The Earliest Crop Circle?

How far back in time does the evidence for crop circles go? Here’s tantalizing evidence for a 2,000-year-old reference I uncovered in The Dead Sea Scrolls.

Mowing Devil WoodcutPrecious few references have been found in early historical records that point to possible crop circles. Probably the most renowned is still the “Mowing Devil” case of 1678, in which a farmer’s field was said to have been visited by a devilish entity that trampled the crops down in a circle. The event was captured for posterity on a wood engraving, but many cerealogical sceptics have dismissed its relevance since its rise to prominence around fifteen years ago.

Professor Robert Plot published a book entitled A Natural History of Staffordshire in 1686, in which he made passing reference to rings, circles and other shapes found in grassy fields. Much debate has ensued over Plot’s observations; detailed as his notes were, some researchers considered his evidence flimsy at best. They felt it more likely that Plot was describing “fairy rings” caused by common fungi.

Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered coverWhich brings me to a book entitled The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered by Robert Eisenman & Michael Wise (Penguin 1993 ISBN 0 14 02.3250 8). This is a dry, academic work, detailing the manuscripts found at Qumran, in the Middle East, during the 1940s and 1950s. While a few were immediately published for all to see, many more were kept secret for over 35 years by researchers jealously guarding their exclusive hold over these documents. But these two open-minded and determined researchers published over 50 documents, including photographs, translations and interpretations of the manuscripts.

According to Eisenman and Wise, many of the manuscripts display strong links with Kabbalistic thought, the esoteric side of the Judaic belief system. The Qumran community was a sect apart: close-knit, secretive and militaristic. It is postulated by some that the biblical Jesus spent some time at Qumran, being taught the role of the expected Messiah to come — the One who would lead their oppressed nation to victory over the Roman occupiers. The Qumran community was preparing for war and future triumph. We can only guess why it was that these manuscripts were secreted in large clay pots in the lonely caves high above the Dead Sea, where they lay undisturbed for almost 2,000 years, but it is assumed that an imminent attack was feared and the priests sought to preserve their heritage.

Much of the information contained in the manuscripts is allegorical in nature, disguising the military and spiritual aspirations of the Qumran community under a cloak of esotericism. Few parchments are complete; there are many gaps in the scripts which Eisenman and Wise have attempted to bridge using their extensive knowledge of ancient languages. But for all their diligent and painstaking work, many passages remain tantalisingly incomplete.

NoahOne of the documented fragments is known as The Birth of Noah (4Q534-536). The Qumran community regarded Noah very highly. According to Eisenman and Wise, Noah is represented as a “Wisdom figure, or one who understands the Secret Mysteries”; “Noah is … one who is involved in Heavenly ‘ascents’ or ‘journeying’ or at least one who ‘knows’ the Mysteries of ‘the Highest Angels’.”

Further on, in the actual translation of the fragments of the parchment, is the following (dots indicate missing portions; square brackets indicate places where Eisenman and Wise have interpreted and filled in small gaps) “… will be … [H]oly Ones will remem[ber ...] … lig[hts] will be revealed to him … they [will] teach him everything that … human [Wi]sdom, and every wise ma[n] … in the lands (?), and he shall be great..”

And, later: “… of the hand, two … it lef[t] a mark from … barley [and] lentils on … and tiny marks on his thigh … [After tw]o years he will be able to discern one thing from another … In his youth he will be … all of them … [like a ma]n who does not know anyth[ing, until] the time when he shall have come to know the Three Books. [Th]en he will become wise and will be disc[rete ...] a vision will come to him while upon [his] knees (in prayer). And with his father and his forefa[th]ers … life and old age; he will acquire counsel and prudence, [and] he will know the Secrets of mankind. His Understanding will spread to all peoples, and he will know the Secrets of all living things.” (p.p. 33-37.)

