Paranormal researcher Matthew Williams, was the first maker of crop circles in the world to be convicted for his art. Devizes, Wiltshire. (First published in Naked - Magazine of the Weird and Wonderful)
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WILL THE REAL MARTIAN PLEASE STAND UP? - Or how to create a myth without really trying
Crop circles remain unexplained phenomena, continuing to baffle even the most dedicated of paranormal researchers. Conflicting accounts abound and the truth is unclear. Some maintain they are complex communications from extra terrestrials or messages sent by angels. Others insist they are merely elaborate hoaxes. Certainly, crop circles are not simply modern, or indeed post-modern occurrences. They have been documented in academic texts dating from the 17th Century and over two hundred accounts reported prior to 1970. Yet it is the period since Thatcher’s vicious reign that the circle phenomena has exploded with over ten thousand reported to date. With The X-Files, Dark Skies and more recently M Night Shyamalan's Signs, crop circles seem constantly focused in the media limelight like beams from a flying saucer.
Designs can vary widely. They range from simple circles, circles with rings or straight lines, to complex pictograms mimicking computer fractal and elements that relate to quantum physics. Despite the global furore of the headline-hitting ‘Doug and Dave’ case, where two sexagenarians admitted to making crop circles, researchers still insist that this is not a man-made phenomenon. Indeed, such ‘hoaxers’ are dismissed entirely by researchers, and net buzz quickly determined that Doug and Dave were British government and CIA stooges. Whilst admitting that certain circles are clearly terrestrial in origin, the ‘true’ circles present evidence that simply cannot be replicated by mere humans; complex designs in fields that are mathematically precise, strange magnetic interference, bent not broken stalks, huge formations covering up to 200,000 square feet and strange orbs of light that seen above the formation of a circle.
Circles have been reported across the globe, yet their focus remains in the small English County of Wiltshire. This is where NAKED found Welshman Matthew Williams, a converted sceptic who has dedicated his life to paranormal research and the crop circle phenomena, and is duty-bound to dispel what he considers are the myths and lies circulated in the paranormal sphere. As both a circle maker and a paranormal investigator, this is a man who presents an entirely different perspective on the phenomena. He also is a good representative of the two camps of thought within the field; those that make circles (circle-makers or 'croppies') and the crop circle researchers (or 'believers'). Yet Matthew Williams’ research has not been without sacrifice. He has been made a criminal because of his efforts, holding the position of being the first person to be convicted of making crop circles. He has found he must operate from the fringe, even secrecy to continue his work.
Although always being curious about paranormal activity, it was not until a UFO sighting in 1991 that Williams took a serious interest in the subject. Though still only a hobby, these investigations caused frictions in his working life. Considered something of a liability, he was dismissed from Customs & Excise in 1995, for what he describes as “trumped-up charges of hacking into the departmental computer system.” Relieved from departing a job he hated, Williams concentrated his efforts on professional video editing and paranormal research where his investigations led him to crop circles:
“Initially I had the rather naive and uniformed opinion, much like many other people that crop circles couldn’t be made by humans. It sounded plausible that it was too hard to make these things. But I started to realise there were a lot of people claiming to have made crop circles. Unlike the researchers who were very afraid of going to speak to these people or believed they should just be ignored, I interviewed them. I realised straight away that these were very intelligent. Their handle on the subject was far more advanced, straightforward and down-to-earth than the researchers. And it made a lot more sense. So very quickly I realised that I had made a mistake, that in fact these people were probably right on lots of things. But I wasn’t sure if they were right about all the circles. So what I need to needed to know was whether the big claims of the researchers were right or wrong. The only way to truly test them was to make some circles and find out what people believed them to be. My friend and I started off with some pretty basic stuff because we didn’t really know what we were doing, but it was still loved by the researchers. They thought it was marvelous! But throughout all the stuff we did, we were realising that people were having paranormal experiences. They were complaining that their cameras were failing and we were getting stories about researchers seeing things the night before, like lights in the sky above the area that we were working. Researchers would draw conclusions like “the light was above the crop circle, so the light must have made the crop circle.” So it started to teach me a lot about the ways that people make two and two equal six. It's a good education to actually make circles to find out how people react…and how paranormal myths propagate.”
