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Strange Project Albion


Project Albion is part of one of ASSAP’s longest running and most successful research endeavours and it has been likened to a Domesday book of the paranormal. It is an attempt to record the full spectrum of anomalies, past and present, within their geographical, as well as historical, context. While surveys of phenomena like apparitions and UFOs have been done before, it is unlikely that such a census of so many kinds of anomaly has ever been attempted before nationwide.

So why do such a census? One of the main reasons is to record and collate material to form a central resource for future researchers. While some of this material is freely available in libraries and on the internet, much is not, being based on unwritten memories of locals and obscure archives. In addition, new facts may emerge which have never been noted before. Already AIbion has made some significant discoveries which would otherwise have been lost to future generations. Just as current historians are grateful for the Domesday Book itself, so it is hoped that Albion may be seen as invaluable in the future.

But what does geography have to do with, say, a poltergeist? Possibly nothing but conceivably a great deal. The real answer is that we do not know. Should we throw away such information when we do not know the answer? It hardly seems wise given our current ignorance of the mechanism of paranormal phenomena. The concept of Project Albion does not suggest that geographical context necessarily plays any part in a particular phenomena but it does at least allow us to consider the possibility. In any case, the date and place of an event also coincidentally pinpoint the cultural context of an event, it seems highly likely that such a cultural context is significant in a great many types of anomaly.

One powerful aspect of Project Albion is its ability to detect so-called hot spots. These are particular geographical locations which seem to have more than their fair share of unusual phenomena. Such coincidences have been noted before but never looked for in such wide spectrum of phenomena. Clearly if it were found that poltergeists almost always occurred with 500m of a church say, this could be highly significant. It would also immediately lead to a closer look at the few exceptions to the rule - why were they different? It is clear that this sort of thing could turn up all sorts of new theories. Also, if a particular hot-spot was found to have a long history of a wide spectrum of anomalous phenomena, it should clearly be investigated further. It could lead to the discovery of a hitherto unsuspected relationship between two phenomena, It could also lead to the discovery of a geographical aspect of a phenomenon which had also not been previously known. Clearly there could be rich vein of discoveries waiting in such hot-spots.

Project Albion has produced good results already. A series of booklets have been produced, known as the ‘Strange’ series. The first was Strange Wycombe, concerning the High Wycombe area. Others followed rapidly, Strange Oxfordshire, Strange Sheffield, Strange Berkshire and Strange Pocklington. Most are sadly now out of print. A variety of unusual stories have been covered, some well-known others less so. They have included such characters as the Hughenden and Wantley dragons, Herne the Hunter, Robin Hood, Spring-heeled Jack and a host of witches, ghosts and distinctly unearthly beings.

Places covered have included holy wells, legendary tunnels (which turn out to be physically reall), ancient monuments and other peculiar locations often surrounded by local traditions and connected by ley lines. There is also a fair amount of, as yet, unpublished material concerning such places as south-east London.

ALBION IN PRACTICE

Project Albion consists essentially of two parts; examination of documentary evidence and field work. The combination of the two is essential to the final success of the project.

SUBJECTS TO BE RECORDED

a) PHENOMENA

The range of actual anomalous phenomena covered by Albion is essentially the same as that studied by ASSAP. Any record of an event which might be considered inexplicable or anomalous should be included. Thus ghosts, UFOs, alien animals, crop circles, falls from the sky, moving statues, phantom hitch-hikers, poltergeists, historical visions and other unusual occurrences would all be included.

b) SITES

Sites which may be, or were once, of cultural or sacred significance should be recorded. Thus ancient monuments (stone circles, holy wells, tumuli etc.) should be noted as well as modern churches.

In addition, sites of geographical or geological significance should also be recorded. These might include geological faults, cave systems, local magnetic anomalies or unusual (for the area) geological formations. It is possible that such features may correlate with anomalous phenomena (as illustrated in Paul Devereux’s book “Earthlights”).

