by Marcus Allen
(from The Sussex Circular #33, September, 1994)

An international organisation exists which appears to be solely concerned with debunking and ridiculing the work of others. This organisation is CSICOP - The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal.  It was formed in 1976 by Professor Paul Kurtz as a breakaway group from the American Humanist Association. Paul Kurtz, born in 1925, is now retired as a philosophy lecturer at New York University. Politically, he is a Social Democrat, part of the American Non-Communist Left through which the CIA channeled funding from large American foundations such as Ford and Rockefeller, to promote liberalism in Europe during the Cold War.

Kurtz was concerned about the revival of Astrology in the US, and circulated a letter to leading scientists and academics collecting 186 signatures, including those of 18 Nobel Prize winners, to a manifesto called "Objections to Astrology", the publication of which brought about the formation of CSICOP. Soon afterwards, Kurtz held a press conference in New York to announce "a campaign to purge the media of occultist leanings" and to ensure "no TV programs dealing with parascience would go out unvetted by the appropriate authorities", i.e. CSICOP. Among it's first members were science fiction writer Isaac Isimov, magician and showman James Randi, and astronomer and writer Professor Carl Sagan.

CSICOP began a journal called "The Zetetic" which was replaced in 1978 by "The Skeptical Inquirer". It is illuminating to note from the definitions of Zetetic and Skeptic how CSICOP was also changing: Zetetic: adj - having to do with enquiry or investigation. Skeptic: n - a member of adherent of an ancient Greek school of philosophy that maintained that real knowledge of things is impossible. Quite what prominent scientists were doing lending their names to an organisation whose journal denied the results to which their lives had been dedicated is a matter for them and their reputations. Perhaps other pressures were being applied beyond their control or understanding.

From the start, the Skeptical Inquirer's style was jokey and cynical, and was the hallmark of many articles which it published. CSICOP's own studies did not follow accepted scientific procedure and results not matching their preconceived views were simply changed, causing extreme damage to serious scientists, spiritualists and healers, both professionally and personally. Most notable of these were the astrological links to the "Mars Effect" on athletes (where their performance appeared to be affected by the position of the planet Mars). when CSICOP carried out their own studies which confirmed Gauguelin's results that there was a real effect, the information was suppressed. Also, the hounding of Professor Jacques Benveniste, following his research into the 'memory of water' and its apparent validation of homeopathic practice, was directly linked to CSICOP.  Since October 1981, CSICOP have had an official policy of not conducting any scientific experiments. This appears to be diametrically opposed to their stated objectives and organisation title.

The structure of CSICOP came to resemble organisations set up during the Cold War by the US foundations and the CIA to mask their activities: just a few people to handle admin, while the use of PR gave the appearance of something much larger, including the ability to place articles in media all over the world.  An extensive list of advisers and associates such as philosophers, scientists, writers and magicians numbering well over 100 as committee participants of CSICOP, raised the public profile and plausibility of the organisation. The activities of CSICOP were promoted by scientists close to the US government, who pushed it as a scientific policing organisation. Magazines such as 'Science' and 'Scientific American' published articles on its behalf. However, other scientists observed CSICOP was acquiring an inordinate influence and appeared to be directed by hidden forces. Writing in the 'Times HIgher Education Supplement', Harry Collins said science did not need 'a scientific vigilante organisation' apparently unaccountable to anyone.

In 1986, James Randi, one of the most prominent members of CSICOP, received a five year grant of $272,000 from the MacArthur Foundation to assist with his hoaxes and attacks on all matters spiritual, psychic and holistically medical. Uri Geller has recently won a long and costly court case against Randi, who had accused Geller of fraud. Randi then had to resign from CSICOP in order that Geller would not sue it also. As early as 1978, the New Age was being attacked and ridiculed, "especially those attracted to cults and others who grouped around Glastonbury and other supposedly sacred sites". Alternative lifestyles would increasingly attract vitriolic levels of attack as their influence was perceived to grow. A British branch of CSICOP was launched in 1987 and is represented by the small circulation magazine 'The Skeptic'.