Crop circle researchers do not deny that some formations are man-made, but maintain the more complicated designs or those exhibiting paranormal activity are created by a non-human independent force. Williams realised that researchers were making ill-judged connections between paranormal events and the crop circles, but this still did not explain the unusual phenomena that the circle makers were beginning to experience themselves in the obviously man-made formations:
“When teams of people go out into the fields and make large talismanic magical symbols, somehow that does actually have some effect on physical reality and strange things happen. A couple of years down the line and a lot more weird experiences had happened to us. But I don’t know how they happen, I just know they happened. I’ve seen small balls of light which have entered the field and chased us out on one occasion. I’ve seen them passing over head. On two occasions we’ve also seen black, shadowy figures. Not as clear as a person, a little bit more rounded, but a human shape. They just disappeared. One night researchers had seen a fog bank come down where we were working, rise in the morning and reveal the crop circle. We didn’t see it and we were working very close to researchers that night and we wondered whether something else was helping us out. But there are so many things like that. People put together mathematical formulas together from the crop circle and say, "well this circle tells us something we didn’t know, something new to science." Researchers have also looked with microscopes into the soil and found globules of metal which don’t appear outside of the circle. The metal is so pure that they think that some of it comes from space. Apparently, this meteoric metal dust is what affects compasses in the crop circle. It’s like, why would we choose a place in the field where that happened to be in the ground to create a certain crop circle around it? Or did it come out of space? Did it happen while we were making the circle or just after we left? Or how did it get there? So what’s attracting us to special places that then turn out to have a synchronistic meaning to someone else?”
Williams turned his attention to the researchers, frustrated at their
"wild claims about extra terrestrials."
Yet convincing them that he was a maker of crop circles was to create a more fascinating conspiracy than the best net theorists could imagine. It seems most researchers consider suggesting that complicated, unexplainable phenomena-producing circles are the work of a small team of people with metal tapes, bamboo sticks and boards is speaking virtually heresy. This is an incomprehensible notion to them. Not only that, but their dismissing of his claims, leads to a negative impact on the phenomena that the circle can create:
"You have people losing interest in a particular circle if they know it is man-made. They shut down their emotions and their professional interest. They maybe don’t go into it. And they will probably like to report you to the police and get you in trouble for admitting that you had done that. If people think it’s just humans, the magic subsides. The other way to make circles is to pay for the formations and keep them secret. Because if it’s secret, people’s unknowing about the crop circle will perhaps attract the strange phenomena, but only when they’ve got an open mind. Crop circles require secrecy in order for the magic to work best. If you shut their mind down by telling them that it is man-made, they might be stopping the phenomena. Researchers will always cry foul of what we do, but without us there would be no subjects to speak of and therefore no strange, unexplained phenomena. So they have to carry on in this antagonistic capacity where we’re doing something that they won’t accept. And they won’t accept it because of the paranormal activities they have seen. They say "how can a UFO appear over what they said they made?" and this sort of stuff. But we’ve also demonstrated making crop circles. We were invited by Japanese TV to make a circle in New Zealand. We made the formation in the hours of darkness making a perfect copy of another circle that had appeared. And there are people out there that say, "oh these circle-makers they never demonstrate what they do." We’ve demonstrated many times, but these people just say that we haven’t! I say, "well what about this one?" Yet they go, "like we said, you never demonstrate!" Fucking hell! We’ve demonstrated what we do, we’ve documented it, we've filmed it. I've put together a three hour tape of interviews with circle makers. They just don’t want it. They aren’t interested. "
Yet despite the clash of ideology, their relationship is nonetheless a symbiotic one. "We feed off each other, and are necessary to each other," he says. The researchers fulfill the role of suppressing public awareness of human involvement, thus maintaining the level of secrecy which Williams believes can spark the "magic," while the circle-makers are responsible for evoking the phenomena that the researchers are so fascinated. He suggests that, "maybe it’s the minds of the people that observe crop circles (i.e. the public and the researchers), that are helping to fuel it by the way they understand it." Unfortunately according to Williams, the researchers are intent on discrediting the 'croppies.' Some of researchers who have switched from dismissing 'hoaxers' to becoming circle makers themselves have received tremendous assaults on their credibility. Despite being a highly respected media spokesman for circle researcher, Peter Sorenson's move from belief in ET involvement to the circles being man-made resulted in accusations that he was a government agent sent to dis-inform. Thus, the intention of Matthew Williams video 'CircleMakers' was to demystify his craft, to "make people realise there’s a demonisation going on where horrible things have been said. It’s just sympathy stuff to make us appear like bad guys so that people won’t want to speak to us and discover the truth."
