(This article originally appeared in "The Cereologist" #31, Summer 2001)
JUST AS EVERYONE was getting geared up for this year's season of formations, 'croppiedom' was stunned to learn on 16th. June (2001) that Terry Wilson, author of The Secret History of Crop Circles, had announced via the Internet his "decision to quit the crop circle arena for good."
Now, Terry is not the first or only croppie who has made public such a decision: for those who remember his involvement at the turn of the 90s, there was also John Macnish, who produced the excellent video Crop Circle Communiqué, only to follow it up with another video Crop Circle Communiqué II (Revelations) and the book Crop Circle Apocalypse, in which he sought to share his conclusion that we had all been conned and that hoaxing was far more widespread than had been hitherto believed.
Nor was John alone. Other well known figures in the field of crop circle research retired from the scene during the 90s - most of them quietly, with no public announcement - but none with such damaging effect as Jim Schnabel, who, having worked closely with such researchers as Terence Meaden, Pat Delgado and Colin Andrews, published the damning Round In Circles (Physicists, Poltergeists, Pranksters and the Secret History of the Cropwatchers) in 1993.
In an article in SC #94 (Spring 2001), Michael Glickman wrote:
"...I was overwhelmed to realise something so obvious that I call it Axiom One. It is as follows: Everything to do with hoaxing is untruthful. Everything to do with hoaxing is untruthful."
This cannot be taken too literally, of course, because, for example, this article, which is itself to do with hoaxing, is truthful. But I see where Michael is coming from and I would like to adopt and adapt his Axiom One in the form of Axiom One/A:
Hoaxing has everything to do with untruthfulness.
This brings us back to Terry Wilson and his reasons for retiring from "the crop circle arena". His e-mail announcement continues:
"All the geometrically complex formations, which make such impressive works of art, are the result of human endeavour, and anyone who says otherwise is, frankly, kidding themselves, in the absence of any robust evidence. I know, because I have made a few of them, and witnessed, in full knowledge, the irrational and ecstatic reactions of the research community" [emphasis added]. Oh, dear. Presumably this now casts a new light on formations in Sussex, whence Terry hails.
So here we go again with another case of a former croppie turning hoaxer. But this is nothing new and such shocking revelations should come as no surprise these days: at the beginning of the last decade we had various people involved with local research groups in Wiltshire gaining infamy by subsequently becoming hoaxers. Rob Irving, for example, was once a 'researcher' connected with the (now defunct) Beckhampton Group; Adrian Dexter, likewise, who had photographs published in Crop Circles - Harbingers of World Change in 1991, went on to lead the winning team in the circle-making competition held at West Wycombe the following year. At the time it was widely believed (because that was the information disseminated) that it had been his first attempt at making circles. This is now known not to be the case and he features in Jürgen Krönig's book Und Wieder Kornkreise (Crop Circles Again) in a photograph taken by Ute Weyer, which bears the caption (translated), "On the weekend before the crop circle competition: Adrian Dexter practices with members of the German 'Forschungsgruppe Kornkreise' in a field near Magdeburg."
Forschungsgruppe Kornkreise (Crop Circle Research Group), otherwise known as the FGK, is Germany's equivalent of our own Centre for Crop Circle Studies. Ute Weyer was a prominent FGK member and it was presumably through her relationship with Adrian (in the croppie community in latter years she was usually referred to as "Adrian Dexter's ex-girlfriend" instead of by her actual name) that Dexter became involved with the FGK himself. Interestingly, we find on p. 237 of Jim Schnabel's Round In Circles: "On Friday evenings I would drive down to the Waggon and Horses, and Rob Irving would be there, with Ute Weyer, a pretty young circles tourist from Germany..." Schnabel also wrote in her own copy of his book: "To Ute, with very best wishes. Jim. Please make some pictograms in Germany". Dexter's own inscription, in Crop Circles - Harbingers of World Change, was "Ute, I hope this book will always remind you of your adventures in the English corn-fields discovering the wonderful patterns created by 'wee beasties'! Best wishes and thank you for everything. Adrian."
At the CCCS Branch Convenors' meeting in Oxford of November 1995, by which time I had become - as yet blissfully unaware of the above - involved with Ute Weyer, Barbara Davies, a prime mover of the forthcoming CCCS Emergency General Meeting [see below], drew attention to the fact that in the latest issue of FGK Report, the organisation's quarterly journal, my name appeared on the inside cover alongside that of Adrian Dexter, who was "a well known hoaxer". I pointed out that our names were included as "Colleagues in England" and that we were connected in print only and that, furthermore, in Michael Hesemann's book The Cosmic Connection (Worldwide Crop Formations and ET Contacts) my name appeared in the index as "Sayer, John" directly below that of "Schnabel, Jim" but that I hadn't been 'working' with him either!
