ELECTRONIC NEWSLETTER OF THE GEORGIA SKEPTICS
CROP CIRCLES APPEAR IN ATLANTA GEORGIA
MEETING ANNOUNCEMENT: CROP CIRCLES - A SKEPTIC PERSPECTIVE
CIRCULAR REASONING: NO RING OF TRUTH IN GRAIN PATTERNS, by Mike
Sullivan, North Texas Skeptics
JOE NICKELL ADDRESSES GEORGIA SKEPTICS
SKEPTICS BEHOLD WILLIAM COOPER, by Larry F. Johnson, Georgia Skeptics
THE DOLMEN MYSTERY, by Hugh Trotti, Georgia Skeptics
UPDATE ON GELLER vs. RANDI LAWSUIT
STRIEBER BIDS UNKIND FAREWELL TO UFOLOGY
ASTRONOMY VS. ASTROLOGY ON ECLIPSE DAY
NEW AGE IN COLLEGE, by William E. Gordon, Jr., Th.D.
Georgia Skeptics is a non-profit local group which shares a common
philosophy with the national organization CSICOP (Committee for the
Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal), and seeks to
promote critical thinking and scientific inquiry as the most reliable
means to gather knowledge of the world and universe. Like CSICOP,
Georgia Skeptics encourages the investigation of paranormal and
fringe-science claims from a responsible, scientific point of view,
and helps disseminate the results of such inquiries.
Material from the Georgia Skeptic newsletter may be used by anyone,
provided attribution is given to the author and the organization.
For further information, contact the Georgia Skeptics through the
Astronomical Society of the Atlantic BBS at (404) 985-0498, or:
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Tucker, Georgia 30084
CROP CIRCLES APPEAR IN ATLANTA, GEORGIA
On August 17, 1991, a formation of three crop circles was observed in
Atlanta, Georgia, near Inman Park. The circles were directly in line
with a prominent nearby radio tower. The circle closest to the tower
was approximately 24 feet in diameter, and the diameter of the middle
circle measured 48 feet. The third circle was the smallest, and featured
A detailed closeup examination of the circles by a team of Georgia
Skeptics investigators revealed that the features considered by crop
circle experts ("cereologists") to be the hallmarks of a "genuine" circle
were present: the circles were formed with uncanny precision, the
stalks were bent close to the ground but were not broken, and the
plants were swirled in a spiral from the center, creating the same
woven and layered effect documented in the Delgado and Andrews
The most unusual thing about these circles was that not only were
there no footprints in the areas adjacent to the crop circles, but the
circles were NOT accompanied by the tram lines which skeptics
frequently say that hoaxers use for access. There was an eerie touch as
well: Near the circle was the carcass of a large bird, which had been
mutilated in a way that brought to mind the phenomenon of cattle
mutilation phenomena. Lying near one of the circles was a piece of a
circuit board from some kind of unknown electrical equipment.
Larry Johnson was able to observe the circles for several days and
confirm two additional criteria for authentic crop circles. The plants
remained bent, in this case despite heavy rainstorms, and continued to
grow in the bent configuration. Unfortunately, the field was cut
before additional testing of parameters such as soil resistivity or
organism levels could be performed, or any "dowsing evidence"
Several years ago, the area where the circles were formed was used as a
campground for "The Gathering of the Tribes" during the Harmonic
Convergence, and the area remains today a popular hangout for New
Agers. Could this be cosmic synchronicity? Could psychic vibrations
have attracted the force responsible for the crop circles?
To be continued . . .
MEETING ANNOUNCEMENT: CROP CIRCLES - A SKEPTIC PERSPECTIVE
The next regular meeting of the Georgia Skeptics will be held on
Sunday, September 15, 1991, at the Steak and Ale Restaurant on Savoy
Drive in Atlanta, Ga.
Larry F. Johnson, a freelance writer and active skeptic whose works
have frequently appeared in the Georgia Skeptic newsletter, will speak
on crop circles, which he frequently refers to as "agrarian
CIRCULAR REASONING: NO RING OF TRUTH IN GRAIN PATTERNS
By Mike Sullivan, North Texas Skeptics
The Metroplex chapter of MUFON, the Mutual UFO Network, played host to
the Crop Circle touring company the evening of April 19th, 1991, at
the Holiday Inn in Northpark, Texas. Preceded by fairly heavy
publicity on radio and in print, MUFON drew some 2000 folks willing to
pay the $12 admission price for non-members; MUFON let in their own
members for $10. A separate admission of $3 was charged to those who
wished to view (not buy) some color prints of the same slides as would
be shown during the 3-hour lecture.
The main attraction was the team of "The Earl of Haddington" and
Professor George Wingfield, President and Director of Research,
respectively, for the "Center for Crop Circle Studies" (CCCS). We are
not told in what area of academia Wingfield earned his professorship
or where he teaches, or what noble deed the Earl (John Haddington) has
performed to gain his royal title. After an introduction by the
MUFON/Metroplex president, the show started and Wingfield took the
stage supported by his tray of 35mm slides.
For anyone unfamiliar with the crop circles that so fascinate the UFO
crowd, they are simply patterns of depressed or bent wheat or similar
long-stalk crops, almost always found in mature, cultivated fields
with fresh tractor ruts. The circles lay neatly in line with the
parallel ruts of the huge tractors used to work the land, with the
wheel tracks leading to the nearby roads clearly visible. In the rare
case where the patterns cut diagonally across ruts, they crisply begin
or end at the edge of one.
