Horncastle Suicides, a special report by Genevieve Messier for the Horncastle Times. January 2018.
Horncastle, a small Roman town dating from the ninth century, and situated in the Lincolnshire Wolds, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, lies at the confluence of three waterways – the River Bain, the River Waring and the Horncastle Canal. Today, many of the old wharf buildings lining the canal and the river Bain, once traversed by barges laden with grain, timber, and coal, have now been converted into smart, desirable apartments and townhouses.
Horncastle boasts a plethora of antique shops, from the smartest emporia of expensive furniture and rare porcelain to a converted church, shared by a number of dealers, with a myriad illuminated cases displaying bright, enticing jewellery and knick-knacks, to the chaotic and mind-boggling maze of bric-a-brac and junk that is Archer’s.
But this picturesque town and its surrounding villages hold a dark secret. In the past two years, since January 2016, there have been twelve suicides, predominantly of young people under the age of twenty-one. An astonishing SIX times the national average.
Genevieve Messier spoke to Mary Todd.
Mary, your son, Saul, was just seventeen years old when he died. He was a pupil at the local grammar school. Are you able to tell me about it?
Yes, it was in February 2016, nearly two years ago. He’d gone to school, normal like, he didn’t seem upset or anything. When he didn’t come home I thought he’d gone to Wayne’s. That’s his best mate. About eight o’clock I phoned Wayne’s mum, Karen. She said Wayne was there but Saul wasn’t and that Wayne hadn’t seen Saul at school neither.
That’s when I got worried. I texted him, then later I phoned his mobile but he never answered, so I called the police. I spent a sleepless night, as well you can imagine. Then the next morning they came to tell me they’d found him in the woods, down the river just past Tesco’s. He’d hanged himself with his school tie.
I’m so sorry Mary. Did he leave a note?
Yeah, he did. It was under a pillow. He said he realised there was too much evil on Earth and that on ‘the other side’ it was just light and love, and that he wanted to join his friends there.
It was several months later that a rumour about a ‘suicide DVD’ began to emerge. The police have denied any knowledge of it, but Genevieve Messier spoke to Susan Brown (not her real name), a pupil at the local Grammar school, where it is understood five students have taken their own lives in the past two years.
Susan, what do you know of this ‘suicide DVD’?
Well, some say these kids killed themselves cos there’s nothing to do around here and no work, or else cos their parents wouldn’t let them go into Lincoln of a weekend. But what others are saying is that there’s a DVD. You watch it and you just want to kill yourself afterwards. But you have to write a suicide note about how it’s horrible on Earth and lovely in Heaven, and how you just want to go there, now rather than later. Then you have to pass the DVD on to someone else, before you … top yourself. And that person is sworn to secrecy.
Have you seen this DVD?
No, I haven’t! But a mate did. Kelly Ann.
What did she say?
Well, she said once the DVD starts, you can’t pause it, so she kept going out of the room and looking in from time to time. Anyway, it starts off showing all these horrible scenes from concentration camps, and the music’s really sad. Makes you want to cry, y’know. Then there’s film of these people disfigured by the nuclear bombs, and then these kids with awful injuries and mutations from gas attacks. Modern ones, y’know.
She could’ve turned the DVD player off though?
No, she said she wanted to see what happened. Anyway, after about twenty minutes, there’s all these coloured lights flashing on the screen and this weird pulsing music. It’s really hard to look away, she said. Then it finishes off with instructions about how to hang yourself, how to do the knots and all that. Or if you don’t want to hang, they tell you about what pills to take, and how many.
Why didn’t Kelly Ann take it to the police?
Well, she’d been sworn to secrecy, y’know, so she had to pass it to a friend, Saul, his name was.
How did she feel when she heard he’d killed himself?
I dunno. She’d committed suicide herself by then.
Thank you, Susan.
Just a fortnight ago, another young man, nineteen-year-old Jake Tyler, was found hanged in woodland by a disused quarry on Tetford Hill. The police are continuing to investigate this mysterious outbreak of suicides and would ask anyone with information to contact them.
For confidential support call the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 or visit a local Samaritans branch – see www.samaritans.org for details.
Featured in the book and audiobook, To Cut a Short Story Short, vol. II: 88 Little Stories
- Please consider making a small donation to help towards the running costs of this site. It would be greatly appreciated.
- Don’t forget to check out some other stories on this blog. There are over 450!
- To purchase the stories on To Cut a Short Story Short up to December 2021 in paperback, Kindle, eBook, and audio-book form, and for news on new titles, please see Shop.