Imprints in the Field, Part 4

Full circle with Lefty and crew

Part 1Part 2, Part 3

Even with forays into adjacent supernatural phenomena, biophysicist W.C. Levengood still found ample time to indulge his passion for crop circles. 1996 was a seminal year for BLT Research, owing much to a classic formation 93 feet in diameter that appeared in a northwestern Ohio wheat field owned by the Arend family. The small town of Paulding wasn't terribly far from Lefty’s Lab in Grass Lake, Michigan, so he decided to get into the field and explore the circle firsthand.

Accompanying him on this rare outing would be his BLT-associate, Nancy Talbott. At the time, she lived 800 miles away in Cambridge, Massachusetts, so her presence was somewhat uncanny. Perhaps she wanted to work alongside the reclusive scientist for a change. Or just as likely, she was there because she knew that the popular TV-show, Sightings, was going to be on-site to film an episode about the circle. In any event, after inspecting the circle, Lefty announced its authenticity to those assembled: “There’s no question it’s a genuine formation.”

He expounded on his theory to the press—explaining how an atmospheric, microwave-emitting plasma ball had descended on the grain to form the large radial impression. Plant and horticulture specialists from Ohio State University found no evidence of biological anomalies, but Levengood was sure of his proposed mechanism based on the presence of magnetite, enlarged plant nodes, and other telltale signs of internal heating. He bluntly told a reporter for the Lincoln Journal Star that he didn’t “give a damn what the skeptics say.” Meanwhile, Nancy Talbott reassured a journalist from the Crescent-News that “it certainly wasn’t people stomping about in the fields with plants and boards.”

In the aftermath of the crop circle’s appearance on their farm, two members of the Arend family, high school students Darcy and Nicholas, did what few other scientists seemed willing to do—they ran some tests of their own. Presented in what must have been the most interesting school science projects of the year, Darcy showed that wheat stalks sampled from outside the circle’s radius grew better than those taken from within.

Nicholas Arend substantiated his cousin’s conclusions by using soil gathered from both inside and outside the circle to grow soybeans. He found that the exterior soil produced better results than dirt from within the circle’s perimeter.

By this point, Levengood had been studying the effects of supposed crop circle energies for five years. Despite operating on the ‘fringes’ of accepted science, some of Lefty’s findings had real-world applications.

No stranger to the patent-filing process—with four to his name by 1996—Levengood partnered with John Burke to go for his fifth. They combined the concepts involved in Lefty’s electrically charged vortices with Burke’s theory about ancient farmers using electromagnetic pulses to improve seed growth. The result was a seed enhancement technology dubbed Stress-Guard™. It worked by subjecting a seed to a delicate “ion-electron avalanche” to elicit a natural response from cells. Despite promising results early-on, Levengood and Burke had a hard time selling seed companies on the technology.

In 1997, Levengood made contact with a woman named Penny Kelly. Kelly had authored a book about human energy fields and how they interact with consciousness—themes that overlapped with Levengood’s area of research into plasma energy and bio-electric rhythms.

She spent time with Chrysler Motors in the metro Detroit-area until experiencing an awakening of her mental spirit that “completely changed her life.” After feeling certain that she was “going slowly insane,” Penny quit her job and dedicated her life to exploring metaphysical mysteries.

The two hit it off after their first meeting, marking the start of a working relationship with Kelly acting as lab assistant and co-author for Levengood’s research into bio-energy. Lefty was shifting his focus from crop imprints to another manifestation involving plasma, known as Charge Density Plasmas (CDPs). CDPs are self-generating electric currents, something Levengood had detected in plants and other living systems for decades. This proposed form of plasma energy “reacted heavily to external stimuli,” suggesting that focused human intention could influence CDP within the body. The implications for crop circles are summed up succinctly by Kelly: “If crop circles result from the action of plasma, and plasma responds directly to consciousness, then it is certainly possible that crop circles can be generated by consciousness.”

Penny and her influence would remain a constant presence in Levengood’s professional life for the next 15 years.

By 2001, Nancy Talbott had become further intertwined with Robbert van den Broeke—a supposed medium from the Netherlands with a “psychic gift” and a penchant for ‘attracting’ anomalous phenomena. She originally met Robbert in 1998 via a Dutch crop circle research organization when he was only 18 years old and claiming he could predict when and where certain crop circles would appear. (Surprise! In his own backyard!)

His escapades planted him firmly in the ‘Billy Meier’ category of fake-contactee (complete with laughable images of ‘aliens’ that look like poorly cut-out paper figures), but Talbott saw potential in his popularity and covered his exploits with the same seriousness she gave to the crop circle phenomenon. By equating the two in her capacity as BLT’s public voice, she effectively watered down their entire body of research.

