This time last year we were in a lockdown where we couldn’t visit our favourite cafes or restaurants. We couldn’t mix with other people and it felt like a very sombre time. One thing I shared was a chance to go for a family walk and do the Portsmouth Mystery Tour by Mystery Guides. Spending a couple of hours as a family walking around the historical parts of Portsmouth, getting fresh air as well as unraveling the story around the streets and landmarks felt like something we could all appreciate.
Catching up with Jack Wells who created the mystery guides, he shared the news that there is a new mystery to be solved and it’s all about Southsea!
Asking him about this new tour which you can buy as a book he said “The new guide is all about Southsea and offers a fun way to engage in the local history. According to local legend, in the summer of 1910, a strange character appeared on Southsea Common for the first time, who became an overnight celebrity and a treasured city icon; a mechanical laughing sailor owned by local handyman Quentin Price. However, on one sunny morning as Price was fixing a broken carriage wheel, someone secretly destroyed the machine in a terrible act of vandalism!
Why would someone want to silence Southsea’s iconic sailor? Was it a personal grudge against Price? Or did someone grow envious of the machine’s huge profits?
The journey you go on will be challenged with a range of cryptic clues including word games, maths puzzles, and hidden objects, as you immerse yourself in a unique story adventure and discover the best of Southsea’s fascinating history."
To celebrate this new book that sits nicely with mystery guides from many other cities, I asked Jack a few questions about how he set up this fabulous idea that has been a success in lots of places across the UK.
Hi Jack, where do you get your inspiration from?
Each adventure forms in a different way. Sometimes I get a great idea for a title or theme and work from there. Other times a few locations on the route have some kind of link or something in common, so the main storyline writes itself. For the Southsea book, I really wanted to have Southsea Common as the main location for the mystery, but I needed an iconic character that everyone could recognise. One night I suddenly remembered the old laughing sailor machine and jumped out of bed to write down some ideas. From there it all fell into place very quickly.
How did you get into history?
That would be from my Dad. He used to take me around Old Portsmouth as a kid (and the old pubs) and tell me all the amazing stories along the way. I’ve been hooked ever since, and got a degree in history, with my final project focussing on Portsmouth and the Spithead Mutiny.
How did it all start?
I wrote my first book, The Mystery of Nelson’s Stolen Diamonds, after being a guide around Old Portsmouth and having an interest in treasure hunt-type activities. I wanted to combine a nice walk with problem solving, history, and some old pubs along the way; and that’s how the adventure was born.
Next places or cities you want to cover
I do plan to launch some more locations next year, and the writing has already started on those. You will need to subscribe to my mailing list to keep up-to-date on all the latest adventures! As well as the city mysteries, I want to continue to create other mystery-type products, as the puzzle advent calendar and craft beer mystery in a box have both been really popular this year.
I then asked Jack some Christmas questions!
Xmas Eve or Boxing Day?
Definitely Christmas Eve.
Sprouts or parsnips?
I love sprouts, and don’t know why they get a bad name.
Baileys or sherry?
I like a glass of fizz at Christmas so neither ha ha
You can go buy the new mystery guide tour book on the Love Southsea Market this wknd down on Palmerston Road and you can also buy it by visiting the website. A great stocking filler for loved ones!