The majority of these have been found in the pastoral rolling hills of
England, although Wingfield reports that some have been sighted in the
U.S. Alas, he has no photos of these, as he is so busy with the
lecture tour he doesn't have time to check on every report. Wingfield
also said that he had heard "reports of one circle here in Texas,"
although he hasn't documented that one either.
It should be noted that only one photo was shown of the circles laying
in a field without tractor ruts, and even then two clear walkways into
the pattern were visible despite the oblique angle of Wingfield's
photo. The fact that these patterns almost always appear in fields
that have recently been worked by powerful modern farm tractors, with
paved roads adjacent to the field, doesn't seem to suggest anything at
all to the crop circle promoters. As Wingfield said, "It's almost
like we laid out a clean sheet of graph paper for them, and said "Draw
on it"." Who "them" is, Wingfield doesn't say.
In fact, Wingfield is silent on any conclusion or even a theory of
what or who causes these patterns. Cleverly, he lets the imaginations
of the clearly sympathetic audience run wild, giving them tidbits of
nonsensical imagined connections to religious symbolism, ancient
burial sites, UFOs, Stonehenge, and nearly every New Age buzzword in
What Wingfield did do was go out of his way to explain why he claims
the circles can't be hoaxed. Wingfield has what he considers several
very strong arguments to "positively conclude" that the rings can't be
faked. Or does he? Early on in his presentation, he said "these are
very definitely not hoaxed," but just a minute later said that they
are "almost impossible to hoax." Does that mean he can think of a way
the circles can be hoaxed, as several British investigators have
Most photos show the grain spiraled outward from the center of the
circle, but not always, as we saw several pictures where this was not
the case. Wingfield called these examples "quite odd" and
"unexpected," but didn't doubt that they were "real" crop circles as
The claim that there are "very, very few" eyewitnesses to the circles
being formed is also offered as "proof" that they are "real."
Wingfield said he could count on one hand the number of people he said
had actually witnessed the formation of the patterns, yet he didn't
bother to name them, read their statements, or give any other details
of what would at least be some independent testimony. The fact that
almost no one has seen the circles being made shouldn't surprise
anyone: these fields are in the middle of very rural areas, where
virtually the only residents are the farmers themselves. But in
Wingfield's strange brand of science, not having independent witnesses
is itself a form of proof!
He did show a slide of young Mary Freeman, who Wingfield says saw a
UFO and a beam of light near Stonehenge, and was then abducted by
aliens, taken into their craft and shown pictures of the patterns.
MUFON and CCCS bill themselves as scientific research groups, but they
have no qualms with employing dowsers, channelers and psychics in
their "investigations." These types of people were called upon many
times during the lecture to add "scientific" weight to the CCCS show.
"The dowsing evidence is so strong," Wingfield exclaimed, "and that
really removed any doubt that the circles are real!" Wingfield claims
some of the circles lie along "a node point for Earth energy lines,"
and that the dowsers designate the barbell-shaped two-circle patterns
as "a Ying and Yang, or a good and bad energy field." That Wingfield
names dowsing as "evidence" for anything throws his credibility as a
serious scientific researcher out the window.
As weak as dowsing is as verifiable scientific evidence, Wingfield
then calls on even more unmeasurable claims to make his case:
"Channeling is also straightforward and natural evidence of
intelligence in the formation of the patterns," Wingfield said.
Wingfield listed two mediums, including a map dowser, who visited the
circles with him. One of them, named Rita Gould, Wingfield regarded
as "a respected medium and a very psychic lady."
Gould and Wingfield spent a night sitting in a crop circle, according
to Wingfield, where they reported a "trilling noise." Gould then
spoke to the noise, first commanding it to stop and then coaxing it
toward some bushes. Unfortunately, we only have Wingfield's word on
any of this, since no photos, measurements or recordings of any kind
were made that night.
Wingfield also said later in response to a question that he "thought
time had slowed down while we were in the circle, because what we saw
should have taken longer than our watches told us it did." Again,
you'll have to take his word for this rather confusing statement.
The strong "presence" felt by trance mediums and channelers who visit
the circles also makes Wingfield convinced of the authenticity of the
circles. Of course, Wingfield hasn't been able to scientifically
measure any type of phenomena, but says that he plans to try to do so
if the CCCS can raise more money.
On one occasion Wingfield reported that an attempt was made to film a
circle being formed, dubbed Project White Crow. Nothing happened.
For eight days the White Crow team kept 24-hour vigil on a field where
they "thought a circle might pop up"; alas, no circles, noises, energy
fields, strange lights, UFOs - nothing. But several days later,
Wingfield claims, a large circle did appear some distance away, which
he says is proof that Gould's influence attracted whatever is causing
Wingfield also mentions, almost as an afterthought, that the circles
have had physical healing powers in at least one instance. This
remarkable claim went unsupported with the name of the person involved
or the ailment of which they were rid. If that claim alone were to be
clearly and independently documented, CCCS and MUFON would attract the
interest of researchers everywhere. And of course, that is the reason
Wingfield states he does not pursue the healing claim: CCCS doesn't
want other scientists getting in their way.