'Croppies' have numerous rationales for making circles; some for artistic reasons, some for spirituality and others are interested in the paranormal aspects:
"All of us are very different but strangely enough whatever angle you come into crop circles from, all the teams have had paranormal experiences whilst making them. Really, the only way we are going to get round that is if they start making circles and they’ll understand that what we’re saying is true. But I think that for every researcher that comes into the subject maybe ten years later down the line, they probably do start making a couple of circles to test it out. But it takes time and their pride has to be a little bit suppressed before they can do that.”
Unfortunately for Williams, his encounter with 'believer' pride was to have serious consequences. He was arrested for making a specific circle, a conspiracy involving circle researcher Michael Glickman and of Whitley Strieber, author of Communion, the famous autobiographical story of alien abduction:
"Glickman says that crop circles are extra terrestrial, at the same time believing that he is directly in contact with them and that they are guiding him. Not anyone else mind you, just him! I didn’t like the fact that he was going on Whitley Strieber's radio show, putting forward untruths about the crop circle subject to twenty million listeners in the US on a weekly basis. So I thought that it would be a good idea to say to Whitley, "well look, just for your own piece of mind and balance, do you want to know if your honored, prestigious guest is actually wrong? Because I can prove it to you and it would give you a better balance about what’s going on." He agreed and asked, “how do you think you can show me this?” I said, “Well the way we always show it. I’ll make you a circle, done under real conditions. I’ll send you the details beforehand, then you wait for Glickman to make his comments and determinations and if he’s telling you it’s extra terrestrials you’ll know it’s not.” So we agreed to do that and of course I stressed that he had to keep it secret. So I sent the details of the circle that we were going to make to Whitley Strieber and went down and made it. It was specifically containing a number of elements of design that Mr. Glickman said could not be done by humans. I put them all in this circle! His ears were going to go up on this one! Whitley Strieber gave the details to Michael Glickman and they immediately phoned the authorities. I got the house turned over by the police, looking for evidence of making crop circles. I admitted straight off because I had gone too far in what I was telling the researchers. So when the police said, “Did you admit this?” I said, “Yes.”"
Williams was convicted of criminal damage, and fined £125. His computer and editing equipment were also taken for examination, leaving him out of business for over six months. When it was finally returned, he found its components smashed. He filed a complaint but before it went to court, the police settled with a lump sum of £400. This quiet-mannered Welshman now keeps his circle-making involvement closely guarded. "For all intents and purposes I have to be seen to be clean now," he explains disappointedly, now having to remain content with providing public demonstrations by paying the farmer. Yet Williams remains passionate about the subject, still investigating the paranormal activity that he and others have stumbled across. Rather surprisingly though, he doesn’t immediately suggest that such events are the work of extra terrestrials. Refusing to make such connections, he prefers to take a more pragmatic approach. Unconvinced by the alien hypothesis, he considers this knee-jerk reaction to be a symptom of the decline in religious faith in Western society:
"I suppose the best way to look at it is like a new folklore, it’s new fairies, it’s new goblins. Whenever you have a genre that people believe in, some people will start seeing it and experiencing it. So for the western world it’s obviously aliens and extra terrestrials and this sort of stuff. In other parts of the world people will be having their experiences that they relate to. It depends on what part of the world, what culture you grew up in.”