When I first came across these passages, I was immediately struck by the possibility that the Noah depicted in these parchments had been subjected to a UFO Close Encounter of the Fourth Kind (CE-4). The authors describe this Noah as “one who is involved in Heavenly ‘ascents’ or ‘journeying’”; the manuscripts themselves say of Noah that “lights will be revealed to him”, and mention “…tiny marks on his thigh.” In many classic CE-4 scenarios, abductees have often found little marks on their limbs or torso.

It is also notable that many CE-4 “victims” find that, after the initial shock of the first experience, their lives are enriched spiritually as more CE-4s happen to them.

Of course, it is easy to read what one wants to read into ancient texts which have been partially destroyed by age, but the phrase “tiny marks on his thigh” is complete, and seems unusually out of place in a manuscript of this nature — unless the marks had great significance. Otherwise, why mention them at all?

The only similar reference to “thigh” in the Bible that I can find is in Genesis 24, in which Abraham, well advanced in years, asks his servant to put his hand under his (Abraham’s) thigh in order to swear a certain oath to “the Lord”. Since first reading this text, I’ve always considered this to be a peculiar procedure — but if Abraham had also been subjected to a CE-4 abduction (interpreted as a meeting with “the angels”) and had been left a mark on his thigh that was similar to Noah’s apparent thigh-mark, perhaps the presence of such a mark became invested with religious importance and linked to “the Lord” and/or his angels.

Pretty Crop CircleThe next few passages of the Noah document seem to be highly significant in both cerealogical and ufological terms. Maybe (with a goodly degree of interpretative licence!) it originally read something like: “… it left a mark from (ON HIGH IN THE) barley and lentils on (THE GROUND), and tiny marks on his thigh …” Significantly, the two sets of markings are connected, by use of the conjunctive “and”. They were both visible effects of the same cause — and it is reasonable to suppose that the same causal mechanism was also, in some way, involved in Noah’s subsequent enlightenment.

The biblical Noah played a fundamental part in the early days of human development. There is no mention in Genesis about Noah ascending to the stars or journeying with the angels, but he was visited by “God”, who gave Noah instructions for the construction of an ark that apparently enabled mankind and many animal species to survive the flood. It’s hard nowadays to take this story literally. But when viewed allegorically, this representation of Noah could be interpreted as depicting a man endowed with a special knowledge. Even if the “ark” was a real vessel, what was the true identity of the “God” that revealed the construction details to him? How could Noah realistically have physically “saved” the many thousands of animals purportedly carried on the ark? They were held in captivity, remember, for something like nine months — seven males and females of every “clean” animal and bird, two of every “unclean” species.

Of course, it would have been much easier if the ark was a DNA repository.

This is not the first time that biblical tales have been interpreted as being disguised UFO visitations. Zechariah Sitchin and Erich von Daniken, amongst others, have been both praised and lambasted in equal measure for daring to promote such ideas.

The proposition that the Dead Sea Scrolls might contain events related both to ufology and cerealogy, hidden for almost two millennia, is likely to be just as contentious. In cerealogical terms, it provides no more evidence than the Mowing Devil case, or Plot’s fairy rings — but equally it is just as vague, and therefore, in my view, just as significant.

This post is adapted from an article I originally wrote in 1994. It’s the only thing I’ve ever written that’s earned me money: an abridged version of the article was used in a crop circle calendar published in the USA some years after it appeared in the Centre for Crop Circle Study’s journal The Circular. I received the princely sum of $50. A copy of the original article (with some annoying typos introduced that were not in the copy from which it was lifted) can still be found on the web at the CropCircleConnector site; I’ve also added it to my Notable Comments Elsewhere section in my Writing Archive.

Published Again!

On September 23rd 2008, I wrote about how over the moon I was when I discovered I’d had a submission published in October’s Fortean Times. When the November edition of the magazine was delivered, I couldn’t be more surprised to see that I was in there again!

Last time, it was a submission for the magazine’s It Happened To Me column, and it took two years for them to publish it. This time, I wrote in response to a letter in September’s edition — and the editors chose to publish my submission in the November issue. (I also posted it at the FT Bulletin Board, where you can read several responses to it.)

