The following questions are often raised at Andy’s lectures and in interviews, so his answers here fill in a little more detail on his motivation and experiences.
What is Andy’s background?
“I was brought up in the historical English town of Lewes in East Sussex. Post-education, I spent four and a half unlikely years in the local civil service, before earning my main living for over a decade as a gigging keyboard player and aspiring songwriter, in-between performing amateur acting and operetta, and providing local theatre lighting. The techniques I learnt in stage experience and voice projection would come in helpful later… Alongside this, I also worked for a PR company before becoming involved in authoring and publishing through my awakened passion for investigating the unexplained (below). Today, as well as writing my own books and giving many lectures, I work as a freelance editor and book designer.
My interests, beyond those obvious from my current work, are history (especially British), alternative science and photography.
I am married to Helen Sewell, a well-known psychological astrologer and relationship counsellor, and have a son and three stepchildren, and live in the Ashdown Forest region of East Sussex (near Winnie-the-Pooh’s famous ‘Hundred Acre Wood’).”
How did Andy become involved in researching mysteries and cover-ups?
“The awakening point for me was discovering crop circles while holidaying in Wiltshire in 1991. With a new crop formation seemingly on every horizon there that summer, I was immediately entranced on a fundamental level I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I determined to find out more about what was going on. On my return to Sussex, I contacted other circle enthusiasts and became part of setting up the local branch of the Centre for Crop Circle Studies. (Now called Changing Times, with a wider alternative remit, the group still holds regular lectures.)
Faced with an onslaught of media circle debunking that autumn, I and my new colleagues quickly realised that whatever the reality behind the circles the full story was definitely not being told in the mainstream, something which opened my eyes to the possibility of wider cover-ups and public deceptions. I was soon introduced to people investigating other areas such as UFOs, psychic phenomena, ancient mysteries and claimed conspiracies, and my exposure to this drew me further in to my own research to find where the balance of truth lay. A lifetime’s path of research, keen curiosity and a calm resistance to closed-minded elitism and injustice had begun.
I was given my first opportunity to lecture at a conference in Bath, Somerset, in 1993, and public awareness of my interests seemed to grow locally too; I soon found myself being asked to speak to various organisations. Without realising it, I had embarked on an ongoing cycle of live presentations that continues to this day, now on a number of subjects (see Available Lectures). After featuring as a regular speaker there, I also became engaged with helping to organise the now renowned annual Glastonbury Symposium event, for which I am today co-MC.
At one of my earlier lectures I was serendipitously approached by a publisher who happened to be in the audience, and in 1996 my first book, Fields of Mystery, appeared, a happy chance which would lead eventually to a run of books I would write on the paranormal, conspiracies and truth issues, culminating (thus far) in The Truth Agenda and Conspiracies, together with a number of photographic local history books.
My other work, on history and liberty issues, connects with my passion to preserve freedom of thought and open enquiry, something hard-won over the centuries, and something ever under threat, particularly in today’s climate of control and surveillance.”
What personal experiences have made Andy open-minded to belief in the paranormal?
“I have had a number of extraordinary sightings and personal encounters over the years, opening me further to things which are not explained so easily. For example, in 1993 I and two other friends watched pale green balls of light flying over fields in crop circle country, while the same week we all experienced huge dark aerial flickering shapes in the night sky, things for which we have never found a satisfactory everyday explanation (these events are recounted, together with other encounters and uncanny synchronicities, in my 1997 book Quest For Contact). Other bizarre experiences have included hearing ghostly children inside the enclosed and locked interior of a large Cornwall caravan and having my foot physically shaken by something, and having the alarming occurrence of a wall above my head shaking violently and deafeningly in the middle of the night during the period of a number of psychic experiments I was involved in at the time with the late Paul Bura. (There was no pipe or cable in the wall, and the adjoining neighbours heard nothing.)
I can’t say what caused any of these things, but I am unsatisfied with the mundane dismissals I have heard from others, especially when put together with the countless other similar tales of quite incredible UFO sightings and apparent ghost and psychic experiences that I regularly hear from folk I meet at my lectures. These witnesses are often eminent professionals, with no reason to spin a tale (and every reason not to), but they share their experiences because they know that I, of all people, am not going to ridicule them. Fear of ridicule, encouraged by the continual sneering of academic elites, is often what keeps these tales from public exposure, but it creates a warped and prejudiced impression of reality. Strange things, which we might call the paranormal, do happen, and from my own observations I would say that around one in ten people have had such encounters – which is a huge proportion of the human race not given a voice in the mainstream.
