Pick of the Crop

P. D. Rendall. Cereal Killers, The Memoirs of a Crop Circle Researcher: Book One, The Innocent Years, 1988-1991. Past-Track Publications, 2003.

This is one of the most informative books about the crop circle phenomenon I have ever come across. It is also one of the funniest books I have read about any fortean phenomena. Peter Rendall is an insider, in at the crop circle phenomenon from the beginning, originally as one of Terence Meaden's supporters, prepared to do the legwork of travelling all over the south of England in search of circles.

Although initially a strong supporter of Meaden's 'vortex' theory of the meteorological origin of the phenomenon, as he examined more and more circles (and squares, triangles, spirals, rhomboids everything except cubes, it would seem he became less and less convinced. Rendalls attempts to warn Meaden that his theory was being stretched beyond reason failed, as the Doctor hung on desperately to his 'ownership' of the crop circle phenomenon. Eventually he became almost as divorced from the reality of the situation as the eager-believers in alien circle-makers, or those who believed that the circles were manifestations of the goddess Gaia. However, at the last moment Meaden retreated from a position that was becoming increasingly insupportable.

There are a hundred-and-one fascinating and amusing anecdotes in this book, such as the 'mysterious' noise that was recorded when a circle was supposedly being created. This was identified as everything from a unidentified natural phenomenon to ultrasound waves from a spaceship, until Rendall identified it as the engine noise of a particularly unusual locomotive on a nearby railway line. He is a railway signalling engineer, so he recognised it instantly.

We also get further hints of the class-based nature of circle research, with upper-middle class townies ruthlessly exploiting the agricultural working-class heroes who were slogging around dark and damp fields at all hours to provide them with the material for their books; and Rendall's encounter with Jim Schnabel gives an interesting slant of the latter's book, Round in Circles.

We get fascinating insights into the characters and quirks of well-known croppies, and even a glimpse of the author's own love-life! Although the crop circle phenomenon is by its nature ideally suited to long term observation and recording procedures, the researchers described here, for some reason (perhaps not unconnected with the inability of a good proportion of the people involved to run a piss-up in a brewery) never seemed to produce any useful data.

But above all there is the dire warning to never let a Japanese TV crew into your life - they will wreck it, scupper your plans, steal your research, drink your coffee and slip away with not even a 'sayonara'. And we find out how 'Busty' Taylor got his nickname.

For the real grassroots story on crop circles this is the book you need to read and this is only part one, I hope we do not have too long to find out what happened after the innocence was lost. - John Rimmer, from Magonia 84, March 2004.
  • Although this is described as 'Book One' I have never been able to trace a subsequent volume from this author. Do any of our readers have further information?

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