The Bluffer’s Bluff

Saturday the third July 1994 dawned clear, bright and sunny in Pentlow, Suffolk. The birds sang lustily as though awakening to a special day and indeed they were right that this was the occasion when Jim Schnabel was going to give an exhibition, demonstrating beyond all doubt that he, as claimed in his book 'Going round in circles', was the perpetrator of the Celtic Necklace (or as some would call it the Charm Bracelet) found to the West of Silbury Hill on the morning of Thursday 17 August 1992.

I had arrived the previous evening and mentally was all prepared to pack my bags and walk away from this phenomenon if Schnabel could prove to me conclusively that he had indeed made the Celtic Necklace. I have on many occasions 'gone away' for a few days, leaving the phenomenon behind me, only to be drawn back by all manner of inconsistencies for which, strive as I might, I could find no logical or rational answer. This was going to be a major test and one which would determine my future role, for together with Ralph Noyes, John Haddington and many others, I believed he was going to attempt to reconstruct this wondrous formation.

I was prepared to give Schnabel a fair hearing\demonstration.

This report therefore is written with the aim of being as dispassionate as possible.

Schnabel on May 27 1993 had attended a meeting of the Suffolk CCCS and after answering questions had accepted Montague Keen's invitation to perform this feat (or so I had understood) in one of Monty's fields at School Barn Farm, Pentlow, Suffolk. Montague also kindly asked people to send him requests for particular features from the Celtic Necklace or other formations that they wanted replicated.

I requested a two inch wide semi-circular band going ten foot four inches into the crop each edge starting from a shaft (see Peter Baillie's diagram). If Diana Clift and I had not seen the band cross a tramline we would never have spotted it as the crop closed over it so completely it was not visible where it met the shaft. (The effect was similar to flying over a forest of trees, the canopy of which obliterates the forest floor beneath.)

A researcher, having taken many spectacular photographs of the floor pattern of the Celtic Necklace requested a replication of the special four layer effect he had recorded on film.

Imagine therefore my surprise when Monty Keen told me that Schnabel was NOT going to reproduce the Celtic Necklace, NOR was he going to reproduce my request NOR was he going to attempt the particular layering effect. The reason he gave for the latter was that it was impossible to achieve such an effect in immature crop. Little did he know that only the previous day I had observed EXACTLY THE SAME EFFECT in the startlingly beautiful Goodworth Clatford formation in immature wheat in Hampshire. Not only had I observed that very effect but I had also seen the most breathtakingly complex interweaving of stems as the radially laid wheat burst from the circle, meeting the outside ring, and creating the most elaborate interlacing in the springy undamaged crop. When I later recounted this to him, he brushed it aside and quickly changed the subject for a safer one.

As Saturday morning wore on, the barbecue under Busty Taylor's supervision was prepared, and sandwiches, plateful after plateful appeared to feed the expectant observers, many of whom like Stanley, Sue and Bengie Morcom, Una Dawood, Jo Holland, Andrew Winn, Colette Dowell, Busty Taylor, Peter Sorenson (in charge of recording the event on video) and others, had travelled some considerable distant to witness this event, together with many members from the local Essex and Suffolk branches, including Dr Lester Smith's companion who had been with Dr Smith when he had the healing experience in 'Brian' at Alton Barnes last summer. Dr Smith aged 88 sadly died last November inspired to the end by his experience in Wiltshire.

The appointed hour for Schnabel's arrival of one thirty came and went, two o'clock also passed. Had he funked the issue, had he backed away from the challenge? The general opinion was NO, that was not the making of the man. That he does not shun publicity is clear. At two thirty he arrived, anxious to get on with the job. How brave of him to subject himself to this test in front of a crowd of onlookers whose antagonism was barely disguised beneath a polite exterior. How could he win?

a) He had not endeared himself to many of us by his scurrilous and inaccurate attack on our colleagues in his book.

b) If he produced a formation of such immaculate quality that we would in all honesty have to admit that he WAS the creator of the Celtic Necklace, many people including me would be forced to pack our bags and seek other employment and some people being so severely disillusioned might well vent their wrath upon him;

c) if he made a mess of it and failed to live up to his claims, he would be ridiculed in front of every one.

