In the second part of his stirring and controversial examination of Colin Andrews’s “80% man-made” theories, MICHAEL GLICKMAN looks further into the alleged evidence behind them…
[If you haven’t read it already, click on ‘More from Glickman’ at the foot of this page to access Part 1 of this article (May 2002), which we heartily recommend you do before reading on...]
80% PROOF – part 2
“Some of us carry too much weight to be allowed falsehood.”
Look, nobody pointed a gun to Colin Andrews’s head and forced him to state that 80% of circles are hoaxes. He chose to do it and he chose to do it on a massive scale. Many feel his outburst was the worst single blow to the public acceptance of the crop circle phenomenon. And yet he expresses no remorse. Though, as I shall show, the evidence for this estimate is at best no more than an opinion and at worst a knowing error, Andrews himself promotes it as indisputable truth. Many researchers, who truly should show more discernment, have swallowed it whole.
We are all entitled to our views, no matter how flaky, nonsensical or unrealistic they seem to be, and Colin Andrews is welcome to believe whatever he likes. But, to use Stanley Messenger’s trenchant words, he carries too much weight to be allowed, unchallenged, to spread myths and falsehoods.
Many people have told me how grateful they are for Episode 1 of this piece. None have been critical, though I now expect a barrage to arrive from the usual hoax-booster suspects. I will be abused and accused of “character assassination”. The substantive matters I raise will not be addressed, let alone answered. If I have made errors, I will immediately correct them and apologise.
Although I personally find Colin Andrews’s life and work unremarkable, please understand that I have no interest in attacking him as a person. Simply, I call him to account. I call him to account on behalf of the crop circle community who feel betrayed and I call him to account on behalf of the general public who have been fed a fiction. His justification of the 80% claims, now so vigorously promoted around the world, is unsustainable. It is baseless. It is a nonsense. It is a invention that has become widely and unquestioningly accepted. I hope these articles provide sufficient information to allow readers to form their own view.
“The greatest of all strengths is to know your weakness; the greatest weakness is to have delusions about your own strength.”
OFMIL C HAYNES
I take the late Ofmil’s advice seriously. I am not a scientist, I had only a schoolboy’s rudimentary scientific education and I certainly have no pretensions about the subject. However, after carefully and repeatedly studying Colin Andrews’s interview and his CD-ROM PowerPoint presentation ‘The Assessment’, I am happy to state that I have more understanding of the Scientific Method in my left thumbnail than is evident in either.
Andrews’s initial contention was that 80% were man-made and that the remainder, about 20%, possessed some sort of electro-something, maybe magnetic, characteristics. It was never made quite clear!
Colin’s Art Bell interview of September 2001 was largely dealt with in Episode 1, but I return briefly to try to clarify the Andrews position on electro-whatsit, the 20% component. I must accept the real possibility that I have missed (or misunderstood) the point, but, having listened to this interview twenty or thirty times, I confess a total bewilderment. We lurch from electro-this to electro-that without any clarification. Art Bell makes little effort to keep either Colin Andrews (or indeed Richard Hoagland, also on the show) on track or in check.
A question from Art Bell:
“Colin, you did some electrostatic experiments on the wheat, didn’t you?”
Colin replies: “Yes… erm… I went over there… erm… and actually flown in from Germany we had equipment waiting for us there. I carried out a magnetometer survey which actually was the, I think, the fourth year we’ve been looking at that in a whole range of crop designs and electrostatic meters.”
This is a classic CA response. Specifically asked about his electroSTATIC experiments [my capitals] the answer is fudged with mention of electroMAGNETIC surveys. He is always impressed with air travel, and assumes we must be too. Never missing an opportunity, he lets us know that he had equipment FLOWN in from Germany in case we thought it had arrived by camel. Predictably, though, the type of equipment is never clarified. Art Bell’s question about electrostatic experiments is never answered.
The interview continues:
What we found, and these are very tentative statements I’m making here because the magnetometer readings have not been mapped out, er, yet by Dr Jean Aubrun who actually will be with me this coming weekend too… erm… that’s the work he has been doing for me.
But the preliminary results…
Yes, wh… wh… what we basically have is that the magnetometer shows really nothing very unusual. I would be surprised if it shows any pattern that would… erm… raise a flag with us. It looks very normal in other words, but the electrostatic was very different and very bizarre indeed…
Electrostatic. Now everybody… by that we mean you know when you shuffle across a carpet, folks…
And you touch a hunk of metal and there’s a spark that flies. That’s electrostatic.