Unfortunately, although I had read John Macnish's Crop Circle Apocalypse the previous summer, I was more concerned with studying crop circles than croppies themselves, so had no occasion to call to mind part of Macnish's own confession, which would have rung loud alarm bells for me at the time (Chapter 21, "Circles of Deceit"):
"Adrian Dexter, winner of the 1992 Circlemaking Competition, was fumbling in the dark with a helium cylinder. He and his gang of German friends had got bored with making circles. They had moved with the times: they knew the new craze for people like George Wingfield and Colin Andrews was UFOs and they, like Schnabel and Irving before them, were very proficient at giving the 'believers' just what they wanted. This whole craze of 'hoaxing' UFO sightings had started in 1992 with the CSETI watch run by Colin Andrews to try and communicate with the 'unknown intelligence'. The 'hoaxers' saw a brilliant opportunity for lights in the sky to impress the CSETI watch and gained another success...
"Alton Barnes was dark and cold. An untouched East Field stretched out into the mist. All was quiet as we opened the back of my car. Under the blankets was a strange contraption made up of several gas-filled balloons, each containing a green chemical light. Three of us lifted it out and released it into the cold air. At first it wobbled about, then it started to ascend. Up, over the dark wheat fields it drifted, carried by the light breeze towards its destination."
Then one August evening in the summer of '95, while in The Barge Inn near Alton Barnes, an American researcher, on seeing that I was with a group including members of the FGK's 'committee' (among them Ute Weyer and Harald Hoos, editor of FGK Report), took me aside and asked quietly if they were the team that had made the new formation near the Avebury Avenue. I was aghast at the question, since I was spending most of my time with them: no way could they be hoaxers! But then some time later details and photographs were published of Adrian Dexter (who had been spending time with the group that summer) and Harald Hoos making a formation in an organic field near Bishopstone as a commission for the Soil Association, for their latest advertising campaign.
To make matters worse, my attention was drawn, by a "well-wisher", to an article by John Lundberg, of Team Satan, in issue#14 of The Cerealogist (at that time still under the editorship of George Wingfield), entitled "Working Backstage with the Circles: a Journey into the Heart of an Anomaly", where John details the development of his involvement in circle-making and his meetings with the likes of Schnabel, Irving and Dexter. He describes the first publicly-advertised meeting of human circle-makers in 1994:
"Rod [Dickinson] and I first met the Wessex Sceptics at the Fortean Times UnConvention94. It was there that we told them about the upcoming circlemakers convention in Wiltshire...At the end of July, to avoid any dissonance, the circlemakers convention was rehoused from the advertised venue of the 'Waggon and Horses' to the aptly named 'Who'd a thought it?' pub in Lockeridge. The guest of honour was my cerealogical grandfather, Doug Bower. Others present included Doug's wife Ilene, all of the Wessex Sceptics, Rob, Rod, Adrian, Ishtar and Ute Weyer from Germany."
With hindsight, I can now see more clearly why so many people, especially in the CCCS, were getting very twitchy about the fact that I, a Council member of the CCCS, the Assistant Secretary, Archivist and Editor of its journal The Circular, was now in a relationship with "Adrian Dexter's ex-girlfriend". There were frantic phone calls and faxes when the news broke among the croppies. I myself was warned that the whole affair was a wind-up and that I was being "used" for nefarious purposes. Concern was so rife that one of those responsible for pushing through the EGM of the CCCS in 1996 (which kicked out all members of the then Council, including myself) initiated a change to the Constitution, which has from then on required all members of Council to be "resident in the UK". (For obvious reasons I was visiting Germany a lot at the time.) Also at the 1995 CCCS Branch Convenors' meeting, Ute Weyer was challenged publicly by Anthony Cheke on the question of hoaxing circles, an allegation she stridently denied. Anthony subsequently wrote to me to express the concerns in certain quarters that I was associated with this woman and that, despite her protestations to the contrary in Oxford, he had received evidence of her apparent involvement in hoaxing and wanted her to 'come clean' about it. In the circumstances, I hit the roof, especially when we were being referred to as "the Christine Keeler and John Profumo of the crop circle community". Of course, again with hindsight, I can see how to many that was an apt description and, in the light of what I now understand, I hereby make an unqualified public apology to Anthony Cheke for my response to his letter at that time.
It emerged from a reading of Schnabel's book that he had wormed his way into the confidence of just about every 'key player' on the crop circle scene of the time and had subsequently betrayed their trust. This should have been a lesson to us all.
As the 90s progressed, one of the aspects of the annual 'evolution' of crop formations which became more and more of a talking point was the apparently uncanny way in which 'the circle makers' seemed to be playing games with the croppies, when time and again some pronouncement on the subject would be turned upside down the following season by events which contradicted that pronouncement. Perversely, the opposite also happened, whereby a prediction would be made about the phenomenon's future development and - lo and behold - the next summer would provide examples of that very prediction. (Now I must stress here that what I'm referring to are public pronouncements; there are other, seemingly paranormal, events involving crop circle related predictions which do not have mundane explanations, the factor common to most being that they involved private experiences.)
Even the veteran hoax-claimers Doug Bower and Dave Chorley (vintage 1991) made it clear in trying to prove their claims that they had made a point of hanging around researchers in order to find out what they did or didn't expect from future circles - and created more formations accordingly. Not long ago we were greeted on our TV screens by the nocturnal spectacle of a BBC film crew and the circle-makers Team Satan, about to make and film a formation below the Alton Barnes White Horse, being berated by one of those who had caught them in the act for wasting the time of those sincerely interested in crop circles. One of the leaders of this 'hoax-busting' outfit, Matthew Williams, later confessed to his own hoaxing activities and, indeed, last November was successfully prosecuted and fined for his part in the making of a formation in the summer of 2000.
