Tuesday, June 23, 1998
By NHNE SwiftWing Reporter Sherry Stultz

Wheatley, Hampshire, England

Yesterday I spent a few hours talking with John Sayer, who publishes and edits THE CEREOLOGIST MAGAZINE, a quarterly journal for crop circle studies. John lives in a small village called Wheatley and I had tea with him at his house. Everyone I have spoken with has a story about how they came to be involved with crop circles. In this update, I want to tell John's story. His story, as they say here, "is a bit of a giggle," but I found it so intriguing that I wanted to share it now, rather than wait for the upcoming special report.

John was staying one night with a friend and the next morning there was something strange in the bedroom carpet. Here's how John described the experience:

"She (the friend) asked me if I had been standing on her chair in the corner of her room in the middle of the night. And I said, 'No, why?' As you looked across the carpet and stood in the corner of the room, it was like looking into a field only scaled down and you could see these three distinct shapes, almost like a triangular formation. You could tell straight away it wasn't from where furniture had been standing. It was very precise and I went and had a closer look. I thought, 'Wow, it's like crop circles!' All I knew about crop circles was [from] a very brief news article on television that showed a long-distance shot in the field, which is exactly what these looked like. Bloody crop circles!

"I shut the cupboard door and there was a fourth one behind it and I knew straight away it wasn't from something standing there because that door had been opened all night. Nothing had been actually standing on that part of the carpet. We then went through everything in the house: cups, saucers, anything circular to see if it would match, but nothing did. The whole place was locked up anyway. I freaked out; I thought it was black magic.

"I have tried to reproduce them -- and I tried at the time -- but it doesn't work because I couldn't get a clean edge. You can get something heavy and press it down, twist it. It just leaves a vague impression.

"We had some friends come over later and dowse around the area. We didn't tell them where the exact spots were or anything. We just asked them to check this room and see if they picked anything up. One of them, as he was going backwards and forwards over this corner at the end of the bed, kept ducking and holding his head because of pressure on his head. So what all that means I don't know. I completely freaked. I really did think it was black magic.

"Someone asked me later if I thought it was a tap on the shoulder, like a calling card. It sounds hilarious, doesn't it? I laughed when he told me, but then who expects a mini-crop formation in the carpet? It's a lot tougher to hoax somebody's bedroom carpet than a farmer's field, though I have met some people who claim to have made formations with others out 'crop-spotting' the field they used."

I asked John what he thought about the formations so far this year, and his reply is similar to many I have heard: he thinks they are "quite amateur." I also asked about the Beltane Wheel formation (, since many folks have claimed to have had unusual feelings in this particular formation. John has several interesting theories about people's reactions within the circles:

"A lot of people are allergic to oil seed rape, canola. I can't be in it too long, myself, but I know that [this reaction] has nothing to do with the crop circle. And you've got all these sprays on them now and it's dodgy. And the other thing is when you go into a crop circle -- like the first one I went into -- I was really elated because I was transformed, but that was excitement, you know.

"When people go into crop circles there are three possibilities: One very small one is that they are totally neutral, and that's basically the stage I've got to now. Or people are either excited or paranoid. They're either excited to be there, or worried they are going to get caught by the farmer. So they are stressed and then you add to that the effects from the chemicals, because they are touching it, rubbing against it, it's getting on your skin, if there is anything floating around, you are breathing it in. These are organo-phosphates! The damn stuff was developed as a nerve gas. [There are also] places where you will have strange effects because of the ley lines, the electromagnetic fields and so on, and it could just be coincidences near the crop circle -- somebody could have dowsed a good spot to make a crop circle. There are so many factors and pinpointing it to be the circle is sheer misinformation..."

I thought John's explanation was particularly fascinating because in all the research I did prior to coming to England, no one ever mentioned anything about pesticides or allergic reactions to the crops themselves. When I entered the formation on the Devizes Road, I felt alright, but Vince Palmer, who took myself and my friend Amanda to see the circle, was sneezing and his nose was running. He said it was hay fever. He also said that he never went into formations anymore because of his hay fever -- and because he has "seen enough." Vince also mentioned that he knew a woman who vomited in a formation. I thought about what Vince had told me when I was discussing the reactions people have in circles with John Sayer, since many poisons make people vomit. On the other hand, my body went completely haywire one day went I was in the Avebury Stone Circles, and I honestly have no explanation for it. I didn't vomit or anything, but I had some wild sensations.

I ask everyone I interview about hoaxing and they all agree most crop circles are hoaxed. According to John, "If I generalize from the particular, which one isn't supposed to do, I would estimate 80 percent." Paul Vigay told me 90 percent. If John and Paul's estimates are correct -- and they both do ground surveys, that would mean of the 200 or so formations every year, only 10-20 formations may be authentic. Many people do believe, however, that the phenomenon itself compels people to create formations in the crop.

