It’s been one month since a local northeastern PA news station publicized the story about what has now become known as the “Schuylkill notes”.
Schuylkill (pronounced “SKOO-kill”) is the name of the county around which the cryptic notes seem to be centered. But occurrences are still being reported throughout the Susquehanna Valley, north central PA, and even out to the western and eastern counties.
Attention to the story is growing
The news station, “Eyewitness News” (WBRE/WYOU), hit the jackpot with this coverage. Not only did the mysterious notes continue to pop out of boxes and be pinned to leaves along walking trails, people became really interested in following the story.
A subreddit called r/SchuylkillNotes showed up back in September. Since then, 15,500 members watch the postings daily and speculate about the origin of the notes. Some people make ridiculous accusations and float nonsensical ideas. It is Reddit after all – that kind of stuff is a given. I asked the Subreddit about the evidence of the notes actually being in sealed packaging, as opposed to a “sealed” box, which has obvious gaps in which to insert a folded note. Most people did not believe the notes had really been inside sealed foil or plastic and thought the witnesses were mistaken or exaggerating.
News coverage is shallow
Unfortunately, Eyewitness News’ “I-Team” (investigation team) reinforces the claim of “inside sealed packaging” with only, well, eyewitness evidence. They published a story quoting an expert in supply chain operations. He seemed to also believe it was a limited operation, as his quote did not suggest it was an inside job. However, the framing of the article led the reader to think otherwise. (“Area professor weighs in on “Mystery Notes” in supply chains“)
I haven’t been too impressed with the investigation of the “I-Team” so far. They seem to miss information that is readily available on the Internet. Although they may do investigations, local news reporters don’t present them thoroughly in the limited space they have on TV or on the website. But, the I-Team promised more in the coming days, saying they have “traced several solid leads as to the origin of these mystery notes” and “believe at least some of the notes are coming out of south-central Pennsylvania, specifically the Harrisburg area”. Originally, the FDA was said to be involved. Now, the news org says the FBI is investigating. Product tampering is a federal crime.
If someone is caught tampering, however, it’s not likely to be the end of the story. Copycats are almost a certainty, considering the number of people who are seriously invested in this conspiracy narrative. So, even if the crime is solved, I doubt it will end there.
Golden Ticket Clickbait
It is hard to believe that no one has yet been caught tampering with products – such as putting items back on the shelf after they messed with them. I suppose that, if done during non-busy hours, such an action might not be noticed. Being in Harrisburg, I have found myself looking for packages that might stick out on the supermarket shelf. Finding a note would be like finding a Golden Ticket. I’d be pretty excited.
The puzzling Schuylkill Notes saga is getting notable attention across the country. As of this post date, the story has been picked up by Axios-Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Inquirer, but not by a major news outlet outside of Pennsylvania. It’s a good bet it will be soon, though, particularly if no suspect is found or if notes turn up in even more areas.
For now, this slow building drama is clickbait gold as media, YouTubers, and mystery mongers keep talking about it.