During the Cold War, our attitude in the West was that defectors from the East were 'heroes' escaping tyranny, while those who defected from our side to theirs were traitors. It's bad enough to be a hoaxer, it seems, but much worse if hitherto you have been part of the research community. To have not only 'defected' but also made public your confession feels to the croppie community like an act of betrayal, which cuts deep.
The concept of defection, of course, implies the concept of division and enmity. The conspiracy theorists and paranoiacs have all along implied or even insisted that the 'enemy' of the crop circle community is the government and/or military-industrial complex: 'they' clamp down on UFO information and they are also clamping down on interest in crop circles. This may well be true. This may well also be only part of the truth: it would be in the interest of several groups to debunk the crop circle phenomenon. They are those groups whose long-established belief systems would be challenged or threatened by the kinds of new belief systems people are developing through an interest in crop circles - and all that that can lead to. Conversely, there are other groups who want to encourage the kinds of belief systems associated with crop circles for their own agendas. To paraphrase Robert Anton Wilson, it seems that interest in the crop circle phenomenon is being manipulated by a conspiracy so secret that its members don't even know they belong to it. Strange bedfellows indeed.
It is my personal interpretation from reading Round In Circles that Jim Schnabel's prime motivation for becoming a hoaxer was the deep sense of betrayal and disappointment he felt when he first became disillusioned with the non-delivery of 'magic' from the study of crop circles. Indeed, in Revelations he says, "The problem with any phenomenon is that you tend to see things that you expect to see and that was the problem I had when I first got involved with circles." Pam Price, also in Revelations, remarks, "I feel in the past I've been deluding myself and therefore allowed other people to delude me and so on." Terry Wilson's main motivation for quitting "the crop circle arena" appears to be his dismay at the enthusiastic reaction of researchers to his own creations (although he doesn't make very clear his reasons for hoaxing in the first place). Doug Bower and Dave Chorley claimed they began by wanting to have a bit of fun with "the UFO boys" and only came clean when they found themselves getting annoyed that others were gaining the public's attention or making money through crop circles. Others have given similar reasons for making formations.
As I have stated many times before, my own position on this subject is that there is a 'swirled circle' phenomenon, which I am satisfied is somehow part of the UFO phenomenon and that it sometimes manifests itself in fields of cereal crops - along with all the other media in which circles have been discovered. It must never be forgotten that when Doug n' Dave (the "Men Who Fooled the World" indeed!) made their first circle - if they ever really did, before 1991 - they were seeking to imitate an already existing phenomenon. Schnabel says in Revelations, "I actually believe there is a genuine phenomenon that lies beneath all the hoaxing." Terry Wilson writes in his confessional e-mail that "There is of course a genuine phenomenon too" and Matthew Williams has been crusading for some time now on the theme of what can be learned from the paranormal experiences of the human circle makers.
I believe that there is indeed a conspiracy to debunk the crop circle phenomenon - literally so 'underground' that its members don't even know they belong to it - and that it includes individuals who are working to agendas rooted in their own psychological make-up. Remember the kid when you were young who, having been bitterly disappointed to learn there is no Santa Claus, goes about trying to disillusion everyone else as well with sadistic delight? He's grown up now (physically, that is) and is running round in circles looking for new ways to get his revenge.
All four-legged animals are not cats, however, and I do not count as 'hoaxers' those who make formations for scientific/research purposes. The land artists are a borderline case to me: yes, they are 'only' creating works of art, but they're doing it in the form of fake crop circles (and it has to be "fake" in my book, since I acknowledge a genuine phenomenon) and that blurs the edges.
But the real danger lies with the genuine hoaxers - those who create crop formations in Nazi-like arrogant contempt for those they view as naive and gullible "true believers", seeking to sabotage not only the circles phenomenon itself but also the inquiring open-mindedness that it encourages. To them there isn't a genuine phenomenon because there can't be a genuine phenomenon because they don't believe in it and it is their 'mission' to ridicule the whole subject through fakery.
To me, this is nothing less than a glimpse of the war between Materialism and Spirituality, between the forces of Dark and Light, between Truth and Deceit; and it is through deceit that so many serpents have managed to slither into the garden in which the rest of us so innocently wander. The kind of personality it takes to be a real hoaxer is the kind of personality it takes to be an instrument of the New World Order - if you stop to think about it. "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance".
And don't forget Axiom One/A:
Hoaxing has everything to do with untruthfulness.
*Not to be confused with the movie of a similar title.
The Cereologist, issues 6, 7, 14 & 15.
Crop Circles: Harbingers of World Change - ed. Alick Bartholomew (Gateway Books, 1991).
Und Wieder Kornkreise - Jürgen Krönig (Zweitausendeins, 1993).
Crop Circle Apocalypse - John Macnish (Circlevision Publications, 1993).
Round In Circles - Jim Schnabel (Hamilton House Ltd., 1993).
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