlock walks into the room, the little girl who was rescued screams (in fear?) and points her finger at Sherlock. He tries to calm her down but as she starts getting hysterical, he is forced to leave the room. This development is crucial to Moriarty's plan as it forces the Lt. to question Sherlock's involvement in the case. She begins to believe, all to easily that Sherlock must have helped plan the abduction in order to have 'solved' it so easily. The key question here is - Why did the little girl scream when seeing Sherlock for (what appeared to be) the first time?

The many answers do little to help explain Sherlock's con, instead just add to the confusion. Maybe one of the kidnappers wore a Sherlock mask. Maybe they threatened the kids with a picture of Sherlock (likening him to the boogey-man or some similar villain of the night). This is unlikely but possible. To take things further, what if there was a man who had plastic surgery to alter his appearance to look like Sherlock? This last would explain why she screamed - to her it would appear that one of the kidnappers had entered the room.

Lastly, what if this is red herring? We never get to hear what the little boy had to say (when we last heard about him he was unconscious) and he was by far the more resourceful of the two.

The dummy hanging in the living room

Earlier in the episode we are shown a dummy hanging from a noose round its neck in the living room of 221B Baker Street. This is hardly the first time we have seen something of the sort (severed thumbs, coagulation of saliva after death). The actual scene of the crime is never seen. It is possible that the dummy is a subtle hint.

Sherlock stands on the roof of Bart's. He ensures John is in position and plummets. He falls on the pre-prepared 'rubbish' truck that is waiting at the busy bus-stop. John sees Sherlock fall, but doesn't see him hit the ground. There are couple of scenarios here. A double, dressed as Sherlock is ready and waiting (either already dead or drugged) either on, or strapped underneath the rubbish truck. This is where the scarf mentioned in Clue 3 is important - Sherlock realises before he jumped that the double had the scarf round his neck and so he needed it round his neck as well. The double is rolled into position as John comes round the corner. The cyclist knocks him down ensuring he can't get to the body right away. As people (some part of Sherlock's homeless network) crowd round the body, the truck drives off. John gets close to the body but is prevented from taking the pulse properly. Sherlock is either a part of the crowd now or has been whisked away in the truck. Alternatively, there is no double and Sherlock himself gets down and poses as the dead body - with the aid of the homeless network he wouldn't have to do it for long.

Problems with this hypothesis

The jump onto the rubbish truck
Falling into the truck from the top of the building would be quite difficult with a high probability that he would break some bones. The truck had high metal sides - if he were to hit or graze any one of them on his way down they would certainly cause permanent injury.
The presence of the double/dummy
Unless there was a dummy or a double to take his place on the ground, Sherlock himself would have to pose as the dead body. This would depend on him landing safely on the rubbish truck. If he inadvertently caused himself injury - by falling awkwardly, then he would be unable to play the role of the dead body.
The absence of Moriarty
Unless Sherlock knew Moriarty wouldn't be looking down as he fell, this theory fails.

— Insectatorious

I know it probably isn't a very "acceptable" bit of info, but here is my very bland and basic guess. It's not a very interesting or in-depth theory, but I don't really care. I know when cats fall from very high places they reach a "maximum velocity" at which their limbs become loose, and they're able to land safely on all fours. I also remember hearing about people who broke very few - if any - bones after they'd fallen from great heights, when their bodies were relaxed. The reasons serious damage is caused from falling a great height are landing on your head (obviously, as it would crack your skull and/or break your neck), landing on your back (which would likely destroy your spine), or severe internal injuries due to broken bones puncturing organs, etc. But that last part can be avoided IF the body is completely relaxed, like the cats I mentioned earlier. The reason the bones break so easily is because they are tense. The only way to make them relax is to reach a maximum velocity or use some kind of drug, I suppose. Perhaps this is why Holmes chose the hospital. Even Moriarty mentioned it was "a high place". Maybe Holmes used this to his advantage? He tightened the scarf around his neck to ensure it wouldn't break, jumped from the roof with a relaxed body (though it honestly didn't look relaxed while he was falling, but oh well) and just hoped to hell he didn't break his back. Of course, he would've sustained major bruising and perhaps some broken ribs, but since he is seen in the cemetery a few months later, one would assume he used that time to recuperate. He also would've contacted someone to run into Watson with the bicycle, making Watson out-of-sorts and unable to accurately determine whether or not Holmes was alive, of course. And he would've had Molly help him with the cover up, as implied by the scene between him and her earlier in the episode.