For these reasons and others, including seeing for myself the proof that, for instance, dowsing and psychic intuition can produce results far beyond chance (something backed up by a large number of respected researchers in recent years, including Dean Radin and Rupert Sheldrake), I try to open conversations in my writings and lectures that will hopefully further more discussion and awareness of what I believe are potentially important areas.”
Why is Andy interested in conspiracy theories?
“My own direct knowledge of the way that ‘alternative’ subjects are actively misrepresented by the media and authorities means that I must be open to the view that we are very probably not told the full truth about anything. History shows, as I point out in my Conspiracies book, that there have been clear repeating patterns of deception and state corruption going back thousands of years. Mainstream revelations such as (in the UK) the Hillsborough football disaster cover-up, banking and MPs’ expenses scandals, military atrocities, the Jimmy Savile cover-up and the Edward Snowden affair illustrate clearly that even very public events are prone to misrepresentation and official obfuscation. To think that this is not also going on at a much deeper and more troubling level therefore makes no sense. This does not mean that everything is a conspiracy, but neither can it be said that nothing is. Yet the latter is the overriding impression given by a narrow-minded and heavily establishment-influenced media.
With a huge proportion of the world’s population now tending towards the conspiracy view, as evidenced by the plethora of websites and forums and poll results on what people believe, it seems to me very necessary to have more open conversations about why we challenge the official view on so many things. To simply deny the questioners a voice, or to portray them as psychologically-damaged delusionals, as academics are prone to do, is neither wise nor fair. The evidence to support certain theories is strong and needs to be heard. So I try to raise these subjects as widely, accessibly and as reasonably as I can in a way that shows there is credibility to at least some subjects.
Aside from the more shadowy areas that conspiracy speculation inevitably delves into about things that certainly matter very much, there is also a darkly entertaining fascination in exposing an audience to ideas that it may never have come across before. Watching the scales fall from people’s eyes, as they see for themselves how certain official versions of reality simply don’t make sense when put under even the slightest scrutiny, can be rewarding – especially if it then wakes them up to a wider awareness that may one day help push the world forwards in a more positive direction.”
Which conspiracy theories is Andy most convinced by?
“Claimed conspiracies do require good evidence, which is why I always try in my lectures and books to be as discerning and balanced as I can be. If there is no clear evidence for something, then it is only a theory or a belief. Where there are clear clusters of anomalies around something, and the evidence is stark or plainly being withheld by authorities, then there is something worth investigating.
The subjects covered in my books demonstrate some of the main areas I am drawn to, based on information with substance. In my view we have without question not been told the truth about issues such as 9/11, the Moon landings, UFOs, Dr David Kelly and Princess Diana, et al, while the powerful New World Order project is not a theory, but a verifiable reality, boasted of by many leading politicians and thinkers for nearly a century. Likewise, the Bohemian Club, which sees very important global leaders attending a bizarre occult-tinged ceremony in California once a year, dressed in robes and worshipping a giant stone owl, is proven and in plain sight. Yet we are told not to take any notice; incredibly, most of us don’t. ‘False-flag’ attacks, the suppression of alternative technology and the crushing of alternative health under coercion from huge pharmaceutical companies are other issues of concern. Hence the need to get conversations going about it all… but always without any pressure for people to take a side.
It is important always to let people make up their own minds based on the evidence presented. Drawing final conclusions about conspiracy areas is not always so easy, and I try not to speak in absolutes unless there is definitive proof for something. I am not closed to considering speculation that comes without direct evidence if it seems to have a reasonable basis, but I tend to place those theories in a ‘grey box’, while others that seem to be sourced from nothing but paranoia or knee-jerk fear or denial I leave alone.”
Does Andy ‘check the brakes on his car’ every day?
“This is a question that I am very often asked! Certainly, there has been a trail of direct witnesses to events like the assassination of JFK, for example, or who were present to personally record unexplained anomalies on 9/11, or who have investigated the business dealings of the Clintons, who do seem to have died suspiciously early or in peculiar circumstances. It appears to be individuals of that ilk who are most vulnerable. People like me can be (and are) merely dismissed as misguided idiots that should be ignored. If someone were to go around getting rid of all the mystery researchers and conspiracy theorists, it would simply draw more attention to them and do nothing but spread even more public suspicion. Living in constant fear and paranoia is not something I subscribe to. Fear is often used to control us, so falling into it every day on a personal level would give any shadowy elite exactly what they want. That’s not a path I’m interested in taking, so I put the kettle on and get on with my life!
