Sisyphos is a character in Greek mythology who was condemned for eternity to an endless struggle of rolling a large rock up a mountain only to have it come crashing down again. Serious researchers of unusual phenomena should be able to relate to this tale. Toil for years, gather solid evidence and then have it dashed by a mindless act. Repeat this scenario over and over.
The producer's of NBC's recent documentary "Unmasked: Exploring the Secrets of Deception" (NTSC copy in my possession - Ed.) are the latest in an endless series of 'mindless acts' plaguing the research scene. Instead of taking the time to carefully examine and weigh all evidence, they simply took the easy route and swallowed the claims of the hoaxer, - that crop formations are not the results of an unknown force but a clever human fraud. But then, would one expect a balanced view from a program entitled "....the Secrets of Deception"?
To be sure, the 300' diameter formation Rod Dickinson, John Lundberg and Wil Russell made in a field of wheat in New Zealand is impressive. They apparently made it at night in just under 6 hours using only simple tools. Through time lapse photography one can see the formation being created in leaps and bounds, circle by circle. However, there are things wrong here, things that may have escaped the average viewer. Here are just a few points.
(a) The documentary's main premise, - the ability of humans to create crop formations, has never been a point of contention. Anyone with a plank and a piece of string can do it! What we do contest however are the unsubstantiated claims of a few hoaxers to having made nearly every single formation ever discovered (over 5000 at this point). We dispute their claims by virtue of sheer numbers, quality, complexity, lack of damage, presence of diatonic ratios, sacred geometry, sacred numbers as well as the circumstances of the formation's arrival. We likewise dispute their claims by virtue of scientific evidence, such as the findings of Dr. W.C.Levengood and others.
(b) It is a known fact that the vast majority of formations appear at night. A survey taken one year (1992) showed that two thirds came on nights when it was raining, wet and heavily overcast. The producers of "Deception" would have us believe the three hoaxers were working in total darkness. Nothing could be further from the truth. Not only was it 2/3rds full moon that night but there were spot lights hanging from cranes in order to make filming easier. Compare this virtual daylight to nights when you can't see 5 feet in front of you.
(c) It was claimed that the only equipment they used was a ball of string, a measuring tape and a wooden plank. Compare this to the mind-boggling array of equipment dragged into the fields by contestants in a hoaxing contest held some years ago. Also, I would defy them to explain how they inscribed the fairly complex pattern from a piece of paper onto the field with only a piece of string. Michael Glickman once asked an architectural firm what it would take to reproduce the Windmill Hill formation of 1996 (1000' diameter and made of 200 circles). After studying it for a few days, their estimate was one of many days work and thousands of dollars in costs.
(d) Very little detail of the ground lay was shown. An aerial photo paints a pretty picture but tells little about possible origins. Anyone who ever accepted a counterfeit $20 bill can tell you they would not have been duped had they inspected it closer. So too with crop formations. Careful inspection is required in order to determine authenticity. Damage to crop, soil compaction, complex weaving, footprints, various anomalies in the way the crop is laying, fluidity of the lay, spilled seeds, etc. are all signs one must look for. To suggest that three men running around for six hours stomping crop with planks is enough to create the strange effects we often see, yet not cause damage is a bit much to believe. We have seen other man made formations with substantial damage. It is a coincidence virtually no ground details were shown? It is also a coincidence the field was harvested and the formation destroyed before anyone could inspect it?
(e) The center of the inner circle was not shown. This, by their own admission was the pivot point from which the whole formation was laid out. Some years ago, Arthur Clarke had a formation made in England. The center of that one was completely trashed because this is where one had to stand with rope in hand while some at the other end of the rope measured out the rest of the formation. Funny, Clarke didn't show the severely damaged center on his program either.
(f) The circle makers admitted they knew nothing of diatonics and sacred numbers and made no effort to include these in their designs. How is it then that a great many formations show these? Dr. Gerald Hawkins, an astronomer and mathematician, determined the chance of diatonic ratios he found in many formations were thousands to one. Diatonics relate to the ratios of musical scales to each other and are far more complex than what was suggested on the program.
(g) Like other hoax claimants, these three can not explain the high incidence of electronic failures and camera malfunctions within crop formations. These failures have not been reported in man made formations.
(h) One of the most important omissions of the program is that these hoaxers, as well as others, readily admit there is a real crop circle phenomenon. They have all had extremely strange experiences in the fields while in the act of making a formation. On a few occasions, they found that the design they were about to hoax was already in the field.
Besides the shortcomings of "Secrets of Deception", it is important also to consider the nature and motivation of the hoaxers. Although they like to portray themselves as fun-loving pranksters, they are not. These hoaxers are, first and foremost, vandals who sneak into unsuspecting farmer's fields under cover of darkness and, if we are to believe all their claims, have caused around a million dollars worth of damage over the years. Little wonder there is a price on their heads.
Nor should they be accepted as artists expressing their talents in a unique manner. Anyone wishing to express their artistic talent in farm fields need only make a deal with the farmers and then charge admission to their works of art. Sneaking around at night like burglars and car thieves is unacceptable behaviour.
Why would anyone choose to be a hoaxer, - a deceiver? The very nature of hoaxing means inflicting pain and embarrassment on others. British forensic psychologist Dr. Mike Berry says, "Most hoax offenders are lonely, inadequate people who crave attention, however negative, and who will pay little regard to the consequences of their actions. If you lead a boring life and feel you have no control over what happens to you, hoaxing is away of adding excitement in much the same way as joy-riding or drugs. It is also a very repeatable offence, which means you can go on getting a buzz from it until you are caught."
Clearly, we are not dealing with a savory element of society. While there is little doubt they have varying talents of arguable limits, they contribute absolutely nothing to the field of research. Their very presence is an impediment. Let them cast their dark shadows elsewhere and allow us to continue on a level playing field. This dispute however, will likely continue for some time to come.