Those actually were the sort of charges that we had in that field…
The dowsers over there, what did they find?
Well, the dowsers also had, er, reactions on each one of these lines that I’m referring to. The same lines that had measurements of 80 volts-plus on the electrostatic meters.
[Note here that one of the two “dowsers” used here was a sixteen year old schoolboy who Colin met in the formation. It was the first time he had held a dowsing rod.]
Ho, ho, ho…
There is something… I guess you could say there is something living there. Something is alive!
Let us pause here, just briefly, to examine this last section. It would be kinder to gloss over the idea that “there is something living there. Something is alive!” While we have not been told the type of “electrostatic meters” (they are now plural) and nor have we been told the protocols and disciplines of measurement, Colin informs us – to Art Bell’s chuckles – that there were readings of “80 volts-plus”. Elsewhere, he makes much of the fact that it was “pulsing”.
Now, because I am aware of my own weaknesses, I consult widely with appropriately qualified scientists when I see this kind of stuff. While Andrews, Bell and Hoagland are happy to coo over this purported 80 (pulsing) volts, I did a little checking. First, 80 volts is a tiny, almost insignificant, electrostatic voltage. The spark released by rubbing a balloon discharges tens of thousands of volts. Second, under questioning by Hoagland, we learn that there was no “pulsing”. Simply, we learn, the reading changed as Colin walked around!
Art Bell asks another question:
Colin do you have any explanation for what could do what you measured?
Well, I’ve certainly got something to suggest here, yes.
Well, let’s hear it.
This coming weekend, as you know, at the Bay Area UFO Congress and actually the following weekend at the International UFO Congress in Laughlin, er, Dr Jean-Noel Aubrun just earlier today agreed very kindly, who is an engineer scientist, to, er, to help me present the, er, data analysis of the magnetometer survey we’ve conducted the last couple of years and there really is something here also, Art, that I think is going to blow some minds. The… the scientific world has shown a great deal of interest in this. There’s one invitation to go to Moscow to share this with some scientists there and what it shows. I’ll just sort of cut right to the core, we have – I have – conducted magnetometer surveys in many crop patterns in the last three or four years. The result that we had, in a Celtic Cross on Ministry of Defence land last year has given us something REALLY to think about and I think this might offer some er solutions perhaps.
Here, mixed into the relentless self-advertising are some of the usual buzz words: engineer, scientist, blow some minds, the scientific world, invitation to Moscow, Ministry of Defense land. But what have we truly learned? Is there a hint of an explanation? He intimates that he has “something to suggest.” Read it again. What is he talking about? Colin Andrews once again demonstrates his remarkable skill at total, comprehensive and convincing evasion of key questions. Having listened to this tape so often that I can almost recite it verbatim, I am convinced that he is truly unaware of his own extraordinary talent. He would make a great politician.
A few further amusing notes from this section of the interview:
Talking about the Everleigh Ashes Celtic Cross of 2000, he says: “In this particular case we had an ancient burial ground – a tumuli [sic] - which was very unusual, that was a first in itself.”
It is shocking to discover that, at this end of his career, he still does not know that “tumuli” is plural, while “tumulus” is singular. But then, he has never been able to distinguish phenomenon from phenomena either.
Talking about the same formation, he says: “The Earth’s magnetic field measured there gave us a reading of plus… about a hundred to a hundred and fifty percent above the normal Earth’s magnetic field of five Gauls (sic) in the Northern Hemisphere.”
He meant Gauss (to rhyme with house), the unit of magnetism named after K. Gauss, the German mathematician. You would think – given that a scientific approach has been trumpeted here - he might know this.
Finally, I am personally very impressed with this quote: “You can electrocute if you like… the analogy would be to electrocute the plants, but we still needed a force to push them over.”
Possibly elsewhere I might find a coherently stated outline of his 20% electro-blahblah hypothesis, but on the basis of the Art Bell interview, I doubt it. Is there anyone out there who can point me in the right direction? Is there a right direction?
Concluding this section, it would be irresponsible of me not mention an astonishing numerical synchronicity. We have seen how thrilled he was to discover an electrostatic reading of 80 volts. Not seventy-eight. Not eighty-three. Eighty. No evidence has been presented to verify this figure and indeed, even if it were to be substantiated, it is – as an electrostatic measurement at the surface of the earth – unremarkable.
