In the first section of a two-part article, Michael looks in detail at the oft-quoted claim by researcher Colin Andrews that 80% of crop formations are man-made, and examines the reality behind it…
80% PROOF – part 1
It is a given for me that, whatever our differences of views, we would all wish to spread information about the crop circle phenomenon as widely, as promptly, as truthfully and as objectively as possible.
Doug and Dave defiled this process and, looking back, the Doug and Dave fiasco can be seen to have achieved two other objects. First, it circulated the ridiculous and still unsupported idea that these two old scoundrels had been responsible for the crop circle phenomenon, by implication, in its entirety. Secondly, and wickedly, it humiliated the two leading researchers, Colin Andrews and Pat Delgado, who had, with great personal courage and sacrifice, dedicated themselves to research, writing and lecturing on the subject. Delgado, wounded, retired from the scene.
It is the contention of this two-part article that Colin Andrews was wounded in a graver way. Though, in conversation and in interviews, he constantly reiterates the phrase “We must be careful”, he seems totally insensible of the fact that he may already have been duped a second time, and now far more substantially and seriously. It culminated in the summer of 2000 when, with the PR and self-promotion that he alone in crop circles is able to organise, he launched a massive and comprehensive media campaign suggesting that 80% of formations were man-made.
Thus, ten years after the initiation of the D&D scam, the injured hero delivers his own deathblow to the phenomenon. And how successful it almost was! The 80% man-made argument is now widely accepted, though, as I will show in Episode 2, in spite of much noise and commotion, much restating of buzzwords such as “detective agencies” and “night vision cameras”, and much heart-wringing about how he himself has been hurt by his inescapable conclusions, there is no real basis for these inflated estimates.
We, and the public, internationally, have been misled. The 80% assertion remains substantially unchecked and unchallenged and yet still is believed and promoted by many senior figures in the crop circle world.
I have always found it hard to rationalize Colin’s behaviour. It is still difficult for me to grasp why such an admirable early career was subjected to such focused self-destruction. Many observers now suggest that Colin was acting on instruction in the furtherance of a sinister agenda. I have no evidence for this and, for a variety of reasons, find it hard to believe.
However, it is my belief that the Colin Andrews statement caused far more damage to serious public recognition of this phenomenon than did the Doug and Dave charade.
He said that 80% of crop circles were man-made. The evidence for this (characterized as comprehensive and irrefutable) would soon be available, he said. The remaining 20%, the simpler formations, which bore an uncanny resemblance to the events of the 1980s and early 1990s were, he claimed, not necessarily hoaxes. They exhibited a magnetic anomaly and he promised, again, that we would have further information shortly. We were assured at the time that he was working with “PhD’s” to produce “papers” in “peer-review journals”. Needless to say, many in the research community were doubtful. We were outraged that years of careful work had been damaged by an impulsive, though immaculately orchestrated and widely publicised, statement. As usual, no other researcher was either warned or consulted beforehand.
But few were surprised. Once again, it appeared that Colin Andrews was more interested in self-publicity than in the phenomenon. People had grown tired of his regular ‘Press Releases’ and ‘Statements’. (Which other researcher felt it necessary – ever – to issue general Press Releases?). We were weary of the endless announcements, loudly and widely trumpeted, but then quickly and quietly forgotten. The list is endless. What happened to the two thousand formations he said had been found in India? The solar powered vehicle that drove across America? Why did he show the Ray Santilli alien autopsy film at the Glastonbury Symposium conference and then step back from it? Why, after a conversation with the shady Rob Irving, did he so loudly (and unwisely) declare the Stonehenge formation of 1996 to be a hoax, only to recant later? Why, having got his hands on the Oliver’s Castle video showing a formation appearing, did he leave the UK so precipitously (without even goodbyes to friends and supporters), declaring that this was “the most important footage in the world”? Why, shortly thereafter, did he mount a vehement (and still unsubstantiated) campaign against the footage, promising no less than three times a televised “confession” from the supposed faker? Why did he state that three documentaries in the autumn of 2000 would show night-vision film of hoaxers in action? On what evidence did he allege (in privately circulated e-mails) that the HTV documentary of last autumn would prove the huge Milk Hill event to be a fake?
