Word came down at the end of this week that Stellar Productions had signed a deal to turn Stanton Friedman’s and Kathleen Marden’s 2007 book on the Betty and Barney Hill abduction into a credulous movie examining whether the aliens were interested in them for being an interracial couple in the Cold War era. “The film will examine the birth of modern UFO lore, and place the events in a context of both Cold War paranoia and the country’s struggle over race relations,” Deadline reported. Presumably this involves a cash payment to Friedman. I will hereby make an offer to any film producers looking to make a competing movie to undercut Friedman’s rates by 10% for an option on my article on the real story behind the Betty and Barney Hill abduction. You won’t get a better rate on a Hill abduction piece this season!
Sadly, there is nothing half so interesting on Ancient Aliens, which is covering “Circles in the Sky” this week. Yes, crop circles, those flattened areas of cereal grains that almost everyone except for ufologists recognizes are hoaxes created by people using ropes and planks.
The first segment begins by rehearsing some early crop circle highlights from the history of the goofball phenomenon, focusing on Linda Moulton Howe’s introduction to fringe history when as a young reporter she became obsessed with covering the 1980s and 1990s crop circle explosion. In many ways, this hour is itself a throwback to the 1990s X-Files style of ufology, but I will be damned if I recognize the 1990s as “ancient” alien activity. I’m not that old yet.
The show dutifully reports how crop circles have been hoaxed, but Howe denies that “true” crop formations are from human hands. Nick Pope suggests that the hoax claim is government disinformation, while Howe says that manmade crop circles are not perfect enough.
Jonathan Young says that in 815 CE a crop circle was reported in Leon. This must be part of Agobard’s Hail and Thunder… and in Googling it I find that this is indeed the case. The show also refers to the famous case of the Mowing Devil, depicted as reaping wheat in a circular formation. The reference to Agobard is one I needed a minute to check with the original Latin and the modern English translation; in 2008 David Wilcock falsely alleged that Agobard issued an edict against eating grain from crop circles, and in 2007 Philip Coppens said Agobard claimed that the Tempestarii (weather magicians) flattened crops. The only reference I know is to crops being “felled by hail and destroyed by storms,” which is not the same thing, and indeed, there is nothing in Agobard about crop circles. So, either Young lied about the source, or he was spitting out what producers told him to say. The mixed up references I find online claim that Agobard demanded ransom (!) or that he forbade the using of crop circle seeds for fertility rituals. You got me where they got that from, other than Philip Coppens’s website and a book by David Wilcock. The latter cites the source to Jacques Vallée, in his book Dimensions (1988), who in turn cites the Hail and Thunder, which does not say what all of these men assert it does. The circle closed, and the lie somehow appeared all on its own ex nihilo. Somehow, Vallée decided that the crops destroyed by hail and storms were synonymous with crop circles. Well, he never was any good at reading ancient texts. But you would think he would have gotten this one right since it is the same text that introduced Magonia, the mythic cloud land he used as the title of his most famous book. The claim about Agobard and the seeds seems to be a conflation of the Hail and Thunder with secondary sources describing medieval weather magic, which sometimes involved sowing specific seeds to ward off hail.
Charles Mallett, a crop circle researcher says that crop circles form near power centers, which in England are marked with sites like Stonehenge. Giorgio Tsoukalos visits Wiltshire, England to ask three crop circle artists to try to recreate a crop circle that crop circle believers claim cannot be created by human hands. He gives them 5-7 hours, and they recreate the crop circle in its entirety. Tsoukalos then has Mallet check whether the flattened crops were flattened in the same way. Mallet argues that the original crop circle did not use “mechanical” means to flatten the crops, which is to say, boards. The arguments he uses were old in the 1990s when I first heard them on Sightings. This episode could easily have aired on that sorry show back in the day.
This segment covers “nodes,” which is to say the part of the plant that is bent in crop circles. These nodes are allegedly evidence of extreme heat applied to the plants. These two sentences’ worth of information take up ten minutes of air time.
This segment presents dubious eyewitness testimony, largely recounted secondhand by talking heads, that describe crop circles forming invisibly or in the presence of glowing orbs. Some of the material actually was on Sightings back in the day, and I can remember even that credulous show debunking the same video that Ancient Aliens now claims is “astonishing” and shows “intelligent plasmas,” to use Howe’s words. David Henry tells us that the aliens create crop circles to symbolize their wormholes, while Howe believes crop circles are used by time travelers to calibrate their time machines. I have no idea what that even means.
This segment asks whether crop circles communicate messages to us in code, covering material recycled from last year’s In Search of Aliens in S01E04 “The Roswell Rock.” I covered this then and don’t need to repeat myself as blatantly as Prometheus Entertainment does across their various shows. The narrator spins a conspiracy theory that world governments are sending and receiving alien messages via crop circle, clearly the most efficient way of communicating with other species with advanced technology.
This segment mentions the fact that the year after a crop circle is formed, the plants grow back differently the next year. Childress says this is an intentional alien communication effort, though it is more likely due to damage to the soil or dead plants that did not grow back after being killed by getting squished. Nick Pope says that “the government”—which is all governments, all over the world, even those which are enemies of each other—try to keep the truth about crop circles secret, and they make their own crop circles to send messages back. Howe demands that the government—singular or plural—reveal everything they know about “intelligent plasmas.” The show ends by throwing up its hands and admitting to having no idea whether crop circles are created by aliens, demons, time travelers, or intelligent balls of goo. Oddly, those are the same choices in speculating about who produces this crap.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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