An NHNE Special Report
By NHNE SwiftWing Reporter Sherry Stultz
Chapter 2: The Investigation Begins
I called Paul Vigay and we set a date to meet for an interview. Paul offered to let me stay at his home in Portsmouth, since he knew of no hostels locally. I walked to his house from the train station, loaded down with gear. When he answered the door, his eyes were as big as saucers. I thought I must look frightful. After a few weeks, I realized this was Paul's natural countenance.
Paul's office looked like an organized version of Agent Moulder's X-Files office. We shared a common fascination with UFO's and cosmology and although we talked until 2 AM, I wasn't able to finish my interview with him because our conversation digressed from crop circles into other subjects. Paul and I did, however, hit it off and he agreed to talk with me again, perhaps the next week. He said I could call him if I needed anything. He should have never said that. I take those invitations very seriously.
I called Paul a few days later and told him I was planning to go to the village of Avebury to look at some recent crop circle formations that had appeared nearby. Since Amanda had the day off, she was going to accompany me. Paul gave me some numbers of a few folks I should speak with while I was there who might be willing to show me around.
I got off the bus at the RED LION INN and called two of the people Paul had referred me to: Vicki Cook and Vince Palmer. Vince came to meet Amanda and I and the three of us went to see a crop circle -- the first one I had ever visited. We had a blast that day. I also interviewed Vince, who was a local artist that had painted this fantastic mural depicting the essence of the crop circle phenomena on the ceiling and walls of THE BARGE INN, the local crop circle headquarters.
The following weekend I returned
to the village of Avebury and interviewed several people. The first of these was Kerry Blower, a local singer/musician I had contacted through Paul Vigay. Kerry and I had lunch at the RED LION and talked for about an hour or so. Kerry and I had the same birthday, which I thought was an interesting coincidence. Kerry was what people call "a believer in the crop circle phenomena"; she felt that these creations were made by higher intelligence.
The following weekend, I also interviewed John Lundberg of the Circlemakers, an infamous group renowned for hoaxing crop circles. I was very nervous. Paul's opinion of the hoaxers and of John Lundberg in particular reinforced my own biases and low opinion of hoaxers. John's was the only interview where I used a set list of questions; for everyone else, I didn't use any prompts. I interviewed John at THE BARGE on a Saturday afternoon.
He brought his co-hoaxer, Will Russell, with him. Will was all bandaged from a bicycle crash. My new friend, Vicki Cook, came along with me because she had always been curious about the hoaxers and wanted to meet some of the Circlemakers in person. The four of us ate lunch together before John's interview.
As the interview with John began, my preconceived ideas and biases began to dissolve. John and Will no longer looked like evil proponents of disinformation. Both of them believed, for instance, that there was a phenomenon, and that they were a large part of it.
Later that evening I met with another artist, a film maker named Alan Smithee. Alan made a documentary about the crop circle phenomenon, which focused on the social aspect of crop circles. I have watched several documentaries and thus far his captures what I experienced best. Called "Croppies," his film is not a polished network piece. Instead, it's a real look at the phenomena and the people involved, which to me are the very crux of crop circles. I highly recommend it.
I also met John Sayer, editor of The Cereologist, Saturday night and got his phone number. I rang him later in the week and met with him at his house in Wheately, Hampshire. He made me a cup of tea and we sat in his living room and talked about crop circles. It was the first of many long conversations I would have with John Sayer; his stories shook my naive perception of the crop circle research community.
I walked away from that interview stunned. Much of what John said was off the record. He made mention of criminal activities with regard to a certain crop circle research group, which included the misuse of funds by members of the board of directors. John painted an unflattering picture of the people who were researching crop circles and their petty infighting. I appreciated his candor because it served to change the direction of my investigation and my perception of the phenomenon.
Through John Sayer and Paul Vigay, I was able to secure an afternoon a week later with Richard Andrews, Leonie Starr, and Colin Andrews. Planning to meet Paul in Hampshire, John, Richard Leonie and I piled into car and headed off. Leonie is an astrologer and world traveler. I adored this woman. She guessed my sign, and told me that there was an unusually high number of Aquarians involved in the crop circle phenomena, and in fact, all four of us in car were water bearers. We spent the afternoon looking at two formations in Hampshire.
Richard Andrews, Leonie Starr, John Sayer
Leonie was kind enough to take me in hand and show me some key features to look for in the field: small things like scraped surfaces of the stems and crushed plants that were found in quiet places, not likely trampled by the odd visitor.
In a brief conversation with Colin Andrews that afternoon, he expressed and interest in meeting with the Circlemakers. A day later I began trying to set up a meeting between Colin Andrews and the Circlemakers, but the meeting never happened and I was unable to get in contact with Colin again.
About this time, I contracted a vicious allergy. The locals said it was hay fever. Whatever it was, it knocked me out for 7 days. During this time, I contacted Polly Carson, a local farmer and veteran of many crop circle seasons. Polly and I were slated to meet at the RED LION INN for an interview and some lunch.
I was in bad shape the day I met with Polly and she was very kind to me, graciously putting up with me blowing my nose every five seconds. Polly had a different feel for the phenomena. She had a strange kind of patience with it. She was in no hurry to have the mystery solved. Polly is from Lancashire in the north of England, and her voice is lyrical, quite mesmerizing. I enjoyed listening to her stories about the crop circle seasons in Alton Barnes.
While I was ill, I stayed in East Kennett with Vince and Vicki. Vince showed me a book by Jim Schnabel called "Round in Circles". I knew I should read it, but I put it off until about six days before I left the country. It turned out to be a wise decision because Schnabel mentioned a few of the people in his book that I ended up meeting and interviewing. By not reading his book until the end of my trip, I was able to form my own impressions and later compare them with his.
It took a long time for me to get well because I had expected summer weather in England. Instead, it was cold, damp and dreary. It also took a long time for me to get anywhere on the British local bus services. Indeed, everything slowed down, including how long it took me to gather information for my story. I get excited about life and want things to happen now, not later. But suddenly I was facing this inherent slowness, which I finally recognized as a rhythm. If I needed something, I got it, but not necessarily at the instantaneous moment I demanded it. I did, however, feel like I was in the right place at the right time. The whole trip seemed quite purposeful and in hindsight, it changed my life.
Chapter 3: Hoaxer & Researcher: Face to Face at Last
An NHNE Special Report
By NHNE SwiftWing Reporter Sherry Stultz