‘Help Me, Help Me! Suzie’s Dying!’

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LES HEWITT looks at a strange urban legend from the 1970s which still baffles people to this day

Help me, Help me. Susie's Dying!

Quite often when the phone rings at Moe’s Tavern, it is Bart Simpson playing a prank on the bartender by asking for an innuendo laden name.

In the late 1970s, there was an urban legend doing the rounds in northern England, principally around the Burnley area surrounding a sinister telephone number that had a similar, but conflicting, message. 

“Help me, help me. Suzie’s dying”

There are those that dialled the number and received a message that went into a little extra detail. The Suzie the message was referring to was drowning. Whatever the message relayed, the voice on the other end belonged to a woman who spoke in a dull, deadpan voice that bore no hint of emotion or interest.

There were some that considered that the voice was not a genuine one and was the result of some form of early or primitive digitised address. If that was true, then the chances are good that this was some kind of Governmental or official programme. That theory would explain some of the mystery, but not all of it. The main problem with this proposal was that there was an apparent lack of conclusion.

This could be true of many secret programmes or so called Black Projects. 

In order to hear this disturbing message, anyone would have to get access to a working public telephone box and dial a certain string of numbers. The actual sequence is not officially known one way or another, but all reports tend to focus on a 0, a 1 or a 2. Some claim that is 20202020 while others insisted that that was not a number that they had used. Some even believe that all numbers are accurate and frequently changed.

A caller that remained on the line would hear the message repeat on some kind of loop or cycle. The general consensus was that this would have continued on indefinitely.

Public telephone boxes from the era would require the insertion of coins before the vast majority of calls were made. The only notable exception was emergency calls. However, some of these calls made were said to have been free of charge. Some, but not all. It would be hard to believe that there would be charges made on a selective basis? Does that mean that this entire concept was a work of fiction or someone’s idea of fun? 

Perhaps. But that would be a surreal or warped sense of humour.

If this was, indeed, a reality that was experienced by those who said happened to them, then the obvious question would be who was Suzie? Was this a real person or some kind of classified covert operation? If this was the latter, then why would it have been available on the end of a (likely) recorded message accessible to anyone via a public phone? 

If it was the former, then the same question remains. What ultimately happened to Suzie? The rise of this tale – whether it’s real or not – must have one single event which spread like wildfire among the local population. As more and more people dialled the number, the disturbing legend was born. It may add to the curious aspect of conflicting details, such as the number itself and the content of the actual message.

As the 1970s turned into the 1980s, reports of what could be described as a theoretical Schrödinger’s cat experiment began to wane. It does seem as though this was just a fad of the time, much like the introduction of the skateboard and CB Radio several years later. While both are still an activity appealing to a certain section of the populace, Suzie has largely been consigned to the history books.

At some point during the last 40 years or so, the number that one may have used to listen to the message has been disconnected. It is no longer available.

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