Beyond the 100 or so slides Wingfield showed of these quite
mechanical-looking patches of mashed grain, he offered not a single
shred of verifiable physical evidence to suggest any paranormal cause.
No scientific measurements of the supposed "energy field," no
interviews with the claimed eyewitnesses, no closeup photos of the
areas where the patterns intersect the tractor ruts, no examination of
the grain by a qualified agriculturalist, no precise mapping of the
alignment of the patterns, no soil tests, no magnetic field tests,
nothing: just snapshots of squashed crops.
I wasn't quite sure where Wingfield was trying to lead all of us at
the Holiday Inn. He proffered no theory of his own, but sprinkled his
comments with tantalizing one-liners like these: "Maybe the circles
are trying to tell us something"; "It's the symbol of unity
consciousness; the essense of the New Age"; "I was beginning to think
in terms of UFOs"; and perhaps best of all, "Especially New Age people
would go and sit in these circles - make of that what you will."
Wingfield's only thrust was to convince the audience that it is
impossible to produce these types of circles by means of a hoax, but
he does believe that there is some type of "intelligence" behind them.
In at least one case, that intelligence was a BBC film crew.
In October of 1989, the BBC asked Andrews to observe a crop circle
they told Andrews they had found. Andrews visited the pattern and
pronounced it genuine. The BBC then told Andrews that they had made
the circle themselves by shuffling their feet while linking arms; they
had easily walked into the field along the tractor ruts to avoid
In the end, Andrews had to resort to saying that the circles looked
"too perfect" to be genuine after all. No wonder the Earl of
Haddington referred to Andrews and Pat Delgado, co-authors of the
pro-circle book _Circular_Evidence_, as "the wretched Delgado and
Haddington's portion of the lecture was virtually incomprehensible.
He showed mostly the same slides as Wingfield, except his were shown
upside-down. He added some shots of some old churches and cemeteries,
religious pictographs, and the ancient mural drawings on the chalk
cliffs of Dover, all of which he said were being "pointed to" by the
patterns. He also had no firm statement to make on the cause of the
circles, but kept emphasizing what he saw as clear religious
He mentioned that the date June 6 kept coming up in the appearances of
the circles, and he expected some huge event to happen on June 6,
1991, having something to do with the Virgin Mary. Haddington's vivid
imagination found the letters "EVE" in one of the patterns, and a
picture of a flying saucer as viewed from inside a cave is seen in the
famous horse mural on the chalk cliffs, at least in Haddington's mind!
A short question-and-answer session followed the talk. Totally
credulous audience members asked how the Hopi Indian tribe interpreted
the patterns ("We have a lot of work to do there," Wingfield
answered); had Wingfield used his physical voice or did he channel to
the "trilling" sound he heard with Gould in the circle ("No, I just
spoke!" Wingfield replied), etc.
Best of all, when asked when they thought the circles would begin
appearing again this year, Haddington replied cheerily, "I suspect the
circles will start up again just as soon as George and I get back to
England"! No doubt!
Wingfield is surprised to find "practice" circles nearby other larger
ones; he's mystified that the patterns only appear on freshly-worked,
mature fields with clear tractor ruts; he finds compelling evidence
for paranormal forces that sections of the patterns are connected by
clear "walk-ways"; when a circle is less than perfectly round, he
accepts it as "a learning experience for them," but says that the
precision and circularity of the better ones "proves" they are not
man-made; he wonders aloud why they are often aligned with magnetic
North or some prominent object in the distance; he notes with wonder
that no circle has ever spanned two adjacent fields, a road, a tree
line or a property marker; and when a country farmer takes in $20,000
cash in admission for visitors to his newly patterned fields,
Wingfield sees no possible motive factor for a hoaxer.
As someone who lived amid the cornfields of Illinois, I know how easy
it is to disappear into a stand of grain, how to comfortably walk
between the neatly machine-planted rows without detection, and how the
crop is often so dense and resilient that one can lose sight of a
companion less than six feet away. In other words, the crops
themselves provide perfect cover for a hoaxer, whether they use a
powerful farm tractor or only their feet, as the BBC crew had done.
As usual with the UFO crowd, a conclusion has been drawn absent any
physical evidence to support it. Wingfield and Haddington are
convinced that some paranormal force has formed these quite harmless
pictures in the pastures. Then the facts to support their conclusion
are invented or selected as needed, even if it means calling in
dowsers and mediums.
At about $12 per head admission, plus the books, magazines, cassettes,
videotapes and T-shirt sales and many new membership dues and
donations taken in by MUFON that night, it's clear that the traveling
CCCS road show is run as a business. It was sad to see nearly 200
people suspend their reasoning and swallow the Wingfield and
Haddington act in one gulp. Until the source of the circles is
exposed, Haddington, Wingfield, CCCS, and MUFON will continue to lead
those unquestioning people down their garden path--or perhaps in
--The above article was reprinted, with permission, from the May-June
1991 issue of _The_Skeptic_, the newsletter of the North Texas
Skeptics, P.O. Box 111794, Carrollton, Texas 75011-1794, (214)
JOE NICKELL ADDRESSES GEORGIA SKEPTICS
On July 20, 1991, CSICOP Fellow Dr. Joe Nickell addressed a gathering
of Georgia Skeptics, visitors, and guests at the Chamblee Civic
Center. Now with the University of Kentucky, Dr. Nickell has also
been a professional private investigator and stage magician. He is
noted for his thorough scientific analyses of reputedly supernatural
phenomea, and is the author of _Inquest on the Shroud of Turin_,
_Secrets of the Supernatural_, and numerous articles for popular and
scholarly publications. Everyone enjoyed the talk immensely.
