Operation White Crow
WATCHING THE PUNCHBOWL
During June 1989 cerealogist Colin Andrews organised a ten day cropwatch in the hope of recording a crop circle being formed.
Titled Operation White Crow by cerealogical colleague Archie Roy, the event took its name from a quote by philosopher William James, namely, ‘in order to disprove the assertion that all crows are black, one white crow is sufficient.’ Applying this to crop circles, Andrews and Roy wished to find his one anomalous crop circle to demonstrate that they can’t all be the work of hoaxers.
Based in a van armed with a weather station and, more impressively, ‘specialised low-light and image-intensifier cameras’, a team led by Andrews planned ten days and nights monitoring the Punchbowl at Cheesefoot Head, a natural amphitheatre outside of Winchester renowned as a crop circle hotspot. Unfortunately for Andrews his plan faced some tough challenges from the off. First, the Punchbowl had been planted with peas by farmer Henry Bruce, meaning the chances of seeing a crop circle form were significantly reduced. Second, Bruce loathed the circles and was unwilling to allow Andrews onto his property. Instead, Maurice Botting, manager of the adjacent Longwood Estate, kindly allowed the team to set up base camp in a barley field across the A272 from the Punchbowl. On scaffolding, the cameras would be able to peer down onto their target.
White Crow would pass uneventfully until its final night. The circle making force was refusing to work in a field of peas. So, at 12.10am on Sunday 18 June, Andrews and fellow croppies Pat Delgado, Frederick ‘Busty’ Taylor, Steve Gould, Rita Gould (a self-proclaimed psychic with alleged mediumistic abilities) and George Wingfield decided, in Andrews’ words, ‘walk up the hill to a pair of crop circles that had appeared prior to the project and attempt some kind of contact with the “circle makers”.’ It would be the team’s last chance to encourage a new formation to manifest.
NOISE OF THE CIRCLE MAKERS
Andrews, writing for his personal website, continues:
It took no more than ten minutes to arrive at the formation and we sat in the larger of the two circles … The six of us sat in a circle on a blanket in the middle of the formation.
From my notes, we were only sitting for about three minutes when Pat felt an urge to move to a spot near the NNW edge of the circle, which we did. From the outset it seemed as if Rita and Pat were sensing similar things.
Rita suddenly exclaimed, “We have one missing, we can not go ahead.” Rita had earlier dictated the number and composition required of the group to create the conditions necessary to connect with the ‘circle makers’.
Pat replied, “A spirit person has arrived, I can feel it”. With this he sprang to his feet with his hands outstretched. “Oh God,” he said, “it’s so cold.” George reports that Rita seemed to accept this as the needed seventh person.
The site weather station recorded a dramatic temperature drop, confirmed by [fellow cerealogist] Dr. Terence Meaden. This was not a regional or national change, but a local event. Busty Taylor’s report states that the barometric pressure plummeted as well, which was also confirmed by Dr. Meaden’s equipment. Neither was recorded by other official weather monitoring stations in the area.
Pat complained that he was very cold, especially down the back of his neck, and I asked him if he was okay as he seemed distressed. He replied, “Yes, I must go through with this”. Although clearly distressed he expressed determination to go through with whatever was happening. He sat back down with his hands still out-stretched in front of him. Rita Gould was slumped into the chest of her husband and started shaking violently. At the same time Pat’s hands also started shaking violently even though his eyes were closed and he did not see Rita.
In his book Crop Circles: Signs of Contact, Andrews described what happened next:
Suddenly, we all heard a sound from the east. As we listened, it grew louder and we could sense it getting closer. It was definitely directional, in that we all could tell precisely where it was coming from, and we could follow it as it moved. The sound then rotated around us, floating around the circle three or four times, like an auditory cloud that passed above us in a circle. And again, it was directional: As it moved in its orbit around us, we could follow it with our ears, and if it had been visible, we all felt we would have been able to track it from point to point around the circle. First it was in our left ear, then behind us, then in our right ear.
…We were all quite frightened and we huddled together like a bunch of schoolboys. It truly was a scary moment. We were in a pitch black field and we had no idea what this sound was or where it was coming from.
And then the sound stopped moving. We could all still hear it, but it froze and positioned itself in front of Pat Delgado and I. At this time, Pat was very involved in researching and trying to understand the phenomenon, as was I. Could the source of the sound somehow [have] sensed this?
Returning to Andrews’ account on his personal website we can add in some further details excluded from the book:
After the sound had been present for several minutes, Pat and Rita both stopped shaking and broke the groups silence by asking if everybody else was able to hear it. At that point everyone acknowledged that they could, in fact, hear it. Amazingly, once acknowledged, the sound started to get louder and began to come towards the southern boundary of the circle.
We stood staring out into the dark field in the direction we thought the sound was coming from. For a few seconds I thought I could make out a fuzzy ball of luminance on the surface of the crop. Rita said that she too saw something but described it as a light colored head of what she thought was a short being in the plants.
As this was happening, two more of our team, Ken Smith and his friend Mike Scott arrived from the caravan, having walked up the side of the A272 highway. They were followed ten minutes later by Ron Jones. Later all three told us that they could hear the sound from the highway before they reached us. I noticed that as Ken and Mike approached, the sound seemed to move further away and was less audible. George reports in his notes that these three arrived much later in the course of events.
Rita was engaged in a dialogue with the sound, asking questions of it. When the sound began to diminish as the additional people arrived, she exclaimed, “Please come back, we want to have contact.”
George Wingfield then asked, “Will you make us a circle?”
