The Crop Circle Debate Continues

Ralph Noyes, Raymond Cox, Ian Blake and John Rimmer
Magonia 42, March 1992.

My article 'Corn Flakes' in issue 41 of Magonia did not, as I was sure it wouldn't. close down discussion of the subject in the magazine, as these responses demonstrate. It is hard now to recall just how central crop circles seemed to the whole UFO topic in the 1990s, with ufologists using them as evidence for ET intervention, a previously undescribed natural phenomena, or some purely paranormal 'Earth Mystery'.

Ralph Noyes, of the Centre for Crop Circle Studies, wrote:

We in the Centre for Crop Circle Studies have much enjoyed your packet of corn flakes in the November issue. It is heartening to have Magonia's endorsement for CCCS's view that the crop circles exhibit the operation of intelligence. For sheer inventiveness, exuberance, ingenuity, scale of operation, growing elaboration of design, and sometimes downright playfulness there has been nothing to touch this phenomenon over the past twelve years except possibly the graffiti on the Underground. In retrospect it seems a tragi-comedy that a good atmospheric physicist, Dr. Meaden, was boxed into a meteorological hypothesis by the mere accident of being taken to see those first few singletons at Bratton in 1980 and feeling obliged to invent a new kind of atmospheric vortex to account for them.

What a dance those jokers have led him! By 1989, at the end of a decade of observation, the unfortunate Meaden had come to claim for meteorology not only simple singletons, but doublets, triplets in-line, triplets in triangular array, ringed circles, combinations of ring-and-circle, circles with spurs and tails and even an event in which the circle was divided into quadrants with linear 'combing' of the grain. The invisible artists who were contriving these spectacular must have had many a quiet chuckle as Meaden stumbled along behind them, elaborating his meteorological model to accommodate each new development.

Beginning with a "stationary summer whirlwind" in 1981, he was, in the end, obliged tp postulate a 'descending plasma vortex', never very well-defined but possessing a bewildering ragbag of characteristics. For a while this remarkable entity was even claimed as accounting for the exuberant elaborations of 1990, the so-called pictograms, which Meaden regarded as 'aberrant forms' from which we would come to understand such merely routine occurrences as the Celtic Cross of 1988, the ringed circle of 1989 which failed to conserve angular momentum by laying its ring in the 'wrong' direction, and the triangular array at Oadby in Leicestershire which was disposed about a ringed centre.

All the time, as you so rightly say, it must have been due to the operation of intelligent agents! We have clearly been witnessing the most sustained and scientifically informed practical joke in history, designed at every stage to lead the unfortunate Meaden from superfluous refinement to superfluous refinement a joke, moreover, to which agents in Japan, Australia, Canada. the USA and perhaps (with less evidence) other countries have thought it amusing to contribute. It is heartening to know that Magonia agrees with us.

Whether these intelligent agents are yet 'known', as you also suggest, does seem to us, in our cautious manner, to be slightly ahead of the game. If this were a police enquiry, the file could not yet quite be closed: 'persons unknown' (setting aside a few jolly farmers caught faking minor events) would probably be the verdict of the court. So perhaps 'unknown intelligence' might be a convenient term on which we could both agree for the time being.

You are of course, entirely free to speculate that these unknowns are human. Magonia is, after all, a family magazine, none of us would wish you to become alarmist or over-imaginative. May I correct one point of fact in an otherwise soberly accurate article? 'Corn' flakes' is less than sufficiently embracing. Circle events have sometimes been found in other crops, notably oilseed rape a fleshy and brittle plant which succumbs to the intelligent agent by (surprisingly) bending rather than breaking. As soon as funding permits, CCCS will be publishing the results of some preliminary soil and crop assays (together with other physical evidence) which may begin to indicate what forces are at work. They do not seem to us at present as likely to be attributable to human activity.

Raymond Cox wrote:

No, John, we really cannot say that the corn circle mystery is solved. It is likely to be an ongoing phenomenon. A general sweep of an answer for anyone of the three possible categories can blur the facts. (Can anyone suggest a fourth?) Let's just look at a few surface features.

