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The Washington Post on Crop Circles

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    NHNE News List Current Members: 667 Subscribe/unsubscribe/archive info at the bottom of this message. ... Thanks to Jim Torson. ... THE REAL STORY OF THOSE
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 14 12:23 AM
      NHNE News List
      Current Members: 667
      Subscribe/unsubscribe/archive info at the bottom of this message.

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      Thanks to Jim Torson.

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      THE REAL STORY OF THOSE MYSTERIOUS CIRCLES RUNS RINGS AROUND THE MOVIE
      By Peter Carlson
      Researcher Karl Evanzz contributed to this report
      Washington Post
      Saturday, August 10, 2002; Page C01

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A1177-2002Aug9?language=printer

      Suddenly, crop circles are hot. They're hip. They're not just for New Age
      neo-Druid saucer freaks anymore.

      "Signs," the new Mel Gibson movie, has caused a stampede of media interest
      in the mysterious markings that have appeared in farm fields all over the
      world. But Colin Andrews, the crop circle researcher who served as a
      consultant to the filmmakers, isn't too thrilled with the flick.

      "I was personally just a wee bit disappointed," he says.

      "Signs" is entertaining, Andrews admits, but it's not nearly as interesting
      as the real story of crop circles.

      He may be right. The movie has Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix and a couple of
      cute kids and some aliens. But the real story has hoaxers, hustlers,
      mystics, scientists, pseudo-scientists, avant-garde artists, Stonehenge,
      UFOs and mysterious energy balls, as well as the eccentric nonagenarian
      philanthropist Laurance S. Rockefeller.

      It also has Andrews, 56, a British electrical engineer who has written two
      books on crop circles and whose dogged research methods include using
      Rockefeller's money to hire private detectives to chase conceptual artists
      across the British countryside by the light of the silvery moon.

      A movie that told the real story of crop circles would be a zany farce. Mel
      Gibson wouldn't be right for it. He's far too serious.

      Mike Myers, call your agent.

      It all began in the late 1970s, when strange circles began appearing in
      fields of grain in the countryside of southern England, not far from
      Stonehenge.

      Inside the circles, crops -- usually wheat or barley or oats -- were
      flattened to the ground by some mysterious force that bent but did not kill
      the plants. At first, nobody paid much attention. But by the early 1980s,
      the circles were getting larger -- 20, 50, 100 feet across -- and sometimes
      clusters of a half-dozen or more would appear in the same field overnight.

      The media took notice, and the resulting publicity attracted scads of
      mystics and scientists. The mystics claimed the circles were caused by UFOs
      or by cosmic energy or by Gaea, the goddess of Mother Earth. The scientists
      claimed they were caused by freak weather conditions or, believe it or not,
      by the mating dance of sex-crazed hedgehogs running in frenzied circles.

      Both groups agreed on one thing: The circles couldn't have been created by
      humans working under cover of darkness during a short British night.

      In the late 1980s, Terrence Meaden, a physics professor and amateur
      meteorologist, advanced a theory that seemed to explain the phenomenon. The
      circles were caused, Meaden said, by plasma vortexes -- electrified
      whirlwinds that formed high in the atmosphere, then swooped down to the
      ground, spinning the grain into flattened circles.

      Meaden's theory seemed plausible for a while. But then crop circles changed.
      The newer ones were far more complex. Farmers arose to find their fields
      decorated with squares, stars, peace symbols and elaborate designs that
      looked like keys or IUDs or that weird glyph that rock singer Prince adopted
      as his new, unpronounceable name.

      Meaden insisted that even these ornate "agriglyphs" could have been caused
      by his plasma whirlwinds. But that seemed so implausible that he found
      himself viciously mocked by the British media.

      "He was so ridiculed," Andrews says. "I did feel a certain sympathy for him
      as a human being. But his theory was not a credible solution to the
      mystery."

      As the crop circles grew more elaborate, they became tourist attractions.
      Travelers visiting Stonehenge detoured for helicopter rides over the
      mysterious glyphs. Farmers began charging admission to the circles, and
      tourists with a mystical bent would sit cross-legged in them, meditating.

