When Murdoch Met Churchill and 6 Other Real-Life Figures

Because one of the fringe benefits of cracking cases in Victorian Toronto is getting to work with so many great historical figures…

Murdoch and Churchill

A young Churchill (Thomas Howes) with Detective Murdoch.

WINSTON CHURCHILL

Yes, the future wartime champion of the Allies did indeed make an appearance on Murdoch's turf, but this wasn't the big, barrel-shaped Churchill of legend. This was the young Winston, fresh-faced and ambitious, but facing a bit of a career bump thanks to having woken up in a hotel room containing the corpse of a close friend. What on earth had happened?

Churchill himself was too hungover to remember, so it was down to Murdoch to figure out just how the future PM's pal had ended up impaled on a sword. A most unlikely crime-solving partnership ensued, with Churchill already displaying the blustery confidence that would make him famous. And there was a priceless moment when Winston came across a bulldog, remarking: "Given my fondness for food and drink, I may end up looking like one myself some day."

ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE

Did you know Inspector Brackenreid was the man who inspired The Hound of the Baskervilles? It's quite elementary. When Arthur Conan Doyle paid a visit to Toronto, Brackenreid regaled him with the story of an uncle who'd encountered the "Hell Hounds of the Highlands", planting the seed for the most famous Sherlock Holmes tale of all. But Conan Doyle was actually in Toronto to pursue his other passion: spiritualism.

He even took Murdoch to a séance, where a medium seemed to make genuine contact with a murdered girl. Despite being the creator of a famously logical sleuth, Conan Doyle tried to get Murdoch to think outside the box and follow his heart rather than his head. (And it wasn't his only adventure with Murdoch - there was also the time they met a lunatic who really believed himself to be Sherlock Holmes...)

Inspector Brackenreid and Detective Murdoch overseeing a young Harry Houdini (Joe Dinicol).

Inspector Brackenreid and Detective Murdoch overseeing a young Harry Houdini (Joe Dinicol).

HARRY HOUDINI

The great escapologist Harry Houdini lived up to his reputation (and mightily annoyed Brackenreid) by busting out of a jail cell in Toronto. But why was he banged up in the first place? Well, he was implicated in a brutal robbery which took place in a bank next door to a performance he was putting on.

It seemed that, right in the middle of a magic trick, Houdini managed to nip next door, kill a guard and commit the theft. An unlikely feat, but then Houdini did specialize in the miraculous. Luckily for him, Murdoch was on the case to prove his innocence. Meanwhile, Julia Ogden had another reason to be shocked: her sister Ruby was Houdini's assistant!

NIKOLA TESLA

The Serbian-American inventor and all-round staggering genius Nikola Tesla changed the world with his innovations in electricity, and he was involved in a suitably shocking case in Toronto. When the city was considering changing its electrical system from DC to AC, there was a vehement protest against the proposal. A protest that turned sinister when a woman was electrocuted in public. Was it a tragic accident or a nefarious murder?

Tesla, the "master of lightning", swooped in to help Murdoch get to the bottom of things. In true Murdoch Mysteries fashion, there was also some technological wizardry that looked to the future, with Tesla constructing a device that could record a confession, and even alluding to the possibilities of "television".

Detective Murdoch meets Mark Twain (William Shatner).

Detective Murdoch meets Mark Twain (William Shatner).

MARK TWAIN

"Take it from me, son. Reality can be beaten with enough imagination." Wise words from Mark Twain, the iconic and acid-tongued American author of Huckleberry Finn. Complete with resplendent moustache, he cut quite the flamboyant figure while on a speaking tour of Toronto, but things took a darker turn when he was seemingly targeted for assassination.

Why would anyone want to murder Mark Twain? Was it because of his speech against imperialism? His support of women getting the vote? The width of his moustache? Murdoch wasted no time getting to the bottom of things, although Brackenreid was rubbed up the wrong way by Twain's rebellious nature. Well, he would be, wouldn't he?

BUFFALO BILL CODY

A frontiersman who took his live Wild West show on a blockbusting tour around the world, Buffalo Bill Cody was a major A-lister of his day. In fact, you might say he was the world's first truly global mega-star, helping to create the legend of the Old West. This colourful figure brought his circus to Toronto, and it should have been a fun day out for everyone - until a bullet-catch trick led to the bullet actually meeting its target.

Was the stuntman's death due to a fault in the trick itself, or was it a premeditated murder? Murdoch soon determined that all was not as it seemed, and before long there was another murder. Still, on the plus side, Brackenreid enjoyed quite the flirtation with the (real life) gunslinger Annie Oakley...

ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL

Did Alexander Graham Bell really invent the telephone, or did other geniuses get there before him? That's a debate that will go on forever, but Murdoch had other questions on his mind when an arrogant and obnoxious inventor called Karl was shot dead at an inventor's convention. This Karl fellow was widely despised for apparently stealing people's ideas - which is surely all the reason anyone needed to put an end to his plagiarism for good.

Karl had already alerted Murdoch to threats on his life, so the detective had a bit of a head start on the case. Question was, how could a gunman have shot Karl in full view of an audience without being seen? Mr Alexander Graham Bell proved instrumental in cracking the case with a whole new invention, and he certainly wasn't phoning it in...