The next part shows that his claim that 80% of formations are man-made is unsupported and unsupportable. I propose that the electrostatic reading is as much an Andrews fantasy as is the hoax percentage. But how interesting that they both anchor so solidly on the same number. What might this mean? Perhaps 1980 was a truly memorable year for Colin Andrews.
In 2001, Colin Andrews produced ‘The Assessment’, a CD-ROM PowerPoint presentation, something over twelve months after he made his massively publicised 80%-are-man-made claim. For me (despite scurrilous suggestions to the contrary) there is no doubt that there are man-made formations. However, in my opinion (an opinion only, but one carefully researched over many years), hoaxes are very few and – in comparison with the beauties of the real phenomenon – badly designed, poorly executed, generally easily identified, but above all, ALWAYS lied about.
I have no doubt that I have made errors of judgement, but this is hardly surprising when the fundamental object of the Hoax Crew remains, as it always was, to deceive, to entrap and hopefully to humiliate. No doubt my mistakes have afforded them moments of adolescent glee. This, after all, is their highest aspiration. Since the original Doug and Dave enterprise I have never heard one of these people speak openly or honestly about any part of their activity. For years they were reviled as the dishonest polluters of information they have always been.
During the last three or four years a further wicked nonsense has been circulated. This holds that the man-made formations are in some way an inherent and – believe it or not – spiritual component of the crop circle phenomenon. These claims, though they were initiated by the hoaxers, are widely accepted and propagated by many researchers including Colin Andrews himself. Andrews now proudly declares his friendship for and admiration of people who, just five or six years ago, he held in contempt. He used to fear that they were out to get him. “We must be careful,” he said. Think about it.
As with the Art Bell interview, I have studied ‘The Assessment’, Colin Andrews’s PowerPoint CD, which claims to substantiate his ideas. I openly admit that I thought from the start that he was simply, grotesquely wrong. My position is well known and my own work (I am, like him, a long-term and full-time crop circle investigator) indicates a much smaller, and substantially cruder, level of hoaxing than he has so loudly suggested.
Nonetheless, I approached this work – distasteful as it was – with openness and integrity. I will state here publicly that I hoped to prove him wrong. This will come as no surprise to anybody. However, I was astonished by the superficiality of his argument and the poverty of his efforts in support of it. There is so little meat in his hypothesis that it will require much less space than I had anticipated.
THE STOMPER GROOVE
It would seem that Andrews nowadays seems only to actually enter formations when camera crews are available to interview him. He makes no bones about the fact that most of his judgements are made either from the air or from aerial photographs.
He puts forward the flimsy idea that the “stomper groove” is an irrefutable sign of hoaxing. This is the central pillar of his theory.
The major problem (standard with Colin Andrew’s writing) is the language and the choice of words. A groove is V-shaped and tapers. A plough makes a groove or furrow, but a board, stomped down, would tend to leave a flattened area, a track or path. Throughout the presentation he makes serious mistakes of visual identification and discrimination. Often the “groove” he cites (supposedly negative) is in fact a positive ridge.
There is another ludicrous and astounding error. He states - and REPEATS! - that the stomper board is 2 to 2.3 metres (6’ 8” to about 7’ 8”) in length. This is a misjudgement so colossal that researchers I mentioned it to could not truly believe he said it. Indeed, this bizarre misjudgement totally demolishes his already insubstantial argument. Even allowing for the possibility he means feet and not metres, for reasons too numerous and obvious even to list, this repeated statement shows how completely out of touch he is. Even with his own material.
We all know that he finds it hard to take advice, but a simple phone call to one or two of his disreputable advisors would have cleared up this shocking mistake. It is telling that so crucial a component of his research is so catastrophically wrong.
I am pleased to say that I am not on speaking terms with hoaxers, but I consulted twelve serious crop circle researchers and though none of them had had personal experience in this kind of deception, some had seen a board and all had seen photographs.
My twelve consultants had a total of 95 seasons of study between them. I asked them to estimate the length of a stomper board and I took an average. The result was 40” or about one metre. To use Colin Andrews’ much beloved percentages, he got it wrong by over 200%.
Andrews is not best known for his visual skills or acuity, but when one considers that “The Assessment” contains numerous photographs of stomper boards in use (and having studied all photos carefully, I would guarantee that the longest was 4’) it must be clear that his judgement in these matters (and perhaps his eyesight) is seriously flawed.
