The Case of the Purloined Pumpkin, or Tis the Season

I wrote this back in October 2010. Here – take a trip back in time with me…

The Case of the Purloined Pumpkin

“Good God, Holmes! It’s gone! Vanished! Completely disappeared! Not a trace remains!”

“My dear Watson, what ARE you talking about?”

“The pumpkin, sir! The Jack-o’-lantern on the stump in the front yard!”

“THIS one, Watson?”

“Indeed! Indeed! The very one!”

“And it seems to be missing now?”

“There is no evidence that it was ever there.”

“In point of fact I have examined the evidence, Watson. You are completely correct. There is a shell of what might have a single pumpkin seed right there at the foot of the stump, but no other remains are obvious at all.”

“But what the Devil can have happened to it, Holmes?”

“Well, let us examine what we know about the missing pumpkin. It was very heavily and unusually carbuncled on the surface, to the point that it looked like it had a bad case of Pantomime Witches Warts. It was a medium-to-large pumpkin, inordinately heavy…”

“How would you know the weight of the pumpkin, Holmes?!”

Watson. We are currently examining this case from the shelter of the subconscious of the person who carved the pumpkin in question. I know the weight of the pumpkin for the simple reason that she carried it in her arms, and she made a point of noting how solid and heavy it was.”

“I see. Of course. Carry on, Holmes.”

Holmes was counting off facts on his fingers. “Well, then. Medium-to-large. Very heavy. Heavily carbuncled. Solid. Fiendishly difficult to carve. It took a VERY large knife and almost an hour to cut around the top for the ‘lid’ of the pumpkin to be lifted off. And then there was a large pile of pumpkin snot…”

Pumpkin snot, Holmes?!”

Holmes shrugged. “As good a name as any. Descriptive. And it’s what she calls it.” He sniffed. “Are you done?”

“Oh, indeed, indeed. I do apologise. Do carry on, my good chap.”

“Very well, then. A large pile of pumpkin snot, which the evidence…”

“Evidence, Holmes?”

Holmes sighed. “The photograph, Watson. Look at the photograph.”

“Oh. Ah. Yes. Quite.”

“Which the evidence,” Holmes continued, “shows as having been distributed in front of the pumpkin when it was situated.”

“THere were also two gourds in the mouth, Holmes.”

“Those went missing almost immediately, Watson.”

“They did?”

“They did, indeed. They were taken out of position – the small round dark green one was seen on the ground below the large pumpkin before it vanished entirely; the pear-shaped orange one survived inside the large pumpkin’s ‘mouth’, as the designer intended, for another day before it, too disappeared. During this period the lid of the large pumpkin was seen to be disturbed, enough for a small creature’s avenue of escape, I surmise. I suspect squirrels of these small thefts.”

“So do you think that squirrels may have also taken…”

Watson. Review the evidence. VERY heavy.”

“But it was hollowed out,” Watson pointed out with helpful eagerness.

“Yes, but that did not mean that it had suddenly lost sufficient mass to be carried by a squirrel,” Holmes said. “And besides, there was the factor of the rain.”

“The rain, Holmes? What has the weather to do with this?”

“Well, Watson, it stands to reason that with a lid that did not fit tightly and was in fact knocked out of position the persistent rain that occurred over two or three days since the pumpkin was originally carved might have found a way into the inside of the pumpkin hollow and, not having a way to escape it, remained stagnant in there. The weight of the water added to the weight of the pumpkin itself…”

“Yes, yes, my dear chap. I quite see that.”

“Well, then. It would seem, Watson, that we are left with three possible culprits or agencies that could have purloined the pumpkin. The disappearance of the pumpkin was achieved by the influence of one of three possible perpetrators. One, members of the animal kingdom – squirrels, deer, raccoons, and other such creatures.”

“They are common in the local woods, Holmes.”

“Indeed. Two, supernatural means.”

“Supernatural… oh, come now, Holmes. We are rational men. What are you suggesting? Witches? Demons? God?”

Holmes leered, pulling his face into the caricature of a demonic rictus grin. “The carbuncles, Watson. remember the carbuncles.”

“What of them?”

“Perhaps it was a witch-pumpkin.”

“It stole itself?”

Holmes shrugged infuriatingly. “You said it, Watson.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Watson, his tone taking on a certain testiness.

“Well, we have to take into account the evidence,” Holmes said. “Animal agency is unlikely. The pumpkin, entire, short of its two daughter gourds and the snot…”

Watson snorted. Holmes gave him a glare, and he subsided, making a gesture for Holmes to continue.