On both sides of the Atlantic, CSICOP carried out a sustained campaign against alternative medicine. There are close ties with the National Council Against Health Fraud with continual debunking and ridiculing of any therapies which do not meet its approval, specifically to do with cancer and AIDS. It is notable that approval is inevitably given to treatments deriving from the products of multinational drug companies: Welcome, Hoffman, LaRoche, Eli Lily, etc., all of whom are not only linked to the US foundations through hospitals and research institutes, but also the government in the guise of the FDA (Federal Drug Administration), who approve the use of new drugs for sale, so implying their safety. It is also legitimate to question why senior members of the US government, politicians, the military, industry, bankers, the foundations, religion, universities and the media meet clandestinely in the USA under the auspices of an organisation founded in 1973 by David Rockefeller, the Trilateral Commission, and how their decisions are then implemented - if not through their own organisations, then their offshoots and associated companies.

Despite there being no mention of crop circles as a subject worthy of inclusion in the pantheon of the paranormal, which by now covered UFOs, abductions, ghosts, faith healing, moving statues, weeping statues, metal bending and mediums, the UK skeptics corrected this oversight with an article by Dr. David Fisher in the British and Irish Skeptic (March/April 1990), reviewing the available crop circle literature to date. His conclusion was that "there was n reason why every one of the hundreds of recorded crop circles could not have been made by tricksters" using a "giant comb-like farm implement". Dr. Fisher had not found that this researches required him to visit any crop circle prior to his article appearing. This was published four months before the first issue of either The Cerealogist or The Circular. the same Dr. Fisher also had a letter printed in The Guardian (11 July 1990) challenging cerealogists to distinguish between a 'genuine' crop circle and a hoax.

This overly dramatic gauntlet throwing act was in response to both the recently published 'plasma vortex' theories of Dr. Terence Meaden and the unexpected success of Circular Evidence by Colin Andrews and Pat Delgado. No-one had denied that some circles were being 'hoaxed', or created deliberately to be passed off as unexplained. However, as nobody then had any idea what might constitute a 'scientific' method of investigation, this just had to be developed as investigators went along and the work being undertaken by Professor W.C. Levengood and Michael Chorost of Project Argus was a sincere attempt to apply the scientific method as far as possible. The UK Skeptics and their parent organisation CSICOP had cleverly killed two birds with one swipe - the onus was passed to inexperienced but enthusiastic investigators to prove their case, and the 'hoax' explanation was promoted whenever possible. That a so-called science-based group of academics and researchers should immediately dismiss the crop circle phenomenon with contempt and ridicule is not just hypocritical, it also exposed some of the hidden agenda underlying their activities.:

1) Demand scientific methodology is used and then ridicule any results presented as 'biased' or 'pseudoscientific'.

2) Belittle any scientist or academic appearing to move away from orthodoxy.

3) Demand peer review of any paper presented for publication (by definition, this is very hard to achieve in totally new areas of research).

4) Do not offer assistance of any kind.

5) Heavily and widely publicise that 'hoaxing' and 'fraud' are the only explanations for what is reported.

6) Do not engage in discussion. The organisation's associates should be called upon to provide the 'expert' viewpoint. The use of academic titles such as Doctor, Professor and Nobel Prize Winner adds 'credibility'.

7) Adopt a caring and protective attitude as the guardians of 'ordinary' people who could be 'duped' by unscrupulous 'tricksters' trying to make money out of them.

8) Encourage individuals who are seen to be sowing seeds of mistrust and confusion in target groups.

9) Counter any attacks against the organisation as soon as practicable.

The British government, by 1990, was aware of the mounting public interest in crop circles. There were even reports that members of the Royal Family were taking an active interest in the phenomenon. High level meetings between the Ministries of Defence, Environment and Agriculture, Fisheries and Food took place and having agreed that the cause was as yet unknown, ordered the fields of Wiltshire to be closely monitored by the army, who were already present in large numbers at their bases around the county. Since then, they have appeared to follow these instructions assiduously, given the number of sightings of military helicopters flying low over crop circles.