This is consistent with his track-record of an interminable sequence of “scoops” which are never developed, never supported and which never bear fruit. Little is ever learned. Why does he never pause, think, consider, or perhaps consult a friend before so widely publishing his impulsive notions? Why, in short, after so many banana-skins, has he not learned to control his impulses and avoid skidmarks?
I am, like him, a crop circle investigator. For some years now, I have worked to catalogue hoaxed formations and it is my opinion that a small amount are man-made. I believe this level has increased over the last couple of years, but I would contend that it is not very high. Of course, I accept that I could be wrong and that my own estimates might be erroneous, flawed, mistaken or just plain incorrect, but an error of 1000% is hard for me to take! I have tried for years to pry out of Colin the basis for his hoax percentage statements. When I challenged his 1997 estimate (then only 70%), I was told he was considering legal action against me.
The lawyer’s letter never arrived and nor – of course – did any evidence!
Some months ago, he published ‘The Assessment’, a CD-ROM ‘Power Point’ presentation, which we were led to believe by its publicity would justify his claims. I bought a copy and I have studied it carefully. I will be discussing its findings in Episode 2
At this point, however, it is useful to examine an interview Colin took part in on the Art Bell ‘Coast to Coast’ radio programme on 10th September 2001. He was interviewed with Richard C Hoagland [‘face on Mars’ investigator] and the subject was the Chilbolton ‘face’ and ‘code’ formations. The interview is illuminating:
ART BELL (AB):
I think that most people would render the opinion right now of Colin Andrews that he has become a sceptic about crop circles… as he made a statement that was widely thought to mean that 80% of the crop circles are faked. That’s what a lot of people think Colin Andrews said, and he did, but with a very important qualifier, which we’ll get to in a segment coming up. So Colin Andrews, who’s certainly thought to be a sceptic, if not, some people are saying, debunker, is going to be here…
AB (later, but before Colin comes on air):
Let’s get it on with this. Richard C Hoagland back on. Colin Andrews waiting to come on in just a second. Richard, do you want to introduce Colin and sort of tell everybody, I guess, how Colin got in a little trouble with some of the people out there who study crop circles…
RICHARD C HOAGLAND (RCH):
Well, I’m really hoping in front of this extraordinarily interested twenty million people who listen to you, Art, that we can clear this up because… there is a gross misunderstanding of what Colin said. He has never, ever said that 80% of all the crop circles that have ever been made are made by human beings doing it with boards and chains.
Why were people saying that?
Because they took out of context what he said, specifically referring to commercialisation. Companies formed in England hired by TV documentary people and commercial people and advertisement people to make crop circles for Coors and all kinds of other people…
[Note: ‘Coors’ is an American Beer company but I have no knowledge of a commercial they made involving a crop circle. Perhaps Richard C Hoagland knows something we don’t.]
And THOSE are the ones he was referring to. The larger phenomenon, and if I’m mis-stating that he will correct me, obviously…
Yeah, we’ll let him say all this…
The larger phenomenon which he’s been investigating for fifteen or twenty years, most of it is inexplicable, exquisitely mysterious and extraordinarily important.
Where did Hoagland get this extraordinary information? Whoever could have fed him (because he most certainly was not here) this vision of the fields as some kind of Hollywood offshoot, a maelstrom of hoaxing, advertising and filming? Hoagland’s grasp of crop circle reality (and remember this went to twenty million listeners) is illustrated by his earlier statements about Chilbolton: “In order to really see what you’re seeing, you’ve got to get an airplane or a helicopter and because, um, of… you know… the Hoof and Mouth and a lot of other reasons, there’s been fewer overflights in some of these remote regions. This is an area about two hours, I understand, west of London, so it’s in an isolated region of England that isn’t normally frequented by crop circle investigators…”
Fewer overflights because of ‘Hoof and Mouth’? “Isolated region”? He speaks of Chilbolton as though it were in Peru! Were it not for the alarming fact that twenty million Americans might now believe this, it would be hilariously funny.
But essentially Hoagland is suggesting that Colin NEVER claimed 80% were man-made, but instead was simply reacting to some (mythical) media frenzy during the seasons of 1999 and 2000.
