A journalist and a UFO skeptic face a surreal car chase, blurring the lines between reality and paranoia. NEIL NIXON tells us the strange real-life tale near Dargle Cottage in Kent…
In April 1996, I was phoned by Justin Williams, a journalist with the Kent Messenger, who’d heard me on BBC Radio Kent talking about UFOs.
He was writing about Kent’s X-Files whilst the television series was at its height of popularity.
We met, swapped stories and ideas, and agreed we were sceptical on most paranormal subjects.
Justin mentioned a case I knew and gave me a useful idea. The internet was in its infancy and with the paranormal at a high-profile there were newsstand magazines covering the subject. I fed them with occasional content.
Justin mentioned the Dargle Cottage case. I’d heard of it, but not done any investigation of my own.
The location was close to home for me, so it struck me as a shoo-in to offer up to some magazine.
I knew the details, Justin had brought me up to date with a few key points, all I needed were photographs.
What was the Dargle Cottage Case?
Dargle Cottage is a UFO case, if only because some of the reported phenomena were strange lights and there was briefly a correlation between a sighting of what appeared to be satellites and an increase in the disturbing phenomena inside the cottage.
Nobody ever suggested extra-terrestrial involvement, the main witnesses suspected secret military tests.
A useful overview of the strangeness and its causes appears in Peter McCue’s book Britain’s Paranormal Forests, I’ll stick to basic details and my own surreal encounter.
The main witnesses were Mr and Mrs Antony Verney, the couple followed successful creative careers with retirement to their dream cottage, near the famous Biddenden Vineyard.
They bought the property in 1969, moving in permanently in the early 80s only to be plagued with noises, which appeared to emanate deep underground.
Lights appeared in nearby woods, apparently shining upwards from the ground. Other random and occasionally sinister occurrences included asphalt clogging their drains.
Whilst other visitors saw some of the events the key witnesses remained the Verneys. Antony was eventually moved to take matters to officialdom, a campaign that escalated from contacting Environmental Health and their local council to firing off correspondence directly to 10 Downing Street!
By 1996, that was history and Antony Verney was in a care home. All I wanted was a short overview.
Left in charge of our three-year-old whilst my wife had a weekend of psychotherapy training, planning the day was easy.
I satisfied the young ‘un by going on the Tenderden Steam Railway, after which, he dutifully fell asleep.
I drove to Dargle Cottage, got my photos and was carrying the camera back to the car when I saw a Vauxhall Astra containing a young couple resembling Mulder and Scully (smart, professional, and looking out of place on a country road on Saturday afternoon).
They parked up, pulled out when I pulled away and followed close behind for a couple of turnings. I decided to let them pass.
The first chance they got, they pulled in and let me past, from which point we had a car chase that ended with them reversing out of a farm lane onto an A road. I finally lost them by turning with no indication onto a back road and threading my way home.
The following Monday I rang Justin, the journalist, told him something sinister had happened and started the explanation before he interrupted with “You bastard!”
“What you on about?”
“It was me in that car, you frightened the life out of us!”
The rest – I think – is obvious, they were doing what I was doing.
Despite having been about a yard apart for half an hour a few days earlier neither of us recognised the other and for two self-proclaimed sceptics we were a disgrace that afternoon because both of our minds had gone into a paranoid place, concocting a non-existent threat.
Justin was particularly scared because he’d already leant on a police contact, checked my numberplate, and discovered the newish 400 Series Rover I was driving belonged to the county motor-pool.
He didn’t discover it was my wife’s work lease car. He knew such vehicles were go-to surveillance picks for Kent Police because they didn’t look conspicuous anywhere.
There’s a wider lesson here.
It’s common for ufologists to check in occasionally with stories of having visited places supposedly visited by UFOs and report strange goings on, like men in boiler suits taking samples to a nearby Land Rover.
Such sightings are taken as evidence of the authorities monitoring a secret landing site. I once asked a friend who is a hydrogeologist about such a sighting, I’d overheard discussed at a UFO conference. “Sounds like hydrogeologists to me” he said.
Typically, ufologists study reports, not hard evidence, we rely on our senses, and thinking, as I’ve shown here, they’re fallible!
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