ASSAP: Paranormal Research
ASSAP: Paranormal Education
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ASSAP History: 'Publications'
by Val Hope

History Index

In-house publications

Regular contact with members is guaranteed through ASSAP News, with six issues a year, and Anomaly, our twice-yearly journal of record. Spares of both publications are regularly handed out as promotional material at events such as the UnConvention. Since 2005 we have also had a special bulletin solely for accredited investigators (AIs). Past issues of Anomaly show the inventiveness of ASSAP artists. New logo designer Wendy Milner is a worthy successor to Anomaly’s first cover artist, Andy Norfolk, who produced wonderful covers for many years. Wendy has continued this tradition, and her eyecatching designs also feature on the ASSAP website.

Anomaly

Anomaly was a late starter. Initially we shared Common Ground, published by Kevin McClure and described as ‘always outspoken, often controversial, but committed to the search for that “common ground” where our studies converge’. After a number of issues it became clear that ASSAP needed its own independent mouthpiece, and Anomaly was launched in October 1984. In the early days we weren’t sure how often Anomaly should appear, but we soon gathered enough copy together and settled on two issues a year. Anomaly’s character has changed over the years, moving away from reporting summaries of investigations and instead concentrating on educating members. In recent issues we have had articles and discussions on orbs, research into magnetic anomalies, recording-type ghosts, using equipment and the ability (or otherwise) of psi to affect the stock market. The content of Anomaly has often made a public splash, with past articles reproduced on a number of websites, including that of the Campaign for Philosophical Freedom (Alan Cleaver’s 1987 article on Rita Goold’s mediumship). Past issues can be viewed in the Members Area of the website.

ASSAP News

First ASSAP NewsASSAP News has been there since the beginning, with the first issue published in October 1981 (left) as a four-sided A4 newsletter. That issue showed that we meant business, with ufologist and author Jenny Randles stressing the need for a network of investigators and an article with suggestions for forming local groups. There have been a number of facelifts over the years, with the newsletter changing to A5 in 1989 due to popular demand, only to go back to A4 ten years later, although the results of the 1999 membership survey were tied on page size. The chairman had the casting vote, and so we went back to A4. The cost of each issue was unchanged, since printers preferred working with A4. The bigger pages lent themselves to improvements in design, with clearer illustrations and less need for articles to be broken up over several pages, squeezed in where they could fit. That was something the members really didn’t like, according to the survey. They also voted for bigger and better publications coming out more frequently, with more up-to-date information. We managed to find the funds to increase output of ASSAP News from quarterly to six issues a year, but Anomaly lost four pages as a direct result, as the survey also revealed that members weren’t willing to dig any deeper into their pockets to cover the extra cost of paper and postage.

The content of ASSAP News has always been news-driven, but members have constantly had to be cajoled into reporting what they’ve been up to. For a while we covered a lot of psychic questing stories, in which Andy Collins’ investigations were spurred on by the dreams of his various colleagues. The team would then go out and search for items hidden in the landscape, including the (in)famous 'Meonia sword' and green stone. Later we covered the rise of crop circles. Not all the members were happy all the time about the balance of our coverage, some claiming that ASSAP News was dominated by ‘soft’ research and plugged books by the ‘elite’ rather than reporting on proper investigations. But successive editors have only ever been able to publish what was submitted by members or written by the editor.

ASSAP hasn’t run scared of covering controversial issues. There were heated exchanges over witness protection in UFO cases and just what investigators and authors were entitled to write up about named witnesses. The mid-1990s saw an exchange of views on case ownership - should case investigators be able to stop other AIs who happened to be authors plundering the archives for profit? One author took the opportunity to comment on our review of his book, pointing out just where we’d gone wrong. When everyone has the right to reply, we need to know where to pull the plug on an argument - which is preferably before we bore our readers rigid. Contributions on electromagnetism and its possible action on the human brain pop up regularly in our publications, although this is thought by many to be a reductionist explanation of psychic phenomena. In 2006 we published a round-up of recent public revelations concerning the Most Haunted TV show. As Ofcom concluded that the show was 'produced for entertainment purposes', no breach of the Broadcasting Code had taken place.

Starting in 1989 we were pleased to feature a column in ASSAP News written by one Count Saint Germain, who managed to say the things we all wanted to but didn’t dare put in print. The Count’s opinions were never anything less than contentious, and one attack on another organization drew criticism. ASSAP News, ever even-handed, published this letter, but also a letter from a member who agreed with Saint Germain. After a series of attacks on energies and vibrations, the destruction of ancient monuments, attempts to interpret the crop circle’s message, the Count set his quill aside in 1992. There was a one-off contribution by ‘Miss T.R.E.E. Monger’, but since then we've either been too cowardly to court controversy or such issues have been disguised under a veil of humour.