Dr. Nickell spoke on how he had used technical and investigative
techniques to solve cases such as the haunted stairs at Mackenzie
House, spontaneous human combustion, the two Will Wests, and
the famous Shroud of Turin. He explained how some extraordinary
claims can be demystified by duplicating the phenomena, as he
demonstrated with the Nazca drawings and the Shroud of Turin.
At a pot-luck supper prior to the meeting, and at other times
throughout the weekend, members were able to meet Dr. Nickell
personally, and talk to him about his many fascinating investigations
and other experiences.
On the Monday after the meeting, Rick Moen, Larry Johnson, and
Becky Long accompanied Dr. Nickell on a visit to the Homicide
Division of the Atlanta Police to investigate the appearance of
human blood on the walls and floors of an elderly couple's home in
1987. (Look for more on this in a future issue of Georgia Skeptic.)
Appreciation is expressed to all those who helped make Dr.
Nickell's visit so successful and enjoyable. In particular, our special
thanks to Larry Johnson and Nancy Moulton, Rick Moen, Keith
Parsons, Frank and Mary Anne Long, Gertrude Phillips, Ed Oram,
Dot Larson, Priscilla Vandecar, Hugh Trotti, Ken and Karla
Poshedly, Dave Werner, Rip Strautman, and Gary Thompson.
Without the contributions of these individuals, and many others,
the event would not have been such a success.
SKEPTICS BEHOLD WILLIAM COOPER
by Larry F. Johnson
Introduction From the Editor:
On June 22, 1991, several skeptical individuals donated $12 each to a
dubious cause by attending an afternoon lecture by William Cooper. In
return for our donation, we heard how the Bilderburgers, the Council
on Foreign Relations, the Jesuits, and the Trilateral Commision form a
secret government which somehow rules this nation. As evidence for
these claims, we were told that UFO's can be seen flying on a regular
schedule above Groom Lake (Cooper doesn't know if they are "ours" or
"theirs", all he knows are the "facts"), and we were shown a photo of
what appeared to be fog rising from a lake and told it was a mile-long
UFO. We viewed the "real" film of the J.F. Kennedy assasination and
were told that the driver who appeared to be pointing his finger at
Kennedy was actually shooting him because of his plans to dissolve the
CIA and reveal violations of the Constitution. We saw "evidence" of
military bases on the Moon and Mars and were told that the moon has an
atmosphere. I learned how the government agency by which I am
employed is probably involved in cattle mutilations for purposes of
studying radiation levels related to UFOs, and we heard how the
government is capable of "beaming" thoughts into people's heads.
During most of his lecture, Cooper was remarkably unanimated and
appeared bored with his own lecture, showing little if any of his
reputed McCarthy-like showmanship. However, when Larry Johnson
prefaced a question by identifying himself as a skeptic, Cooper came
to life for the first time in over two hours, and became excited to
the point of profanity.
One of the skeptics present later stated, "The UFO portion of the talk
was the mildest, most reasonable stuff he said. Most things he said
were so blatantly absurd that the message reminded me of the Firesign
Theater: Everything You Know is Wrong. In the few instances I agreed
with him, I questioned whether my beliefs were rational after all."
In the following article, Larry Johnson provides an introduction to
William Cooper for those not "fortunate" enough to have shared our
The "UFOlogy" community has had more than its share of conspiracy
theorists. Moore, Shandera, Bennewitz, and Lear come to mind when the
subject of the elaborate UFO coverup fantasies comes up. The common
thread running through all the stories is that the US Government has
been aware of and in contact with "Alien Life Forms" (ALFs- no
kidding), or Extraterrestrial Biological Entities (EBEs) for years,
and that a high level coverup and campaign of disinformation has been
in effect since at least the end of World War II.
William Moore's contribution to the mythos was the Roswell Crash and
MJ-12 (the alleged conspiracy which disposed of the alien bodies after
the crash, and which carries on the cover-up).
John Lear (son of the Lear jet designer) upped the ante with tales of
genetic experiments, abductions by aliens with the tacit approval of
the U.S. Government, and the rumor that "Area 51" (a test site in
Nevada) was a landing strip for UFOs. Lear also introduced the element
of right-wing paranoid fantasy into the picture, which was later
pre-empted by Bill Cooper with an enthusiastic vengeance.
Milton William Cooper popped onto the scene in December of 1988, and
at first contented himself with providing verification for Lear's
stories. Cooper claimed that while working as a quartermaster on a
naval intelligence team for Admiral Bernard Clary, he was shown
documents proving the contacts between the Government and aliens.
In May of 1989 Cooper's claims began getting even more bizarre. He
claimed that Truman had engineered a secret world government,
including the US and the Soviet Union, and that this body was
controlled by the Bilderbergers (which is- in the real world- an
international business group which first met at the Bilderberger hotel
in Switzerland). He further claimed that the conspiracy had
assassinated former Secretary of State James Forrestal because he
threatened to expose the conspiracy.