He believes that any lateral lay-marks, sweep marks or flow marks in the crop are “stomper grooves”. This weak idea might be supported firstly if he had any idea of the true scale of the implement and, secondly, if he had visited formations on the ground and demonstrated a dimensional consistency, a modularity in the lay.
Early in the presentation he lets us know that the beautiful Allington ‘Cube’ formation of 1999 clearly displays his telltale stomper grooves. Studying the photographs carefully, the lay is prominent and fluffy and seems to have been combed upwards in bands rather than pressed downwards. He asserts that the width of the stomper board is clearly indicated here. If it was, It would have made the width of the main bars 53 feet. They were in fact 21 feet.
Every researcher knows that, both in the field and from the air, the lay can be remarkable in its variety of flow lines and its range of pattern. According to the Andrews hoax identification protocols, any parallel mark in the lay is a “stomper groove”. If this is really so crucial an identifier, why was it not spotted before? There are many field-researchers infinitely more discerning than Colin Andrews. More interestingly, if his new pals are as gifted as he suggests, why do they leave so obvious, consistent and simple a clue?
He shows photographs, clearly staged and in daylight, of crop being stomped. Interestingly, the three individuals shown overlap their board positions as they follow each other. Thus any kind of width regularity is eliminated. In addition, the prominence of the edge mark is covered. Did he not notice the destructive evidence of his own photograph?
This is the major plank, if you will excuse the pun, of his hypothesis. It is pathetic.
The first part of “The Assessment” is a rag-bag collection of images from as early as 1988, largely demonstrating what he believes are his ubiquitous grooves.
The stomper groove idea is so inadequate it is sad. Where the aerial photography is not clear enough to show parallel lines in the lay, he says that it is still man-made, but that a roller has been used! This ends all questions for him. Confronted with the most breathtakingly beautiful mystery on the planet, he abandons all curiosity and settles firmly into a dumb certainty.
To save time, let me simply pull out a list of items which will illustrate the trivial level of the work which has so poisoned the public view of this phenomenon.
* The 1992 elliptical hoax is wrongly placed at Beckhampton. It was at Baltic Farm.
* Careless and inaccurate as ever, Doug Bower is renamed Doug Bowers. Twice. You would have thought he might get that, at least, right!
* Dealing with the Avebury Trusloe ‘magnetic fields’ formation of 2000, he accepts the hoaxer/’Mail on Sunday’ story complete and unexamined. A small box was included in the scam publication to explain “How they created the crop circle”. A sub-editor with a pocket calculator (and indeed an eleven-year-old schoolchild) could have spotted the simplest of arithmetical errors in the claimed calculation. But Andrews republishes it TWICE, and swallows it whole. “Construction method published” he crows with satisfaction.
* The beautiful Picked Hill formation of 2000 is also apparently man-made. He claims it has “21 diamonds” in the rings. In fact there were 22 triangles. Can he not count?
* He takes an underhand swipe at the biological analysis work of W C Levengood without offering any substantiation.
* He shows five sheets of diagrams, a total of 126, headed “1999 man-made”. A handful were clearly hoaxes and a few others might have been. A solid majority are awe-inspiring crop formations. He offers no evidence. Are we simply to assume, because Colin Andrews has called it “man-made”, that we might – in any respect – trust his judgement?
* There are similar sheets of diagrams for 2000, again simply headed “man-made”. The 2000 sheets also include some truly historic formations. Again, he presents no evidence. What is wrong with this man?
* I am clearly prejudiced, but drawings of crop circles are of real importance to me. These sheets display an incompetence, a carelessness and a lack of respect which is truly shocking. As an example, the Barbury Castle interwoven crescents of 1999 has, in his diagram, one crescent overlaying both of the others. How did this get through? Can he not see?
* The beautiful South Field 16-petal formation of 2000 is also caught in his huge and mindless net and subjected to his baseless debunking. He clearly never saw it, but relied on field work and photographs by Rob Speight, another hoax booster. Speight shows two or three peg holes which, of course is all Andrews needs. But my work on this magnificent formation shows that it would have needed (if hoaxed) a total of 73 pegs to set it out. Were 73 peg holes found? Perhaps the handful of holes that were found were used to help someone measure a part of the formation? Perhaps the few holes Speight discovered were deliberately placed after the event to deliberately mislead? That is, after all, the highest ambition of these joyless louts. But most importantly, this astonishing formation had sixteen pathways between the petals, which grew wider at a precise angle of 4.5 degrees, starting from a needle point centre (without a peg hole!). How does a hoaxer (or indeed anyone) do that?
