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.