Something peculiar is happening in a major city in England, and I’m quite sure that I am being blocked from making it public. I’m Hayley Benett, a relatively successful freelance journalist, and I moved to this city a couple of years back. I cover any local story that takes my interest. When my dad was still alive he was successful in the industry, so I have firm connections to multiple publications that regularly publish my reports, articles and interviews. Some are national, some local… In this industry, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know, and my dad gave me a great entrance into a journalistic freedom that not many get to experience.
So I was extremely shocked when I was turned down by five of my go-to editors when I pitched them the article I am about to share with you. Because something that is this out of the ordinary, happening in the home of Europe’s top colleges, is newsworthy. It’s rare that my pitches are turned down, but when they are I am always given excellent feedback about why. This time, I have just been told no. There has been no explanation, no advice, no spec to work towards… Something is going on. I’m sure of it.
Maybe I’m a bit paranoid, but I have decided to put the article out myself while I continue my investigation. I don’t feel comfortable being the only one pushing for this to go public. In my 12 years in this profession, I have learnt to trust my instinct, and something feels off here. This seems the safest platform for it, at least while I gather more evidence. I am having to keep the name of the city secret, for legal reasons. I hope that those of you who read this will get the same uneasy feeling that I have from everything that’s happened so far.
EDITOR TO INCLUDE HEADLINE
An unexpected influx of mathematicians and scientists has left the residents of -city redacted- baffled, after access to the city was temporarily restricted to allow for a mysterious mass arrival that brought the centre to a standstill.
Following nearby airports closing for several hours at 9pm on Wednesday, –city redacted– smaller private airport had a flurry of private planes arriving throughout the night. An anonymous source who works for the airport told –publication to be added once article is sold– exclusively that:
“There were private planes arriving at all hours. We usually only see one or two every couple of days. We’re a small airport. But there were so many arrivals, more than I’ve ever seen. More than any of my coworkers had ever seen, too. We’re talking about 15 planes, in one night. They were all full of people, too.
The passengers had to state their occupation after landing, and most seemed to be mathematics and science professors. They were from all over the world.
Someone must have known it was happening, because the entire staff were told last month to be prepared to be in all Wednesday night. We weren’t told why, and we definitely didn’t expect anything like that. We suspected they’d just have us painting the floors or something.”
The following morning, Thursday 16th August, up to fifty police cars arrived at the centre between 7.30am and 8.30am. To achieve the high number of police presence, police officers had to have been brought in from other counties, as the local police force only has 38 police officers due to cuts.
The police quickly evacuated the centre; with cyclists, tourists and shop owners directed to the outskirts. It was then cordoned off to ensure nobody unauthorised would re-enter central –city redacted– . Following that, traffic was stopped all over the city. Then a large number of private plate cars, whose passengers were protected from view by privacy glass, were seen driving towards the areas that the public had been forced to leave.
Disgruntled independent book shop owner, Ava Morgan, was amongst many locals to witness the arrival:
“They shot past from the direction of the airport. Without a doubt, they were breaking the speed limit. There must have been a couple every minute, at an accurate enough guess. It went on for an hour, so in total I lost two hours of business. Not that the police care about that, of course.”
As soon as the cars finished entering the centre, the cordon was swiftly lifted and those that had been evacuated were directed back to resume normality. However, tourists were disappointed to find that major attraction –college redacted– Library was closed off to the public, and remains so at the time of print.
It wasn’t only tourists and business owners that were affected. Dr Rahman Ellwood, organiser of annual, invite-only history event “Live History” told –publication to be added once article is sold- :
“I’ve been organising this wonderful event for three years now. Hard-fought-for funding has allowed us to hire various venues across the city in order to host our convention, which includes lectures, seminars and workshops. Now, just mere days before, I’ve been told that the whole thing has to be cancelled until further notice because they need the venues for ‘more urgent business’. Live History may be a relatively new event but I have 200 attendees and 50 History academics due to arrive, and now I need to tell them all that it’s not happening. It’s completely outrageous that I cannot even give them a reason. Those responsible for this abomination should expect to hear from our solicitors.”
Other than “Live History”, no public or private seminars are scheduled in or around the city for the following two weeks, so the reason behind the arrival of some of the world’s brightest minds remains a mystery. As it stands, city police have not responded to any requests for statements.
The unexpected cancellation of what is fast becoming one of the world’s most popular history events was preceded by an abrupt cancellation of –city redacted-’s loved and cherished ‘astronomy open evening’, in March. Held at the –city’s historical telescope– and open to the public, astronomy enthusiasts were gobsmacked earlier this year when Dr Mariya Madden “emotionally kicked out” attendees halfway through the session, as previously reported by Haley Bennett.
