Black Michael - Black Peter

When reading Tarzan Alive some years back, I must say that I was fascinated by the article What Happened To Black Michael? which is printed in Addendum Four.  This informative piece is based on an original idea by Dale L. Walker, developed by John Harwood, with additional notes by Phillip Jose Farmer.

The article as a whole examines the possibility that maybe Black Peter Carey of Doyle's Sherlock Holmes  classic The Adventure Of Black Peter,  and Black Michael of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan Of The Apes is the same person.  Intrigued by the author's revelations I decided to launch my own investigation.

In the composition's second section, A Tentative Career of Black Peter - Black Michael, John Harwood combines the lives of Black Peter and Black Michael as if they are one.  The article is a well researched project, but it often adds Harwood's own personal theories.

Harwood opens his portion of the publication by stating,  Peter Carey was born in 1845.  This is true according to the information provided by the young investigator, Stanley Hopkins.  There are no statements, however, that state Doyle's Black Peter or Burroughs'Black Michael ran away to sea at the age of ten in 1855 or 1856 as suggested.

There is also no direct facts in Doyle's work to indicate Black Peter became cabin boy aboard the Sea Unicorn, and worked his way up to Captain by 1882.  I do see grounds for Harwood's self developed theory.  Harwood points out that on page 666 of The Complete Sherlock Holmes the great detective states,  "So far as I could learn he had sailed in no other ship."  Stanley Hopkins, the thirty-three year old investigator , also informs us that Black Peter was in command of the Sea Unicorn by 1883.

Harwood does leave a back door open by saying,  "Would this indicate that he had worked his way up from cabin boy to Captain of the same ship on which he had started?  Or would it mean that it might  be difficult to trace the career of a man through the lower jobs such as cabin boy and common sailor and that Holmes only looked up the records of his employment as mate and Captain?  The officers may have been on record at some central shipping agency, but the crew members might only be available in the logs of individual ships."

After reading Harwood's theory, Phil Farmer agrees that Black Peter spent his entire career on board the Sea Unicorn.  Farmer feels that Holmes should have been able to locate Black Peter's complete career records in the shipowners files, but admitted it was possible for them to have been destroyed in some manner.  Farmer also agrees with Harwood that after retirement Black Peter signed on as a common seaman on several South Atlantic ships.

Harwood does stick to the facts when he states that Peter Carey became known as Black Peter for his temper as well as for his black beard.  Farmer mentions that Burroughs', Black Michael, seems more humane than Doyle's, Black Peter.  He admits, however,that it is when drinking that Black Peter becomes so villainous, and his soberness aboard the Fuwalda is the difference in the personalities.

Facts are again stuck to when Harwood tells us that in August 1883 the Sea Unicorn picked up Neligan, a west country banker, from his disabled yacht.  Neligan had been on his way to Norway to sell some securities to prevent a failure of his bank.  Black Peter found out about the securities and pitched Neligan overboard to get them.  Patrick Cairns, an extra harpooner, witnessed the murder but said nothing about it to anybody at the time.

According to investigator Hopkin's provided information, it is true that Black Peter retired in 1884. Returning to his own theorizing Harwood tells us Black Peter lives off the stolen securities, and somehow discovers that Patrick Cairns saw him throw Neligan overboard.  From this same source Black Peter also learns that Cairns is planning to blackmail him.  Attempting to shake Cairns off his trail Black Peter signed on as a common sailor on a southbound ship  He did this knowing Cairns would look for him in the northern whaling - sealing fleets.

This portion of Harwood's theory is based on two factual statements.  Investigator Hopkins does inform us that Black Peter, after retirement, travels for some years before buying property and settling down in 1889.  Also, Patrick Cairns in his admission of guilt tells us, "Shortly after Peter Carey gave up the sea, and it was long years before I could find where he was."  From 1884 to 1895 would be a span of eleven years.

Harwood then implies Black Peter dropped his first name, Peter, and began using his middle name, Michael.  This speculation of course is very possible, for Black Peter's second name is not disclosed in Doyle's account, nor is Black Michael's in Burroughs' tale.

Harwood theorizes that Black Peter, now called Black Michael, may have journeyed about for a while in the south Atlantic, sailing on several vessels, before he shipped aboard the Fuwalda in 1888.

After the mutiny and the marooning of the Greystoke's, Black Michael and company set sail for the nearest civilized port.  They abandoned the Fuwalda in smaller boats and let her drift under full sail. The crew split up in port and Black Michael returned to England in 1889.  He dropped his middle name and took up his first name, Peter, again.