By early 1991, a long article by a Peter Williams in The Cerealogist No.3 discussed hoaxing in detail. Prominently promoted was "Dr. David Fisher's excellent article in The Skeptic" - and this from someone who also admitted he had never set foot in a crop circle. While declaring his open mind, he called for "proper testing of hoaxing methods" so it could "be seen as the most credible solution". The words colour, nailed and mast seem appropriate here. By the summer of 1991, a TV programme, 'The Strange Case of the Crop Circles' transmitted under the Channel 4 'Equinox' banner had been made by Juniper Productions. This contained a long sequence involving the Wessex Skeptics, Dr. Robin Allen and Dr. Martin Hempstead, physicists from the University of Southampton, who were depicted in Fortean Time No. 63 as "an anti-paranormal group", deliberately hoaxing to catch out serious circle be flattened. A garden roller and some planks sufficed to crush the crop into a small circle which was then used to lure Dr. Meaden and Busty Taylor into inadvisable pronouncements of authenticity. These were then relentlessly exploited by the programme makers to give the impression that solutions had been found for all crop circles.

Doug and Dave were also on the bandwagon with their "capers in the corn". Another mystery had been solved by the fearless investigators of 'MBF Services', who in truth had cynically set up Pat Delgado with a deliberately planned deception. (Interesting to note that D & D were also based in Southampton - Ed.)

The Wessex Skeptics, without the protection of a TV crew, found circle faking rather more difficult on their own. They were caught red-handed at Cheesefoot Head by crop watchers in 1991. Not having previously obtained the farmer's permission and having been caught, they subsequently decided to send an anonymous donation to the farmer. The Wessex Skeptics were desperate to show all circles to be the products of humans alone, and so to protect their established scientific view that everything can be explained in terms of orthodoxy. By the end of 1991, the Wessex Skeptics needed support. It arrived in the form of a double whammy. First, the hoax promoter and Skeptic publicist Peter Williams, claiming that "there is no appearance of the Barbury Castle triangle and the Mandelbrot formation! Secondly, the arrival from the US of Jim Schnabel with bigger plans than the occasional article, and with money to match his full-time commitment to debunking the circles.

The incident of the Schnabel tapes was the giveaway. (A taped conversation between Armen Victorian and Schnabel appeared to reveal Schnabel as a member of a secret organisation which had links with the CIA and the Vatican - Schnabel later claimed he was winding Victorian up as a joke - Ed.) At the Quest Conference at Leeds in 1992, when the tapes were played, Schnabel reportedly appeared shocked to hear his involvement made public. Adopting the time-honoured principle of the best line of defence being attack, he proceeded to do just that. Aiming for George Wingfield in particular, and anyone else who believed what they heard on the tapes, such as "a number of agencies have pooled their resources" and "we believe there is something very sinister about what is going on", Schnabel promptly dismissed everything as a hoax, which only served to confirm his own involvement.

It is a regrettable fact that some intelligent and literate people, amongst whom Schnabel can be numbered, must continually leave hints as to how clever they are. Hints which can usually only be picked up by those 'in the know'. So, for his article in 'Fortean Times' No.69 (June/July 93) as part of their 'Hoax!' series, the names all the main supposed crop circle hoaxing groups with, amongst other details, their 'alleged conspiratorial affiliations'. Seven groups are listed and four of them have "affiliations" to be expected from he snide style of Schnabel's presentation: 1) Doug and Dave - Today newspaper, MBF Service (M15) 2) Bill Bailey - none 3) Merlin and Co - Sunday Sport newspaper 4) UBI (United Bureau of Investigation) - CCCS, CPR, CSETI. The other three were altogether different: 5) Spiderman and Catwoman - M16, CIA, The Vatican, Beckhampton Group 6) Wessex Skeptics - Channel 4 TV, CSICOP 7) The Snake (Jim Schnabel) - M16, CIA, The Vatican, The Trilateral Commission.

