Along with Croppies, perhaps our favourite circles documentary. Its subtitle, “A Journey Into The Heart Of Crop Circle Country”, says it all. Featuring one of the biggest cast lists of any circles doc, including Steve Alexander, Charles Mallett, Michael Glickman, Colin Andrews, Matthew Williams, Lucy Pringle, Terence Meaden, Pat Delgado, Busty Taylor, Peter Sorensen, Doug Bower, John Lundberg, George Wingfield, Francine Blake, Karen Alexander, Freddy Silva, Andy Thomas, William Levengood, Ed Sherwood, Kris Sherwood, Ron Russell, Simeon Hein, Suzanne Taylor, Polly Carson, Tim Carson, Isabelle Kingston, John Wabe, Dan Darby, Geoff Stray, amongst others. Recommended viewing.
An interesting article from the ABC site which argues that serious study of crop circles is being held back by its association with ufology (though no doubt there are some ufologists out there who would argue the opposite). Article here; screen captures below.
Since Circular Evidence: The Movie ain’t ever gonna get made, watch this instead; Paranormal TV documentary that looks like it was made c.1991/1992 and focusing on Colin Andews and “the unravelling of the mystery of crop circles” (not that much ‘unravelling’ occurs). Also featuring Busty Taylor, Polly Carson, Chad Deetken, Richard Andrews, William Levengood, and a few howlers; tell us, Colin, which year was it that saw 1,500 circles?
We were saddened to learn that William Levengood, of the BLT Research team, has recently passed away. Whatever you make of the BLT findings, there can be no doubt that Levengood’s impact on crop circle research has been immense. Our condolences to family and friends.
What exactly is a crop circle?
A circle. In a crop field. At least, that’s what a crop circle was when the term was first coined. Now it seems to cover all manner of markings, from splodges to squiggles to complex configurations of circles, squares, triangles, lines, crescents, rings, and kitchen sinks. In an effort to keep up with the development of the designs, various other terms have been made up, including ‘pictogram’, ‘agriglyph’, ‘crop glyph’. Call us old-fashioned, but we’ve decided to stick with ‘crop circle’. ‘Crop formation’ seems to be the most recent variant, or ‘formation’ as it’s known to its friends. We like and frequently use that one, too, being one of said friends.
Small single circle from Weston Turville, Bucks, August 2005. “The crop circle enigma” ™ began with small single circles and circle-sets. Back in the day a single circle was known as a ‘singleton’, and was affectionately termed a ‘valerie’ by some researchers. Photograph of the Weston Turville circle by Darren Francis, who as far as we’re aware was the only person to visit this formation aside from its maker and the farmer as he combined it.
Aren’t all crop circles man-made?
Oh leave it.
Aren’t all crop circles made by aliens / ultraterrestrial intelligences / earth energies / satan / gaia etc?
But I’ve heard tell of ‘genuine crop circles’. What is meant by this? What constitutes a ‘genuine crop circle’?
That’s a toughie, and the answer depends very much on who you speak to. First off, ‘genuine crop circle’ generally means ‘crop circle not made by people’. The main problem with this is that said term assumes or implies that there are accepted criteria by which one should judge such things, factors that can be assessed and tests that can be employed to give a definitive answer either way. Quite a few people claim there are such tests and factors, though nobody seems to be able to agree on exactly what they are. Studies of lay, design aspects, and analysis of crop samples have all been cited. Others employ all manner of gizmos, black box technology, sacred rites, dowsing, and the like. The subjectivity of these methods is a sticking point, as is the fact that different people look for different things. We’ve read field reports of the same formation by different parties, which vary to such an extent that you’d be forgiven for thinking they were referring to separate circles. Terms like ‘genuine crop circle’ and ‘genuine phenomenon’ also imply that one believes that crop circles are not, or cannot, be man-made; some of them, at least. Not everybody adheres to this view. Similarly, some researchers consider all crop circles ‘genuine’ until there is evidence to suggest otherwise, others that all crop circles should be assumed man-made until evidence suggests otherwise. Most sit somewhere in the middle. Horses for courses.