Personally, I am simply gathering information that is already fully available in the collective; I am not saying anything that hasn’t already been shouted about by louder or more direct sources than I. What I try to do is draw the many threads together into something coherent and meaningful in an attempt to make sense of it all and then distribute it so that the information can travel a little further and more accessibly. I don’t think researchers like myself are too much of a threat to the powers that be. Those powers are, perhaps, ultimately a threat to themselves, however, if their fear is so great that they have to sink so low as to ‘fiddle with people’s brakes’. Authority can only sustain influence for so long like that; history shows that power held onto that way never lasts.”
When did Andy see his first crop circle?
“I first became aware of crop circles in 1984 when the local newspaper reported that Lord Denis Healey had photographed some near his home in Alfriston, just a few miles from where I lived. Oddly, I wasn’t compelled at that time to seek them out. However, by the time I found myself in Wiltshire in July 1991, I was more intrigued by what I’d read in the wake of the first big ‘pictograms’ of 1990 and I determined to see my first crop formation while there, which I did, rising out of the mist at Ogbourne Maizey, near Marlborough. Something clicked inside my head at that very moment that maybe the world wasn’t quite what I thought it was, and I sought out several other crop circles that day, in somewhat of an awed daze. When I returned home to Sussex and was alerted by a friend that there were circles there too I spent the next few days visiting as many crop formations in the south of England as I could and reading as many books as were available at that time. Before I knew it I had been drawn into the journey I have been on ever since, as described above.
The heavy debunking that followed in the press and on TV only a few weeks after my discovery of the phenomenon only reinforced my interest when it became plain that the assertions of the two retired gentlemen claiming they had made them all as a joke were not credible (as the continuation of the mystery long after their retirement quickly made clear). In some ways, having that baptism of fire so soon after my introduction to the crop circles was a very useful experience to have and determined me to keep my own mind on things and not be dictated to by a media that was clearly not giving the whole story to the public. My indignation at the injustice of those who rush to judgement without considering the full facts – or those who mislead the public by omitting those facts in the first place – has stayed with me ever after and fired my determination to give a balance to that.”
How many crop circles has Andy visited?
“I have lost count of the number of crop formations I have personally visited, but it must number several hundreds. It is impossible to visit them all, and I don’t even try to today, especially now that my research has widened out to so many other areas, but I always take the opportunity where I can.
There are some observers who deny that the crop circles are there at all, and insist that the images must all be faked on a computer. I can only say that this idea (which I suppose is a back-handed compliment to the patterns’ extreme beauty) is even more fantastical than the notion that other-worldly beings or strange forces might create them, given the numbers of other intrepid researchers who physically enter the formations and photograph them from all angles, both from above and on the ground. The massive body of evidence that is available to prove their physical existence is testament to the importance of visiting crop circles, and it is an adventure I would recommend that everyone try at some point, if a friendly famer can be found. Seeing circles for oneself at close quarters often changes one’s perception of the phenomenon, and it can be a very special experience.”
What does Andy believe makes the crop circles?
“This is another question I am very often asked. And the answer is always the same… which is that I don’t know! Contrary to some suspicions, I don’t harbour a secret theory or quietly follow one path of enquiry. It is truly as much a mystery to me as to anyone, for all my 25 years of research. I accept that a proportion of formations are man-made, but firmly believe that a significant number over the years simply cannot be explained that way. What is making those others can only be speculation.
I suspect that the ultimate answer, should one ever reveal itself, will be a combination of the multiple theories out there. We can at least make some observations: the phenomenon’s distribution appears to be closely related to areas of underground water (suggesting a geophysical or ’earth energy’ connection); it is linked with an aerial component that gives off light (attested to by many witnesses, including myself); it appears to leave biological anomalies in the plants and affects the soil (according to individual researchers for the former and the Ministry of Agriculture for the latter); it sometimes looks like natural geometry might be at work whereas other designs clearly show a level of consciousness (extra-terrestrial or extra-dimensional or something else); certain formations seem to interact with mind experiments (suggesting a human psychic connection). Meanwhile, the mathematics sometimes display incredible precision and sophistication. Drunken pranksters need not apply. My books Vital Signs and An Introduction to Crop Circles discuss the pros and cons of all the different theories.