      Some people reported that they heard weird "trilling" sounds and saw saucers
      or balls of light while sitting in the glyphs at night. Other folks reported
      that proximity to the circles caused their cameras to malfunction and their
      dogs to panic and vomit.

      As the mystery deepened, crop circles were discussed in Parliament and
      debated on television. They were the subject of dozens of books and
      countless magazine articles. And they began appearing outside England -- in
      Holland, Germany, Japan, Canada. A few appeared in the United States, too,
      but not many, especially when you consider our fabled stretches of amber
      waves of grain. Even today, more than 90 percent of the 10,000 reported crop
      circles have appeared within 50 miles of Stonehenge.

      Then, in 1991, two elderly chaps told the British newspaper Today that they
      were responsible for the crop circles. Doug Bower and Dave Chorley claimed
      they'd started making the circles as a prank one Friday night in 1978 after
      downing a few pints at a pub in Wiltshire, near Stonehenge. Over 13 years,
      they'd created more than 1,000 glyphs, they said, and copycats had done the
      rest.

      To prove their point, they created a crop circle while a reporter watched.
      It was a simple process. They set up a pole with a string attached to the
      top. They pulled the string taut and walked in a circle. That created the
      perimeter. Then they flattened the grain inside the circle by pushing wooden
      planks around.

      When they finished, the newspaper summoned Patrick Delgado, a prominent crop
      circle researcher. Delgado inspected the circle and issued his learned
      opinion:

      "No human being could have done this," he said. "These crops are laid down
      in these sensational patterns by an energy that remains unexplained and is
      of a high level of intelligence."

      Delgado, like Meaden before him, became a laughingstock. And "Doug and Dave"
      -- as the pranksters are invariably called -- became national folk heroes.

      But many people -- including Andrews -- didn't believe the mystery was
      solved.

      "Doug and Dave certainly did make some of them," Andrews says. "But we know
      they didn't make them all. Many farmers tell you they had circles in the
      '60s. An elderly man told me he had circles in his field in 1923 and 1924 --
      as noted in his diary."

      So the circles kept their hold on the public imagination. Mystics and
      scientists continued to visit them. Artists got into the act. So did
      Laurance Rockefeller.

      Enter the Artists

      "Unlike UFOs, crop circles are tactile," says John Lundberg. "You can go
      stand in them. You can touch them. You can't touch a UFO."

      Lundberg, 33, is a London-based conceptual artist who specializes in crop
      circles. His group, Circlemakers, has made dozens of elaborate agriglyphs in
      southern England over the last 11 years, he says, most of them created
      secretly, under cover of darkness.

      First, the artists create elaborate patterns on a computer -- "like
      architectural drawings" -- then, working in teams of as many as 10 people,
      they re-create them on some unsuspecting farmer's field. Their biggest was
      more than 500 feet long, Lundberg says. He won't say where it was. The
      Circlemakers refuse to identify any individual crop circle as their
      creation.

      "That," he says, "would drain it of all its mystery."

      He prefers that people who see the circle dream up their own stories of how
      it was made. That way, he says, they are collaborating in the project.

      "It's a mass-participation artwork," he explains. "It's not just the
      pattern-making, it's the whole reaction to it. We collaborate with the media
      and the public. . . . The circles have become huge Rorschach tests writ
      large on the fields of England."

      Lundberg and the Circlemakers are eager to take crop circles into pop
      culture. They maintain an elaborate Web site (www.circlemakers.org), and
      they've created crop circles for use in ads for Weetabix crackers and
      Mountain Dew. They also sell crop circle postcards, T-shirts and how-to
      manuals.

      This activity is regarded as blasphemy by mystics who see crop circles as
      religious objects. Consequently, Lundberg says, he has received hundreds of
      nasty e-mails.

      "I'm a heretic," he says. "I'm attacking their belief system."

      The mystics aren't the only folks who dislike Lundberg's shtick. Andrews
      sees the Circlemakers as hoaxers who trivialize crop circles by making
      people believe that they are all human creations.