Okay. If you can’t tell us what constitutes a ‘genuine’ crop circle, at least tell us what constitutes a ‘good’ crop circle.
It depends what you like. Personally we go for precision, neatness and sophistication of lay, and aesthetically pleasing design. Yes, we know that’s vague, but it is difficult to define. Here’s an example of a circle we like: Hackpen Hill, 4th July 1999 (photo by Peter Sorensen). There are some formations rated highly in croppiedom which we personally don’t get along with, for example Bythorn, Cambridgeshire, September 1993 (though we’re not that keen on pentagrams as a rule), the East Field ‘pictogram of pictograms’ of 1999, the ‘dolphins’ of 1991 (ersatz hippy tat), anything involving ladders or eyes, and the Beckhampton ‘Charm Bracelet’ of 16 August 1992 (cheesy crap – nice lay, though), to name a few. A lot of it comes down to personal taste, and we suspect that for all the posturing, most pronouncements about particular formations and their place in the phenomenon as a whole are aesthetic. This is simplifying the point somewhat, though crop circles are artistic as much as anything else. One human circlemaker we spoke to (as opposed to all the non-human circlemakers we’ve spoken to; haven’t you?) said he considered crop circle researchers to be more akin to art critics than paranormal investigators, and we do think there is a great deal of truth in this.
Wasn’t there some guy who analysed crop samples and concluded that some formations couldn’t be made by people?
Doctor William Levengood, together with Nancy Talbot and the less-famed John Burke, collectively known as the BLT Research Team. We were just about to get on to them. When they’re not making sandwiches (and nobody else has made that joke) they examine plant-samples from crop circles. They report a number of biological changes to the plants including elongation and bending of nodes, expulsion cavities (tiny holes around the nodal area), shrivelled seed-heads, cellular alteration, and severely stunted or accelerated germination, deducing that such anomalies are consistent with brief exposure to some form of intense microwave energy. An awful lot has been written and said about the BLT results over the years. We hope to be able to present a more detailed overview of their work on this site in the future.
But didn’t the good doctor analyse lodging and find the same anomalies he reports in crop circles?
There were patches of ‘strange lodging’ which Levengood examined and in which he found anomalies akin to those found in crop circle samples, leading him to speculate that occasionally what is defined as lodging may in fact be caused by similar ‘forces’ as crop circles (if indeed one believes – as Levengood seems to – that the circles are made by said ‘forces’). This doesn’t necessarily mean he considers all lodging to be malformed crop circles, or – to look at it another way – that he believes crop circles to be sophisticated lodging. Wait for our BLT analysis to make this aspect clearer. What’s that, you say? Their same results found in lodging? Their ‘strange lodging’ clutching at straws? And people call us cynics.
Is there a simple way to tell which crop circles are man-made and which aren’t?
This is probably the most commonly asked crop circle question, and we’ve dealt with it at various points elsewehere on this page and on this site. We find all alleged ‘authenticity’ tests to be lacking to one degree or another. Put another way, in circle-speak the term ‘genuine crop circle’ means “I don’t know who made this”, though it sometimes means “I know who made this but I don’t believe them because I think it’s such a great circle”. It may also mean “this formation is genuine because it fits into my theory”, or conversely “this formation is man-made because it doesn’t fit into my theory”.
Genuiness is in the eye of the beholder. All crop circles are genuine, but some crop circles are more genuine than others.
How long have crop circles been appearing?
The answer to this one is relatively straightforward, compared to some of these questions. Contrary to popular view, crop circles did not – as far as we can tell – first appear in fields close to the Percy Hobbs pub in the mid 1970s. There are many (largely anecdotal) accounts of formations throughout the 20th century and earlier.
The sign of The Percy Hobbs pub, near Cheesefoot Head, Hampshire. In the 1980s this pub sign looked rather different. In the mid-1990s it was re-drawn (as pictured here) into a stylised representation of Doug Bower, in honour of the pints he sank and plans he hatched in the snug, before he kicked ass at darts and dominoes then ventured into the fields. Photograph by Darren Francis, Summer 2006.