The Meteorological Theory,
Points in favour:
  • a. Meaden's ten-year-plus scientific study of the subject, which includes the relationship between atmospheric conditions and the topography of the landscape where many circles form
  • b. Eyewitness reports of circles forming by means of some energy. Yes, eyewitnesses can be unreliable, but whereas UFO eyewitnesses might claim they see 'spaceships' when they are seeing some other anomalous or even natural phenomena, those who have seen circles form do not claim to see anything other than circles form. In any case, they are seeing something.
  • c. Support from other physicists and meteorologists. It should be added that the theory now only contends to account for the more simple circles and rings and not the more complex shapes a point in its favour.
Points against:
  • a. The apparent recent evolutionary nature of the phenomenon.
  • b. The lack of folklore surrounding the circles in history, notwith-standing the isolated and perhaps dubious example noted in the 'Mowing Devil' story. (Meaden has also attempted to make out a case for circles indeed being present in ancient times, and that the neolithic and bronze age people hallowed the ground on which the circles appeared and constructed their stone circles and round barrows etc. to their dimensions. Also and perhaps more likely he suggests that a high proportion of UFO sightings have been misinterpretations of the atmospheric conditions pertaining within the plasma vortex manifestation.
The Human Hoax Theory (or landscape art I agree this fits it better.)
Points in favour::
  • a. The all-too-human associations in the patterns, e.g., Mandelbrot figures, flowers, fish, insects, etc.
  • b. The impossibility of attributing all these patterns to a random, unusual phenomenon of nature like a plasma vortex.
  • c. They are probably not beyond human ingenuity mostly.
  • d. The vast majority, at least of the pictograms are still in a relatively small area of southern England.
  • e. As above, the recent evolutionary nature of the events.
Points against:
  • a. Most of the known hoaxes are of the circle and ring variety.
  • b. The known hoaxes do not have the same beauty and perfection. The infamous, possibly military-inspired, Westbury hoax of July 1991 was a rough and ready affair, not a picture which one would want on the wall.
  • c. The immense difficulty of producing the most complex geometric forms with a rope and pole in darkness. Three examples: Barbury Castle, a complex world of symbolism and numerology. A display of lights in the sky was seen on the night of its formation. The warden of the Iron-Age Barbury Castle hill fort heard a thunderous roar and pulsing hum at 3.30 am. He is used to low flying aircraft from RAF Lyneham. The serpent pictogram at Chilton Foliat, Hungerford had strong dowsable energy flows [but so did the admitted hoax produced by the Wessex Sceptics, according to at least one dowser - Ed.] and some of the pathways had no connections with the 'tramlines'. The quintuplet at Amersham, Bucks appeared on a Sunday morning in a twenty-five minute period between the outward a return journeys of a man walking his dog.
  • d. One one particular night three intricate pictograms appeared, Are we to presume there were three different groups of landscape artists out coincidentally on the same night all producing perfect designs.
  • e. Revisitations. A number of circles and pictograms were 're-visited' a few days later when one, or sometimes two, small circles and other features appeared. Would hoaxers really take the trouble to do this when they would surely be busy making more wonderful designs in other fields? If so, why?
The 'Other Intelligence' Possibility
Points for:
  • a. All points listed above against the other theories.
  • b. The interaction of humans in the psychic spheres and associated anomalous phenomena.
  • c. The weight of numbers of the pictograms within a short space of time.
Points against:
  • Nothing, absolutely nothing! Because, as you say, we can neither prove or disprove any such apparent intelligent activity by any means at our disposal!
I therefore suggest that we have a phenomenon in which all three possibilities have validity, even actuality and somewhere interact. But we have to bring into play the intuitive as against merely the mechanical and rational, which seem limited when trying to explain this mystery, and are controlled by sense derived data. Although we cannot see other levels of reality this does not disqualify them. In science itself the mechanical approach is more and more ringing false as the only path, or as an end in itself. Rupert Sheldrake's morphogenic fields could well have a role to play. Could this indeed be an interface between the physical and what we term the etheric levels of manifestation?

We can sit and wonder, but let's wait and see what happens next year. I have outlined just a few features of the mystery which I hope goes to show it is even more complex than one might imagine.

John Rimmer replies:

The letters above provide an excellent summary of the climate of crop circle opinion as we wait for the season of '92 to start. They also give me the opportunity to reply to one or two of the points raised by our correspondents and perhaps tie up a couple of loose ends in my article.

I am glad that Ralph Noyes agrees with me, because I agree entirely with him (although he is a bit of a tease, because really he doesn't agree with me at all!) There is of course all the difference in the world between 'persons unknown' and 'intelligences unknown'. If Mr Noyes's elegant Chelsea flat was burgled the police may well conclude that they were dealing with 'persons unknown', even if they were fairly sure they were gentlemen of the striped jersey and bag labelled 'swag' persuasion. Ralph may also consider Chelsea's finest 'alarmist' or 'overimaginative' if they suggested the culprit was an 'unknown intelligence', suggesting a possible break-in by educated goldfish from Zeta Reticulli or an aberrant thought-form from the distant reaches of the Kings Road! If Ralph will forgive me I will not agree with him for the time being, and shall, like the CID at Lucan Place, continue to speak of 'persons unknown'.