Another type of site worth recording is an accident black spot. Clearly the police (or the local newspaper or internet) will be able to tell you about these. It is important to discriminate though, between a black- spot which has known causes, such as poor road junction layout or a blind bend and one which seems to have no obvious cause. It would be worth checking it out for yourself, in a car, to see if there is any obvious cause for such accidents. Again the police would be aware of such causes. Albion is looking for places where things happen for no obvious good reasons.

c) MYTHS and LEGENDS
Any local legends should be recorded. If possible, try to identify the actual place where the events were supposed to have taken place. These will not always be dramatic ancient stones or stately homes! It is worth examining such sites on the ground. There may be a little known ancient monument. Ancient monuments often attract legends to them.

FIRST STEPS
So how does Albion actually work? Some one wishing to take part in Project Albion would first obtain a protocol form from ASSAP. A perusal of a current report, such as Strange Pocklington, would then be helpful. Albion can be done by one person but it is rather easier with a group, to share the work load. Then the are for study is selected. This could be as big as a county or perhaps as small as a town. It is probably a good idea to select a fairly small area at first and see how things progress.

DOCUMENTARY WORK
A key to the whole enterprise is the use of maps. You should obtain both small and large scale (1:25000 or less) topographical (ordinary) maps as well as the geological types. Google maps on the internet can often give a detailed unique satellite photograph of a given location. One map should be used as a base map for the whole area. This should be mounted flat and significant features marked on it, as they are discovered, throughout the project. You can start by marking archaeological sites (usually marked on maps), churches and other significant sites. Then highlight “significant” place names (eg those often used in ley line investigations).

The next thing to do is to visit a local library and search on the internet. Essentially the task is to find out the local history of your chosen are, with anomalous phenomena in mind. You should find all books which describe anomalies in the area (eg. “Ghosts of Sussex”). Once that source is exhausted, you should look through county archives, parish records, local newspaper back issues and other historical sources.

It would be very useful to get in touch with a local history society to advise you how to go about such a search, if you interest them in your subject they might even help you.

FIELD WORK
The field work involved in Project Albion is perhaps, the most important part of all. It is eminently possible that you may come up with some previously unrecorded material which may be of immense value. The source of this new material is essentially an examination of the landscape coupled with memories of local people.

The best technique is to look for oddities in the landscape. In particular, place names can be significant. These could be village names, street names, pub names etc which hint at something unusual. In particular, any names which hint at a strange story or legend should be followed up. Names which refer to the devil or saints or other religious subjects could well be references (via a Christian interpretation) to ancient legends or pagan beliefs associated with an area. Having found such clues to something of interest, ask locals if they know anything about them. In particular look out for so-called 'guardians'. These are 'wise old men' or 'women' who appear to 'look after' site. It has often been experienced that when a researcher arrives at a site of anomalous significance, some one will turn up who seems to know just the sort of facts and legends being sought! This phenomena would seem to be an anomaly in itself and worthy of investigation in its own right. Such 'guardians' could simply be locals who are interested in a place and visit it frequently. Thus the phenomenon could simply be coincidence but there could be more to it. Any such incidents ought to be recorded.

Churches are rich sources of Albion-type information. They have been likened to 'time capsules' because of their ability to remain the same for centuries while the surrounding area changes dramatically. It is well known that some (many?) were built on sites traditionally revered by locals and possibly sacred to a previous religion. The stone masons which built many of the older churches often included local traditions,legends and even features of the displaced religion in their work. The gargoyles, misericords, tracery and even stained glass windows can contain such information if examined carefully. Many churches have a guidebook available which may explain the meanings but often the researcher will have to rely on the knowledge of the vicar, local residents and symbolism to interpret them.

Other places which should be visited during fieldwork include sites discovered in the historical research phase. Sometimes it is still possible to glean extra facts about ancient anomalous events by examining their site even now. If you discover an anomaly which still seems to be ‘live’, such as a haunting, then please tell the ASSAP investigations department about it.

Finally, if you have discovered any ‘hot spots’, and have not already visited them in some other connection, you should do so now. See if there is any clue, such as the presence of an apparently unrecorded ancient site, which may explain the preponderance of legends and anomalies reported from that site.