The problem of course is that the further back in history one goes, the more hazy the reports get, though there are photographs of circles throughout the world from the 1960s onward at least (many reproduced – poorly, we regret to add – in Terry Wilson’s book The Secret History of Crop Circles); the difference, of course, being that back then they were called ‘UFO nests’ and not ‘crop circles’. Croppie lore speaks of a photo from the 1930s of a formation in Sussex, though we haven’t seen this one ourselves. An article from Nature magazine in 1880 by spectroscopist J Rand Capron details an investigation into circles that appeared near Guildford, Surrey, in that year. Similar reports have been found in the 1686 book The Natural History of Staffordshire by Robert Plot, this time detailing grass formations (or were they?). That’s the kind of evidence we want to see ourselves, instead of taking every historical mention of a mark in a field (or even not in a field) and interpreting it as crop circle lineage. It might be, but it equally might not be.
Then you have the famed ‘Mowing Devil’ woodcut of 1678, though we have reservations here; the crop appears to have been cut rather than swirled flat, and so – unlike the Capron or Plot reports – doesn’t tally with what one might now define as a crop circle.
The Mowing Devil of 1678. We were quite shocked to discover that there have been four different versions of the Mowing Devil image doing the rounds over the years. This is a reproduction of the authentic one. We’ve noticed that almost all accounts we’ve read of the Mowing Devil in crop circle books quote from the cover text only (which you can read on this image), such that one might be forgiven for not realising that the true account is considerably longer. The full text has been reproduced in a few books, though – for example The Field Guide by Rob Irving and John Lundberg (pages 27-31) or Terence Meaden’s Circles From The Sky (pages 186-188).
We’d also repeat a point made by Bob Boyd in The Circular # 31 (May 1998) that, if crop circles have been appearing so long, it seems strange that Charles Fort – exhaustive archivist of tales of all things wyrd – makes absolutely no mention of them. We suspect that, even if they have been appearing as long as the evidence might suggest, it’s never been in anything approaching the numbers or complexity we see today.
Like all croppies worth their salt we are intensely interested in reports that pre-date the 1970s. The sheer number of reports is certainly suggestive, though the intangibility of almost all of them is frustrating. Pre-1970s circles are another item on the long list of things we hope to do a more detailed feature about in the future.
How many crop circles appear each year?
It varies. Up until the mid-1980s, less than ten circles appeared annually in the UK on average, and non-UK circles were comparatively rare. From the late 1980s to the late 1990s annual numbers did steadily climb, peaking in 1999 then dropping a little to between a hundred and a hundred a fifty a year in the UK for the early part of the 2000s. The last few seasons (we write this paragraph in July 2008) have seen quite a sudden drop from this, with UK circles averaging about 55 in 2006 and 2007. There has been a great deal of speculation as to why this might be. Theories range from fewer circlemakers out in the fields to sunspot and other cycles, or of the ‘genuine’ circlemakers having taken a backseat and leaving the fields to the ‘hoaxers’ (or vice versa). After the sudden drop in 2006 it was speculated by Andy Thomas in particular (see article here) that the dry Summer had something to do with it; “It is widely recognised that the majority of crop formations cluster around the main aquifiers… in the UK, and many believe that natural energy generated by their water contributes to their creation. In 2006, the UK suffered the driest conditions since 1976 – could this have been an important factor?” Although Andy makes an interesting point here, it is perhaps worth pointing out that 2007 had about the same number of circles as 2006 and it absolutely bucketed down with rain for most of the Summer.
We can’t leave the subject of annual circles numbers without mentioning that we still see it claimed that over 300 circles appeared in 1989, with double that number in 1990. This is entirely down to Terence Meaden’s cataloging methods; Meaden would count (for example) a quintuplet as five separate circles, a triplet as three separate circles. This means that circle numbers from any year in which Meaden was cataloguing data – up to 1991 in fact – should be treated with suspicion.
How big was the biggest crop circle ever recorded?
Ah, the ‘Size Queen croppie’ question.
