Monthly Archives: January 2004

Crop Circles: Evidence Of Shoddy Research

Wherein Poppy Amersham takes Nicholas Montigiani’s Crop Circles: Evidence Of A Cover-Up outside, and gives it a thorough kicking.


Another month, another new book on crop circles. The latest to appear on our bookshelves, and perhaps yours too, is Nicholas Montigiani’s Crop Circles: Evidence Of A Cover-Up. The conclusion of this book is the tired old “it’s all done by secret military technology” theory, presented as the only tenable hypothesis, with all other theories being dismissed as ridiculous. That’s not what we want to discuss here, however. Regardless of its conclusions, there are a great many factual errors in this book, some minor and some glaring. This is a problem we’ve noticed with other circles books, too, though we can’t remember the last time we read one that failed to the extent that Crop Circles: Evidence Of A Cover-Up does. Here are some examples, together with a few other points made in this book that irked us (we won’t list them all, because that would be tedious and would take far too long):

Page 26: “It was… during 1990 that the crop circles emigrated from the United Kingdom to the United States, Mexico, South Africa, Australia, Israel, Japan, and throughout Europe.”
There are hundreds of documented cases of non-UK circles from before 1990, some of them supported by photographs.

Page 27: Benoit Mandelbrot did not work at Cambridge University.

Page 27: (regarding the appearance of the 1991 Mandelbrot formation) “Curiously, the British Army immediately burned the figure.”
No, they didn’t, though it was harvested shortly after it appeared; there are aerial photos, which have been reproduced in several books, showing the formation part-harvested.

Page 28: the ‘ant’ formation – presumably the Meon Valley one – appeared in 1997, not 1996.

Page 28: “In 1999 – One hundred twenty [sic.] agriglyphs (40 in June, 50 in July, and 29 in August) were found.”
The actual tally of 1999 UK formations is somewhere in the region of 175, though judging by statements made elsewhere in the book, it would appear that Montigiani only deems formations in wheat to be proper crop circles.

Page 31: “electronic equipment… suffers temporary failure or even complete breakdown, as is often reported by those visiting crop circles.”
Less a factual error, though we feel that the use of the word ‘often’ is wildly exaggerating the point, considering the sheer number of people who visit crop circles every year and experience nothing of the sort. We can readily attest to the fact that we’ve been in more than a hundred formations throughout the seasons and have never experienced any form of equipment failure.

Page 39: “…it must not be forgotten that these novel kinds of plasma have never been observed or reproduced in the laboratory.”
See the chapter ‘Creation Of The Plasma Vortex’ by Yoshi-Hiko Ohtsuki, in Terrence Meaden’s Circles From The Sky.

Page 45: The ‘Now Explain This!’ newspaper headline was printed in response to the July 1991 Barbury Castle formation, and not the formation that appeared close to the Prime Minister’s country residence that year.

Page 57: What, exactly, is a ‘”New Age” adept?’ Though it can’t really be counted as a factual error, we’d also add that most of Montigiani’s comments on the New Age are drawn from Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince’s book The Stargate Conspiracy, which is hardly a sympathetic take on the subject, and scarcely a sufficient grounding to make Montigiani able to discuss the subject with any authority.

Page 59: “The first crop circles to be reported materialised in England at the end of the 1970s in the counties of Wiltshire and Hampshire. And nowhere else…”
Many formations have been documented before this period, and some photographed, both in the UK and elsewhere. Montagiani knows this, since he cites a 1974 Canadian case elsewhere in his book.

Page 60: “Undoubtedly, crop circles have given the [New Age] movement a second wind.”
From what we’ve observed, the New Age scene was doing fine before crop circles came along.

Page 60: “…sometimes braving the gun of an exasperated farmer…”
A croppie urban legend. As far as we’re aware, nobody has ever been shot – or even had a gun pointed at them – for entering a crop circle (though as always, if anybody has any evidence otherwise, please let us know).

Page 63: How on earth can Avebury be described as “one of the least… studied [stone] circles in England”?