Back in 1982 we were already featuring brain research in ASSAP News, with a brief review of work by Stephen Galliano under the auspices of the Institute of Psychiatry. Stephen and Dr Peter Fenwick were working on the link between a ‘weakness’ in the right temporal lobe and a psychic faculty. The brain is still an area discussed widely within ASSAP, most recently in an issue of Anomaly in 2006 covering temporal lobe epilepsy and how it mimics psychism in some of its features.

Articles in ASSAP News sometimes catch the public’s eye. Stage and TV magician Paul Daniels dropped us a line in 1986 to tell us we’d got the story of his £10,000 challenge to psychics slightly wrong. Steven Volk, writer of the controversial Ghostwatch TV programme and, more recently, the acclaimed series After Life, has also written for and to ASSAP News over the years. Our announcement of a training day in 1986 covering ESP and premonitions led to an anonymous letter being sent to Val Hope, one of the organizers, predicting the death of one of the speakers at the event. Fortunately that speaker is still with us, but for the sake of confidentiality we'd better keep the name a secret.

The 50th issue of ASSAP News came out in February 1994 and was celebrated quietly. The 100th issue was produced by Mike White in May 2004 and looked back at old covers and editors. In just the same way as people debated the actual start of the new millennium, we couldn’t be entirely sure of the number of editions ASSAP News had run to. On a couple of occasions now the numbering has gone a little haywire, and it would take a long look into the archives to see whether or not we ever fixed it.

The editors

As well as changing the appearance of our publications, we’ve changed our editors, too. The first editor of Anomaly was journalist Alan Cleaver, and when he stood down in 1991 Maurice Townsend took over. Maurice stayed in that role until 2006. Alan was also the first editor of ASSAP News, being succeeded in 1984 by Caroline Wise. Caroline gave notice of her intention to quit in 1986, but couldn’t find a willing successor for some time, so John Merron stepped into the breach. Hugh Pincott took over in 1990 and set about putting together a production team, which compiled a number of issues before folding. Val Hope took over with issue 43 in 1992.

For 12 years Val Hope wielded her shiny red pen over copy and took photos of events she attended. If you were at a meeting and someone stuck a camera in your face ‘for ASSAP News’, it was probably her. One of the many meetings she attended for ASSAP News was in London’s Covent Garden in 1993, to hear Doug Bower explain his crop circle techniques and the tools of his trade. She also regularly plundered her own photo albums for miscellaneous illustrations to fill gaps and dragged her mother half way round Bruges in Belgium on a quest for suitable photos for an upcoming issue. She reported on her one experience of sleep paralysis, seemingly prophetic dreams, her mother’s experiences with mediums, psychic artists and more. Nothing was sacred.

After sticking around so long that the Executive had no option in 2001 but to give her the service award, she decided it was time to find a successor. Having a history of nobbling Mike White to take over ASSAP stands at the UnConvention while she lunched, she asked Mike to step in. He took over with ASSAP News 94 in 2003 and transformed the newsletter with his inimitable and undefinable humour, not to mention doctored photos and sometimes obscure references to popular culture.

Paper and glue

The technology involved in producing our publications has also changed - without it, Mike could not so easily transform his colleagues into well-known cartoon characters at the click of a mouse. However, it wasn’t always so. We had several years of sending text to professional typesetters, before Hugh Pincott's sophisticated typewriter took over some of the work. It was under Caroline Wise’s editorship that ASSAP acquired its first computer, an Amstrad. However, the primitive state of word processing software in the early days meant that articles still had to be typed up and stuck onto layout paper as individual blocks of text, spread out or squeezed up depending on the amount of space left over on a page. The results could be a bit wonky, as a glance at early issues will show, but over the years the software improved. Now a file is emailed direct to the printer’s and, with a bit of luck, everything stays in place.

Project Albion

Alan Cleaver’s Project Albion was part of the 'Merlin Matrix' modular research programme, devised by Maurice Townsend in 1983. Albion has been described as ‘the Domesday Book of the Paranormal’, and its aim is to record every anomaly in the country, from ancient legends to sites of hauntings and poltergeists. This, of course, reflects ASSAP’s multidisciplinary and cross-fertilization approach. For those members who think recording legends and FOAFs has no place in anomaly research, one message from Jason Braithwaite’s 2004 Muncaster conference was to ‘take legends seriously but not literally’. Who can tell what aspects of the landscape have an effect on what we experience?