There have been a few very long pictograms – for example East Field, Alton Barnes, Wiltshire, 12th June 1999 (1040′), Ashbury, Oxfordshire, 26th July 1994 (approximately a quarter of a mile), Etchilhampton, Wiltshire, 30th July 1996 (eight tenths of a mile, which might sound impressive but the actual design was just a path with 13 circles spaced along it) though due to the nature of these designs the actual amount of flattened crop is relatively little. The formation with the greatest amount of flattened crop is generally reckoned to be East Field, 9th July 1998 (see photo by Werner Anderhaub), which covered approximately 6000 square metres. Though this was a fair few seasons ago we think the record still holds, but would be curious to see how it compares to – say – the August 2001 Milk Hill formation. Speaking of which, although Milk Hill 2001 holds the record for the most circles in a single formation (409) its diameter is ‘only’ 767′. Compare this to the Windmill Hill Julia Set of July 1996, which – although it had less than half the circles of its Milk Hill sibling – spanned anywhere between 800′ and 1,000′ tip to tip depending on who you ask. Or compare it to the Alton Barnes, Wilts formation of 7th July 2007; 1033′ foot tip to tip, with approximately 130 circles. So which is bigger? Which we guess means that ‘size’, as much as ‘genuineness’, is relative. Would you like it any other way?
See also the article Size Matters Not for further discussion of this topic.
Hackpen Hill, 24 May 2008.It’s been pointed out that this formation is the ‘spine’ of the Milk Hill 2001 formation, and that it’s about the same size. It is on both counts. Why do croppies find this formation less interesting than its Milk Hill mother? We don’t know. If size is your game, it’s a good circle. If geometry is your game, it’s a good circle. If lineage is your game, it’s a good circle. If precision is your game, it’s a good circle. If ‘the season is young and I want my circle fix’ is your game, it’s a good circle. To tell the truth we know the reason for the neglect entirely. Croppies are fickle and get bored. Want the next bigger and next better thing and next thing. Don’t see what is in front of their eyes. For curio value we’d also add that this was in the same field as the 1999 Hackpen Hill formation mentioned above in this page. Photograph by Peter Sorensen.
How significant is the placing of crop circles?
Without knowing who / what put a particular formation in the field, this is an impossible question to answer. We do know, however, that factors as mundane as availability of fields containing particular crop types, or ease of access to those fields or to points where the maker may remain unseen or may leave a vehicle, are considerations.
A number of studies have been made into the positioning of crop circles in relation to each other, the most impressive of which is probably this one. Freddy Silva has also written about this puzzling crop circle aspect, with particular regard to formations from the 1999 season (The Cereologist # 31, pages 7-11, and also in Secrets In The Fields) and his findings – that circles reference not only prominent landmarks but also the location of the next circle – make for fascinating reading. However, he does ignore the vast majority of 1999 formations along the way, getting around this by dismissing them as ‘hoaxes’. The question of whether circlemakers deliberately position formations in relation to ancient sites and other prominent landmarks has also been addressed in The Field Guide (pages 167-168) and elsewhere.
It might also be worth mentioning in passing here that in any given season formations will be trumpeted as aligned to something or other – and indeed they will be aligned to that something or other (usually a barrow, stone circle, hill or such) – though the majority of circles aren’t aligned to anything. Or at least anything that gets noticed. And who bothers writing about alignments in a circle that doesn’t have any? Nobody. Except us.
Crop circle of “mysterious origin” that appeared opposite Silbury Hill 6 July 2000. Yes, it’s aligned to Silbury Hill. But so are the tramlines. Does that mean that the farmer was guided by arcane forces when he sowed his field? Photograph by Peter Sorensen.
Where is the best place to see new crop circles?
Theoretically, one can see crop circles wherever there are crop fields, and our advice is to check the ‘new formations’ websites throughout the Summer to find the nearest formations to you. However, a much simpler answer for lazy croppies is that if you visit the Avebury / Alton Barnes area any time between late June and mid-August you are guaranteed to see circles. Visiting on most Saturday and Sunday mornings in this period will also guarantee that you can see fresh, ‘appeared the night before in a field that was being watched and then dawn came and there were hundreds of orbs’ circles.