The elements of the story became weirder and weirder, including Nazi
scientists, the Kennedy assassination, the Trilateral commission,
secret bases on the Moon and Mars (which according to Cooper, have
breathable atmospheres), and the Anti-Christ.
To outline the whole thing briefly would be impossible, but suffice it
to say Cooper's story is on the outer edge of the fringe. In addition
to the above Cooper continues to carry on polemical warfare against
the rest of the UFOlogists, often having the effect of making Linda
Moulton Howe and her livestock mutilation fixation, and John Lear with
his human-eating aliens seem quite sane by comparison.
I found Cooper's talk fascinating and useful for the following
The first is that it reinforced a theory of mine that in most cases
the validity of a claim is secondary when it comes to attracting
followers to an idea or ideology. This holds true at all levels of
plausability (although Cooper is definitely at one end of the spectrum
as far as plausability goes). Credulity seems to be second nature to
people, while skepticism has to be worked at. (See the Summer 1991
Skeptical Inquirer article by Bruce Bower entitled "True Believers"-
reprinted from Science News)
In most cases the guru in question provides a comforting answer to why
things are going wrong in the prospective convert's life. In Cooper's
case the hook is that this international New World Order conspiracy is
withholding technology which could create a paradise on Earth for
their own selfish interests.
Even with twenty years experience in observing fringe groups I still
initially found it surprising that there is any such thing as a
"Cooperite". The appeal of Cooper to the sort of credulous, glaze-eyed
syncophants he's trying to attract is that he meets two needs: hope of
a better world, and the feeling that they are possessed of information
limited to the elite few (the guy who spoke to Becky Long introduced
himself as an "enlightened individual"). The last thing these folks
are going to do is call an astronomer and ask about the "moon's
atmosphere". At most they'll follow Cooper's suggestion and pore over
NASA photos with a magnifier until they see whatever patterns they
want to see.
The second thing it reinforced for me is that skepticism does NOT
entail affording all ideas the same level of credibility until all the
facts are chased down. There has to be an initial filtering process
which whispers in one's ear that a particular claim veers so far away
from the standard model that trying to pin down all the details would
be a waste of time. When Cooper began ranting at me the implication
was that I was a priori rejecting his ideas without checking them out
(hence the lecture on "true skepticism" versus my fake skepticism). I
actually tried to suspend disbelief for a few seconds and see if I
thought I was being dogmatic and close-minded. Then reality snapped
back into place. Bill Cooper, Lyndon LaRouche, L. Ron Hubbard, etc.
put forward theories so elaborate and so long-winded that trying to
apply Occam's Razor to their whole body of writing could become a
The final way I saw it was as theater. Bizarre theater, but theater
nonetheless. In the seventies I was involved with a local theater
group which dabbled a lot in Berthold Brecht's critical theories.
Brecht thought that the playwright and the director had a
responsibility to make it clear to the audience throughout the
performance that they were watching a play, and to not allow the
fantasy that the events were real to set in. To this end, Brechtian
directors would make all the machinery of theater visible, from the ropes
controlling the curtains, to the lighting. They even had stage hands move the
props around in plain view. I came to the conclusion that the methods were
ineffective because the audience wanted to be in a fantasy world, and all they
would do is expand the boundaries of this fantasy world to incorporate the
So it doesn't matter that Cooper adopts a hokey proletarian stage
presence, spouts transparently pseudo-scientific nonsense, and shows
video-tapes then makes claims unsupported by what the audience has
just seen. The audience was already prepared to go un-critically into
a fantasy world, and despite how silly Cooper's claims seems to us,
his showmanship and imagination make contact with most of the people
in the audience.
Cooper has a new book out, _Behold a Pale Horse_, which is evidently
selling very well in the New Age bookstores. I hope it is curiosity
and sense of humor that motivate people to buy the book. If
substantial numbers of people take the guy seriously, we skeptics have
even more work in front of us than I'd imagined.
THE DOLMEN MYSTERY
By Hugh H. Trotti, Georgia Skeptics
Many mysterious things exist which, though often taken over by the "true
believers" as evidence for various peculiar causes,can sometimes be
explained in ways which are less exotic. Such explanations are always
be simple. Some times they may be quite complex, and not always
amenable to attempts to use the "Occam's Razor" approach. An example
of a complex explanation might be the "continental drift" theory now
dominant in geological thinking.
Some of the group of "ancient mysteries" that invite comment from time
to time can be explained by fairly simple means if one gives the
subject at hand some thought - and if one approaches ancient subjects
without an implicit conviction that ancient peoples were less
intelligent than the modern variety, or were "all brawn and no
The "simple cause" solution, may be demonstrated by one of the most
impressive mysteries of the ancient world: the "dolmen". Being a
"megalithic" structure, the dolmen was constructed of stones, and many
such structures were old when the classical Greeks and later the
Romans arose to make their imprints upon history. The dolmen was
composed of a huge capstone (it could be as heavy as 90 or 100 tons!)
which served as a horizontal "roof" and was supported by smaller
stones placed under it, thus creating a central area which might
(according to many scholars) be used as a common tribal tomb. Some
examples may have at one time been covered with earth which has eroded
away over the centuries, while others may have always stood above
ground level. A typical structure might look like the drawing in the
insert above, and be very impressive in size. The central area created
by the stones supporting the roof was not necessarily completely
Some scholars, considering how such structures might have been made,
have theorized that ancient peoples piled up a mound of earth over and
around placed supporting stones, and then hauled the huge capstone to
the top of the mound, being careful to center it correctly over the
buried supports. While this method is not necessarily impossible, it
is possible to propose a way that would be fairly easy to construct a
First, find a large many-ton stone resting upon its side, perhaps one that
was left by a retreating glacier many ages ago. It
should be on a hilltop or at least a slight rise to prevent subsequent erosion
from burying it.