The team’s troubles escalated the following year, just as crop circles were having a resurgence in popular culture. The release of the blockbuster film, Signs (2002), boasted an in-demand director and big-named actors. Its sizable promotional budget fed the public a steady diet of crop circle imagery and rekindled interest in the phenomenon. It was the perfect moment for a cerealogy super-group like BLT to seize. However, turmoil between team members meant that the golden opportunity would be wasted.

Things were seemingly fine on the surface—only a few years prior, BLT Research published their first peer-reviewed paper together, trumpeting Levengood’s plasma vortex theory with confidence. The research put forth in their article, “Dispersion of energies in worldwide crop formations,” suggested that “over 95% of worldwide crop formations involve organized ion plasma vortices that... produce significant bending, expansion and the formation of unique expulsion cavities in plant stem pulvini, as well as significant changes in seedling development.” Despite their momentum, after investigating over 300 crop circles from more than seven countries, BLT Research was nearing the end.

What caused the band to break up? It depends on who you ask.

According to Talbott, by 2002, word was out on the phony doctorate associated with Levengood’s name. Questions about his academic background were circulating on UFO e-mail lists and message boards (the rumor-mills of the era). The case was blown wide open when James Moseley’s newsletter, Saucer Smear, ran a blurb inquiring about the validity of Lefty’s credentials. Moseley had the reputation of being ufology’s watchdog of sorts, calling out fraudsters and hoaxes in an attempt to increase the field’s signal-to-noise ratio. In the December 2002 issue, Saucer Smear’s editor laid waste to Lefty’s credibility, and by association, BLT’s:

Regarding ‘Doctor’ William Levengood of BLT Research Team, Inc...when Levengood's doctorate was recently called into question...LeVengood [sic] said that in reality he has a ‘Ph.D. equivalent’ from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). This would be fine if it were true, but when that prestigious body was contacted, they made it known that the NAS is not a academic institution and does not issue ‘degree equivalents’ of any kind. This sort of leaves ‘Dr.’ Levengood out on a limb!

Amidst the onslaught of bad press, BLT’s director of public relations sought to distance herself from Levengood. Talbott insisted that Lefty had fed her the same story about the origin of his PhD, calling him a “maverick.”

In response to the allegations, she removed all references to “Dr.” from Levengood’s BLT material. To her credit, Nancy defended the merits of Lefty’s work, asking that others judge him on the basis of his scientific contributions, not the letters before, or after, his name. Her vote of confidence may have had a lot to do with the fact that BLT’s reputation was inexorably tied to William Levengood’s research.

Over a decade later, Nancy expanded upon her side of the story in a contentious 2016 interview with the podcast Skeptiko. She claimed that Lefty was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease at the time, and that he was “fantasiz[ing]” in his old age. Talbott confessed that she couldn’t work with him under those conditions and the two effectively parted company in 2002.

Levengood stayed mostly silent on the controversy, but a 2012 book co-authored with his lab assistant, Penny Kelly, revealed another version of events. She explained that one of Lefty’s “‘partners’ (Nancy?) used Levengood’s work to bolster her own fame and fortune.” Chances are, she’s referring to Nancy Talbott. In fact, Kelly later charged Talbott with orchestrating Levengood’s inflated credentials: “In an attempt to explain away the fact that he did not have a PhD, she declared to anyone that would listen that he had been awarded a PhD by the National Academy of Sciences.”

Penny goes on to explain that “someone (Nancy?) suggested that he put ‘Dr.’ in front of his name…Levengood, did, in fact, have the equivalent of a doctorate.”

While this sheds a dim light on what was going on behind the scenes at BLT, Kelly’s statements directly contradict Levengood’s own 1991 letters to the authors of Circular Evidence. Those signatures prove that he was assuming the “Dr.” moniker before he ever met Nancy or joined BLT. In any case, a 2002 article about a local crop formation in the Des Moines Iowa Register made their split clear—it noted that Levengood was within Talbott’s circle of scientists, “until recently.”

That same year, Lefty added another highlight to his scientific resume when he was granted the patent for a device that detected the level of electric energy emitted by a living organism. When a subject placed their hands on a set of electrodes, the energy traveling through their body was measured and graphed on paper. By establishing a baseline output for an individual, deviations in later sessions could indicate a change in the person’s condition.

The machine was intended to look for health abnormalities or monitor a patient’s response to medical therapies, but as with his prior invention, Levengood failed to find any serious investors.

Despite falling out with BLT, Lefty didn’t fully vacate the crop circle scene. His Research Reports continued until at least 2005, with the analysis of a field marking that showed up in a barley field near Phoenix, Arizona. The document was issued on ‘Pinelandia Biophysical Laboratory’ letterhead and bore no bylines or mentions of his former associates.