      "I wish John and his band of merry men would just disappear," Andrews says.

      Four years ago, Andrews received a grant from Rockefeller to fund his
      research on crop circles. The grant was in the "five-figure range," says
      Rockefeller spokesman Fraser Seitel. Andrews promptly spent a chunk of it to
      hire private detectives to tail Lundberg's group.

      Andrews wanted to find out if the Circlemakers were really making circles.
      The detectives put the artists under surveillance, followed them into a
      farmer's field in the dead of night and filmed them as they went about their
      work.

      "These individuals were monitored," Andrews says, "and there is no doubt
      that they created some extremely complex and beautiful designs."

      Back to the Vortex

      "Think of a great big plastic beach ball," Nancy Talbott says. "Now picture
      a bunch of tennis balls inside it."

      Talbott is explaining her theory about crop circles. She used to be a
      country music promoter, but now she's the president of BLT Research Team
      Inc., a Massachusetts-based group that studies crop circles. BLT has
      collected plant and soil samples from around the world, she says, and its
      scientists concluded that the circles were caused by some mysterious heat
      source -- possibly "an energy that's completely unknown to science now."

      Talbott, 63, touts a theory that's close to Meaden's much-mocked plasma
      whirlwind hypothesis. If you ask how whirlwinds can create complex glyph
      shapes, she talks about the beach ball with the tennis balls inside.

      The beach ball is a swirling vortex of electrified air. The tennis balls are
      smaller swirling vortexes inside the bigger one. As they all spin around
      atop a field of grain, she postulates, you get those glorious glyphs.

      In 1999, BLT received a grant from Rockefeller. BLT's grant -- like the one
      given to Andrews -- was in the "five-figure range," says Seitel,
      Rockefeller's spokesman. Now 92, Rockefeller declined to discuss the grants,
      but Seitel explains that they are part of the philanthropist's "eclectic"
      interests.

      "He's interested in spiritual matters like this," Seitel says. "He funded a
      study of UFOs that was done by a group led by the wife of a former
      ambassador to England from the Reagan administration -- or maybe it was the
      Ford administration."

      Meanwhile, Talbott says that BLT has studied 300 crop circles and concluded
      that 92 percent of them were created not by humans but by the mysterious
      energy force.

      That's balderdash, says Joe Nickell, 57, a researcher for the Committee for
      the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal.

      "Approximately 100 percent of crop circles are man-made," Nickell says.
      "Note that I said approximately. I haven't inspected every one, and we have
      to allow for dogs chasing their tails and other phenomena."

      When dueling crop circle theorists start talking numbers, Colin Andrews
      comes down in the middle. He estimates that about 80 percent of the circles
      are created by humans.

      "Eighty percent are complete nonsense," he says. "But there's still 20
      percent, in my estimation, that we haven't been able to determine. Those 20
      percent are almost always simple designs, and there are no footprints and no
      damage to the plants. . . . In some of these, there was a mind involved, a
      thought process involved."

      Does that mean aliens?

      "I can't say that it's extraterrestrials," he says. "I don't know who the
      being is."

      When it comes to extraterrestrials, Andrews gets some support from an
      unexpected source -- his old nemesis, John Lundberg, the Circlemaker artist.

      "I'm just as much a believer as the next man," Lundberg writes in an e-mail.
      "In fact, we did see a classic UFO -- a dark, silent, cigar-shaped craft
      with tiny strobe lights at each end -- whilst out making circles in
      Wiltshire a couple of years ago. Four of us witnessed it as it slowly arced
      across a clear star-lit sky."

      So the controversy continues. Now, with "Signs" packing movie theaters
      across the country, we can expect to find more circles dotting the U.S.
      landscape.

      If you absolutely must make a glyph in your neighbor's grain, Lundberg has
      some advice: "Don't get too complex. Do something simple. Take your time. Do
      it right so it's not just a mess."

      And one other thing: No drinking. "You have to be stone-cold sober to create
      a crop circle," he says. "Otherwise you get wonky lines."

      ------------

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