Do you have something to share? Contact Hayley Bennett at hayleybenett@***************co.uk
I know I’m not exactly the world’s best journalist, but I know a story when I see one and trust me – this is a story. For your reference, I’m pasting in the article mentioned above, written when the people who run the public astronomy evenings totally lost their minds and kicked everyone out:
Thursday 8th March 2018
**-**city redacted- Astronomers To End Public Open Evenings After Shock Cancellation
Local astronomy enthusiasts were left out in the cold on Wednesday evening when they were abruptly ejected from the popular astronomy open evening held at –city’s historical telescope-, in what eyewitnesses have described as a “surreal night”.
Lecturer Dr Mariya Madden, 31, allegedly ended the institute’s public session on the lawn outside –city’s historical telescope– 30 minutes early, insisting that everybody leave the area immediately. The public had been listening to a short lecture by Dr Madden and were due to go inside and use the telescope, guided by members of the institute.
An unnamed, elderly colleague, described as having a German accent, is thought to have triggered the early dismissal. It is claimed that he became “hysterical” in the small building that houses the famous telescope, and was heard from the outside by members of the public “crying out”, “screaming for help” and saying “It’s happening, my God, it’s happening.”
An audience of less than 30 attended Dr Madden’s public lecture, which was much less than the average 90-100 attendees. This was perhaps due to the unusually bitter weather experienced in –city redacted– this week. Mr Lewis Wright, who was at the public talk with his 12-year-old son, said:
“It was all very unexpected. We’ve attended most open evenings this winter and they’ve been professional but fun. To hear a member of the programme having some sort of hysterical meltdown was upsetting. He kept crying out, shouting ‘It’s happening’. It was clear he needed help.”
Following the comotion, Dr Madden is said to have urged her audience to stay calm before making her way in to attend to her distressed colleague. Within minutes, she returned and instructed the entire party to leave. Local amateur astronomer Joanne O’Brien described the scene in more detail:
“I heard him crying out for a while before anyone else seemed to notice. I didn’t want to interrupt the lecture because it really wasn’t very clear what was going on. But then he started screaming out for help. He sounded terrified. I thought he must be having a stroke or a heart attack.
Dr Madden went in to him and was back out within 5 minutes. When she came back she just told us all we needed to leave the grounds. A couple of us asked if she wanted us to stay and help, but she absolutely insisted we left straight away. She was pale as a ghost, in fact, she looked terrified herself. It was a surreal night, to say the least.
Even as we were walking away we could still hear him screaming out. He was shouting, “My God, it’s happening! It’s happening!”, over and over again. I tried to contact the institute when I got home because I was concerned, but the phone line was engaged all evening and nobody responded online.”
When contacted for a statement, Dr Madden sent the following:
“On Wednesday 7th March, my colleague, who will remain anonymous, experienced health concerns during a public lecture. Some of those attending may have heard his distress, and I am sure that they can understand why I made the decision to end the session early. Fortunately, my colleague simply had a minor health scare and is, thankfully, now well again.
Though the institute’s open evenings are scheduled to continue until the end of the month, my team and I have made the decision to end them with immediate effect. We apologise for any inconvenience.”
The early closure came as a shock to locals, many of whom regularly attend the open evenings held by the astronomy institute. They were not due to end for the summer until the end of March. When pushed for reasoning behind the decision to end three full weeks early, Dr Madden declined to comment further. It is currently unknown if they will restart at the beginning of next winter.
Do you have something to share? Contact Hayley Benett at haleybenett@****************.co.uk
It might seem like a loose link to the reader, but I’ve got a growing suspicion that it’s relevant. There’s more to it than I’m able to write in the article, and I think I might be about to break something big. You see, the ‘anonymous airport source’ is an ex-boyfriend of mine (when you’re a journalist, it’s always good to have an ex who works somewhere useful and hangs from your every word). When all the planes full of genius’ were landing, guess who was the one greeting them all? The one and only Dr Madden. And apparently she still looked like she’d just seen a ghost. Maybe that’s just her face… Or maybe there’s something really funny going on here.
I’ve got some leads to follow, anyway. Back in March, when Dr Madden shut down the telescope open evenings from the public, I chased her about it like a hound dog but she kept totally silent. At the time, I thought they must have been shutting early because of a funding scandal that I could break, but she was too tough to crack so I let it go. Perhaps naively, I fell hook line and sinker for the story about the ill colleague, so I never tried to interview him. In hindsight, who the hell screams, “My God, it’s happening! It’s happening!” When they are having a bit of a funny turn? I’ve got a few questions for him.
I’ve still got two more editors to contact, too, who I can try and get to publish my article. One of them is a good friend of mine with a weak publication, but a weak publication is better than no publication. For now, I’m going to get some sleep.
**To read the rest of this complete series, follow this link. It will take you directly to Part 1 on r/NoSleep, where the other 9 parts can be found at the bottom of the post.