All in all, John seemed to have less animosity toward the circle hoaxers or circle makers, but he did say, "I have wanted for eight years to go and make crop circles, but it's immoral from my point of view." While John believes hoaxing circles is immoral, I have heard far more threatening statements cast about "The Barge" (the informal crop circle headquarters and watering hole), since I have been in Wiltshire.

I have also asked everyone what they think authentic crop circles are? And I've been surprised by the answers, which aren't as simplistic or trendy as I thought they would be. John offered this possibility:

"I have also considered the idea that they might be absolutely meaningless to us, like somebody walking through the forest and dropping a piece of litter, maybe eating a bar of candy and tearing off bits of paper, and along come the forest animals. They think, 'shit, look at that, I've never seen that before.' And they all gather round and they study it, and somebody finds another one down the path and they say, 'Oh, we had some of those last year.' It means nothing and it's completely meaningless and insignificant, you know, but it changes their lives; it changes the lives of the forest animals."

Many people will take this last statement to task, but it may be as valid as any other. Indeed, I have found that the crop circle research arena and the crop circle aficionados do not have a united front. And they don't agree to disagree, either. While I personally don't have enough experience to accurately judge what is happening here, if I used the noise I've heard in The Barge as a gauge to the amount of hostility that's floating around, especially with regard to the hoaxers and unpopular researchers, it seems to be a veritable Melrose Place. According to John, "People become obsessed and twisted, and it has provoked the most appalling jealousy, and rivalry, just like within the UFO movement."

When I asked John why there didn't appear to be a cohesiveness, a kind of determination to unite and find the answers to the questions they have all been asking for years, he had this to say:

"People don't want to pool the knowledge because they don't want to be left out. Someone else is going to grab the limelight. Someone's going to make a load of money.

"Each year you get fresh, new people coming in with loads of good ideas, which keeps things building. At the same time, you have people dropping off because they are becoming cynical and jaded with it all. A lot of people just drop the whole thing because they are fed up with the personal animosity. I carry on because I started all this, not because I saw a crop circle in a field somewhere, but because of this thing in the carpet. The crop circles are the same thing that I am trying to get to the bottom of -- and I don't care what other people say about me from the point of view of whether or not I should continue looking at crop circles, but a lot of people do care, you know. And then they get a bad name. [There are] scientists in the past few years who were at the forefront of the research, but then their theories wouldn't hold water and then more stuff would turn up, knocking holes into their theories and then they just disappeared into the woodwork. And then I'm thinking [they disappeared because] they didn't get what they wanted, which was their name in lights."

The effects of this phenomenon, in other words, are not always positive and spiritual. Along with failed theories and the stigma that often comes with being "wrong," there are also a lot of egos and vested interests involved. John explains:

"These people who call themselves crop circle researchers and say there is no evidence [of hoaxing] are actually lying -- and it's not that they don't really know -- of course they know, but they have set off down a certain road and for a lot of them it's being on the lecture circuit and writing books, producing calendars and sets of postcards, coffee mugs, and pens. And if people start questioning the whole thing and thinking, 'there's not really anything in this,' then the market's going to dry up and that's the sad state we have reached. Except for THE CEREOLOGIST (laughter), which is just reporting on the phenomenon. We don't produce cups, ashtrays and toilet rolls."

What is really at the bottom of all of this? And is it good? John is quite concerned about the nature of paranormal phenomenon and his skepticism is another important part of the whole puzzle:

"Is it a good thing that people are wandering around with their heads in the clouds, all going, 'I've got this marvelous gift (a number of people now that refer to crop circles as gifts)?' Christ, whatever is behind it, it might not be good. We're being softened up, we're being conned by some malevolent alien force. It's changing people's mind sets and I don't know if it's good or bad. Whatever the origin, whether they are hoaxed or not, on the one hand, it's making people question everything around them, which is good, but I think there's a fine balance to be drawn because I am getting increasingly worried about the sort of bullshit that's being published and spoken and I think people are being misled."

Whatever creates formations in crops, carpets, ice, snow and other mediums is still a mystery. And there is a lot of suspicion among researchers about other people's motives and the information they produce. Personally, while I favor some explanations over others, I can't say for sure what I believe -- except that the mystery has changed people's lives, including my own.

More of my conversations with John will appear in my final report.

Best Wishes to All,
Sherry (Sher) Stultz

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An NHNE Special Report
By NHNE SwiftWing Reporter Sherry Stultz