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Alan Wade’s letter about the “Meteoric mystery” (FT240:74) boldly stated that “No meteorites have ever been found in sedimentary rock” or “in coal”. I wondered whether the internet could help verify or, indeed, refute this statement.

A quick search yielded a page titled “A novel strategy for collecting fossil meteorites from coal” by Andrew A. Sicree and David P. Gold, a “recent” (though the date is not mentioned) project proposed by Pennsylvania State University’s Department of Geosciences.

The project’s aim is to try and find iron meteorites in coal by examining the “tramp” iron which is, apparently, already “pulled” from extracted raw coal by powerful electromagnets used at various mining sites. Sicree and Gold say that “fossil meteorites (i.e., those which have been preserved in sedimentary rocks and have geologically-old terrestrial ages) are quite rare. Only a few fossil meteorites are known and their discoveries have largely been matters of chance.” So they do exist — and they then cite a number of interesting finds.

In 1942, “an extremely weathered octahedrite (Sardis) from Miocene sediments” was discovered in Georgia, although whether it actually fell during the Miocene period is uncertain — using Carbon-14 dating, its terrestrial age was reckoned to be “in excess of 10,000 years”. During the drilling of an oil well in Texas (apparently in the 1950s), it was reported that an iron meteorite, subsequently lost, was recovered from Eocene rocks. Relict chondrules “of stony meteorites were found in Mesozoic bauxites from the Ural Mountains.” Other chondrites have been found in “Middle Ordovician limestone from Brunflo, central Sweden,” and “from Ordovician limestones in the Österplana quarry at Kinnekulle, southern Sweden.” An “iron meteorite reportedly from Carboniferous rocks in Ukraine has been determined to be a fragment of the Sikhote-Alin meteorite” and was dated at “less than 10 million years” old. Finally, they mention “a small, nickel-bearing meteoritic fragment thought to have fallen 65 million years ago” that was “recovered from a sediment core from the floor of the northwest North Pacific Ocean” and described in a paper published in 1996.

Sicree and Gold also point out that “Upon impact with the Earth’s surface most iron meteorites begin to rust away rapidly, typically surviving only a few dozen years.” This may explain why many meteorites that fell in ancient times didn’t stick around long enough to be entombed by sedimentary strata or in developing coal seams. They add that “In desert environments they may persist for several thousand years or so. Those which have been recovered from Antarctic ice may represent falls which may have occurred as early as 300,000 to one million years ago but their terrestrial ages cannot be greater than the age of the ice sheets themselves.”

In 2002, New Scientist reported on a contentious suggestion by Dallas Abbot from Columbia University and Ann Isley from the State University of New York that “large meteorite impacts may not just throw up huge dust clouds but also punch right through the Earth’s crust, triggering gigantic volcanic eruptions.” Another reason, perhaps, that the physical evidence for larger meteorite strikes has been lost to us. The resulting apocalyptic eruption of magma would have obliterated the impact sites, the meteorites having been vapourised at the same time.

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My point wasn’t to show how knowledgeable I am (geology certainly isn’t one of my particularly strong points), but how easy it can be to check things these days by using the Internet. Before the advent of the web, coming across a definitive statement of ‘fact’ such as “No meteorites have ever been found in sedimentary rock” in a publication might have involved a trip to the local library and diligent research lasting several hours to verify or refute — if, indeed, one could even be bothered to do so, rather than just accepting it at face value. Instead, it took me about five minutes using Google.

Today, the advice from Euripides to “question everything” has never been more relevant, nor easier to put into practice. Indeed, the venerable Greek playwright actually exhorted us to “Question everything. Learn something. Answer nothing.” A suitably Fortean axiom for these interesting times in which we live, wherein the true and the real are often confused.

Published At Last!

Reading the latest Fortean Times magazine (FT241, October 2008), I had a sense of deja vu: a letter featured on the It Happened To Me page seemed uncannily familiar. Then I realised it was an item I’d posted on the FT Bulletin Board two years previously!

