Crop Circles

(Investigator 53, 1997 March)

Crop circles are mysterious patterns appearing in grain fields all over the world, but more particularly in the southern and western counties of England. Although first publicized about 15 years ago, in the last two or three years the number of circles has increased exponentially.

The formations are geometrically precise, the grain being flattened without being broken in a clockwise or anti-clockwise direction. They vary in diameter from a few metres to as much as 60 metres, some surrounded by narrow rings, others have four or more satellite circles or "spots" around the perimeter.

Recently, patterns other than circles have been discovered – rectangles, circles joined by a straight line, and one shaped rather like a key.

The phenomenon has baffled scientists, meteorologists and psychic investigators alike, and organizations have been formed specifically to investigate these bizarre appearances. In one such investigation, thirty scientists camped out using the latest technological equipment and discovered nothing. In another, two men watched in relays, twenty-four hours a day for three weeks. Despite their vigil a circle formed near them unseen by the watchers. Even air surveillance has thrown no light on the subject and a plausible explanation has yet to be offered.

According to anecdotal and undocumented reports, the appearance of some of the circles have coincided with strange noises and lights, others tell of unearthly substances and malfunctioning photographic equipment when the investigator has entered the circle.

Some of the hypotheses advanced to explain the patterns include alien visitors, downdrafts from helicopters, a fungus, a spiralling ball of air coming down to the ground and a. "plasma vortex" – an unknown type of precisely localized whirlwind carrying rotating electrically charged particles. The latter postulation by Dr. Meaden (1990), of the Tornado and Storm Research Organization is considered by many to be a credible hypothesis.

One researcher, Mr George Wingfield, of the Centre for Crop Circle Studies, believes that because the circles are so perfect there must be an intelligence directing their creation, they are not a natural phenomena. This suggestion appears to be gaining popular acceptance.

However, it is significant that the patterns only appear in open fields and not on the sides of hills, across ditches, hedges and other boundaries, and further, a study of photographs taken of the patterns will show that in all cases there is a path, furrow or farm machinery track leading into the area which would allow ingress and egress for a person on the ground to make the pattern. To me this suggests a hoax.

When considering the hypotheses put forward by some theorists,  it should be borne in mind that many of the investigators belonging to or who have convened organizations to examine the phenomena, seek only to support their own prejudices, their theories being based on conjecture and a predisposition to believe in the untenable.

Typical are those who claim that the circles are formed by alien space craft landing in the fields, or that they are messages from extraterrestrial intelligences. The former can be dismissed in view of the diversity of shapes and sizes and the absence of any accompanying visual sightings, and the second I would consider to be an insult to any extraterrestrial civilization capable of inter-galactic space travel. Why would the possessors of such advanced technology resort to primitive pictographs to communicate with earthlings when even a cursory reconnaissance of the planet would reveal that we evolved beyond that stage millennia ago?

The logic applied by some "experts" to the origin of crop circles leaves much to be desired,  one claims that he can differentiate between a “genuine" circle and a "hoax" circle because the hoax circles are too crude, then in the next breath dismisses a circle as a hoax because it is too perfect!

Although Circle spotters dismiss the suggestion that crop circles are simply hoaxes, when the options are considered this is revealed as the most likely explanation. How could it be done? One simple method is to drive a stake into the ground with a length of string around it then starting at the stake hold the string and walk clockwise (or anti-clockwise) around the stake gradually paying out the string and working your way outwards. When the desired diameter is reached, the string is wound up and the stake removed. Voila! A perfect crop circle!

The exponential proliferation of circles is explained by the fact that we all love a good hoax and can't wait to try it on someone else. Some enterprising farmers have got in on the act, making their own circles and charging viewers a fee!

Since writing this essay the mystery of the circles appears to have been solved. Two middle-aged British artists, Doug Bower and David Chorley, (1991), have claimed responsibility for many of them.

Mr Bower lived in Queensland, Australia, from 1958, to 1966, and recalls seeing farmers making circles in their crops as a joke. When he returned to England he and Mr Chorley decided to create their own circles in 1978, “for a bit of a laugh." Because of the interest in UFOs at the time they thought that if they flattened the corn it would give the impression that something had landed there. The publicity and speculation which followed the appearance of the first circle added to the excitement. Over the next thirteen years the pair perfected the technique of flattening crops in increasing intricate patterns and were amused when their efforts were described as the work of a higher intelligence and scientists from around the world began arriving to study the corn circles. They finally decided to come clean when the government started to consider spending tax payers' money on researching the phenomenon.

Despite the exposure of this hoax which has evidently been copied by others in Britain and around the world, many people still believe that there is another explanation. The latest theory proposed by George Wingfield of London's Centre for Crop Circle Studies, and Pat Delago, author of three books on the subject, is that of an international conspiracy – a cover-up by the CIA, the French Secret Service and the British Ministry of Defence to avert public hysteria. Such is the mind of the true believer.

[From: Skeploon an illustrated look at some New Age Beliefs, 1994, Harry Edwards.
Published by Harry Edwards Publications]

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