Pranksters with garden tools and the foolish corn cultists- Library of Mu

Library of Mu record:
Title: Pranksters with garden tools and the foolish corn cultists
Date: 28 June, 1993
Journal: The Independent (tabloid section)
Author: Marek Kohn
Type of resource: Excerpts
Status: text
No. views: 2134
Description: Possible KLF crop circle konnection mentioned in a book review


Pranksters with garden tools and the foolish corn cultists

By Marek Kohn (28 June, 1993, The Independent (tabloid section))

Excerpt from a Book Review: 'Round in Circles, by Jim Schnabel

THE GREAT souffle of human folly that was the crop-circle cult began to collapse in July 1990, when Colin Andrews told Nicholas Witchell and an astonished BBC morning audience that a 'major event' in a cornfield had been captured by surveillance equipment. When Andrews and his partner, Pat Delgado, entered the site of the 'event' some time later, they found copies of a board game called Zodiac. Both in this incident and throughout the history of the phenomenon, the actions of the hoaxers were no more than a beginning: the 'cerealogists' themselves were the architects of their own foolishness.

One of the suspects for the Zodiac hoax was the KLF, a rock band renowned for pranks and stunts. Its leader, Bill Drummond, was subsequently reported to have been seen in the area wearing a long straggly beard, a skirt and a bowler hat. He must have blended into the crowd of circle kooks perfectly.

As Jim Schnabel points out, the corn story is a people story, and he leads the reader on a merry romp among the UFO spotters, the dowsers, the gentleman from the Maltese Esoteric Society, the Japanese scientists who tried to materialise ball lightning in the laboratory and the beginnings of a visionary Earth cult that believed the formations to be a cry of pain from an ecologically challenged planet. All this from a few planks and garden rollers.

Schnabel's account, pacy and sly, is great fun, but light on analysis. He is content to leave implicit the key to the whole circus, which is the compulsion to deny triviality. Crop circle enthusiasts made much of details such as the layering observed in the flattened stalks, claiming these as evidence of a mysterious process. Freelance meteorologist Terence Meaden concluded that what was at work were 'plasma vortices', with properties as yet uncomprehended by science. His rival, Pat Delgado, came to the view that the patterns were created by alien intelligences that manipulated arcane forms of energy. Eventually, rationalists such as the Wessex Skeptics, a group of scientists from Southampton University, forced the cerealogists to recognise that all the observed characteristics of crop patterns could be created by humans using simple garden tools.

In retrospect, it looks as though Delgado and Andrews acquired their faith too slowly. Had they announced a visitation and a new religion from the word go, without bothering to set up surveillance cameras and enact the rituals of investigation, they might not have been vulnerable to the mockery of reason. Terence Meaden's project was always doomed; as he insisted that his divinatory powers were scientific in character.

Eventually, Doug Rower and Dave Chorley came forward. Some time in the Seventies, they said, inspired by a report of a 'nest' left by a UFO in Australia, they had replicated the effect in a field. It turned into a private craze, which was then imitated. Doug and Dave only claimed a couple of hundred circles, a tenth of the total. Jim Schnabel owns up to a few of the remainder, sketchily.

Happily, some of the larger mystery remains. One of the most remarkable features of the circle circus is how few of the pattern-makers have revealed themselves or been exposed, despite worldwide media attention and the camaraderie of the Wiltshire cerealogists, pubs. Some were certainly hoaxers; some may perhaps have done it for the sake of art. All made fools of the cultists - and enabled Delgado and Andrews to sell 100,000 copies of their first book. Fool yourself, and the world is fooled with you; be sceptical, and you're on your own.

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