Colin, welcome to the programme.
Colin Andrews (CA):
Thank you very much, Art. Pleasure to be with you.
You’re in Connecticut?
Yes I am. Upon the East Coast.
OK, you’ve heard about this… well, first of all clear up your own… statement. Everybody said – well, he said 80% of the crop circles are fake…
That’s right. It’s been, I have to say, a pretty extraordinary last twelve months as a result of this… er… it just seems that having made… er… the statement on BBC television that, that went out certainly across Great Britain, regularly for several days, er actually it seemed that very few were listening to what I’d said and, and it was – and I thank you for the opportunity to state it clearly and perhaps a little bit more concisely this time [laughs] that… er… approximately 80% of the formations that I investigated in England and only England during the year 1999 and the year 2000 had all the hallmarks of… er …a human hand. A great deal of evidence that would certainly… certainly satisfied me, er much of it actually on film. We had private detectives, agencies looking at people that we had suspected of making them. But that was only, as I say, during that two-year period. It left… erm… just under a quarter, as Richard rightly said, completely inexplicable during that two year period and I am certainly… er… not… let me make it loud and clear… er… it’s never been, it’s… it’s never been on my list to debunk anything. I’m an engineer myself… people that know me know I’m an honest person and my job has been now, full-time for nearly twelve years, two decades… er… part-time, of looking at this phenomena to try and uncover what on earth is going on. And I would say, Art, it didn’t take the last two patterns for me to realize there’s something extremely profound occurring on our planet and, you know, you were saying, this is the story of the week, the month, the millennium it’s, it’s, I agree with you, I think it’s been the story of the last three decades that nobody’s been listening to, and it’s still with us, it hasn’t gone away, and I would say stand by for the next year or so…
I read the many publications referring to Colin’s outburst (with, I must admit, some amusement) and I have to say I do not recall any limiting of his statement to specific years. I have checked carefully with other researchers and they have no recollection of this either. Perhaps we are all wrong, or perhaps, as so often before, Colin is attempting a damage-limitation exercise after the event by claiming “misreporting”.
It actually makes little difference. The damage has been done and it is astonishing to hear that this master of self-promotion again excuses himself by claiming that “very few were listening to what I said”.
Curiously, the retired Hampshire policeman who helped him some years ago was first magically transformed into a “Detective Agency” and now into “Detective Agencies”. For me, the treatment of crop circle studies as forensics is almost obscene and certainly beyond my own comprehension. But, assuming one did choose to go this route, why would you need more than one “detective agency”? Their reports – and indeed their names – would make interesting reading, but don’t hold your breath.
The interview continues with Andrews and Hoagland stating, with certainty, that the Chilbolton events were man-made. Not, this time, by the usual suspects, but by what Hoagland calls “the Intel crowd.” “It’s too huMAN,” he states, with a strange emphasis on the second half of the word. Colin, fawning, agrees. He is clearly in awe of Richard C Hoagland.
For the uninitiated, “Intel-crowd” is shorthand for ‘Intelligence services’, MI5 / CIA / NSA - a list which can be extended infinitely and used wherever necessary to avoid real thought or insight.
So, Colin, I believe, and I think, we’re on the same page here…
Yes we are.
I felt from the beginning that because these were so human that they have the earmarks of humans down here, but with some extraordinary gadgets and extraordinary toys…
Yeah, I couldn’t put it better. I mean, I think whatever the core phenomenon is, whatever the core reason is behind the crop circle phenomenon per se, here we now have in the last three designs and the next two major movies, and I don’t… let’s not overlook those two major movies that are coming up, someone, somewhere has decided that whatever the core reason for the crop circle phenomenon is, they’re going to use it for their own agenda. I think it makes perfect sense. It’s a big subject and there are many reasons why I say that, too. I absolutely share your view there.
Would it not have been sensible for Colin to have checked the script of the creaky Hollywood exploiter ‘Signs’ before endorsing it so fulsomely? The circles, we learn from preview screenings, are used as a vehicle for fear, paranoia and ignorance. They are made, ‘Signs’ tells us, by aggressive seven foot tall monsters with three clawed limbs. Colin! Colin! Where is your judgement? Where is your discernment? Where is any sense of responsibility to the public?