Instead of the Fuwalda wrecking at sea, the barkentine drifted into the South Equatorial Current. The current carried the Fuwalda out into the Atlantic, down the east coast of South America, east into the Atlantic again, and then to its wrecking on the shores of St. Helena. Thus, when the British searchers discovered the wreckage, they believed all had perished with the wreck.

Farmer feels Harwood's theory about the Fuwalda drifting across the Atlantic and back again requires too much time.  Only two months after the Fuwalda left Freetown, then Sieera Leone, it was being looked for by a half dozen British warships.  The Fuwalda's wreckage was found almost immediately off the shores of St. Helena. 

Farmer believes the Fuwalda could not have drifted onthe course Harwood describes in the month-and-a-half after the Greystoke's were marooned.  He claims the time element would be even shorter, since the Fuwalda would have to be sailed to the nearest large civilized port first, which in itself would take about a month.

Farmer theorizes the Fuwalda set out due south after beaching the Greystoke's.  While sailing by St. Helena, Black Peter/Michael deliberately chopped off some parts of the Fuwalda and cast them into the sea.  This would be mistaken for wreckage, thus throwing the British off his trail.

At the end of this article I have formed a chronology of Black Peter - Black Michael based on John Harwood and Phillip Jose Farmer's theories.  As you can see by that presented chronology it is very acceptable that Doyle's Black Peter and Burroughs' Black Michael is indeed the same person.

Although Dale Walker, John Harwood and Phil Farmer have shown us that there is a remarkably good chance that Black Peter and Black Michael are the same person, there is still one expert who is not completely convinced.  That person is Proffessor H.W.Starr.  Starr is a member, and one time Head-mastiff of the Sons of the Copper Beeches, a Philadelphia based scion society of the Baker Street Irregulars.  Like John Harwood and Phil Farmer, Starr is also a contributor to the Burroughs Bulletin.

Starr does not think that Black Peter, at the age of thirty-nine to forty-four, would take up the hard life of a common sailor again.  In all fairness it should also be pointed out that although Stanley Hopkins, the police inspector, informs us that Black Peter did travel for some years after retiring, but he does not say where or by what mode of transportation.

Another detail thus far unmentioned that would seem to add credibility to Starr's accusation, is the description Burroughs gives of Black Michael.  "The other seaman, however, was a neither old nor small - a huge bear of a man, with fierce black mustachios, and a great bull neck set between massive shoulders."  ERB-Tarzan Of The Apes, chapter 1.  In my personal visualization, this hardly sounds like a forty-three year old man, although it is not impossible.  Burroughs' description of Black Michael is more of a mature man in his prime.

John Harwood even finds a weak link in his own theory.  "Why did Black Peter Michael grow a beard again when he settled down in England?  If Cairns was still looking for him after all these years, he probably would have been searching for him in England as well as in Scotland.  Besides asking for him by name, he would have given a description, and this would have included the huge black beard."

Phil Farmer  tries to cover this weak link by simply stating that Black Peter wanted to regrow the beard, and that he felt safe in Forest Row, Sussex, England.  Personally, I hardly find that to be an adequate defense.  Farmer also makes one more unacceptable statement.  When describing one of the reasons Black Peter decides to go south he remarks.  "Moreover, he hated the Arctic cold."  I don't see how Farmer reaches this conclusion when Black Peter has sailed on a northern sealer - whaler, according to Harwood, since the age of ten.  From then until retirement would be twenty-nine years. If Black Peter hated the cold that much I hardly think he would have spent twenty-nine years aboard the Sea Unicorn.

There is an explanation, however, that would rid the Black Peter - Black Michael theory of Starr's, Harwood's and my mentioned weakness.  Let's just be open minded for a second and suppose for the moment that the Fuwalda set sail in May 1872, instead of 1888, as many Greystoke chronologist believe.

Instead of being forty-three years old in the Harwood and Farmer theory, Black Peter/Michael would be twenty-seven years old.  This would fit Burroughs' description of Black Michael more closely, and would allow him to return home in ample time, get married, and have a daughter by 1875 as Doyle describes.  It would erase Starr's aging sailor complaint, plus Harwood's beard description.

My vision, like Harwood's and Farmer's. also goes against the statement made by Sherlock Holmes. "So far as I could learn he had sailed in no other ship."   In defense I must again quote the very words of John Harwood.  "would this indicate that he had worked his way up from cabin boy to Captain of the same ship on which he had started?  Or would it mean that it might be difficult to trace the career of a man through the lower jobs such as cabin boy and common sailor and that Holmes only looked up the records of his employment as mate and Captain?  The officers may have been on record at some central shipping agency, but the crew members might only be available in the logs of individual ships."