Apologies if my theory was a bit too winded or if I'm mistaken on anything here. I haven't slept for almost 48 hours, so I'm a tad discombobulated... also, I know this scenario seems a bit crude and not very thought out for Holmes, but it didn't seem like anyone had mentioned the possibility of it yet, so I decided to.

— October

"It’s obvious, isn’t it?"

Sherlock knew Moriarty was after his suicide. He choose the place to do it. (Mortiarty: “Glad you choose a tall building. Nice way to do it.”) The right place: the rooftop of the hospital were Molly works.

Sherlock looks over the ledge and sees two buses on the side of the pavement. He swallows. Probably because he know he’s going to make a jump once the right moment is there.

One moment later he takes another look over the ledge. Not the right moment, yet.

He grabs moriarty and again looks over the ledge. Nope, not yet.

He goes to stand on the ledge. “You give me one moment please. One moment of privacy. Please.” He’s stalling, because the right moment is when buses have left and the is empty. Why? Because a laundry truck will park beside the pavement (where the buses are) and he doesn’t want any people nearby. He starts another conversation with Moriarty. Stalling…,

Moriarty shoots himself, there’s blood on the roof. (We don’t see where the blood came from. Was it a blank and is the blood not Moriarty’s, so we will see Moriarty again in later episodes? Who knows…).

Sherlock gets on the ledge again. Looks down: the buses have left. He says to John: “Stop there.” There’s a small building between John and the street below Sherlock, so John cannot see the street below Sherlock. When John takes a few steps forward, Sherlock insists: “No! Stay exactly where you are. Don’t move. Keep your eyes fixed on me.” Why? Because down on the street the laundry truck is taking its position beside the pavement, where the buses were before. The laundry bags make for a soft landing. On top of the truck are Sherlocks accomplices, getting a body out of one of the laundry bags. Perhaps Sherlock asked Mycroft for help arranging this, but somehow he arranged the truck. The body is dressed like Sherlock and has a rubber Sherlock mask, like Moriarty used with the kidnapped children. Remember the conversation? LeStrade: “Now remember she’s in shock and she’s seven years old so… anything you can do to…” Sherlock: “No be myself” LeStrade: “Yeah, that’ll be helpful” (hint, hint…). Sherlock doesn’t want John to see all this, so John must stay in position behind the small building. The body was, of course, provided by Molly (Sherlock: “Molly, I think I’m going to die. I wasn’t everything that you’d think I am. Everything that I think I am. But you still want to help me?” Molly: “What do you need?” Sherlock: “You.”).

Sherlock lets himself fall of the roof onto the laundry truck beside the pavement. At the same time the men on the truck drop the body on the pavement beside the truck. John runs towards the scene. You see a cyclist coming and the laundry truck still standing beside the pavement, with the body lying on the pavement next to it. You also see two people in hospital clothes running towards the body. They were standing in the hospital entry ready to run to the body out once it was dropped on the pavement. Filmed from above, you see the two persons dressed in hospital clothes arriving at the body and immediately sending away other people that want to get to the body. You also see the laundry truck driving away, but you only see part of the truck (not the center, where Sherlock lies).

In the hospital it will be Molly examining the body, so it won’t be discovered by anyone that the body wears a mask.

