Title: Crop Circle Apocalypse Author: John Macnish ISBN: 09522580 3X Price: £12.00
Published by Circlevision Publications, PO Box 36, Ludlow, Shropshire, SY8 3ZZ
Well, this is the book that everyone has been talking about. John Macnish's personal investigation into the crop circle controversy. The book is sub-titled "Crop Circles: Case Closed", so is it? and how did John's investigation lead him to this conclusion.
In fact, you may well consider that I am not the ideal person to review this book, in light of Jayne Macnish's aggressive correspondence towards me (see last issue). However, if one is to remain rational and scientific in one's quest for the truth, then one must open one's mind to all possibilities. Thus, I will write this review in an unbiased manner and merely point out where the reader should investigate further to verify or disprove John's account.
However, my first criticism of the book comes from it's amateurish quality. John has obviously had some problems with his DTP and spell-checker as sections of text seem to change style rather erratically. The index is also in a rather odd format; people are indexed under their christian names rather than the usual method of indexing the surname.
Computer skills aside, it's the content that matters - not the way it's put across. As the saying goes, never judge a book by it's cover. The whole style of the book is a chatty, personal account of how John became engrossed in the mystery of the circles, met with the various circles 'experts', followed the hoaxers and ended up believing that the subject had been one big prank.
Obviously, not everyone would believe him, so he attempted to film circles actually being created by the various hoaxers, using high-tech cameras and night vision equipment. There are numerous black and white photographs to accompany the dialogue as he recalls how the subject progressed from the early days right up until the book was published in 1993.
John became interested in the circles in 1989 and rapidly wanted to investigate them. This he duly did, initially whilst working on BBC's Daytime Live programme. The first few chapters of the book describe how he was introduced to Pat Delgado and Colin Andrews, amongst others, and describe early events such as the (in)famous 'trilling' noise and Operation Blackbird.
Although the book seems dismissive of the trilling noise, no conclusive explanation is provided and an assumption is made that it was probably some kind of radio-mike interference.
Doug and Dave are introduced 'centre stage' about a quarter of the way through the book, after which John turns his attention towards the hoax hypothesis and sets out to capture hoaxing on film. This he does and becomes more and more convinced that every circle has been hoaxed.
This is where the evidence in the book starts to wobble a bit. For example, John describes a third hand story of how two cars had been seen parked at the end of a track the night before the great Barbury castle pictogram of 1991 appeared. That seems to be the extent of his 'secrets' of Barbury Castle.
Similarly, the Mandelbrot formation of 1991 is quickly dismissed, as "strong evidence of human involvement is apparent". The only evidence I seem to be able to find in the book is a second-hand account of how someone (Mike Inns) discovered what appeared to be post holes when he surveyed the field - after the farmer had harvested AND burnt the stubble.
Most hoaxers get a mention - even unknown ones - such as "a group of hoaxers" claiming responsibility for circles in rice paddy fields in Japan. This almost seems an easy way to dismiss circles for which no solid evidence of hoaxing is available; simply say, "a group of hoaxers later claimed responsibility". Whoopy Do!
Scattered throughout the book are a few time-lapse sequences of images of circles being formed by hoaxers, although with the hundreds of documented formations throughout the years, not many serious researchers are going to give up investigations simply because of one or two photos in this book.
In general, the book seems a rather desperate attempt to debunk the subject - even going to the extent of claiming that the small white ball filmed by the Von Durkheim brothers was a thistledown seed. He then describes in the book how a man shouted "I've never heard anything so stupid in my life!", during a talk at Covent Garden, before storming out of the room. The book then goes on to say that... "This man felt that my explanation was ridiculous, he preferred to believe in the far more likely story that the objects on the video were in fact probes from another planet."
Well, I think even probes from another planet are a bit more feasible than.... thistledown! Perhaps John should view the excellent video of another white ball, captured by Steve Alexander in 1990, which travels across two fields, over a farmers tractor and up a hill slope.
As if to debunk surrounding enigmas as well, John moves on to describe hoaxers attempts to fool researchers with phoney UFO sightings, such as launching helium filled balloons in the dead of night.
One event described in the book took place in August of 1993 and consisted of Adrian Dexter (winner of the 1992 Circlemaking competition) launching gas filled balloons each containing a green chemical light, over East Field in Alton Barnes.
I'm not sure if this was supposed to be the same event that I witnessed at about the same time, which consisted of two small balls, one bluish and one greenish. travelling over East Field towards Knap Hill. All I can say is that what we saw was DEFINITELY NOT balloons - in any case, we had East Field pretty well covered from all angles and any hoaxers would have been easily discovered, especially if they were unloading helium canisters from the back of a car.
On the whole, the book makes a humorous, if sometimes vague attempt to debunk the entire subject. Unfortunately, before any hoaxer can do that, he (or she) must PROVE, beyond reasonable doubt, that ALL formations are man-made. John Macnish unfortunately can't, thus the mystery of the circles remains, despite the clutching at straws that seems to have gone on throughout the pages of this book.
If you want a brief history of the circles phenomenon from the early days (well, only as far back as the late 1970's) from one mans perspective, then this book makes quite an interesting couple of nights read. If however, you are looking for a book which puts forward serious, hard evidence to close the case of crop circles, then I'm afraid this isn't the clear-cut answer circle debunkers would like it to be.
I think John sums up the book quite well in his own words when, at the end, concluding a round-up of circles throughout the years, he quotes for the total reported sites in 1993, "Who Cares?". With this sort of attitude, it's probably a wise step to move over and let the real researchers investigate the continuing genuine phenomena.