Researchers who have followed singular lines of investigation have never yet come up with a definitive answer, and sometimes harm themselves or their reputations in trying to do so. It seems to me, in the current position of unknowingness, better to stand in the middle of the argument, record the evidence accurately and simply note people’s feelings about it. Embracing mystery without having to pigeonhole something is an important lesson we can all learn from. I don’t think that we are even near a useful understanding of the circles’ origin and purpose, but perhaps this doesn’t matter; the phenomenon may be achieving what it needs to achieve anyhow. I am not the only person to have undergone a transformative journey of thinking inspired just by seeing astonishing patterns in the crops, and that inspiration may be the best legacy the circles leave us, whatever their real intention, if indeed there is one. They have made a difference to the world, and leave many people deepened and expanded by their presence; what more justification for their existence could we need?”
Why is Andy interested in history?
“I grew up in Lewes in East Sussex, which is an English town steeped in important historical events and filled with buildings that have barely changed in hundreds of years. The famous Battle of Lewes in 1264, which saw barons rebel against King Henry III, was a key event in the development of England’s parliamentary system, while the tragic burning of seventeen Protestant martyrs between 1555 and 1557 left an indelible memory of religious strife in the town. The hugely influential rights campaigner Thomas Paine (who helped inspire the American and French Revolutions), also lived in Lewes for six years from 1768; an awareness of his legacy was inspirational for me and has been for numerous other Lewesians.
With all this around me, it was perhaps inevitable that I would be drawn to an interest in history, especially that of the British Isles. Even as a child I was drawn to ancient stones and mysterious burial mounds, and was very moved by a visit to Avebury in Wiltshire when I was around 14 – never guessing that the crop circles would later make the Avebury area a major part of my life! This led me to be curious about the peoples that must have lived in those far-off days, and over time this would create a fascination with the development of Britain through all the centuries, something which now dovetails with my concerns for modern liberty and freedom of thought, hence my talk An English History of Freedom. We should not give away lightly what we took so long to put together, with so many sacrifices made along the way.”
Which aspect and/or period of history interests Andy the most?
“I am principally intrigued by times which have resonance to our own, or which show that certain patterns of events or behaviour, often unfortunately, have been with us for far longer than people might suspect. I am pulled to the history of the Roman Republic and Empire, for instance, as I discuss in Conspiracies, which sets the mould of suspicion, conspiracy and claims of ‘false-flag’ attacks (the phrase hails from those times) almost from the start of modern civilisation.
Perhaps because of the Lewes martyrs, and the presence of the local ruined priory, I am also drawn to the events that followed Henry VIII’s Reformation and the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The tumultuous legacy from those times would determine much of British history thereafter. Likewise, the English Civil Wars (or ‘War of the Three Kingdoms’) of the 1640s, which ripped England, Scotland and Ireland apart for nearly a decade, as Parliament went to war against its own king, Charles I, are also of great fascination. The idealism and hopes for universal freedom that were born in this period, which saw groups such as the Levellers, Diggers and Quakers arising to challenge the restrictions and overly-ingrained conventions of those times, are inspirational. For all that a large number of their dreams were crushed when Oliver Cromwell’s victorious Republic became almost as restrictive as the monarchical regime it replaced, at least some of the seeds sown in that era would blossom in time – although even today universal equality remains unfulfilled in many ways.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the life of Thomas Paine is of great interest too. Although a flawed character in some aspects, prone to vanity and sometimes overly-judgmental, Paine nonetheless contributed massively to creating the surface freedoms we do have today, and had the courage to put his money where his mouth was, writing fluently and frankly, often placing his own life in danger by doing so. Indeed, given that his years were filled with colourful adventures and risk, and that he was present at a number of key historical moments, it is incredible that no-one has yet made a movie about Paine (there have been attempts, but no script has yet made it onto the big screen). Without pretending I am any kind of expert, I enjoy drawing people’s attention to his life and works.”
What is Andy’s connection to the renowned Lewes Bonfire Night festivities?
