A Sussex Mystery: The Ardingly Suitcases

I found an odd story in Fortean times a few months back. Apparently, in June 2020, a group of 50 people were seen walking towards Ardingly Reservoir carrying suitcases. This was reported in several Sussex newspapers, including the Brighton Argus:

BIZARRE reports of 50 people with suitcases walking to a water reservoir remain a mystery.
Police officers were called to reports of a suitcase-carrying contingent at Ardingly Reservoir near Balcombe on Thursday.
But after a search nobody carrying a suitcase was found at the popular fishing spot.

This happened on June 25th 2020, so such gatherings were legal at the time, I think. It’s a strange story though, and a powerful image. Digging through the news reports, all of them refer to the same pair of tweets from police Prevention Inspector Darren Taylor, who started working in Sussex a month or two before. An article in Sussex Live talks about his new job and how he will use twitter to publicise his work. His account has since been deleted, but the original tweet is quoted in the articles:

Team are currently responding to calls from members of the public in regard to approx 50 people walking towards Ardingly reservoir, carrying suitcases! pic.twitter.com/ozM8HURJjd

The linked image no longer exists. A single follow-up tweet came just after:

An area search carried out and the team could not locate anyone with suitcases…most bizarre.

I guess it was a hoax – I mean, any sort of happening involving 50 people should have produced some content. But then it seems to have been taken seriously enough for the police to go out and investigate. The police twitter account even refers to multiple “calls”. So, while this is almost certainly a hoax, who was the hoaxer?

Forteana often finds a channel through local newspapers publishing quirky pieces which are then quoted elsewhere as evidence. Here we have a story that was printed without asking any of the obvious follow-up questions, with content sent direct from twitter to print. I guess that’s a reflection of the way media works now – the Brighton Argus is basically an online organisation, reduced to begging for stories from social media. They are so short-staffed that most stories simply cannot be dug into.

Maybe one reason for not investigating this is that it’s too good a story to ruin by investigating it. The idea that this happened is more interesting than it being a hoax. But I’d love to know what was going on.

Monthnotes: February 2022

I started exploring my new home a little last month. I joined a local co-working space and went to my first gig since the pandemic, watching Sea Power at the Hebden Bridge Trades club. I’d also hoped to visit a local spoken word night, Turn the Page, but a work problem (and subsequent 9-hour call) put paid to that. I looked at a couple of houses, although the market here is very slow. I also discovered some excellent food at Nelson’s, which included a vegan Camembert.

I’ve had visits from Emma, Kaylee, Rosy and Naomi. I also headed south to a delayed celebration of my Dad’s birthday. The weather throughtout February was extremely variable, with storms, snow, sleet, hail and a lot of rain.

I’m continuing work on the South Downs Way series, and have a draft finished of the next volume, although this one will probably not be published for a few months. Selling the zines through Etsy has been a success and has me thinking more about how to promote them better, leading to some changes in plans and focus for the project that I am very excited about.

There are definite downsides to self-publishing, but I think this is the right thing to do. As much as I’d love to be submitting short stories, there are very few magazines taking horror fiction, and the best ones don’t allow open submissions. I wrote a lovely 265 word horror flash fiction and there is nowhere to send it. I’d rather be printing and publishing my own work than having it waiting around on my hard drive.

Walking: 239,338 steps total, an average of 8,547, with a maximum of 19,131 while walking on the hills between Sowerby Bridge and Copley with Emma. I’m failing to do any real exercise and need to make that a priority in March; or else just admit I am never going to do it.

I finished 8 books this month. If It Bleeds and The Outsider were good late-period Stephen King. The Life of Chuck, published in the former, was an especially good novella. Shit Cassandra Saw was a lovely collection of short fiction by Gwen E Kirby. From the Streets of Shaolin by SH Fernando Jr was a history of the Wu-Tang Clan, from their hardscrabble beginnings to their imperial phase. It had particularly good background on the Five-Percent Nation. The latest Slow Horses novel, Slough House, was fun, but there seems to be some diminishing returns – too many returning characters and threads to keep track of. Having said that, the plot in this one was ingenious and it was still fun, so I’ll be buying the next one. I also read RAW’s Cosmic Trigger II, which was fascinating, braiding together the Calvi murder, Ireland’s Kerry Babies case and Wilson’s own life. This book was more focussed on physics, politics and Joyce than the first volume, and even included a discussion of the metaverse from 1990. Wilson looked at how his life was as determined by the history around his birth as by his horoscope. It should have felt like a disjointed mess, but was an interesting biography and made the early life more interesting than in many autobiographies

I’ve not watched much TV. Ozark was OK, but didn’t have enough about Ruth in this season. I’m also slowly watching How to With John Wilson, Jeen Yus, Snowpiercer and Wu-tang documentary Of Mics and Men. The last of these has been amazing so far, with the surviving crew look back on their youth. The tales of poverty and crime are striking, and the footage of the young ODB is heartbreaking. We also got to see the group arguing over who invented the name; and Method Man being delighted to visit the canteen where he had his first job.

I also read Tom King’s Rorschach comic, which was good, but basically didn’t need to be about Watchmen, and can’t hold its own against Moore’s original. I’d been getting back into comics reading when Comixology changed their app, and the new version is appalling. So, I guess I’m off comics for now. It’s frustrating to live in an app-based world, where corporate decisions alter the interfaces and ways we enjoy art. Along with the problems of Spotify (renting music while defunding musical artists to invest in weapons companies) it feels like there not right here.

Despite being frustrasted with PS4 game Days Gone, I’ve now completed all the missions. No, it wasn’t really worth it, and I think I’m done with games for a while. There’s definitely nothing coming out on the PS4 that I am excited about.