Terry Wilson, in his recently published Secret History of Crop Circles, mentions a crop circle that allegedly was found in 1590, near the city of Assen in the Netherlands (this was previously reported by Randles and Hough in their Encyclopedia of the Unexplained) and which is to be found all over the internet.
Wilson cites as source (judging from the website), an unspecified article in Journal of Meteorology, 1696 (Source TW: Plot, 1696; Journal of Meteorology). However, the original source of the account is to be found a century earlier in Nicolas Remy's 1595 'Daemonolatreia'. Remy refers to a location between the cities of Guermingen and Assenoncour, which is in the Alsace region in France, not the city of Assen in Drenthe, the Netherlands.
Moreover, there is no Robert Plot. Who did exist was the English naturalist and first chemistry professor of Oxford University Dr. Robert Plott. He posited the theory that the fairy rings were formed by blasts of circular lighting in his 'The Natural History of Staffordshire', published in 1686 (reprinted in 1973).
Moreover, in the year of the so-called Wilson refrence, 1696, Robert Plott actually died
(see: http://www.oum.ox.ac.uk/geocolls/plot/plotbio.htm or http://es.rice.edu/ES/humsoc/Galileo/Catalog/Files/plot.html)
What then of the original, primary source? According to Remy, the witness Nicolette Lang-Bernhard saw on July 25th, 1590, at high noon, a group of men and women dancing - they were witches of course - "...the final and incontrovertible proof of the truth of the occurence was the fact that the place where this dancing had been enacted was found... trodden into a ring such as it is found in a circus where horses run round in a circle, and among the other tracks were the recent marks of the hoofs of goats and oxen...'(My source, Nicolas Remy, 'Demonolatry, edited with introduction and notes by Montague Summers', Rodker, 1930, facsimilé reprint by Frederick Muller, 1970, pages 50-51)
So an account of the circular impressions clearly made by animals and attributed at the time to witches, is transformed more than 400 years later into 'the earliest account of a crop circle' and is magically transported from the Alsace region in France to one of the Northern provinces of the Netherlands. In all fairness, Wilson too expresses his doubts, but leaves it at that.
What then of Robert Plott? John Aubrey, whose 'Natural History of Wiltshire' was influenced by Plott (he met him in 1675, see: http://www.ibiblio.org/pub/docs/books/gutenberg/etext04/nhwil10.txt) , has this interesting observation to make: "...As to the green circles on the downes, vulgarly called faiery circles (dances), I presume they are generated from the breathing out of a fertile subterraneous vapour. ...If you digge under the turfe of this circle, you will find at the rootes of the grasse a hoare or mouldinesse. But as there are fertile steames, so contrary wise there are noxious ones, which proceed from some mineralls, iron, &c.; which also as the others, cćteris paribus, appear in a circular forme."
We can conclude:
there never was a crop circle or even a crop circle like phenomenon in 1590 near Assen
there never was a Plot
it is doubtful that the 'Journal of Meteorology', 1696, is a valid source (see note below)
the uncited - but referred to - source is Robert Plott, 1686
Robert Plott is not the primary source
Plott refers to the 1590 incident as mentioned by Remy, but uses it as an example of a fairy ring and seeks a natural explanation for the phenomenon. Obviously, the fairy rings are rare as Plott cites an incident of almost a century before his time - Nicolas Remy's 'Daemonolatreia' is the primary source of the 1590 incident used by Plott
Remy mentions animal hoofprints and sees in it evidence of a gathering of witches
the incident involving animal hoofprints took place in the Alsace region in France
Plott too mentions the animal hoofprints
How and where then, the confusion? Robert Plott's and John Aubrey's musings found their way into some 20th century periodicals (also called 'Journal of Meteorology') and were quickly transformed into something more fanciful: - R.M. Skinner, "A Seventeenth-Century Report of an Encounter with an Ionized Vortex?", 'Journal of Meteorology', November 1990, p. 346. (Here an account found in John Aubrey's 'Natural History of Wiltshire' is repeated about an encounter of a school curate with "small people" dancing in a field, albeit with no mention of any circular depression found afterwards. However, the noise made by the little people here is interpreted as possible evidence for "ionized vortexes")
- David J. Reynolds, "Possibility of a Crop Circle from 1590", 'Journal of Meteorology', November 1990, pp. 347-352. (although here Robert Plott's 'The Natural History of Staffordshire' is cited, apparently that in Plott's text the animal hoofprints are mentioned, is not taken into account. Also, Reynolds failed to verify the primary source - which is Remy's 'Daemonolatreia' - where again a clear reference to animal hoofprints is found. Labelling the incident as an example of an early crop circle is therefore, based on the very sources of which it is alleged that they support the spurious 1590 crop circle tale, historically inaccurate to say the least).
© Theo Paijmans, 2003