Arthur Conan Doyle: The Boy Who Knew Too Much

“The following is an article written in 1921 by Arthur Conan Doyle for the New York Times on a little boy who lived in the Ottoman Empire during world war one.”

It is a curious thing, but it is invariably those people who know little, and not those who know a great deal, who are the most obstinate believers of all superstition. I have more than once observed that the man who has had but little education is far more credulous than the man of superior intellectual attainments.

The reason of it is, of course, that the man of little education is usually too busy making a living to have time for reflection or for the reading of the marvellous. The reason for this particular article is that I have recently come across a case of credulity of this kind more extraordinary than any I have ever met.

It is so extraordinary that I should not believe it myself but that I have the evidence of my own eyes in the shape of letters which were written by the boy himself to members of his family, and of his own drawings. On the other hand, it must not be forgotten that the boy was only seven years of age, and his attainments have been so wonderful since, that I have no hesitation in calling the attention of the reader to the matter.

The boy was called Robert, and he lived with his parents, who were Coptic Christians, in the village of Z., in the province of Mersina, in Turkey. The village is on the road from Izmir to Mersina, near the ruins of an ancient city called Pimolisa, which was once a flourishing city of the Greeks. The boy was the son of a very poor man, who earned his living by making baskets. His mother was a woman of great culture, who, although she could neither read nor write, was very gifted with far-reaching common sense, and her conversation was always of a high standard.

When the boy was only five years old, she thought that he should begin to learn to read, and she began to teach him. He showed an extraordinary aptitude for the work, and in less than six months he could read simple books, and could write his own name. He then became very ambitious, and would spend hours in writing. He made many attempts to write poetry, but it was all to no purpose, as he could not express his thoughts in verse. He was never content with anything short of perfection, and so it came about that he was always changing his occupation. First he would be fascinated by one thing, and then by another.

He would be fond of making paper toys, and would spend hours in making them. He would be interested in the game of dominoes, and again he would take to playing cards, and very soon he could beat anybody at his own or at any card game that he chose to play. He was now, as you see, very advanced for his age, and could understand things that ordinary children would not be able to understand.

Now I must tell you how he came to be the second time in the hands of the police. He was seven years old when he was in Mersina, and he liked to play in the streets, and one day when he was playing, an old man came up to him, and told him that there was a little girl who was lost in the streets. He asked if Robert would help to find her, and Robert set out immediately to look for her. He found her at last, and took her to the house of a woman who was a friend of his, and then he ran home to tell his mother what he had done.

When he got home he found that his mother was in a terrible state of anxiety, and she asked him what he had done with the girl. He told her that he had found her, and had taken her to a woman’s house, but when he heard the story, he remembered the old man who had spoken to him, and his mother said, “You had better go back and find out if the woman is really all right, and if the girl is safe.” He did so, and found that the woman had given the girl two piasters, and had told her that she had better go home, and that the money was to buy some fried eggs. After that, Robert was more than ever interested in detective work.

He used to go into the streets every day to look for lost children, and he had great success in finding them. He would take them to the police station, and would get a small reward for each one, and sometimes he would get more. He was always interested in anything which was strange or unusual, and there is no doubt that this was one of the reasons why he did so much detective work.

Programming the AI: “The following is an article written in 1921 by Arthur Conan Doyle for the New York Times on a little boy who lived in the Ottoman Empire during world war one.”

I also gave it the title for the article, and the first word “It”. What comes after is generated by the AI.