“Growing up in Lewes, another aspect of local life that would be impossible to ignore is the fact that the town has the world’s largest ‘Bonfire Night’ (or ‘Guy Fawkes Night’) festivities. The true scale of the events held in the town every November 5th (unless Bonfire falls on a Sunday, in which case it is held on the 4th) is almost impossible to comprehend without experiencing it in different parts of the town over several years. Fireworks, bonfires, effigies and a large slab of attitude are ingrained into the Lewes psyche. With its roots in the religious strife of old it remains controversial (Bonfire is anti-papist in origin, commemorating the liberation of King James’s Protestant Parliament in 1605 from Catholic plotters’ attempts to blow it up), but the symbols and slogans of Bonfire are firmly traditional and do not represent any poke at modern Catholicism, no matter what the ignorant national press likes to imply every year for cheap sensation. Though my beliefs have moved on since, I was originally raised as a Catholic in Lewes and don’t remember anyone ever giving me a hard time.
The magic of Bonfire seeped into me early on, and its stubborn campaigns to sustain itself despite several attempts over the centuries to ban it have without doubt been an influence on my own stubborn refusal to be told what to think when that imposed thinking appears to be based on biased, wrong or very limited information.
However, I have never been a part of the ‘Bonfire society’ community in Lewes (there are seven official societies in the town – Bonfire here is not one event, but a conglomeration of several which just happen to occur all at the same time). Although I have numerous friends in the societies I have always preferred the freedom to roam the streets without the restriction of having to stay with one organisation. That is why my lecture Lewes and Bonfire Night, and the two books I have written on the subject, are presented purely from my personal experience of the festivities, using my own photographs. They are a spectator’s-eye-view; I do not speak for the Bonfire societies and would never presume to do so. Neither is my intention to promote the event as such (the extremely large numbers of visitors entering the town for it are an eternal problem). Instead, I present it as an opportunity to discuss the wider context of Lewes and its intriguing place in history, and to throw light on the importance of maintaining a nation’s folklore, which weaves strong threads back to the past and reminds us not to forget our origins nor the events which have shaped us. For Bonfire to bow to pressure and ditch its traditional elements for modern political correctness would be to pretend that the darker parts of antiquity aren’t there – a very dangerous path which would only risk further the repetition of certain events in future and compromise our very identity as a people. Luckily, Bonfire Night in Lewes shows no signs of doing this any time soon, and I continue to celebrate it accordingly in my own work.”
Why does Andy give a lecture on the history of Christmas?
“This might seem perhaps a strange thing for someone like me to do, or even a betrayal of my ‘alternative’ principles, given what a mainstream festival it is – but Christmas is a fundamental part of our lives and to pretend it isn’t there or to dismiss it as some kind of distractive media invention is to misunderstand its very deep origins. Some of the symbolism still used today goes back to ancient Egypt and has other origins too, both astronomical and astrological, which demonstrate that 25th December (or the ancient equivalent) has long been a sacred and special time for humankind [see Andy’s article on The Deeper History of Christmas]. The Christian version only reinforces its importance, albeit with its own slant, and in my presentations I am inclusive to all views of Christmas because ultimately they all celebrate the same thing: light in the darkness.
As with Bonfire Night, I was always fascinated by Christmas, its mystery, atmosphere and beauty, and was introduced to Dickens’s still astonishing A Christmas Carol very early on, as my father would read me passages from it when I was young. In a world too often full of trauma and trouble, the human need to put that aside and focus on the good things just for a while is as strong as it has always been. I’m happy to help reinforce and at the same time reconstitute a festival that has undoubtedly been harmed by commercialisation and media pressure – but those aspects are just distractions which can be put aside. Reviewing the real background to Solstice/Kalendae/Saturnalia/Yule/Christmas, and all its other guises, with their twists, turns, bans and rediscoveries over three thousand years or so, can help renew our respect for the season. Giving the presentation A Celebratory History of Christmas often keeps me busy in November and December (the only time I will give the talk, for obvious reasons), and it is frequently met with an extraordinary level of emotional response (largely joyous). Christmas is hard-wired into all of us, whatever our personal experience of it, and peeling back the layers of cynicism which have grown around it in modern times can be a genuinely regenerative feeling for some people.”
Where do Andy’s subjects join up ..?
“For me, all the work I do on unexplained mysteries, cover-ups and conspiracies, history and folklore is about the same thing – encouraging people to look again at the world we are in and sharing doorways into areas that either they are unaware of or have entirely taken for granted. If I have any kind of ‘mission statement’, it is one of stimulating freer thinking and liberating suppressed ideas in an accessible and compelling way. Too often we are corralled into simplistic and one-sided ways of thinking. Anything that emboldens us to step out of that and into a more fluid and expansive approach seems to me to be both welcome and necessary, and I am honoured to be in the happy position of being able to help highlight some different avenues of thought in this direction for those who are open to them.”