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‘Ancient astronaut’ author Erich von Daniken’s new theme park of the weird and wonderful is letting down its apparently serious aims early on by holding a rather frivolous crop circle-making competition, as ANDREAS MÜLLER reports…

The newly opened special exhibition ‘Crop circles - Mysteries and Mysterious Matters’ shown in Erich von Daniken's ‘Mystery Park’ in Interlaken has announced a large crop circle hoaxing contest in the fields planted in front of the park's entrance. Not only that, the park calls for all "clever crop-circle fakers" (the German version even speaks of "ingenious hoaxers"), and even asks for school classes to participate beforehand, practicing in the local fields. Serious crop circle research looks at such a publicity stunt with sorrow because of the questionable effect it might, and very likely will, have on the public view of the phenomenon and its research - especially because of the huge publicity potential of the park.

Under all those circumstances, the aim of the exhibition - to be educational and informative on the latest state of research - sounds somewhat questionable, especially when it comes to the self-given statement that "the highlight of the (exhibition) season will be the creation of a genuine fake."

The creators of the exhibition make clear that it was not at all their idea, but instead the idea of the park's event-management, to conduct the hoaxing contest, and that they only feel responsible for the exhibition.

When asked about the park's view regarding the described reservation and critical questions about the contest idea, chief executive officer Fritz Zemp told me that it was not the park's intention to show how easy it is to fake crop circles or to discredit the phenomenon, but that they were looking for a way to present the phenomenon not only with photos and pictures, but also on a self-experiencing real scale. This should also be a way to introduce schoolchildren to the subject by asking them to invent and design "meaningful messages" that will then be flattened into the park's fields. Those who finally will make the formations (they also hope to cooperate with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology "ETHZ" in Zurich) will be paid for their "efforts".

We are faced here with the question of whether the park's management is aware of the effect of such publicity stunts, not only in the public view, but also regarding the wider consequences of such action for the general view of the phenomenon and the research. For those who stand up for this research, it all feels openly offensive, especially from an institution like the Mystery Park - its founder Erich von Daniken should know those effects pretty well from his own experience. Given this, one expects something of the opposite approach.

The original press release by the Mystery Park can be found at:



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