Several penetrating questions were put to him concentrating on the theme of 'what was his reason for not replicating the Celtic Necklace exactly'? That he had even claimed the Celtic Necklace as one of his efforts in the first place was such a mind rocking statement to have made, that clearly nothing less than an attempt at a reproduction would be acceptable. Yet despite the fact that most people had believed he would be reproducing, or at least making an attempt at reproducing the formation in order to establish any claim whatsoever to the Celtic Necklace, Schnabel did not see it in quite that way and told us that not only would he produce one of the same family (Dharmic wheel) and of a far greater complexity, but one which once we had seen it would convince us of his claim.

I put it to him that the validity of any scientific test depended on being able to repeat a test not just once but time and time again. Clearly as he would be working in immature crop as opposed to mature crop we would have to take that (aspect) into consideration when inspecting the result BUT THE RESULT WOULD NEED TO BE CLOSE ENOUGH TO SATISFY CRITICAL COMPARISON. Schnabel replied that he had not appreciated the importance we placed upon this aspect!

Another inconsistency which occurred to me was the fact that he tells us in his book that when he makes formations they are of an inspirational nature and yet he also tells us that he departed entirely from this procedure in the case of the Celtic Necklace, going to such extraordinary lengths as making a diagram of the proposed formation, enclosing it not only in the envelope but taking the amazing trouble of drawing up in minute detail a replica of the diagram in the envelope and placing this diminished version UNDERNEATH THE STAMP ON THE ENVELOPE. What enormous labour and lengths he had gone to in order to achieve this. He puts this envelope forward as incontrovertible evidence and proof that he made the Celtic Necklace. Surely it is not beyond the realms of human endeavour that he not only steamed open the envelope, putting in the diagram AFTER the formation appeared, but that he repeated the process with the stamp, either re-sticking the stamp or replacing another stamp matching up exactly the post office watermark lines. To attempt to question Schnabel about anything which he is not happy to discuss, is quite one of the most difficult things one can attempt. He is a past master at evasion, he is better than any politician I have ever met for side stepping an issue and going off on a lateral tack and when there are a lot of people around, this lateral tack may be very interesting to those people who may not have followed the significance of the original question in the first place. They then get hooked onto the side issue which Schnabel has skilfully engineered and start asking questions about that side issue! Therefore to return to the original question, it is necessary to display enormous resolution almost to the point of ad nauseam. I am not a Taurean for nothing!

He seemed to think this whole business was beyond his terms of reference.

However I know this is realistically possible as a friend of mine not liking her passport picture decided to replace the offending one with another more to her liking. The foreign office stamp presented no problem to her and she went through Customs quite unchallenged for the next five years!

Whilst this questioning was continuing Schnabel unloaded his equipment which comprised a two foot wide green garden roller, several long white poles, two sticks with an attachment, a narrow plank, a ball of rope and a pair of scissors (provided by Monty). He proceeded to cut two equal lengths of rope from the ball and he attached these lengths to either end of the plank as in the Doug and Dave technique. And so the stage was set. He then carried this equipment together with a black bag, into the field, entering via a tramline. He proceeded along the tramline until he reached the brow of the slope. At 1512 hours he inserted a pole into the ground (with some difficulty as the ground was hard) and started to make the formation using another ball of rope which he took out of his black bag and which had existing notches on it, depicting the different lengths he was going to require for making the radii and other measurements.

Despite being able to climb a fifteen foot platform which Monty had most thoughtfully rented and which had been erected by Busty, Andrew and Peter earlier in the day and which had been passed by Jo Holland who is a Safety Inspector, it was not possible to follow exactly what Schnabel was doing. Surprise, surprise he was constructing the formation from a diagram and referring to it regularly. (Could this be another preposted plan?) The sun was baking down relentlessly and instead of taking five hours he had finished in just over three and a half. But what on earth were the symbols intended to depict?

Peter Sorenson with his video camera had followed behind him, after letting him make the initial shape and then videoing him from different angles as he carried out his construction, making certain that he never impeded him in any way. About half way through the experiment, Busty Taylor also entered the semi completed formation to take pole shots. As the formation took shape it was clear that Schnabel had made a face or radiation symbol (according to your interpretation) in the centre, with seven symbols sitting on a connecting ring (the ring was the last element to be laid down). Swish, swish went the crop as Schnabel worked quickly, using his feet as well as his tools to flatten the wheat, treating the crop harshly and roughly and not as a man who was one with nature.