Two years later, Lefty joined a November meeting of the Michigan chapter of MUFON as a guest speaker. Their official newsletter printed quotes that captured his current thinking on the phenomenon—one he had scientifically studied for the last 16 years. In a shocking about-face, Levengood admitted that he now believed the plasma energy responsible for creating crop circles was “intelligently directed as opposed to random.” It sounded like something Penny or Nancy would say.

When asked why he’d chosen to make the stunning proclamation, Lefty said plainly that he was “tired of beating around the bush about it.”

2010 dealt Lefty a pair of tragedies. First was the unexpected passing of his research partner. The ‘B’ in BLT Research, John Burke, died suddenly at the young age of 58. This unfortunate event was soon followed by another death; in the fall of that year Lefty lost his nature-loving best friend and partner of 67 years. Glenna Levengood died peacefully in her Grass Lake home—she was 89 years old. By this time, Lefty was in his 80s and having health issues of his own—by all accounts he’d retreated fully to his backyard laboratory and sank into his research. He spent the remaining years of his life collaborating with Penny Kelly on experiments with CDP, eventually releasing a book in 2012 detailing their work with consciousness and energy.

It would prove to be the final publication from the prolific plasma-chasing paper-writer. In 2013, at 88 years of age, William Levengood’s life came full-circle. He passed away in the same Michigan city where he was born.

Despite a long life and accomplished career in science, the saga of W.C. Levengood was not yet complete. After his death, his old lab partner, Penny Kelly, was promoting her brand of energy-work, offering services as a “Naturopathic physician, and researcher of consciousness.” Lefty’s research and conclusions remained a large part of her commercial image and she frequently reminisced about the years spent “studying materials from crop circles, animal mutilations, and extraterrestrial landing sites, as well as researching plasma, energy, and consciousness.” (Her website still refers to him as “Doctor” Levengood.)

Years later, in a shameless move for publicity, Penny partnered with long time crop circle researcher Patty Greer on a 2017 film entitled Crop Circle Diaries. Deserving of a goofy moniker a la the infamous Brits with boards, Doug & Dave, the Penny & Patty Scam amounted to the exploitation of Levengood’s ghost.

In the film, the duo ostensibly claim that Lefty intervened “from the other side” to posthumously arrange a meeting between Patty Greer and Penny Kelly. Adding insult to injury, as part of the movie’s release, Greer hijacked William Levengood’s science to announce that the energy from plasma vortices had the ability to create super-seeds that could feed the world. Tossing every buzzword into one pot, Penny & Patty came up with a soupy name for the effect: *Charge Density Spinning Plasma Technology for Seeds*

Insisting she understood “the REAL science of Crop Circles,” and needing “help to bring this to the world,” Greer attempted to raise $30,000 in an online fundraising campaign. She collected $1,205 before giving up. Patty blamed the lackluster response on “hackers,” stating that she was moving on from “this sad field of lost UFOlogy into bringing you the REAL ET technologies that the corporate hackers have been afraid of.

Nancy Talbott continued to pursue metaphysical mysteries and, of course, crop circles. In 2015, the last year that BLT Research, Inc. filed a tax return, she made an appearance on the TV show, Ancient Aliens. She repeated the familiar tales involving biological changes in plants and speculation about the involvement of a reclusive plasma energy.

She still has a slideshow deck ready to take on the road when invited to speak about crop formations at various paranormal conferences and lectures. Nancy is also quick to give Levengood his props when discussing the scientific research underpinning her convictions.

Talbott kept a close relationship with Robbert, the sketchy Dutch psychic who tried to remain relevant with claims that he could channel the disembodied spirits of deceased cerealogists Pat Delgado (Colin Andrews’ former research partner and co-author) and Dave Chorley (of Doug & Dave fame). Despite the outrage that ensued throughout the croppie community, Talbott dutifully stood by Robbert. This decision saw her fall further out of favor with popular crop circle researchers. Sadly, Nancy suffered a stroke in 2017 that has dramatically limited her public appearances.

As of August, 2021, her buddy Robbert was releasing poorly produced YouTube videos about ETs and medium-ship in front of blurry, superimposed background images.

The remainder of Levengood’s story deals with issues of personal legacy. After passing in 2013, his lab went dormant—a dramatic departure from the constant churn of research papers and reports it once produced. Despite the absence of experimentation occurring within Pinelandia, scientific research and investigation still regularly takes place in the adjacent public nature preserve donated by Lefty and his wife.

Each year, a class from Eastern Michigan University drives 40 miles west on Interstate-94 to assemble at Lefglen Nature Sanctuary. Through the Levengoods’ generosity, these students have the chance to participate in hands-on conservation efforts while exploring acres of varying habitats.

If Lefty never obtained the professional acknowledgment he’d hoped for by choosing to pursue unconventional ideas and fringe theories during his lifetime, perhaps his ‘legacy’ has been cemented through his enduring contribution to future generations of curious naturalists.

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