Page 64: Silbury Hill is comprised of chalk, not limestone.

Page 68, footnote: “No crop circle has in fact ever appeared in a cornfield [maize].”
Formations have appeared in maize in Wiltshire in 1998, 1999, and 2002. There are also numerous pre-1980s formations in maize documented in Terry Wilson’s Secret History Of Crop Circles, though sadly these accounts are only anecdotal.

Page 73-74: Montigiani is much taken by the idea that part of the SETI response to the 2001 Chillbolton formations was “If they [the extraterrestrials] don’t like radio much, they could have left written information, such as a CD” and the fact that the 2002 Crabwood ‘Grey’ formation “does, in fact, contain the ‘CD’ envisaged by SETI!” We’ve read the SETI response, and don’t recall any mention of a CD (we may just have missed the appropriate document, though, and are happy to be proven wrong here, if furnished with the relevant source), though we feel it is stretching the point somewhat to describe the disk in the Crabwood formation as a CD; it’s round, it contains data, but that doesn’t make it a CD.

Page 76: “Even more serious are the considerable morphological differences visible between the Chilbolton extraterrestrial and this one [at Crabwood]. It is not the same face.”
Yes. And. So. What. As far as we’re aware, nobody has ever claimed they were. One is human, fashioned – we suspect – after the Cydonia ‘face’. The other is alien, the archetypal grey.

Page 89: “Doug Bowers would state in the Sunday People…”
‘Doug Bowers’? That Colin Andrewsism…

Page 90: “The drawings were the work of computer scientists.”
One does not need a computer to encode diatonic ratios.

Page 93: “The circlemakers [Lundberg, Dickinson, Russell]… ‘recruited the services of NBC to film and broadcast a documentary on their works… and finally, resold their pictures at a high price.’”
We can’t really fault Montigiani here, since he’s quoting from another source (we can fault him for not verifying his data before including it in his book, however). To the best of our knowledge Lundberg, Dickinson and Russell were approached by NBC – not the other way round – and they’ve never sold pictures of circles they’ve made, “high price” or otherwise.

Pages 94-95: We find it outrageous that the quote from Rod Dickinson has been entirely re-written, so that Dickinson states that he made the formation, when in the true quotation he doesn’t, merely saying that he knows who did, before outlining what he believes to have been the construction method (the original passage can be read on the Circlemakers site for comparison).

Page 97: “We asked policemen at Andover… Who was this Matthew Williams?… Where was he arrested? The Andover police… had never officially heard of such an arrest.”
Williams was arrested in Wiltshire, not Hampshire, so it doesn’t surprise us in the slightest that the Andover police have no record of the case.

Page 100: “Why had not a single walker, farmer, policeman, or vagabond ever encountered the troop of circlemakers and their equipment, or seen their vehicles and flashlights, during a period lasting over 20 years?”
The same point is also made on page 118, and elsewhere. Montigiani is not alone in voicing this popular misconception. There are a number of accounts of human circlemaking teams being spotted. See our article Taking a Plank For A Walk for further details.

Page 107: “The alien has started to resemble the images of E.T.”
What else would an alien resemble, but an ET? Isn’t that like saying ‘the cat has started resemble the images of the feline’?

Page 110: “Here are exclusive documents issued from Laboratory tests.”
Sure, nobody’s ever presented photographs of bent nodes before.

Page 116-117: Montigiani cites a story of how he tried to enter a field containing a harvested formation in October 2002, and was spotted and approached by a “park warden”, as proof of how difficult it is to enter a field without being seen. We feel this point would have been better made if the incident had occurred at night, and not the middle of the afternoon. We also suspect the approach of the “park warden” (what the hell is a park warden doing in the middle of the Wiltshire countryside?) had something to do with Montigiani’s having just scaled Silbury Hill. Montigiani does, however, get time to analyse the remains of the formation in the stubble. The fact that this is one of only two reports of circle sites being visited, the other also in a harvested field, carries with it the frightening implication that Montigiani has never been in an unharvested crop circle. If he’d only taken the trouble to drive to Alton Barnes that October afternoon, he could have seen some of those maize formations he claims do not exist.