At last he was finished and left the field some three and half hours after he had started. I was the first to enter (apart from Peter Sorenson and Busty Taylor who had been in whilst the construction had been in progress). I went into the centre first and examined the floor pattern which seemed rough, untidy, clumsy and mechanically flattened. Like Holmes and Watson, I examined all around me with great precision and as I did so I noted part of a foot print. I had to use a special lens in order to get a close up photograph. There is a thin, grey film like covering on immature crop which if disturbed rubs off. (I later asked Schnabel to show me the underneath of his shoes which were trainers with a distinctive ridged pattern. Peter Sorenson and Busty Taylor were also present and I examined the soles of their shoes. They had no ridges). I continued my investigation, noting one example of an 'up and under' effect. A good attempt, but clumsy in comparison with the wondrous 'up and under' interlacing I had seen just the previous day at Goodworth Clatford. What Guardian Angel had kindly pointed me in that direction enabling me to make such a clear assessment and comparison between its simple shape belying its complexity, and the chaotic bouillabaisse produced by Schnabel? I went through every element of the formation and felt more and more dissatisfied the further I travelled.

Finally I examined the ring linking the seven symbols and found it was not joined onto the satellites evenly and was rough, jagged and untidy. What did the symbols represent? Quite honestly it was hard to make any sense of them apart from a space ship, a crescent moon and a garden roller; "What is it ?" "What?" "A GRASSHOPPER WARBLER"?! But to me they were a mixture of a 'something here, a 'something' there and other 'somethings' everywhere. It was not even a thing of beauty, there was little artistry (apart from the garden roller), no flow to it, all the rotational lay was anti clockwise. I did not enjoy the look of the formation and nor it appeared did other people who all seemed to spend no more than just the bare minimal amount of time necessary to carry out their investigations.

A Schnabel Send Up.

In making my assessment I had to ask myself by how much was I influenced by the knowledge that it was man made? I still have to say that I believe had I walked into this formation anywhere in the country I would have reached the same conclusion. It simply did not pass the many criteria we now we have to impose before coming to a considered opinion when trying to establish the 'formula' of a genuine crop formation.

'What a waste of time AND to think we have missed the Women's Final at Wimbledon just to see Schnabel make this mess', was a comment I overheard. There even seemed to be a degree of embarrassment among certain observers. How could we ever have been so stupid to have been taken in by Schnabel? Are we really so gullible?

Not at all. I feel it was one of the most valuable experiments carried out and for those truly interested in researching this phenomenon it is essential to learn more about the diagnostic skills required to distinguish between the real and hoaxed events. If we are not going to continue to waste more valuable time and money taking samples from hoaxed formations we need to learn as much as we can about what features can be hoaxed and which features cannot.

Despite his obvious failure, Schnabel was only too happy to answer questions. Colette Dowell and others quizzed him about

a) the tangential geometry of the Celtic Necklace and

b) what equipment he had used to achieve such exact results.

c) Had he used a compass? No, he had NOT used a compass, he had not needed one and any tangential geometry was purely incidental. Also the rich symbolism which most people recognised in one form or another according to their own particular belief systems, was also incidental.

d) When had he made the formation? He had made it on the sixteenth August and not the seventeenth. Why I wonder, had it not been spotted until the morning of the seventeenth?

e) Had he carried a torch with him in order to see what he was doing and to follow his diagram?
The moon (full moon thirteenth August) was so bright that he had no need of a torch.

f) Did he plan to incorporate the water trough in his design?
Maybe the moon had been switched off? And if the water trough was unintentional, I wonder what design takes its place on the original diagram?

g) How does the angle line up from the dumbbell/female symbol to the symbol on the opposite side, asked Colette?

What IS the symbol on the opposite side, replied Schnabel?!!

No matter how long or how hard he thought he COULD NOT REMEMBER THE ORDER IN WHICH THE SYMBOLS WENT.

For a man
a) who is no slouch intellectually,

b) who quite contrary to normal habits, goes to the trouble of making not just one but TWO diagrams of the formation and

c) who then goes to even greater and more elaborate lengths of posting the letter (postmarked Oxford) to himself containing these diagrams

d) who spends five hours making the formation

e) who writes about this formation in his book.

f) who has a picture of the formation as the photograph on the back cover to his book.


This was the moment when to me, his house of cards fell down around his ears (they had been severely tilted and on a wobble the minute he declined to replicate the Celtic Necklace), and at the same time I suddenly realised that he was relishing every moment of this question and answer session. HE was the centre of attention, HE was the focal point. THAT was what clearly mattered and he was enjoying the side stepping, evading and sparring. He was in his element and the concern I had for him earlier was evidently entirely misplaced.

