In 1795 a 56-pound meteorite fell in Yorkshire, a few miles from the village of Wold Newton. No one was hurt, but several people saw it land, and it was still warm and smoking when curious witnesses reached it.
That got Philip José Farmer thinking. In his 1972 book Tarzan Alive, the science fiction author revealed that seven couples and their coachmen had been riding past the village when the meteorite struck only 20 yards away. “The bright light and heat and thunderous roar of the meteorite blinded and terrorized the passengers, coachmen, and horses. … They never guessed, being ignorant of ionization, that the fallen star had affected them and their unborn.”
The coach passengers included:
- John Clayton, 3rd Duke of Greystoke, and his wife, Alicia Rutherford
- Sir Percy Blakeney (The Scarlet Pimpernel) and his (second) wife, Alice Clarke Raffles
- Fitzwilliam Darcy and his wife, Elizabeth Bennet
- George Edward Rutherford (the 11th Baron Tennington) and his wife, Elizabeth Cavendish, ancestors of Professor Challenger
- Honoré Delagardie and his wife, Philippa Drummond, ancestors of Hugh “Bulldog” Drummond
- Dr. Siger Holmes and his wife, Violet Clarke, ancestors of Sherlock Holmes
- Sir Hugh Drummond and his wife, Lady Georgia Dewhurst, further ancestors of Hugh Drummond
The coachmen included:
- Louis Lupin, ancestor of Arsène Lupin
- Albert Lecoq, ancestor of Monsieur Lecoq
- Albert Blake, ancestor of Sexton Blake
The radiation caused a genetic mutation in all of them, endowing them with extremely high intelligence and strength and producing a family tree of 92 people whose deeds have been documented by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Sax Rohmer, Dorothy L. Sayers, Jules Verne, and others.
Farmer died in 2009, but he’s credited with pinpointing “the single cause of this nova of genetic splendor, this outburst of great detectives, scientists, and explorers of exotic worlds, this last efflorescence of true heroes in an otherwise degenerate age.” The work of uncovering the links among these remarkable people is carried on by an avid community of researchers.