BBC HP Lovecraft trilogy: Suffolk location of mystery village revealed

By Andrew Woodger
BBC News, East


The writer of a hit BBC horror drama series has revealed the grand finale was set in Suffolk near to the site of the infamous "1980 UFO incident".

Julian Simpson adapted The Shadow Over Innsmouth, the latest in a trilogy of podcasts inspired by the occult stories of American author HP Lovecraft.

He said the location of the fictional village Pleasant Green was "somewhere between Orford and Rendlesham".

He added that the trilogy had ended, but some characters may be revived.

The trilogy of dramas were in the top 10 most-listened to podcasts/broadcasts on BBC Sounds in 2020.

The series retained the titles of Lovecraft's stories (the first two being The Case of Charles Dexter Ward and The Whisperer in Darkness) and their original locations in New England, but has expanded them to take in Suffolk, the New Forest, France and Iraq.

Image source, Julian Simpson/Chill Factor Films
Image caption,
Julian Simpson said "atmospheric conditions" on the coast "could do strange things" which could explain the 1980 UFO incident

The tale of "occult" rituals and beliefs ends with the village magically appearing "somewhere in East Anglia" leading to the disappearance of one of the main characters - investigator Matthew Heawood.

Simpson, who grew up in Felsted in Essex, said: "On our first trip to Suffolk for Whisperer, we were struck by the deep sense of history which you don't get from all places. There's an untamedness to the Suffolk coast which I really like.

"In my imagination Pleasant Green appears in an empty bit of Suffolk, somewhere between Orford and Rendlesham Forest in the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB, but I couldn't put a pin in a map and tell you exactly where."

Image caption,
The Forestry Commission has created a UFO Trail in Rendlesham Forest featuring a model of a UFO based on a USAF airman's sketch of what he claimed to have seen

Whisperer featured references to the 1980 Rendlesham Incident, where USAF personnel serving at RAF Woodbridge claimed to have spotted mysterious lights and a UFO in the neighbouring forest, over several nights beginning on 26 December, and the fictional drama featured the real-life recordings made by airmen.

Forty years on, the events are still the subject of controversy, with theories including that the lights came from the now-demolished Orfordness Lighthouse, a secret military craft from the British military testing site on Orford Ness, or an actual alien visitation.

In Whisperer, the drama featured rituals taking place in the forest in 1980 and being repeated in 2019.

Simpson said, despite his research, he had been unable to draw any conclusions about what the US servicemen saw in 1980.

"Those guys know the difference between a plane and a lighthouse light, in theory," he said.

"However, having been there at night and imagining what the lighthouse at Orford Ness might have looked like coming through the trees, there is a possibility that is what they were seeing. That's the most popular sceptic version of what happened.

"Because of the atmospheric conditions on that part of the coast, if it was a bit foggy coming through the trees, light can do strange things and it could have been that.

"I find it unlikely that if you were doing a military test of an aircraft at Orford Ness, that you wouldn't tell RAF Woodbridge. Even if you don't want the Americans to know about it, they're going to detect it on their radar, exactly like they did."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Orfordness Lighthouse was demolished in 2020 and sceptics say its beam was the source of the 1980 UFO mystery

Simpson said some of the characters in the trilogy had come from previous plays he had written for BBC Radio Four, and The Shadow Over Innsmouth leaves some questions unanswered, such as which character is actually a Ministry of Works agent in deep cover, and whether Matthew Heawood is still alive.

"I want to do a sequel but I don't know when. I feel like this story is over, but I'm not sure the characters are over," he said.

"There's a whole TV Tropes website about this stuff now - the Pleasant Green universe - and a lot of engagement on social media. Never say never.

"There's a clue to whether Matthew Heawood is dead or not - there's a burst of white noise on the trailer and you can hear Heawood shouting 'can anyone hear me?'

"So that's a clue that he's still out there somewhere."

The Lovecraft Investigations trilogy is available at BBC Sounds.

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