Sherlock Holmes Is Based On A Real Guy (Screenshot: YouTube)

Sherlock Holmes seems like a pretty interesting guy, what with the opium addiction, the violin playing, the crime solving, and that long-simmering erotic tension with Dr. John Watson. But Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional detective, despite being a bona fide Guinness record holder for the most commonly portrayed human character in film and TV history, is not one-tenth as interesting as the real-life French master criminal who inspired him. That is the message of a highly entertaining cartoon from Cracked entitled “Sherlock Holmes Is Based On A Real Guy (Who Was Even Cooler).” This brisk, brief bit of animation runs through the life and career of one Eugene Francois Vidocq (1775-1857), a prolific criminal and multiple-prison escapee who wound up as the world’s first private detective and basically jump-started modern criminology. He’s the literal embodiment of the adage that it takes a thief to catch a thief. He’d solve crimes just to pass the time while he was incarcerated, and eventually the cops just let him out so he could do what he did best. Risky as it seems, this decision proved to be a quantum leap forward for law enforcement.

The police in Vidocq’s time were not that successful in solving crimes because they didn’t think like criminals. “Apparently,” says the video, “before Vidocq came along, cops were just kind of guessing.” But the world of crime was one that Vidocq himself knew from the inside out. Among the inventions with which he is credited here: ballistics, crime labs, criminal databases, and footprint clues. By training agents in his methods, he essentially created an 1800s equivalent of the FBI. Like Holmes, his fictional counterpart, Vidocq was a multifaceted man with many interests. In his case, according to this video, he was a swordsman, businessman, author, womanizer, and braggart who embraced his celebrity status. So does all of that make Vidocq more interesting than Holmes? Possibly, but only Holmes will have the honor of being brought back to life in the next century in order to solve future crimes.

[via Laughing Squid]