Another reason which could have fouled up Holmes's attempt to locate Black Peter/Michael as a common sailor is also made by Harwood.  "Though he would have had to present papers as a deckhand , he could get forged documents easily."  I would like to add that if Holmes were checking records in 1895, chances were much greater that Black Peter might have been traced back seven years to 1888.  But the chances would be drastically reduced if Holmes had to go back twenty-three years to 1872.

It is also quite possible that Carey, in his earlier years, went by his middle name, Michael, instead of his first name, Peter.  A few people do this, for I am a good example.  It is not likely Michael was Carey's first name, for Holmes would surely have noticed this in Black Peter's records and brought it to light.  Thus, the opening years of Carey's sailor life may have been spent as Black Michael.  After the mutiny of the Fuwalda he could have changed to his first name, Peter, and abandoned the mustache for a full beard.

As you can see the Black Peter - Black Michael, 1872 chronology, passes every factual test that the 1888 chronology does.  The 1872 chronology, however, rids us of all the weaknesses mentioned by Starr, Harwood and myself.  No matter which of the presented chronologies fits your personal liking, there is one thing that can be concluded.  Black Peter and Black Michael are the same person.

A Black Peter - Black Michael Chronology

Based On The 1888 Chronology Theories Of John Harwood And Phillip Jose Farmer

Date:     1845  
Event:    Black Peter born.
Source:  Provided by Stanley Hopkins, a young police inspector.

Date:     1855
Event:    Black Peter ran away to sea at age ten.
Source:  A theory proposed by John Harwood.  (I could not find a basis for it.)

Date:     1875
Event:    Black Peter's daughter is born at age thirty.
Source:  At the time of Black Peter's death in 1895 he had a daughter twenty years old.

Date:      1883
Date:      Black Michael becomes Captain of the Sea Unicorn at age thirty-eight.
Source:  Provided by Stanley Hopkins, the police inspector.  Harwood theorizes Black Peter first 
              took command in 1882.

Date:      August 1883
Event:    Black Peter throws Neligan overboard at age thirty-eight.
Source:  Provided by Patrick Cairns, the Sea Unicorn's extra harpooner.

Date:     1884
Event:    Black Peter retires at age thirty-nine.
Source:  Provided by Stanley Hopkins, the police inspector.

Date:      late 1884 or early 1885
Event:    Shortly after retirement Black Peter travels until 1889.  Age thirty-nine or forty.
Source:  Harwood and Farmer theorize Black Peter discovers Cairn's blackmail plot, signs on 
             as a common sailor on a southbound ship.

Date:     1888
Event:    Black Peter/Michael is a sailor on the Fuwalda at age forty-three.
Source:  Harwood's and Farmer's theory based on Burroughs' Black Michael in Tarzan Of The 
              Apes.

Date:     1889
Event:    Black Peter purchased property near Forest Row, Sussex at age forty-four.
Source:  Black Peter had lived there six years at the time of his death in 1895.

Date:      Wednesday of July 1895
Event:    Black Peter dies at age fifty.
Source:  First Wednesday of July at two o'clock AM.  Provided by Stanley Hopkins, the police                         inspector.


A Black Peter - Black Michael Chronology

Based on the 1872 Chronology theories of James Michael Moody.

Date:     1845
Event:    Black Peter born.
Source:  Provided by Stanley Hopkins, the police inspector.

Date:     May 1872
Event:    Black Peter/Michael was a sailor on board the Fuwalda.
Source.  May and Fuwalda is provided by ERB-Tarzan Of The APES.  At this stage of his life
             Carey was going by his middle name, Michael.  After the mutiny Carey switched back
             to his first name, Peter, and grew a beard to go with his mustache.

Date:     1875
Event:    Black Peter's daughter born at age thirty.
Source:  After abandoning the Fuwalda, Black Peter has three years to marry and begin a family.

Date:     1883 
Event:    Black Peter commanded the Sea Unicorn at age thirty-eight.
Source:  Using his previous sailing experience it ispossible Black Peter could have signed on
              to the Sea Unicorn shortly after marrying, and earn the rank of Captain in eight years.

Date:      August 1883
Event:    Black Peter throws Neligan overboard at age thirty-eight.
Source:  Provided by Patrick Cairns, the Sea Unicorn's extra harpooner.

Date:     1884  
Event:    Black Peter retired at age thirty-nine.
Source:  Provided by Stanley Hopkins, the police inspector.

Date:      late 1884 or early 1885
Event:    Shortly after retirement Black Peter travels until 1889.  Age thirty-nine or forty.
Source:  After traveling Black Peter settles in Sussex, and lived there six years until the time of
             his death in 1895.

Date:     1st Wednesday, July 1895
Event:    Black Peter dies at age fifty.
Source:  First Wednesday of July at two o'clock AM.  Provided by Stanley Hopkins, the police                         inspector.



James Michael Moody








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