Nice detail: On the wall of Kitty Riley (the journalist) it says: “Make believe”…

— Arjen

I have not seen the episode, just bits and pieces online. However, Moriarty-dressed-as-Sherlock theories are wrong. There is not enough time for him to have changed a dead person. He was also genuinely shocked when Moriarty killed himself. So he wouldn't have planned to dress him. So. What did Sherlock do? We are cut off from view of him. His main goal was to fool the sniper. He must have put John in a place where the sniper could not have watched the landing zone and John. I believe Molly must have thrown something out before Sherlock-maybe a dead body look a like? (we know he has one. the little girl was terrified to see him, implying that he had look a likes. perhaps the double was killed? by either side), she does work in the morgue- and perhaps she grabbed him. He was flailing-he was rather put together so I think he was shifting his weight closer to the building-and also, he might have been reaching out for Molly (or someone stronger) to grab him. The homeless network is obviously surrounding the body. He can't look exactly like Sherlock, so the hallucination drug might be in the air, or John is scrambled up from hitting the ground. I haven't seen season 2, so I don't know what happens afterwards, but John can't know Sherlock is alive. In The Blind Banker, Sherlock says that though he has figured out one code, there are more. Basically, even though Moriarty is dead, he still has an organization. So if John knows Sherlock is alive, he would have to act like he was dead. John cannot act, as seen in The Hound of Baskerville. Sherlock knows this, and so he must take down Moriarty's allies before he rejoins John. Because John might not protest as loudly against the Sherlock is a FRAUD! comments as he should, or he might protest too loud. Which means he and Lestrade and Mrs. Hudson might die. Sherlock is fooling  John and Moriarty and the snipers. He planned to, at least. Now, that might disprove my theory a bit. He must have thought Moriarty was watching...so maybe his homeless network catches him, then lays him down and smears fake blood. Molly would then falsify the records to say he was dead. I am just guessing, though. I'm only twelve, so...

— Anonymous

Hello folks, I have gone through quite a few of the theories and have not yet seen the one that occurred to me the other day - having only been to the UK once, and having no recollection of seeing a refuse collection truck like the one that makes an appearance only at the exact moment Sherlock jumps, please correct me if my assumption is wrong, but it appears that the three metal mesh sides of the truck (left, right and rear) are all designed to fold down independently, probably to allow easy loading and unloading. At one point, you can see that the connection between the side panel and the rear is at only one point, at the extreme top. The sides are also very tall, which allows for more storage but would make it difficult for Sherlock to jump into the truck and get out again in the few seconds he has available. There is also not a whole lot of bags in the truck to cushion his fall, and the area he would have to aim for is not very big to give a reasonable chance of hitting it. However, if the left panel (closest to the jump point delineated by the double row of paving stones) has been folded down immediately prior to Sherlock's jump, it would then constitute an enormous metal trampoline with a considerable amount of spring to it, a much larger target (and extending right over the square aiming point). The truck HAS to have a role in the illusion - there is no way its driver would have taken off with a suicide attempt a few feet away...if he was not involved in the effort, he would have stopped the tuck to get out and help or at least stare. So, two assistants, who possibly hid in the back of the truck, uncouple the clips holding the side panel and fold it down. Sherlock jumps onto the panel in its horizontal position and bounces/rolls off onto the ground to the point we see him hit the pavement. We do not see the truck at this point because the camera angle is so low. The assistants then pull the side panel back into place, and the truck rolls off, while everyone runs to the scene, the bicyclist delays Watson, and the person holding the two shopping bags who was sitting on the bench pulls out flasks of blood provided by Molly and pours them on Sherlock's head. The rubber ball placed in Sherlock's armpit confuses Watson for the several seconds he had to take a pulse before his hand was pulled away. The whole sequence with the truck would only take seconds from start to finish, and could even have been done in the amount of time Sherlock had available while Moriarty was waiting, during the first "near" attempt. What do you all think? 

Doug Hallet

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