This is the most sloppy and shamefully careless piece of work imaginable. I could go on for hours with examples of incomprehensible language, narrowness of vision, blind assumptions, arrogant certainties, and, above all, simple lack of common sense.
But let me now deal with the most disgusting part of this whole sorry episode.
THE EVIDENCE FOR 80%
The flier for the PowerPoint show reads:
“The long-awaited evidence has arrived to support Colin Andrews’s highly controversial statement during August 2000 that approximately 80% of the crop circles to appear in England during 1999 and 2000 were man-made.”
“The Assessment CD is a PowerPoint slide show fully supported by graphics and audio to show how Colin arrived at his conclusions. The findings have been painful for him personally as well as for many thousands of people who have followed his efforts over nearly two decades to reach the truth surrounding this ongoing mystery.”
Let me be very clear about this. I know there are hoaxes and I agree that a few of them are identified in the presentation.
But the point at issue is simple. I do not believe 80% of circles, or any percentage approaching that, in 1999 and 2000 or indeed during any year, were man-made. I bought this CD to hear and see the “long-awaited evidence”. Evidence so clear and so powerful, Colin Andrews claimed, that he felt entitled to soil the public perception of this noble and magical phenomenon.
Had he declared: “Some circles are hoaxed” we would all have agreed with him.
Had he declared: “Many circles are hoaxed” we would have said: “Take care! You are the favourite sucker, dupe and victim of a gang of known liars, con-men and petty criminals.”
But instead he declared (and he declared world-wide): “80% are man made!” - and later - “Here is my evidence!”
And here is the truly appalling reality. He PRESENTS ABSOLUTELY NO EVIDENCE in support of this number.
I have looked through this deeply trivial confection till I am sick, seeking the evidence which was promised in the flier and which I expected when I paid for a copy of the CD. I have stared at the images until I felt that my forehead would bleed. I have listened to Colin’s platitudes about his new pals’ “exquisite” works until I wanted to throw up.
But I found no evidence to support the 80% claim. Though the phrase “80% man-made” is liberally spread about, there is absolutely no attempt to justify this or any other percentage. There is no attempt to quantify, to confirm or to demonstrate the veracity of his claims.
Personally, though I am reeling at the raw dishonesty of this, I am somehow not surprised.
Colin Andrews has always seemed to me to be like Tom in the ‘Tom and Jerry’ cartoons. An accident-prone and not-very-bright cat, he falls off cliffs, is slapped in the face by swinging doors, he is fragmented by explosions and flattened by falling rocks. Impervious to reality, he stands up, miraculously pops back to his original shape and continues to pursue his essentially meaningless routines.
The joke is that he never pauses to learn anything, and that he never pauses to learn anything is the tragedy.
Colin Andrews has realised that his decision to launch his 80% enterprise in 2000 was the worst career move in a career already dogged by dubious choices. He has always searched for the “scoop” which would bring him the ephemeral buzz of short-term celebrity. The 80% nonsense certainly delivered the goods and for months he was all over the media. The research community, and many of the more knowledgeable media operators, took a much less enthusiastic position. As the initial excitement died down, he faced the truth – and the cost. An unsupportable claim, noisily and widely promoted, had backfired. It was, as I suggested earlier, the worst blow the phenomenon had received since Doug & Dave in 1991. And worse, it was self-inflicted. We thought he was playing for our side! For many, his actions are unforgivable..
His self-doubt and depression became more apparent through 2001, and then… survival! He saw his way out: the movie ‘Signs’ (and, to a lesser degree, the UK production ‘A Place To Stay’, though it remains unreleased at this time). Now, anyone with the remotest knowledge of Hollywood should have known it was going to be a shameless exploiter. It was made by a director more concerned with his own career than with integrity of product. How appropriate then that it has become a vehicle to warm Colin Andrews’s own compromised position.
So ‘Signs’, a shock and paranoia vehicle that suggests that these miracles are landing marks left to guide the invasion of Earth by three-clawed monsters, has become Andrews’s leaky lifeboat. What desperation! And where can he go next? His relentless self-promotion is always a source of amusement, but what can the “world’s leading crop circle authority” invent next? Like Tom, he bounces back, but how many lives can he have left?
Pick a number. Any number. 80 will do!