Second, find at least three smaller stones to use as supports, which can
be moved by only a few people and which will be
fairly near the site of our proposed capstone to lesson the effort. Bring
them to the capstone.
Third, create a tunnel large enough to admit one of the support stones and
people to move it, underneath one side of the
capstone, and not quite to its center. Then move one support stone to the
end of the tunnel.
Fourth and fifth, repeat step three, creating two more tunnels at regular
spacings around the capstone, and placing a support stone at the end
of each. Position the support stone at the end of each tunnel before
digging out another tunnel, to make sure the weight of our huge
capstone is well supported.
Sixth, when at least three such stone supports have been completed at
the end of three separate tunnels and placed so as to carefully
balance the capstone above the them, remove the dirt between the
tunnels. This step will be undertaken by the least
popular members of the work team!
Seventh, clear away the remaining dirt from around the structure, to
create a new and lower ground level, even with the bases of the
Since the immediate resulting stone structure would be below the
surrounding soil level, it might seem that erosion would quickly fill
in and cover the structure. But this problem is easily solved if the
prevailing theory of the use of the dolmen is correct. If these were
tribal places for the disposal of the dead (or their bones) - and
there is no reason to think otherwise - then it follows that the tribe
would return again and again to these places. And that means that the
problem of erosion and in-filling would be noticed fairly soon after
construction. The site might have to be abandoned, and another place
However, the obvious solution is to simply remove all the soil from
around the area involved, if the site seems practicable for this. This
solution is by no means past the ability or mental capacity of early
peoples. And if thestructure is created at the top of an elevated
place, utilizing the fortunate find of a monolith left by a glacier,
the quantity of soil to be removed would be minimal. Lacking such
fortune, it evidently remains easier to move large quantities of soil
than to move great monoliths. (We know that other peoples built mounds
in North America, earthen defenses around European forts, and even
perhaps the "hill" of Glastonbury Tor in the south of England.) The
movement of large quantities of earth is therefore not unknown to the
past, and the great stone structures speak for themselves.
UPDATE ON GELLER VS. RANDI LAWSUIT
On May 11, 1991, James "The Amazing" Randi issued an open letter
informing the skeptical community that he was being sued by Uri Geller
for $15 million, and requesting their help due to the extreme
financial hardship Geller's actions have imposed. Along with other
leaders of the skeptics movement, Randi believes that the lawsuit is
frivolous and is intended to break him financially and silence his
right to speak the truth. As of the time of the open letter, Randi's
legal expenses had already reached $155,000. He has exhausted all of
his personal savings and all monies owed to him, and now faces losing
An original founder of CSICOP in 1976, Randi had served on the Executive
Committee since that time. Randi was perhaps the most widely-known and
widely-quoted of all of CSICOP's illustrious members, and has made
incalculable contributions to popularizing the skeptics' movement.
Among the many honors bestowed on Randi in recognition of his
accomplishments are the 1986 MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Grant, and
the American Physical Society (organization of physicists) "Forum
Award" for "his unique defense of science and the scientific method .
. .against pseudoscience, frauds, and charlatans . . ."
Randi is being sued by Geller for his statements to a reporter for the
Paris-based International Herald Tribune that (1) Geller has fooled
some scientists, and (2) His tricks are the same kind that used to be
on the back of cereal boxes when Randi was a kid. CSICOP was also
named in this lawsuit on the grounds that Randi was acting as their
agent and was authorized to speak on their behalf.
Randi's open letter to friends and fellow skeptics was followed by an open
letter from Geller to the local skeptics groups. The letter began with
the statement, "Since the early 70's, James Randi has been trying to
debunk me," and goes on to describe at length how Randi's "outrageous,
libelous, and defaming lies" have caused him "incalculable damage".
The letter expounds on how hurt Geller has felt, but does not
specifically address the two charges of the lawsuit described in
Randi's open letter, that Geller had fooled scientists or performed
tricks like those on cereal boxes. A rebuttal to Geller's letter was
issued by Randi on May 25, 1991. The full texts of the Randi and
Geller letters, as well as the CSICOP response to these matters, may
be obtained from the Georgia Skeptics upon request.
In June 1989, Randi and CSICOP were sued by Eldon Byrd for statements about
Byrd's personal life allegedly made by Randi at a May 1988 meeting of
the New York Area Skeptics and in an interview published in a June
1988 issue of Twilight Zone. This case remains pending. In September
1989, CSICOP and Randi were sued by Uri Geller for libel, slander, and
invasion of privacy for statements allegedly made about Geller at the
aforementioned meeting of New York Area Skeptics and in the Twilight
Zone interview. This suit was ultimately dismissed for untimely
CSICOP's insurer has denied Randi coverage in any of these lawsuits.
