Before the film premiered, I devoured the complete collection of Sherlock Holmes stories written by Doyle for the magazine, The Strand. Pulp like that makes me really happy (as is probably self evident by the fact that I have a blog dedicated to exploring Batman). Now, I'm no English major but I've been told that Sherlock Holmes stories aren't technically included in the mystery genre since the reader has no chance of solving the crime before Holmes does. Rather the stories should be included in Detective fiction. While I read them, I didn't really have much of a problem suspending my disbelief when it came to his intelligence and his inconcievable leaps in deductive reasoning (now refered to as Holmesian deduction). But one thing did catch me everytime: I was continually doubtful about the success of his disguises. The stories have him dressing up for days on end with not even Watson able to see past his act.
Batman (as one of the direct literary descendants of Sherlock Holmes) is often presented as a master of disguise. His aliase Matches Malone is often used but he is often portrayed as able to disguise himself as anyone.
But it seems ridiculous that the most famous man in Gotham can become completely unrecognizible by putting on some makeup and faking a limp.
So I started thinking, “Can this really be done?” I'm not talking about someone changing their look (like Evan Ratliff did for his Wired article). I mean someone taking on a bunch of secret identies to move secretly in and out of a small community of people (criminals in Batman's case) who would most likely recognize him in a heart beat.
I found the most pristine example of this working! I couldn't believe it. Ruth Reichl was once the Restaurant Critic for The New York Times. As such, she was determined not to receive special treatment while reviewing. But she soon realized just how important her reviews were to restaurant owners. She learned that kitchens had pictures of her and owners offered huge rewards to employees who recognized her.
Her solution? Secret identies.
You really have to listen to this interview I found. She starts talking about her disguises after the first half. It is really quite amazing.
I've spent quite a bit of time trying to find more examples of real-life masters of disguise but have only found a few (who I'll present to you in my next post) and only a couple of resources on learning how to properly disguise oneself.