Returning to Crop Circles: Signs of Contact:
We did not know what to expect next, and as we waited for something to happen, suddenly Pat Delgado stood up and began to walk towards the place in the circle from where the sound was now emanating. He walked to the edge of the circle, and he later told me that he knew that the sound was no more than three or four feet in front of him. This was somewhat closer than the sound was to me when I heard it at Kimpton.
And then it got really weird.
As Pat stood there at the edge of the circle, he called out: ‘Colin, come to me,’ he said. And then he cupped his left hand and began to ‘scoop’ in the air at the top of the plants closest to the sound and push this energy in my direction.
I walked towards him, and when I reached him, he continued his odd cupping and scooping motion across the top of the plants, pushing the air towards me, specifically towards my solar plexus—he aimed it straight at the pit of my stomach. I stood there and went along with this, not knowing how to respond, or what to say. After a bit, Pat stopped and I backed away. I turned around, walked back to the group and sat down. I was confused and frightened and knew that something strange was occurring. Pat then started to walk toward us. When he reached a point about 25 to 30 feet away from us, he stopped in his tracks, and his head went back as though he were about to fall backwards.
It was a most extraordinary sight and I truly did not understand what was going on. As I stared at this incredible sight, he then beckoned to me.
Incredibly, his body then leaned back on a 10-to 15-degree angle. He hung there suspended, as though he were leaning against a cushion, or perhaps something more solid.
At this point, Pat was absolutely terrified. I could see fear in his eyes and he started shouting to me. ‘Colin! Come and hold me up!’ I rushed to him and grabbed both his hands and tried to pull him to an upright position. I felt great pressure pulling against me, and it was as though Pat was stuck to glue. I continued to tug at him, and then suddenly he was free. It felt as though a bond had snapped and his body was released from the force that had been holding him. At the precise moment that Pat was pulled free, the crop circle sound stopped.
This was, quite literally, one of the worst things that had ever happened to me or Pat.
Upset and shaken, we returned to the group and sat down, but after only a few moments, Pat said, ‘Let’s get the hell out of here,’ and we all left the circle.
Later in the morning Andrews received an unexpected visitor; a police sergeant. He asked Andrews if he was aware of a new crop circle that had appeared nearby. Upon arriving at the site of the new formation, ‘we were flabbergasted,’ Andrews recalls. ‘In the exact direction the sound seemed to travel when it left us was a fresh crop ring. The plants were still popping up, and still moving, as though a powerful hand had pressed them down, and they were just now springing back up.
‘I believed then, as I believe now, that the previous night we had inadvertently encroached upon the creation of a crop circle. We had all unwittingly placed ourselves in the middle of a paranormal event.’
MAKING SENSE OF WHITE CROW
Despite Andrews’ insistence events at White Crow were the result of some supernatural force, there are some reasonable explanations that do not need to involve the unknown:
With regard to the strange trance-like state Pat Delgado found himself in, it’s worth considering how the cerealogist was perceived.
In his book Round In Circles croppie Jim Schnabel described Delgado as ‘increasingly prone to slip into paranormal mode’ prior to White Crow. For example, Schnabel claimed ‘a disembodied voice’ would speak to Delgado. This voice told the cerealogist ‘what was causing the circles’, albeit in return for a vow of silence! Schnabel described Delgado as emerging from White Crow as a ‘full-fledged shaman, a seer and a healer. He could handle the entities and their energies.’ Whatever the truth, the paranormality of these happenings can, at best, be described as disputed.
The Trilling Noise
Click here to listen to a sample from Colin Andrews’ recording of the apparently mysterious White Crow ‘trilling noise’.
Whilst Andrews believed this sound was that of the circle making force at work, Doug Bower — himself a circle maker — was an experienced bird watcher and birdsong recordist. He believed the noise to be a grasshopper warbler, so called because of it’s song’s similarity to the cheeping of a grasshopper. The late croppie Paul Vigay was unconvinced and conducted an analysis of a BBC archive recording of a grasshopper warbler song. He discovered the archive recording oscillated some 2KHz higher than that of Andrews’s suspect. However, given the glut of grasshopper warbler recordings freely available online, Vigay’s argument seems something of a moot point in 2022.
Furthermore, the grasshopper warbler possesses a peculiar ability to throw its voice by turning its head, making it seem as if the song comes from an entirely different position. This explains how the mysterious noise seemed able to move.
The New Crop Circle
Doug Bower has openly confessed to producing the crop circle that appeared on the final night of White Crow. Jim Schnabel explains within Round In Circles:
When the summer of 1989 began, Doug was on his own [following a falling out with circle making colleague Dave Chorley], putting several small circles and ringed circles in the fields of the Longwood Estate. And when Operation White Crow came along, he knew he couldn’t resist. He drove up to Cheesefoot Head on the last night of the operation, at about eleven thirty, and leaving [wife] Ilene in the car at the Cheesefoot Head car-park, simply walked a few hundred yards up the A272 to the bridle path, entered a field beyond the surveillance caravan and his earlier circles, and swirled a new ringed circle. He and Ilene were on the road back to Southampton before Andrews and the others left the caravan for their séance.
More than thirty years have passed since Operation White Crow took place upon Telegraph Hill near Winchester. It’s easy to view it as an event in which over eager cerealogists quickly jumped to interpreting unusual though explainable occurrences as paranormal. This isn’t an unreasonable perspective to hold; the cropwatch was organised and staffed by people who were keen to shape their conclusions to fit their paranormal beliefs. However, the ‘trilling noise’ of the supposed circle making force, combined with the same-night appearance of a crop circle a few hundred yards up the road, would inspire Andrews to become involved in the following year’s Operation Blackbird exercise.
Both White Crow and Blackbird revealed to croppies that people with big ideas who do not control the phenomenon are at the mercy of the force that does. It’s a lesson that still hasn’t been learnt today.