“All of the constituent parts of the pumpkin installation which could conceivably have been rifled by a small animal seeking sustenance – well – it is conceivable that such parts were so taken, by said animals. But the main pumpkin itself – it could not have been carried, not by a squirrel, nor even a team of squirrels, if such a thing is possible. Not even by a raccoon. Ergo, the main body of the pumpkin, if eaten by animals, would have had to be gnawed in situ as it were. And if this had been the case, well, Watson, there would have been signs.”

“Signs, Holmes?”

“Debris. Remains. Shards of half-gnawed pumpkin shell. We should have been able to determine, by dint of examining teeth marks, what sort of creature had in fact dined on the pumpkin. But instead we find nothing – nothing at all – the small and edible parts of the installation had long been carted away by creatures of a size to deal with these, and quite aside from the complete impossibility of such creatures having either the mental acuity, the propensity for the necessary teamwork, or the simple agility of useful appendages to carry such things with while performing four-legged locomotion common to their kind, you are forgetting the weight again. The weight. Too heavy for paw or jaw. The Hound of the Baskervilles could not have carried this thing off. There is also the fact that the pumpkin was lifted clean away. The stump on which it had been sitting might have been swept by a broom after the pumpkin itself was removed. No scavenging animal leaves such a tidy scene of the crime. Ergo, no animals were involved other than perhaps for the initial theft of seed, gourd and, well, I am sorry, Watson, but… the snot.”

“So it was a theft supernatural in origin?”

Holmes leered again. “Trick or treat, Watson?”

“Stop that,” Watson said sharply. “We are not children.”

“Is not everybody a child at this time of year…?” Holmes said, with eyebrow raised, but lowered it at Watson’s expression of pained outrage, lowering his lids over eyes glittering with amusement.

“Everybody might be considered to revert to childhood on Christmas morning, Holmes,” Watson said. “I hardly think that Halloween…”

“Trick or treat…?”


“All right, all right. I cry carbuncle.”

Watson covered his eyes with his hand. “That,” he said frostily, “was uncalled for.”

“Possibly,” Holmes said. “But there’s the unavoidable fact that the pumpkin in question vanished clean away. Completely.”

“You said three – how about the human agency…?”

“Simple thievery,” Holmes said. “Perhaps someone liked it so much they absolutely had to have it for their own porch…?”

“When freshly carved, perhaps, indeed,” Watson said. “But now? After days in the rain? After being nibbled by tooth and claw? After being half-filled with water during the recent rains? Being as heavy as it was? Who would want such a ratty half-eaten thing, and how would they carry it away without it disintegrating?”

“There was no debris anywhere close by,” Holmes said, nodding, “and thus it was not children intent on pumpkin destruction.. Such traces have been seen around the neighbourhood, to be sure, shattered remains of ex-pumpkins on the roads. But no such evidence exists here. No trace of broken pumpkin parts, no trail. No mess. No tracks. Just… GONE.”

“Humans are no less untidy than some of other God’s creatures out there,” Watson said. “There would have been a trail to follow.”

“And there was none.”

“But there had to have been a mortal hand…”

“Trick or treat, Watson?”

“Holmes,” Watson said, “stop it. Halloween isn’t even here yet. It’s three DAYS away.”

“Nothing like having started festivities early,” Holmes said, getting to his feet from the easy chair in which he had been sitting.

“Where are you going?” Watson asked, looking up.

“I thought I might take a stroll around the neighbourhood,” Holmes said. “Look closely at the faces of women wearing large hats. Perhaps see if I don’t recognise a stray carbuncle from the Purloined Pumpkin.”

“It’s not a jesting matter…”

“Oh, Watson. Of course it is. I find it inordinately amusing.”

“But aren’t you going to even try to explain…?”

“There are more things, Horatio,” Holmes said gravely. “Wherever the Purloined Pumpkin is – dinner or decoration – I wish it well. There are some mysteries which are just not meant to be solved, Watson, I suppose.”

“You’re giving up?” Watson exclaimed. “You, the great Holmes…?”

“Not giving up,” Holmes said with a slow, lazy smile. “Just crying… carbUNCLE. Good night, Watson.”




It’s like I said, above. My carved pumpkin has… vanished. I am mystified. And amused.

Oh well. Happy Halloween…


I haven’t carved a pumpkin for years now, but this story is always fun to share at the right time of year. Happy Halloween, indeed.





About Alma Alexander

Alma Alexander's life so far has prepared her very well for her chosen career. She was born in a country which no longer exists on the maps, has lived and worked in seven countries on four continents (and in cyberspace!), has climbed mountains, dived in coral reefs, flown small planes, swum with dolphins, touched two-thousand-year-old tiles in a gate out of Babylon. She is a novelist, anthologist and short story writer who currently shares her life between the Pacific Northwest of the USA (where she lives with her husband and two cats) and the wonderful fantasy worlds of her own imagination. You can find out more about Alma on her website (, her Facebook page (, on Twitter ( or at her Patreon page (


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