Raymond Cox raises a number of specific points which I think can be answered one by one. I am always very dubious about claims over what hoaxers would or would not do, and even more unsure about what artists might and might not do, so I have no idea why anyone would want to go back to make small alterations to crop circles they had created. But such is the nature of the creative genius that I have no doubt they might do just that. I can also see no reason why three groups of artists should not be out on the same night doing their work. Presumably some nights are better for this sort of operation than others and we might indeed expect more than one group to be abroad on a good night.

As someone who lives near Heathrow, directly beneath the main flight path I am also a little dubious about claims that people who live near airports and air-bases are intimately familiar with everything that might be flying overhead. I certainly have heard some pretty non-standard sounding aircraft (Concorde, although a twice daily visitor to the airspace above John Dee Cottage can still cause a momentary twinge of panic from time to time!); I am sure the situation is even more confusing near a military base. I therefore ask to be excused from being impressed by the testimony of the warden of Barbury Castle.

It certainly would be a complex task to produce a pattern like Barbury, but Peter Williams has produced a very convincing account of how a small group of hoaxers could have produced the figure using 'compass and straightedge' techniques. The problem with comparing 'known hoaxes' and 'genuine circles' is that all our criteria for determining genuineness (the 'layering' etc.) ultimately trace back to the original single circles of the early '80s. If even these were 'hoaxes', and Raymond Cox points out that the single circles are the kind most likely to be hoaxed, we are simply judging how well different techniques of circle-making match up to each other.

It is curious that the meteorologists, having had their fingers burnt along with the 'unknown intelligencers' over the complex pictograms have retreated to a seemingly more reasonable hypothesis the complex designs are indeed the work of hoaxers/artists, but the simple circles represent the genuine meteorological phenomenon. But surely the single circles are, as Raymond says, the easiest to create manually. So if you accept that Alton Barnes, Barbury and the other classics are man-made there is no logical reason why you should attempt to deny that all of them are man-made.

A final word from Ian Blake draws in another controversial phenomenon:

Your article in Magonia 41 covering the latest developments in the field of crop circle research prompts me to ask: am I alone in seeing a parallel between this fascinating subject and the peculiarly American pastime of cattle mutilating? At first glance the two phenomena might appear to have little in common. But consider: both are connected with the agrarian/agricultural communities, with husbandry and with the provision of food for society at large. What is more, both involve the cutting or imprinting of circular markings, and the deliberate 'spoiling' of an element in the food chain. Finally both are carried out systematically by persons or forces unknown, and appear to aimed at imprinting a symbolic message directly onto the collective unconscious.

There is also some overlap between the two phenomena. Jacques Vallee cites a typical case in Messengers of Deception "About two miles over in a field was a perfectly round circle (my emphasis). The heifer was lying in the middle of this circle with its head to the north ... the sex organs were cut off and gone. The navel was cut out in a round circle (again, my emphasis LB.) and the meat inside was not touched ... " Vallee adds that about a quarter of a mile away the local sheriff found another circle: "This one was about the same [size] as the other, but the wheat was about four inches tall and it had been burned clean. These circles were about thirty feet across ... "

In cases like this the crop circle/mutilation interface need hardly be stressed, the facts speak for themselves. the mutilated heifer is found in the centre of a rudimentary crop circle; a similar circle is cut into its hide. Investigators later find another circle in an adjacent field. (according to Michael D Albers, landowner Darwood Mar-shall told the local sheriff "that he had pulled another dead animal, this one a steer, out of this second circle several days earlier.")

The entire scenario is difficult to explain by any of the usual UFO-related hypotheses, and appears instead to have been carried out in order to dramatise the concerns of a small but well-equipped and highly efficient elite. I have admittedly chosen this case because it tends to support my contention. But too many people have reported similar details for us to dismiss their claims out of hand. It may also be worth bearing in mind that the cattle mutilators of the western USA, like their crop circle manufacturing counterparts here in the UK, have so far shown themselves to be remarkably elusive.

Among other things they are able to carry out their handiwork in complete darkness, often under the very noses of would be investigators. This has led inevitably to suspicion in some quarters that the military establishment may somehow be involved in the mutilations, either actively or in an advisory capacity. And of course this too is rapidly becoming a staple item of crop circle lore. Likewise the suspicion of 'cultist activity', etc. Clearly we're witnessing here the development of parallel belief systems based on types of activity which, while they may appear disparate on the face of it, are remarkably similar in their consequences.

The average crop circle enthusiast would no doubt baulk at all this. And perhaps rightly so. After all, there is a sense in which most crop circles actually enhance the surrounding countryside. Some of the more complex arrangements suggest nothing so much as occult sigils or glyphs writ large on the rural landscape. There is a kind of fairytale quality about them, a suggestion of enchanted circles and magic rings. The cattle mutilations by contrast, inspire only fear and revulsion. And yet, both types of activity are seemingly carried out in order to transmit a symbolic message to society at large. What is the exact nature of this putative 'message'? That is for each of us to decide individually.