Perhaps this offers a possible explanation to the stubborn attitude of the researchers, who are fearful of any challenge to this new belief system. Williams' research is almost theological approach then, with the researchers the evangelic custodians of mistruth. Certainly, he holds a position more like an objective investigator, raising plausible solutions to the problem, but resisting the urge to slip into unqualified conclusions:
“I would rather believe a more down-to-earth explanation like telepathy or an unknown thing that maybe sometimes you accidentally stumble across. But saying that, I think you stumble across this sort of stuff more often when you are making crop circles, than when you are researching from the outside. I think that being on the inside of this thing is a mystery that seems to have more of an effect if you do get involved on that level. I’m not a scientist, I’m not a mathematician, I'm just a paranormal researcher interested in making crop circles. But if I’m able to pick up on something like that, design a design and go out and do it, then how am I picking that up? Am I picking it up from a group mind, from a group consciousness? Am I being given that idea from extra terrestrials or from intelligence outside of humanity? Or is it just incredible coincidence? But I don’t believe that theory, it doesn't seem to make sense. I think here has to be some sort of guiding influence or something that pushes behind-the-scenes for something to happen. How do we do it? I don’t know, I’m not trying to take credit for it."
Matthew Williams will continue to explore the phenomenon, to make crop circles and share paranormal experiences. If his methodology to evoke paranormal activity is true, there are still more questions than answers to the crop circle mythology. And whether he will solve some of these remains unclear. The 'believers' may even be correct in their assumption that circles are the work of extra terrestrials, though it seems to be a far more complicated affair than they consider. Until there is firm evidence to suggest otherwise, these events look to remain in the realm of magic. Matthew Williams poses a challenge and a philosophy:
"Everything about the crop circle subject when you get involved as deeply as I have really teaches you how real magic works and how it works in such a way that most people are not aware of. It's very hard to understand from the outside, you’ve got to be on the inside. But there’s nothing stopping anybody from getting on the inside. So if you think I am full of shit, go and make a crop circle and don’t tell anyone and see what they say. Then you’ll see that what I am telling is true and you might have a paranormal experience whilst making the crop circle and you’ll come along and share my belief and everyone will call you a liar (all laugh). It’s waiting to be exploited for anyone who’s willing to try it. Reality is not everything we think it is. I think it is more flexible than a lot of people give it credit for. I mean, these strange experiences are clues to the fact that things are not as solid as they appear to be and that there are other things out there to be discovered. The world is not just physical. Your whole life in some way should be dedicated to looking at these things, otherwise you may have a shock when you die. You may carry on…"
URI GELLAR ON CROP CIRCLES
How do Crop Circles appear?
The majority are witless hoaxes, and experienced circle-hunters can spot them immediately. The stalks are crushed, there are footprints and even cigarette butts, and the shapes are clumsy. This isn’t scepticism – it is vandalism.
True circles are different. The stalks are weighed down, not snapped. The geometry is perfect, and the energy that bristles inside the formation can often be measured on traditional electronic equipment – it also causes many cameras and camcorders to fail. I once experimented by bending a spoon in a Wiltshire circle, and the bowl almost exploded from the handle.
Many witnesses say strange lights seem to hover over the fields, emitting a loud drone as the circles are created. This has been observed for at least 350 years, according to a pamphlet published in Civil War times, and this year circles have been found in remote Canadian wheat fields and Japanese Zen gardens. There’s good reason to suppose crop circles are a natural phenomena… except for their increasing complexity. Natural forces cannot draw windmills and Mandlebrot sets, seashell whorls and religious symbols. I am forced to the conclusion that something intelligent sometimes wields Earth’s energies. Whether that intelligence is humanity’s, or the planets, or belongs to something beyond the planet – I have not yet decided.
(Words and Photos Copyright - Mark Berry)