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    Subject: Crop Circles Precursors Or Occult Metaphors? Source: San Francisco Chronicle
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 2 6:53 AM
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      Subject: Crop Circles Precursors Or Occult Metaphors?


      Source: San Francisco Chronicle

      http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/chronicle/a/2002/08/01/MN42887.DTL

      Stig

      ***

      Cereal spin doctors

      Crop circles: Precursors to a close encounter with ET or merely
      catering to the public's appetite for 'occult metaphors'?

      Rick DelVecchio, Chronicle Staff Writer

      Thursday, August 1, 2002
      ©2002 San Francisco Chronicle.

      **

      On April Fool's Day four years ago, Joe Nickell issued his
      skeptics' Top 10 list of the world's hardiest paranormal hoaxes.
      His prime examples included the Amityville Horror, King Tut's
      Curse, psychic surgery and the Roswell saucer crash.

      Nickell, an investigator for the Committee for the Scientific
      Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal in Amherst, N.Y., is
      still surprised by the tenacity of one item on his list: crop
      circles.

      "You would have thought that at some point the phenomenon would
      peter out, that it would cease," he said, "but it's taken on a
      life of its own."

      And it's about to become even more popular. Three new films --
      including Hollywood's first crop-circle blockbuster, which
      opens Friday and stars Mel Gibson -- explore the large-scale
      geometric patterns formed by the flattening of grain stalks in
      rural fields, characteristically in southeastern England.

      The International Crop Circle Database has cataloged 2,000 crop
      formations, some going back to the 1950s. It logged three of
      unknown origin in the mid- 1990s in Santa Rosa, Gilroy and in a
      field of wild oats near a yoga retreat center in Watsonville
      overlooking Monterey Bay.

      Reported formations so far this year number 48, including 34 in
      the United Kingdom. Other hot spots are Germany and the
      Netherlands. A few have been made in the United States.
      Virtually all are the work of hoaxers, Nickell says.

      That crop circles resist the tramplings of skeptics seems to
      result from their ability to inspire feelings of awe, serenity,
      oneness, beauty or fear among followers from Christians to New
      Age spiritual devotees to scientists with a metaphysical bent.

      The most elaborate formations have the symmetry of a Hindu
      mandala, or the interlocking bands of a Methodist flow chart
      from post-Revolutionary America. Nickell says they spark more
      ferocious feelings than almost any other phenomenon he
      investigates, with the possible exception of the Shroud of
      Turin,

      debunked as Christ's burial cloth.

      Some of the designs are simple: The one reported in 1997 on
      Mount Madonna, near Watsonville, swirled counterclockwise in a
      single curve, 4 feet in diameter, according to the database.
      Others are quizzical: A peace symbol reported in a Gilroy field
      in 1996.

      The crop circle phenomenon is bigger than most Earth mysteries
      because of the formations' visual appeal. There are "circular"
      calendars, T-shirts and pendants. What's called the formations'
      "sacred geometry" fills New Age conferences, books and videos.

      Dutch physicist Eltjo Haselhoff's "The Deepening Complexity of
      Crop Circles, " a full-color production by Berkeley's Frog Ltd.,
      delves into circle-related scientific oddities and contemplates
      the formations' Euclidean precision.

      The three new movies see circles as awe-inspiring. In Disney's
      "Signs," a formation appears in farmer Mel Gibson's cornfield.
      Bad news: It's a landing site for hostile aliens.

      In "Crop Circles: Quest for Truth," documentary producer-
      director William Gazecki says there are far too many circles in
      England alone for all of them to be fakes. Are they
      "navigational points," messages, warnings?

      The crop circle-studded countryside of England's Wiltshire
      district -- home of the world's first cafe with a crop-circle
      theme -- is the setting for the British film "A Place to Stay,"
      a love story between a traveler and a Gypsy.

      The movies are appearing as the circle season hits its annual
      peak in August, just prior to the harvest. The 2002 season has
      produced at least one sensation already. Inscribed on the Fourth
      of July near England's ancient stone circle of Stonehenge was a
      six-pointed pattern of what appear to be flying ribbons. Nothing
      like it had been seen before.

      Many of the devotees, known as cerealogists or "croppies," say
      such impressions signify life-affirming forces. There's lively
      talk about whether the forces are natural, extraterrestrial,
      interdimensional or "the mind of God. "

      "What is the best way for one species to communicate with
      another species? Not by language but by mathematics, which is
      universal," said Joshua Shapiro, chairman of the World Mystery
      Research Center.

      The formations have crossover appeal to those who believe in
      ecological catastrophe, who see them as messages for, or from
      within, the sacred, maligned Earth.

      But to skeptics, the circles are human creations intended to
      service public demand for "occult metaphors," which are as old
      as the resurrection of Christ.

      Dennis Stacy of San Antonio, Texas, publisher of the journal the
      Anomalist, took part in two expeditions to English circles in
      the early 1990s. He sent back crop samples to the first U.S.
      researchers, but later his doubts grew.

      "We've had sporadic crop circles in this country, and by the
      same token we've never had anything of the complexity of English
      crop circles," he said. "If these are being made by alien crop
      circle-makers, why do they make such crappy circles in the
      United States and Canada and such exquisite ones over there?"

      One reason: English wheat fields have tractor wheel paths that
      offer covert access without leaving telltale footprints.
      Another: The fields are thick, uniform and easily shaped. People
      with simple tools can sneak in and create impressive formations
      in no time.

      A 1960s UFO flap in several countries featured weedy swirls
      known as "saucer nests." Two English pranksters had this image
      in mind when they started the modern circle trend in 1978,
      Nickell said. Crop pictograms came in 1990 and grew more
      embroidered over time. They continue to evolve -- twisted,
      beaded, braided.

      Circle-makers are "honorable pagan artists" trying to make a
      better world through covert action, said Ron Russell of Aurora,
      Colo., a 64-year-old artist and scientist who has investigated
      the trend.

      "Plus, when they make it, they get what I would call a juju
      experience," said Russell, who grew up in Menlo Park. "That is,
      they get contact with something from beyond."

      But he says not all formations are human made. He can't explain
      the 400 simple circles of six to 20 feet in diameter that
      appeared worldwide over hundreds of years before the modern
      trend began. Just weeks ago, several such swirls appeared in
      wheat fields in Canada's Prince Edward Island after wicked
      thunderstorms passed over.

      Along with physicist and author Haselhoff, Russell is one of the
      few of a scientific bent who are studying the mystery. Their
      research focuses on strange emanations of heat, light and other
      forms of energy -- the source, says Russell, of the "juju
      experience." Both men argue that the subject deserves intensive
      study.

      Haselhoff said the formations showed "a great amount of curious
      plant alterations" that couldn't be reproduced by mechanical
      flattening. "Some of these are cellular changes, and dramatic
      changes in the germination behavior of seeds," he said.

      He believes that some method exists to allow the formations to
      be created at a distance. "Heat is involved, emitted by
      something that manifests itself as a ball of light," he said.

      "Very rich people playing a silly game?" he said. "Aliens? The
      military? It's no use to speculate as long as we don't even
      understand the basic mechanism of crop-circle creation."

      **

      E-mail Rick DelVecchio at rdelvecchio@....

      ©2002 San Francisco Chronicle. Page A - 3





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