So why do most crop circles appear on Friday and Saturday nights?
Because some ETs / faeries / earth energies / demons / field pixies have day jobs.
What do the farmers make of it all?
Farmers? Who are they? Oh you mean those annoying sorts who sometimes turn up to spoil croppies’ fun when they’re out trampling through crop fields? Who sometimes even have the sheer cheek to throw people out of fields or cut circles before hundreds of people visit and stomp the crop to chaff and dust?
Actually we do feel very sorry for farmers, especially those in Wiltshire. Bear in mind that some of these people have had crop circles on their land every single year, and in some years multiple formations, for nearly two decades. Is it really surprising that they might be getting sick of it?
While we’re on the subject of farmers, we’d add that although it says in the Crop Circle Code of Conduct and in many croppie books that visitors should always ask permission from the farmer before entering a formation, we know very few croppies that do so – and this includes some very prominent researchers, some of them published authors. As such we find it bemusing that croppies will bemoan the illegal activities of ‘evil hoaxers’ before engaging in illegal activities themselves by trespassing on farmers’ property.
How comes nobody has ever been caught making a circle?
They have; see here.
Why do people who research crop circles call themselves cerealogists?
Because it adds the illusion of science to them and to their efforts. Actually, few people seem to use this term any more; the PC term at present is ‘croppie’. Though commonly believed to have been co-opted from Trekkie, we personally prefer the theory that ‘croppie’ is a compound term derived from ‘crop circle groupie’.
‘Cerealogist’ is sometimes spelt ‘cereologist’. What’s that all about?
When the journal of the same name was first published, it was spelt ‘cereologist’, though as they note in their editorial in issue 3, “‘a number of learned readers have pointed out that it is etymologically incorrect” and that it should in fact be ‘cerealogist’. It fluctuated after that – indeed the cover-banners are spelt differently depending on which issue you look at. There was actually a reader-poll, the results of which favoured ‘cereologist’. We disagree; surely the term is derived from the word ‘cereal’, and therefore ‘cerealogist’ makes more sense. Michael Glickman also favours ‘cerealogist’, as he notes in his column in issue 7 of said organ (reproduced in his book Cornography). We welcome this; it’s nice to agree with Glickers on something for a change.
Does this etymological pondering matter? Of course it matters. Even if it is a made up word.
Is there any proof that some crop circles are made by aliens?
And before you ask, complexity of design in a formation is not proof that it was made by aliens. Anomalous plant effects reported in formations are not proof that formation was made by aliens. Balls of light seen in and around a formation are not proof that those balls of light were guided by aliens (or indeed were aliens themselves) and made that formation. Crop circles that depict aliens are not proof that aliens are taken to self-portraiture. Not knowing how a crop circle got into a field in the middle of the night is not proof that it was put there by aliens.
The famed Crabwood formation of August 2002. A depiction of a Grey in a crop field isn’t proof that the formation was made by Greys. Going by that logic, Greys also made the film Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. We’ve also heard it argued that this formation – when taken in light of the message that accompanies it – is in fact a warning against Greys put there by another race of aliens (Pleidians, Nordics, Sirians, Reptilians, Arcturans, take your pick). This isn’t quite as far-fetched as it sounds, when you consider what shifty buggers Greys are, with rectal probing and embryo-theft and cattle mutilation listed amongst their hobbies in the contact ads.That doesn’t of course mean that we think this formation was made by aliens – of whatever race – because we don’t. We’d love to be able to, but simply don’t see the evidence. Aerial photo of the Crabwood formation by Peter Sorensen.
In amongst all the bickering and gossip and who-made-what allegations and insulting each other on internet forums and gallivanting around Wiltshire lining the pockets of the local landlords, does anybody actually do any research into crop circles anymore?
Something we’ve wondered ourselves, it has to be said.
A related point – why do most croppies drink so much?