Just how many people have ever heard of CSICOP and the Trilateral commission, let alone know what they are and what they do? Of course, if you not only know but are actively involved as a field (!) operator, then you might just want to say to the folks back home "Hi! Look what I've done so far!"  It could be argued that the inclusion of such an unlikely collection of organisations was only intended as a 'wind-up' and not to be taken literally. However, enough evidence has recently been found to show that links appear to exist between Schnabel and certain religious and intelligence groups.

Schnabel completed his two-year assignment amongst the cropfields of England with book 'Round In Circles'. A tome more noted for its fictitious comments by circle researchers than any insights into the true nature of the phenomenon He departed these shores to author a book on alien abductions. Before leaving, Schnabel's swan song was to be his public attempt to replicate the 1992 Charm bRacelet/Dharmic Wheel formation, one year on. What he so graphically illustrated was his failure to realise that although anyone can, using simple equipment, flatten crops into any shape or design they wish, the genuine Circlemakers, whoever they are, always add an extra dimension to their creations - one of aesthetics. Something you know when you see it, but cannot easily explain because it touches everyone differently. It has to do with proportion and balance, clarity and accuracy, and the ability to communicate at a level which transcends wonder.

Just how do you convey the grandeur of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, the enigma of the Mona Lisa, the majesty of the Taj Mahal land the colour yellow to a blind man? You cannot do so. Any more than Schnabel and his fellow skeptics can persuade people of vision that a few crop crushers created such formations as the Barbury Castle tetrahedron, the Mandelbrot Set and the Charm Bracelet at Silbury Hill.

As these links between Schnabel and religious and intelligence groups do appear to exist, that links also exist between the Vatican, the Trilateral Commission, CSICOP, CIA, MI5 AND MI6 is well known. The Pope receives an official CIA briefing every Friday afternoon. Members of those organisations also belong to the Sovereign and Military Order of Malta, which originated from the time of the Crusades. Now based in Rome, it is the world's smallest nation state. Its senior members are appointed by the Vatican. Opus Dei, a radial lay Catholic organisation and a personal favourite of Pope John Paul II, also has adherents around the world

It would be reasonable to assume the existence of crop circles is known to members of all those groups. Should a consensus be that crop circles represented some form of adverse influence, then it would be simple to arrange for a few people to be dispatched to the fields of Wiltshire to sow seeds of doubt amongst enthusiasts. With the co-operation of the media, the 'hoax' explanation would be offered as the only solution and any adverse influence seen to be negated. That could have been the plan, but from the evidence of 1994, the circles have not co-operated!

Marcus Allen


CSICOP and the Skeptics: An Overview - George P. Hansen, Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 86, Jan. 1992

Dirty Medicine - Martin J. Walker, slingshot Publications, London, 1993

Science and the Paranormal - Edited by G.O. Abel and B. Siner, Junction Books, London, 1981.

Behold A Pale Horse - William Cooper, Light Technology Publishing, Arizona, USA 1991

The Year of Armageddon - Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan-Witts, Granada Publishing, Ltd., London, 1984

The Global Manipulators - Robert Eringer, Pentacle Books, Bristol, 1980

Circular Evidence - Pat Delgado and Colin Andrews, Bloomsbury Publishing, Ltd. London, 1991

Ciphers in the Crops - Edited by Beth Davis, Gateway Books, Bath, 1992

The Cerealogist - SKS, Frome, Somerset

The Circular - CCCS Journal

Sussex Circular - CCCS (Sussex Branch) Magazine

Fortean Times - John Brown Publishing, London

The Skeptic

World Book Dictionary - Doubleday and Co, Chicago, USA 1975

Taken from The Sussex Circular - September, 1994

Magazine of the Centre for Crop Circle Studies (Sussex Branch)