There’s been a blog entry about it here for some time — I included it in my Notable Comments Elsewhere section in my Writing Archive. When it didn’t appear in the magazine’s next couple of issues, I assumed it hadn’t made it past the editors’ submissions desk, but obviously they run on a pretty long-term time scale! For the magazine version they’ve removed some of my original em-dashes and exclamation marks, but here’s my original copy:

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On the Message Board at Fortean Times Magazine, I began a thread called ‘Noises Off’ on 21st August 2006:

Jerry Glover’s mention of “a ‘ticking’ or rapping noise” being “present in a corner of [his] bedroom, often at night” in Gothic Night Terror (It Happened To Me, FT 213) brought back a memory of a similar event in my past.

Around the late 1980s, when I was in my mid-30s, I lived for a while in a pleasant rented, furnished, nineteenth-century cottage on the outskirts of the picturesque Surrey village of Pirbright with my wife Val (now deceased). We sometimes read books of mutual interest together, with me reading out loud. One evening, we’d been enjoying Michael Bentine‘s autobiographical and heavily paranormally flavoured The Door Marked Summer, which talked (amongst other things) about his and his father’s experiments with spirit “table rapping”.

At around midnight, we settled into our double bed upstairs and were soon both deeply asleep. Then something woke me. I glanced at the electric clock on the bedside table to my left. It was 2am. The room was dark and still. I could hear a faint but distinct sound, seemingly coming from the parcel shelf in the old, small built-in warbrobe in the left corner of the room. At first I thought it was the scratching of a rodent’s claws. I fancied that a mouse or rat had somehow gained entry. Moments later it resolved itself into the sound wood makes when being slowly twisted or crushed. It was only just audible — which made it seem all the more threatening in the heavy silence.

I pondered on this for a few seconds, feeling inceasingly uneasy as I stared in the direction of the wardrobe — and the next moment, from the opposite side of the room, where an old wooden chest of drawers stood against the wall, an ear-shattering –KRRRAKKK!– of splitting wood rent the air. It was so loud and unexpected my heart nearly stopped. Val woke in an instant and sat up, screaming “OhmyGod! OhmyGod! What is it? What is it?”. My first thought was, “Stay calm! Don’t panic! Just turn the light on!” I reached down my side of the bed and flipped the switch on the light cord. Nothing. It took a few more seconds to realise I’d grabbed the electric blanket control by mistake!

When I eventually fumbled the light on, the room looked completely normal. The sound in the wardrobe had ceased. All that could be heard now was our frantic breathing, Val’s frightened whimpers — and my curses! It took me a minute to regain my composure and venture out of bed to the old chest of drawers. I carefully dragged it away from the wall, to discover that the slightly warped plywood back panel had a split running from top to bottom, following the grain.

We couldn’t say whether that split had already been there — we’d never previously checked its overall condition — and closer examination in the light of day yielded no further clues. (We asked our landlord about it some days later, but he didn’t know whether it had been there previously.) There was also nothing untoward to be found in the wardrobe.

The following night — against all the odds, you’d think — it happened again. There was no precursory sound from the wardrobe, but I awoke a few seconds before hearing the same crack of splitting wood, though much less ferocious, from the chest of drawers. It struck me as being a rather half-hearted attempt this time.

Val stirred, but didn’t come fully awake. Without bothering to turn on the light, I muttered into my pillow words to the effect of: “All right, you’ve made your point, thank you,” speaking to the “spirit” — as I imagined Michael would have done in this situation — and went back to sleep.

That was the last of it.

Did we charge our environment with our own psychic energy, causing the wood to split? Or was a visiting spirit giving us a spectacular example of “table-rapping” in action, as if to underline the reality of the phenomenon we’d been reading about?

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To read some of the FT Bulletin Board readers’ comments on my item, read the full entry here on my blog, or here at the original FT Bulletin Board entry.