CSICOP also denies that Randi was speaking on their behalf, maintaining
that Randi neither sought nor obtained approval from the Executive Council
before making the alleged comments that are the subject of the Byrd and
Geller lawsuits. The Committee also wishes to avoid establishing the future
precedent that CSICOP could be exposed to a lawsuit every time a member
of the Executive Council spoke out on some issue.
Randi resigned from CSICOP after he was denied coverage under their
liability policy, stating that he wished to spare them further involvement
in such suits. Many believe that Geller has already scored a
substantial victory by driving a wedge between Randi and CSICOP.
Although as an organization CSICOP does not accept that Randi was
speaking on their behalf in these matters, and is unable to provide
reimbursement from their insurance carrier, many individual members have
expressed their support and offered their assistance in various ways. Robert
Steiner, of the Bay Area Skeptics, has opened an account to allow Randi's
friends and supporters to donate funds to assist in his defense. Please
send your contributions to:
The James Randi Fund, c/o Bob Steiner
P.O. Box 659
El Cerrito, CA 94530
Robert A. Steiner, National President (1988-1989) of the Society of
American Magicians stated categorically, June 16th, 1991, that Uri
Geller does magic tricks which are well known to those who study
magic. These tricks are described in the vast literature associated
with the art of magic. Steiner further stated that Uri Geller is a
skilled, talented and creative performer, but there is no validated
evidence that this is of a supernatural nature.
Along with numerous other individuals, engineers, computer
professionals, businessmen and women and scholars, I endorse Robert A.
Steiner's statement and believe that the James Randi Fund is a
----Becky Long, Executive Officer, Georgia Skeptics
STRIEBER BIDS UNKIND FAREWELL TO UFOLOGY
Whitley Strieber, author of UFO abduction best-sellers _Communion_ and
_Transformation_, has shocked and angered countless ufologists with
his recent statements on national television and in his concluding
"Farewell" published in the final issue of his Communion Letter.
Strieber criticized the news media for "trying to cast me as a
self-proclaimed alien abductee," ignoring the fact that his book
_Communion_ explicitly made such claims. After acquiring an extensive
following among the "believers", as well as significant financial
proceeds from his books, public appearances, and movie contract,
Strieber's parting message states, " The so-called 'UFO-ologists'
(sic) are probably the cruellest (sic), nastiest and craziest people I
have ever encountered. Their interpretation of the visitor experience
is rubbish from beginning to end. The 'abduction reports' they
generate are not real. They are artifacts of hypnosis and cultural
conditioning." He further writes, "I am certain that we are not
dealing with alien encounters as defined by the UFO community. . . To
have a 'typical abduction encounter,' you must almost certainly first
be exposed to UFO stories and literature and/or be hypnotized by an
'expert' who has himself been exposed to, or advocates, this belief
system . . . Hypnotism by UFO experts and the psychologists who
support them does not open the door to the truth. It opens the door
to fantasies based on the modern folklore of the alien and the flying
saucer . . . and it opens the door to fear."
"I am not a UFO researcher," writes Strieber, "and do not wish to endure
the continued media attack that that is associated with being involved in
the field." According to an editorial by Dennis Stacy in the July 1991
_MUFON_Journal_, by Strieber's own admission he made upwards of 250
media appearances in the course of publicizing _Communion_ alone.
Stacy comments, "If same were nothing but relentless attacks, one
might be forgiven for thinking that he might have been a bit battered
and bruised by, say, media appearance one or two hundred and withdrawn
from the spotlight accordingly. But he did not. He went on to write
Transformation and Majestic and to suffer through countless additional
media appearances, or attacks, as he has it."
The attack on Ufology is a blanket one, for Strieber states, " The press
and the UFO community stand together against further progress in the field.
Until organizations like MUFON and CUFOS disintegrate or become
discredited, and the press is allowed to discover that there are people
with strong and respected credentials working on the subject, further
progress is unlikely."
The farewell ends with a touch of mysticism. "Ironically," says Strieber,
"if aliens are here, we are not going to find them in the sky. Our own
minds are where we will find them, for the mind is the door to their
world - a more real, more true, more alive world than ours . . .I know
what they are, and yet . . . I don't. It is perfectly possible that they
are from the future, from within us and from another world all at
ASTRONOMY VS. ASTROLOGY ON ECLIPSE DAY
On the morning of July 1991 solar eclipse, astronomer Eric Greene
appeared along with an astrologer on WKLS radio ("96 Rock").
Representing the Astronomical Society of the Atlantic, Eric offered
information on the scientific aspects of the event. Eric is the sysop
of the BBS shared by the Georgia Skeptics, and an active "skeptical
curmudgeon" on the UFO Echo and other credulous electronic discussion
The astrologer took himself seriously, as did most of the callers.
The majority of the calls during the program were for the astrologer,
who gave copius advice and predictions on how the solar eclipse would
influence the different signs of the zodiac, and what effects people
should watch out for. His words of wisdom included a statement that
the astrological effects would increase the closer one is to the path
of totality, or if one looks at the eclipse. Eric noted that the disc
jockey shook his head and rolled his eyes at some of the calls the
astrologer was getting. When the astrologer said that eclipse day
would be a particularly good day for Libras, Eric was tempted to point
out that many Libras would probably die sometime during the day. Eric
said afterwards that he especially enjoyed the woman who called and
urged him to "debunk that other guy."