Meanwhile Colin and Richard Hoagland have agreed – emphatically - that the Chilbolton events are the work of the “intel crowd”. It is not clear whether they mean the British or the American “intel crowd”, nor indeed is the unknown method & technology of what would be such an astonishing enterprise considered.
But, having emphatically persuaded Bell’s twenty million listeners that the Chilbolton crop formations were the work of Government agencies, a major surprise is to be revealed. Art Bell asks: “Were you able to bring back any samples with you, Colin?” And this is a crucial moment. Will Colin Andrews reveal to the audience of twenty million that he never actually saw the formation? Will he tell them that when he inspected it on 1st September 2001 it had already been harvested? Will he say that all he saw was a field of stubble? This is the perfect opportunity for Colin Andrews to be straight with his colleague Hoagland, his host Art Bell and his gigantic audience. Does he have the courage and the integrity?
Er…no, I… I didn’t actually… er… I set out to do that, Art, but I was assured by one of the researchers I tracked down that… er… those plants were in his possession… er… from those two designs, well, actually three designs…
Look, hundreds of us have arrived after the harvest to examine a field of stubble. It is hardly a sin to miss the formation. So why, then, in a two hour radio interview devoted to the Chilbolton events, was Colin unable (or unwilling) to straightforwardly admit this simple and harmless fact?
Insignificant as it is, it underlines my major thesis. Andrews career is based less on the plain delivery of facts as he knows them, than on a desperation to impress.
I am told by those he spoke to at Milk Hill that Colin stated he was going to visit the Chilbolton field, knowing the ‘face’ was already harvested. One must assume this was the case, otherwise, why did he not talk, on the radio, about the formation or its magical lay? I defer to his superior experience, but in my twelve years of viewing formations I have never witnessed crop so fluid, so three dimensional, so fleshy, as at Chilbolton! How dare he report on this historical event before so massive an audience, and trivialize the occasion?
He did not lie, but he was economical with the truth. Strangeness then follows:
The first crops to go to the ground leave themselves in position, they remain on the ground where they’re placed during that early sequence for the harvesters, when the combine harvester comes along and, at my request in all three, the harvester teeth were taken down, the rotor blade that cuts the plants was taken down to an inch above ground level which takes everything off, but leaves the first layer of plants in position. And what we had…
Hold it right there! What is being suggested here? AT HIS REQUEST the blades were taken DOWN to one inch? Surely this defies reason? Surely a researcher wishing to investigate would request that the blades be BROUGHT UP to leave maximum stubble in position?
Several additional points are raised here. First, it is normal practice to leave a stubble height of four or five inches. Surely Colin knows this? Though the farmer wishes to maximize straw for baling, he is protective of his blades. This length has always been more than adequate to study the tracer paths, which are laid down initially. Second, harvester blades are notoriously subject to damage by stones in the field; this is why they are set high. In any case, they have skids to prevent them being set lower than two or three inches. (The skids can be removed, but this is rarely done.) Third, he refers to three formations. I am assuming he means the two at the Chilbolton site and the one at Milk Hill.
The Chilbolton formations were cut before he arrived. He never saw them complete. When I spoke to him to clarification, the Chilbolton farmer, Ben Gibbons of Leckford Estate, admitted he had spoken to Colin Andrews on occasion, but denied ever having had any conversation with him about “blade settings” and was emphatic about how such a “request” would have been dealt with.
The Milk Hill formation was still standing at the time of Colin’s visit, but the farmer, Brian Reed, also denies having any conversation with Colin about blade settings. “In any case,” he says laconically “we wouldn’t show much interest in this sort of request.”
These are the standards of veracity adopted by this investigator of the phenomenon. This is the respect he shows for the huge audience, which has turned to him for information. The crucial Chilbolton events are glibly written off as work of the “intel crowd”, though he avoids mentioning the fact that he never actually saw the formations whole. Were these the same standards also adopted in the compiling of Colin’s “80%” evidence?
In Episode 2 (coming soon), I will examine the evidence he offers in support of his opinion that 80% of crop circles (or those examined during 1999 and 2000) were man-made.