He then offered to demonstrate to several of us, the art of making 'grapeshot'. Sadly Busty and Peter Sorenson had to leave. Was it right for me to go along with this I asked myself? Answer, Yes, all part of our research. So along with Stanley and Sue Morcom, Una Dawood, Jo Holland, Andrew Winn and Mike and Julian (the confessed hoaxers from Northamptonshire) we went back into the field. Schnabel did two demonstrations and then it was my turn. The result---wait for it--, an exquisite Pringle Peak! (photographs to prove it). I have to say I felt extremely dizzy. Being small I had to take more steps and go round in more circles than someone bigger. Stanley was next, fair to moderate result, mine was better! Then came the turn of the professional Mike and yes indeed I shall now have to reconsider my assessment of all 'grapeshot'. But where was Stanley to give his opinion of this masterpiece? He had disappeared? No there he was some way off making another 'grapeshot', perfecting the Morcom Mount. "Stop, Stanley, Stop! Monty soon will have no crop left".

A useful demonstration and whereas 'grapeshot' are quite easy to make in immature crop so long as the conditions are dry, it would NOT be possible to carry out this procedure in wet weather, the crop would be covered in muddy marks, nor would it be possible to enter mature standing crop without leaving some telltale trace.

So what lessons did I learn? I learnt that there could be an addictive quality to making 'grapeshot' if genuine research were not your real concern, but most importantly I learnt that it is crucial to realise and understand NOT what CAN be done, but what CANNOT be done, the questions which CAN be answered and the ones which CANNOT and Schnabel's three and half hour effort in the field and the discussion session were an excellent demonstration of the latter two.

What a wonderful case for psychological research. What have the crop circles done to Schnabel? Or have they simply emphasised his existing problems? Maybe his strange behaviour is due to the fact that he will do anything to take his mind off his inherent problems? What sort of childhood trauma has resulted in this desperate need for attention? Did he lack parental love at an early age, did he endure endless sibling rivalry? Is he suffering from an Hippolytus complex?

There must be an answer and I suspect it will stem from his early days.

Maybe I was correct in my earlier diagnosis and maybe we should feel sorry for Schnabel after all.

It seems to me that there are certain similarities between Schnabel and Doug and Dave. They all three court publicity but when it comes to establishing their claims they run scared and provide absolutely no substantive proof whatsoever. However that does not stop them endlessly insisting that they are prize hoaxers and it amazes me that the public still give them any listening time. Doug and Dave had ample opportunity to prove their skills last summer at the Faking Competition in Buckinghamshire, sponsored to the tune of three thousand pounds by the Koestler Foundation and the Guardian Newspaper. If they really had done all or any of the formations in both Hampshire and Wiltshire which they have claimed, surely they would have won the competition with one hand tied behind their backs? Also the Today newspaper's sales would have once more dramatically increased as headlines of Doug and Dave's success flashed across the world. And not least Doug and Dave would have been able to bask in renewed publicity once more.

"We never are but by ourselves betrayed,

By frantic boast and foolish word".

To give Schnabel his due, he did turn up and he did make an attempt at 'something', although I do not think he realised (or cared) how badly it would backfire on him.

Since the experiment Schnabel has offered to send Monty the envelope including the diagrams. They will all be tested forensically to establish that they were not tampered with and are of the same period.

He also told me that he would submit a list of formations at the end of the summer, either hoaxed by him or others enabling those of us carrying out expensive research to eliminate certain formations. For the research into the Human Factor, carried out by Diana Clift and myself, it is of great importance to know just how great a part the psychological element may be playing. But, and this is a big BUT, since we have no evidence that Schnabel has made any other than this, in my opinion, vaguely artistic but overall incompetent formation, how will we know whether the list is simply a figment of his fertile imagination or not? How can we believe him when he says he has no wish to undermine serious research?

In conclusion, we all had fun, Schnabel's bluff has been called and Monty is to be congratulated for masterminding and hosting (despite certain opposition) this experiment which has not only answered many valuable questions and in my opinion, conclusively laid to rest Schnabel's claim to the Celtic Necklace but exposed him once and for all for the trickster that he is. That this experiment has considerably furthered our diagnostic skills and research, there is no doubt.


Lucy Pringle 8 July 1993