At the end of the program, the astrologer was invited back.
NEW AGE IN COLLEGE
by William E. Gordon, Jr., Th.D.
Editor: Dr. Gordon received a request to review a book which he
was told was being used in a psychology class at Georgia State
University to help the students become "self-intimate", and to
provide his professional opinion as to whether some of the exercises
recommended in the book were religious. He provided the following
I have just finished reading_Internal_Affairs:_A_Journalkeeping_Workbook
_for_Self-Intimacy_ by Kay Leigh Hagan. It is my professional opinion
as a theologian that some of the exercises are religious in nature.
Hagan, for example, recommends that the reader engage in meditation. She
states that this meditation may be aided by "having a simple ritual" to
help "focus attention." Two of the rituals she recommends, among others,
are "lighting a candle or some incense" (Hagan, p. 15).
In her book, Hagan appears to be using meditation in a manner similar to
many in the New Age. According to J. Gordon Melton in New Age Encyclopedia
meditation is used as follows by those involved in the movement:
Meditation is the term applied to a number of spiritual
practices, all of which have as their basic objective the
altering of normal waking consciousness with the goal of
ultimately transforming individual consciousness in a more
worthy direction. Meditation has also been described as a
means of looking within and discovering the inner self, the
soul or spirit. (Melton, p. 284)
Compare the above quote from Melton with the following statements by Hagan:
In other words, intuition is a direct "connection" with the
inner nature. We might say we are communicating with and from
the soul, spirit, or psyche. . . .
Images, symbols, meditation, play, and other nonlinear
approaches sidestep the sentry of the rational mind and enable
us to follow the subtle and often elusive path to the
subconscious, where our intuitive aspects reside. (Hagan, pp.
When Hagan writes about intuition and meditation she is using the terms in
a religious sense. I know of no other way to interpret her statements when
she refers to them as being in a spiritual realm. For example, she writes,
"The energy you create and draw upon to do internal work takes you out of
your body and into your intuitive, spiritual realm" (Hagan, p. 41). While
some may argue that it is possible to remove meditation from its original
religious content, I do not believe Hagan has achieved this.
She also advocates that the reader make use of "oracles" and "shrines."
These two terms are loaded with religious meaning and symbolism. Hagan
herself refers to the religious nature of these terms when she writes,
"Each of them calls forth different aspects of our spiritual nature"
(Hagan, p. 64).
While helping students achieve self-knowledge may be a worthy goal for the
university, I do not believe a state school should encourage students to
use religious activities to achieve these goals. Some may argue that the
transformation that Hagan advocates and the New Age tools she uses are only
psychological and not religious. But Melton as well as other experts
While the New Age Movement is a social movement, it is also an
inherently religious one, though many New Agers might prefer
the label "spiritual," as the word religion carries negative
connotation for some. In either case, the movement is
centered upon the experience of a personal spiritual-
psychological transformation that is identical to what is
generally termed a "religious experience." (Melton, p. xiii)
What I really find objectionable is that the students are being encouraged
to attain "self-intimacy" by using the tarot cards. (See p. 64, 72-73) The
tarot cards are used in the practice of occult divination. One does not
have to be an expert on the occult to discern this since Hagan describes
the cards as follows: "This deck has seventy-eight cards representing an
ancient Western occult psychological and philosophical system" (Hagan, p.
In addition to tarot cards, Hagan also encourages the reader to engage in
other forms of occult divination. She advocates the use of other "oracles"
such as "I Ching," and "Rune stones." From the Eastern religions she
borrows the use of "shrines" (Hagan, p. 64). There should be no question of
the religious significance of these "oracles" since Hagan writes:
Oracles are a form of meditation and spiritual play. The
magical, prophetic power claimed by the ancient oracle-user is
real; I have a profound respect for the oracles' ability to
illuminate hidden aspects of my life. (Hagan, p. 70)
She also confirms the religious significance of "shrines." She writes,
"Often, shrines symbolize my deeper spiritual concerns and provide a safe
space for me to encounter them" (Hagan, p. 77).
Hagan writes, "The Elder speaks through oracles, such as tarot cards, the I
Ching, and the rune stones, all ancient symbol systems common to nearly
every culture in the world" (Hagan, 64). This statement is simply not true!
While the occult may be an alternative religion in the United States, it is
a religious system with its own practices, rites, and belief system. I am
deeply disturbed that the students in your class are being encouraged to
engage in practices used in occult divination while attending a psychology
class at a state school. I am also concerned that many of the students may
not be aware of the religious or occultic nature of some of these
Hagan refers to the Eastern belief in reincarnation of the soul as a fact:
The symbols represented the cycles of nature, the structure of
society and community, the journey of the soul through its
many evolutions and incarnations, and the same fascinating
link with the collective unconscious held in our dream images.
(Hagan, p. 70)
In conclusion, I would like to state that I believe your concerns are well
founded. In my opinion, many of the exercises found in Internal Affairs
are religious in nature while others are also occultic. If the students
are being encouraged to engage in the activities mentioned in the book,
then I believe that a violation of their first amendment rights has
occurred. The constitutional separation of church and state applies to all
religious systems. It applies to the Eastern and occult religions as well
as to the more traditional ones.