Quite naturally, Alan Cleaver himself was behind the first Albion publication. Strange Wycombe came out in 1985, a team effort from his new 'Strange' group in his new home town. Alan, a professional journalist, galvanized the group into action to look into local legends, traditions and paranormal cases. The team attracted sponsorship for the book and organized a day of talks to publicize their research. Activities included the construction of a model of the Hughendon dragon and the revival of a local mummers’ play.

Albion was relaunched at a special members’ day at Goldsmiths College, south London, in 1991. A number of 'Strange...' books and websites have been produced by local groups and individuals in the intervening years. Sites covered have included Pocklington, Oxford, Kingston, Wimbledon and Sheffield, and just about every town where Alan Cleaver and partner Lesley Park have lived. A recent contribution is Val Hope’s Strange Croydon, based on over 15 years of local research. It sits on the web where anyone can read it for free. Former ASSAP Librarian Jim Clark is constantly beavering away in neighbouring Mitcham, where his Albion tally has now reached three: two on Mitcham and one on Wandsworth.

There is something to be said for publishing your own book rather than having it commissioned by a publisher. Albion contributors can do whatever is within the limits of their funds or imaginations. Some of the themes of Project Albion might not interest commercial publishers, leading to the sort of book that reproduces third-hand legends and ghost stories without comment, perpetuating errors, not giving proper bibliographies or indexes and possibly even greater publishing crimes! In short, Project Albion doesn’t need such books. If it is to benefit future researchers, we need to know where stories are coming from.

The Investigators’ Bulletin

The special newsletter for accredited investigators was launched in May 2005 by Bill Eyre and Dylan Jones, National Investigations Coordinator and deputy NIC respectively. The intention is for it to appear every four months, sent by email to those with computers or by post with the closest ASSAP News to those who request a paper copy. The first editor was Dylan, but in 2006 pressure of work led to the editorship being handed over to relative newbie Cherill Penton. Cherill kicked off with a bumper issue (No. 4) in May 2006. Dylan’s swansong had been an article on identifying cannabis abuse in witnesses, and Cherill followed this with an examination of common sleeping tablets and their effects by Terri Setterington. The bulletin will be used to share tips and hints on investigations, publish special features on particular aspects of investigative work, updates on current cases and more.

ASSAP hits the bookshelves

ASSAP has also ventured into the world of publishing real books. 1983 saw the launch of the first in a series of ASSAP books entitled 'The Evidence for...' under Thorson’s Aquarian imprint. Hilary Evans, who edited the series, was the author of The Evidence for UFOs, and Kevin McClure The Evidence for Visions of the Virgin Mary. Several others followed, contributed by authors such as Janet and Colin Bord, Michael Goss, David Group, John Rimmer and D Scott Rogo. For many years after the books were no longer available in the UK, royalties continued to trickle in for our authors from translations sold all over the world. The titles relating to BVMs and phantom hitch-hikers were perhaps the most popular over the years, with Kevin McClure's book translated into Spanish and Portuguese for South American audiences.

In 1993 Hilary Evans wrote a short volume on street-lamp interference (SLI) that was published by ASSAP. It was based on reports submitted to the Street Lamp Interference Data Exchange (SLIDE) from 1991. The original printed book sold out. Recent renewed interest in SLI led Bill Eyre to write an update for ASSAP News 103, and we have republished Hilary’s original work electronically on our website in order to share it with a wider audience (just here).

In 1999 UK-based publishers Collins & Brown published The Paranormal Investigator’s Handbook, a well-received introduction to investigation and research techniques, edited by Maurice Townsend and Val Hope with (regrettably uncredited) contributions from Hugh Pincott (Coincidences), Paul Chambers (Out-of-body experiences), Rob Stephenson (Earth mysteries), Phil Walton (UFOs), Clive Seymour (Remote viewing) and Hilary Evans (SLI). Val wrote the chapter on Life after Death, while Maurice provided the chapters entitled Introduction; Investigating; Hauntings; Fortean Phenomena; Are you psychic?; and Premonitions.

The book was not widely advertised or promoted, nor was there much sign of ASSAP’s name in the finished product, but it could be found on the shelves of booksellers WH Smith for a little while. Unfortunately, it didn’t run to a second edition, so the omission of contributors’ names was never corrected. Favourable reviews appeared on the internet, from this country, the USA and Australia. It can still occasionally be obtained second-hand if you look hard enough. We like to think of it as a collectors item!

A more recent string attached loosely to the ASSAP bow has been the production of articles for peer-reviewed journals. Jason Braithwaite and Maurice Townsend produced a number of pieces on their MADS research, centred on reports of hauntings at Muncaster Castle in the English Lake District. Some of the articles have been reproduced, with permission, on the MADS website to make them more widely available.
© Valerie Hope 2007