Author ANDY THOMAS describes his reasons for writing VITAL SIGNS and explores its background and agenda

Long before the opportunity was presented to write Fields of Mystery and Quest For Contact, my two previous books exploring aspects of the crop circle phenomenon, my intention had always been to eventually compile a complete history and overview of this beautiful mystery. Existing books by different authors managed, between them, to provide some sort of grip on the circles but each seemed incomplete in one area or another or were dated by subsequent events. I wanted to create a book that one could give to a complete cerealogical novice that would give them enough facts, photos, background, theories and speculation in one source to enable anyone reading it to be able to make up their own minds about what it all meant on an informed basis. At the same time it had to appeal to those already entranced by the phenomenon and provide a compelling case for just why the crop circles could not possibly all be human pranks (my own strong conviction).

Vital Signs is that book, a tome born from half a decade of gestation and an actual year to write. It is up to the readers to decide for themselves whether the final result fulfilled my intentions but in the first few months of its publication alone, sales and reaction have so far been good indicators that it is achieving its aims with a vengeance, reaching out to, and inspiring, a whole new generation of circle enthusiasts while acting as a valuable summation for those previously hooked.

As a basic guideline to the book, chapter 1 defines what crop circles are and where and when they appear, examining the scientific and statistical evidence. Chapter 2 gives a detailed and frank history of the phenomenon and the effect it has had on individuals, the media and the public, while highlighting specific formations from each year. Chapter 3 looks at the paranormal experiences surrounding the crop patterns, lights, sounds and health effects. Chapter 4 gathers all the many different theories together and looks at each in detail, assessing their likelihood and severely questioning the total-hoax hypothesis. The final chapter reveals the wider issues the crop circles and other transformational phenomena raise, what they mean to those touched by them and where this may all be going.

It wasn't an easy book to write. What does one include and leave out? I comment wryly in the introduction that for a guide to be truly complete, it would have to be the size of a telephone directory. This is no idle jest - there are so many facts, stories, photos and evidence which could be presented, heavy discipline was needed to keep the book down to a manageable length for newcomers without skimping for existing croppies. In the end a balance was struck which seems to have satisfied most and Vital Signs goes out of its way to signpost other sources of information people may like to access for further details, hence the comprehensive appendix at the end, listing and discussing other tomes and journals from different authors and organisations.

Selecting the photographs, taken by a variety of different photographers but in particular Andrew King, Steve Alexander, Michael Hubbard, Dr Terence Meaden and Grant Wakefield, was a mammoth task. So many people have different tastes in what their favourite formations are that the only yardstick that could really be used was to display the glyphs generally held as the most important or beautiful, but with some neglected surprises also included. On some of the more famous formations, I tried, where possible, to include images which hadn't been seen before or at least hadn't received as much coverage as others (Andrew King's and Terence Meaden's archives were helpful in this respect). The photo of the Barbury Castle 1991 pictogram, for instance, as far as I am aware, has never been reproduced before. Taken in the same session as the classic Richard Wintle photo often seen, I was allowed to search his negatives to select another version taken from a more unusual angle. On the other hand, some shots seemed so classic that they had to be included, such as Steve Alexander's stunning picture of the 1997 Milk Hill fractal which adorns the cover. Many of the ground shots and details of formations' interiors were taken from my own large collection of slides and it was nice to give them an airing. I have a bit of a handicap when it comes to aerial photography - I get horrifically airsick - so I was happy to give coverage instead to the works of the talented individuals included in Vital Signs.

The other major task in writing the book was to ensure that as many different theories as possible could get a look in without any kind of bias. I had never really seen a comprehensive discussion of the pros and cons of each hypothesis to explain the circles in one piece before, and I knew from the outset this would be an important part of Vital Signs. I was surprised, as I thought through each in turn, to discover how clearly some generally unaired holes and inconsistencies in some theories suddenly stood out with the application of just a little logic, an obvious example being that if all-powerful Extra-Terrestrials are responsible for the circles, why are they restricted to certain geological conditions? (The correlation between aquiferous rocks and circles seems beyond doubt as recent work by Steve Page and Glenn Broughton has illustrated.) Wouldn't infallible beings be able to operate anywhere with equal activity around the world? There may eventually be a reasonable answer to this somewhere along the way but the implications of the noted-before-but-much-ignored natural component of circle creation takes theorising into a whole new area which demands a much wider perspective and much less dogma from those who would try to answer the mystery. I suspect the final answer lies somewhere between natural energies, psychic interaction and intelligent manipulation instead of all being mutually exclusive, and I hope the treatise in Vital Signs helps to focus the debate in new directions which will open up, not close down, possibilities.

Of all the theories discussed - to me and a growing body of others - the most holes and inconsistencies are to be found in the total hoax theory. Yes, there are some man-made formations but a significant number of glyphs defy such explanations. Part of the very purpose of the book was to provide a compelling case for just why the phenomenon can't simply be written off as man-made landscape art and the end of Chapter 4 deals with this in a searing manner I felt was necessary - and honest. I was originally going to be much milder and matter-of-fact about this aspect but on reflection decided that it needed to be tackled head-on once and for all, becoming a significant thrust of the book. Stanley Messenger, in the review which accompanies this piece, worries that this position may be too defensive but I maintain a justification for it whilst realising that it risks harsher attack than a general unjudgmental manner may have provoked from those who do feel hoaxing is a large part of the phenomenon. But the only way to write effectively and honestly is from the heart and the whole of Vital Signs came very much from the heart. Real evidence for mass-hoaxing is low despite all the claims. Evidence for something grander and more mysterious is mounting and it's time to say so. So far there has been a subdued reaction from sceptics to the issues raised by the book over hoaxing, but if attacks come, they come. If more croppies stood up for what they really believed in instead of laying low through fear of public ridicule, compromising themselves and their views as a result, the non-sceptic view would be all the stronger and more widely acknowledged. If the crop circles are meaningful in the important ways many believe they are, it seems wrong that public attention should be kept away from them by the sceptical stigma stirred up by the actions and words of the closed-minded and a relative few who carry out diversionary circle-making stunts for their own purposes.

Ultimately, wherever the crop glyphs come from, an increasing number of people believe they hold a deeper significance than has generally been recognised and that they may be portents of forthcoming global events, be they catastrophic or spiritual (or both). The recent revelations in the journal SC that the 'galaxy' formations of 1994 signpost specific constellations and future dates compounds this view further. With omen aspects in mind, I chose to wrap the book up with the thought that gave birth to its title - that these huge and complex patterns, whether premeditated communications or spontaneous outpourings, may well be vital signs for a crucial moment in our history. If the circles really are the heralds of something big - and they seem to be doing their best to attract our attention - we ignore them at our peril. They may have gifts for us besides their - generous enough - surface offerings of grace and beauty.

Vital Signs is now selling healthily in Britain and America and has already gone into its first reprint, which fine-tunes some very minor errors in the original version and contains some slightly amended artwork in a couple of places. I hope to fully update it periodically with further editions taking later seasons into account. Feedback has been very positive and I know from the heartfelt letters I am receiving that it is doing its bit in the battle to win wider recognition of this gorgeous mystery. No doubt one or two will choose to see this book as some kind of cynical marketing exercise designed to keep up interest in a phenomenon for the personal and financial benefit of a few but those with eyes to see and ears to hear know where this book is coming from. I would like to thank all those who have written to express their excited and joyful thoughts, inspired by what has been for me the culmination of a long and rich personal journey and an achievement that I hope will help stimulate debate and open minds.


Andy Thomas

Biographical notes

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