Page 117: “Since the middle of the 1980s, a large number of crop circles continue to appear during the day.”
Daylight crop circle appearances are, as far as the evidence would suggest, extremely rare.

Page 118: “In proximity to John Major’s property…”
Major didn’t own the property, he merely resided there whilst he was Prime Minister.

Page 123: “…all of the small nodosities…”

Page 129: “Was Dr Levengood really the only scientist to have taken the trouble to examine the flattened grain… We attempted to find [others]… There was no one.”
Others have conducted similar research, and have attempted to duplicate Levengood’s methods, among them Eltjo Haselhoff. Montigiani should know this, since he cites Haselhoff’s book in his bibliography, and quotes from it elsewhere.

Pages 132-154: Montigiani quotes extensively from an anonymous Frenchman, referred to only in the book as ‘Monsieur X’, or Jean-Paul Piton (a pseudonym). X / Piton’s cerealogical statements are also glitch-filled; see below (all quotations from pages 135-140 are X / Pilton’s words). Some of this is also at odds with points made by Montigiani elsewhere in the book; why does he not mention this?

Pages 135-136: “In the very beginning, one did see figures created [in] rapeseed plants… But very quickly, only wheat became the target of the designs.”
Even a cursory glance at the data from any season will show how utterly wrong this point is.

Page 137: “the designs appear… just before the start of harvests, at the very moment when the wheat is reaching maturity… Crop circles do not appear at the height of summer, when the harvest is at a peak….”
Wrong. They appear over a period of five or six months, in England (April to August, and sometimes September), and – very occasionally – outside of this.

Page 137: “wheat [is] the only source of vegetation involved in this business” and (page 142) “only wheat fields are ‘touched’ by the agriglyph phenomenon.”
Nonsense (see also page 135, above).

Page137: “No direct witness has ever seen the formation of a design.”
That one again. Wrong.

Page 138: “One detail that has escaped mention: the round spaces are not always perfect circles in geometrical terms but ellipses when they’re on land that isn’t horizontal!”
This point hasn’t ‘escaped mention’ at all; numerous people have picked up on it before. Many crop circles, when accurately measured, are found to be ellipses to one degree or another.

Page 138: “It was at Alton Barnes in July 1990 that the first veritable ‘pictogram’ appeared.”
Though this does hinge to an extent on exactly how one defines ‘pictogram’, Alton Barnes, July 1990 was not the first; the first appeared at Chilcomb Farm on 23rd May 1990, though Alton Barnes was the first of what came to be known as ‘double pictograms’.

Page 140: “The only element that has never been mentioned by any cerealogical researcher was the nature of the wheat itself. Observing whether the structure had been modified…”
Many, many researchers have discussed this element of the phenomenon; its the lynchpin for their conviction that crop circles aren’t man-made. In fact, we can think of few crop circle books we’ve read that don’t mention it.

And that’s only the first two thirds of the book. We’re bored with this now, it depresses us, but we hope you’ve got the general idea.

Overall, this is a dog’s dinner of a book, and one gets the impression that Montigiani spent very little time actually doing any research before he wrote it. Judging by the biography, it would also appear that he has only read four circles-related books, two of them nearly fifteen years old, and one of them a Colin Wilson book on UFOs that includes a chapter on crop circles. The only croppies Montigiani appears to have met are Steve Alexander (a short – and pointless – interview with Alexander is included as an appendix, though he isn’t mentioned elsewhere), and Michael Glickman. Judging by some of Glickman’s comments in his SC and Swirled News columns, we’d be surprised if the ‘secret military technology’ theory was discussed when these two gentlemen met, and if it was, we suspect Glickman would have given it short shrift. But regardless of what Glickers would have made of it, regardless of what we make of it, how does Montigiani expect anybody to take his book seriously when it is so thoroughly riddled with inaccuracies?

Written January 2004; very minor amendments since.