There are several answers to this one:- 1. In order to support their theories; 2. Because sitting in the Barge Inn getting sloshed is easier than field work; 3. Because after one has visited the latest formations, there isn’t much else to do other than retire to your tent / B&B, or have a bevy or two; 4. Because crop circles are as much a social activity as anything else.
We’d also like to float a theory here; never mind the notion that some farmers are in cahoots with those making formations on their land so they can charge people to go in (which, considering the ire with which some Wiltshire farmers mow formations as soon as they arrive seems unlikely these days), what about the Wiltshire pub owners? They employ people to make formations, croppies flock to have a look and then hit the boozer. Utterly implausible but it just might be true. Which could be said to eloquently sum up the whole phenomenon, in a way.
The sign of the Barge Inn pub, Honeystreet, Wiltshire. This photo was taken (by Darren Francis) in Summer 2007, at which point the sign had recently been re-done. Many croppies will no doubt remember the older version, of which we’ll have a (non-digital) image somewhere and may load at some point as well.
Is it true that making crop circles can be as much if not more spiritually rewarding than investigating them?
Some might say, and so we’ve heard.
But why do so many croppies end up making circles themselves?
Like most of these questions there are several answers, some of them contradictory. The obvious reason is to test the plausibility of the ‘crop circles are all man-made’ hypothesis, to see what is and isn’t possible to create in a field at night. We think this a reasonable venture, personally, and find it bizarre that some croppies do not consider it worthwhile as research, even if they wouldn’t want to have a go themselves. Some leave it at this; others go on to make circles season after season. Some because they think it’s fun, some because they find it rewarding, some to see what they can get away with, some because they enjoy seeing other croppies making fools of themselves, most because they’re croppies too and love crop circles as much as the rest.
So these people who make crop circles… do they use strimmers, then?
We have actually been asked this question. And no, they don’t use strimmers (though if they did it might explain the ellusive ‘trilling sound’). Farmers have occasionally been known to use strimmers, though, when faced with the latest glorious message from the stars in their fields.
Why do crop circles only appear in the Summer in the UK?
Erm… because crop circles need crops? Before we elaborate we should say that we’ve been asked this question, too. It isn’t quite as dumb as it sounds (though it’s still pretty dumb).
Though the ‘because crop circles need crops’ rule applies, formations do of course appear in Spring in oilseed rape and (late Spring) in barley and in early wheat, before the fields give way to the most glorious designs which are as a rule in wheat. The (very) occasional Autumn formation might turn up in maize or grass, and Winter grass formations have also – abeit rarely – been spotted. Also worth mentioning here is a barley formation that was discovered on 15th November 2007 near Manton, Wiltshire (picture left and article here) and which is undoubtedly the latest in the year that a UK formation has appeared.
Manton, Wiltshire, 15 November 2007. Considering how cold we remember it being in the UK when this appeared, we don’t envy who / what made it in the slightest. Aerial photograph by Peter Sorensen
Why does The Barge Inn have a circlemaking equipment store next door to it?
Coincidence. Besides, it isn’t a circlemaking store, it’s a country supplies store and sawmill. That said, we wouldn’t like to speculate how many wood-planks may have been ‘borrowed’ from outside the place in the dead of night over the years.
Can I tell you my personal theory as to what crop circles mean and what makes them, even though I have absolutely no evidence for it and have never even been in a crop circle?
No. It isn’t that we don’t care, more that we don’t have the time. We hope you understand.
It’s all done by the military, though, isn’t it?
We really must be going now.
Why are you guys so cynical?
There’s a fine line between cynicism and credulity. We’ve been accused of being cynics, debunkers, disbelievers, and worse. We’re none of these things. We’re agnostics. We do think that something very interesting is going on here. We know we understand some of it, we think we understand other bits, elsewhere have an inkling, sometimes don’t have a clue. A bit like everybody else, really, but at least we’re honest.
First written Summer 2003; revised intermittently since then; most recent tarting Summer 2008.
NB: Perhaps it is only fair to say that a couple of the statements in these photo comments aren’t actually true.
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.