FURTHER WORK

There is further work you can do, but this will generally involve the active participation of specialists. These include dowsers, psychics and ley hunters. Of course you may be one of these yourself but if you are not you should seek the help of experienced practitioners.

Dowsing could be useful to examine any underground remains, of buildings for instance, at a site where nothing connected with a historical or legendary event is now visible. Such dowsed evidence cannot be accepted as proven fact unless it is corroborated by other facts. It could however be used to find such facts where there is no ‘conventional’ method of doing so.

The same applies to the use of psychics in Project Albion. Information obtained by psychics may lead to the uncovering of ‘solid’ evidence. Psychic evidence which cannot be corroborated should be treated with caution and indicated as such in your report.

Ley line research is quite a specialised field. If you are not yourself experienced in it, it is highly advisable to seek the help and advice of some one who is. It is easy to cover a map with spurious lines which simply do not hold water as credible leys, if you are inexperienced at the art.

CONCLUSIONS
At the end of the project you should write it up. All sources should be quoted and maps, diagrams and photographs included. The material should be organised either by area or subject type. Anyone completing such a report should consider getting it published locally. You can contact ASSAP for advice and help with this. In any case yo will have made a valuable contribution both to local history and the study of anomalous phenomena.

A number of regional Albion books have appeared in the 'Strange ...' series. Most are, sadly, now out of print. However, material from the books has also appeared on the web. The books document the myths, legends and reports of paranormal and anomalous phenomena in a specific area.

Strange Wycombe, Alan Cleaver, 1985
Strange Berkshire, Alan Cleaver and Chris and Amanda Cowley, 1986
Strange Oxford, C Morgan, 1987
Strange Sheffield, David Clarke and Rob Wilson, 1987
Strange Pocklington, Ian Taylor, 1989
Ghost Stories of the South West, Tony Wells and Melanie Warren, 1994, Broadcast Books
Ghosts of the North, Melanie Warren and Tony Wells, 1995, Broadcast Books
Mysterious Kingston, Barbara and Tracey Russell, 1996, Twilight Books
Strange Kingston, Barbara and Tracey Russell, 1997, Twilight Books
Strange Mitcham, James Clark, 2002, Shadowtime Publishing

Currently Strange Croydon is the only complete project available for viewing on the web. Though much material from early Strange books can now be found on Strange Britain.

PROJECT ALBION ON MYSTERIOUSBRITAIN & IRELAND
Mysterious Britain & Ireland is proud to be associated with Project Albion.  As ASSAP started Project Albion nearly thirty years ago the early researchers did not have the benefit of the internet or computer databases, so although the information is available in book format it is not necessarily easily accessible or comparable. I hope to remedy this by making the Mysterious Britain & Ireland database and maps readily available for future Albion Projects until ASSAP is in a position to create and maintain its own dedicated alternative.

Project Albion is something everyone can become involved in, but I feel the prospect of compiling a project that could be as large as a book or a website is quite daunting. Mysterious Britain is offering its database and mapping abilities to individual researchers and groups who wish participate. You can e-mail in your your projects in small chunks and we will help map it out and categorize it for you. This will help you handle your project in small sections, but also allow it to be published before it is all completed. Therefore if a project has to be shelved or for some reason uncompleted your work is not lost.

Our comments fields will allow others to add to the information you discover and you'll be able to use our forum to discuss your research. You may also find that others may uncover information and add articles to the area you have decided to research.

Any project work submitted will remain yours and you will retain your full copyright. It will also be individually tagged and mapped out under the name you decide to give your project as well as appearing within the main Mysterious Britain & Ireland gazetteer maps.

Although Albion and ASSAP are based in Britain there is no reason that this project and the its techniques cannot be adopted to cover regions of any other country. In fact comparing projects from different countries and cultures may provide some interesting insights.

If you wish to get involved or have any thoughts about Project Albion please e-mail ASSAP's Heritage Department (e-mail) or Mysterious Britain & Ireland (e-mail).

Authorship
Maurice Townsend [Edited by Ian Topham]



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