- Night Shyamalan’s 2002 feature film, Signs, brought it to the big screen and the DVD store, but although it has been the subject of multiple books and documentaries, we still don’t know much about the phenomenon of the crop formations collectively known as crop circles. Surprisingly, the concept is far from a recent invention.
A pamphlet written in 1678 and entitled, The Mowing Devil, features the reproduction of a woodcut from Hertfordshire, England, showing some kind of creature cutting an oval in a field of oats. The accompanying text begins like this:
“Being a true relation of a farmer, who bargaining with a poor mower, about
the cutting down three half acres of oats: upon the mower’s asking too much, the
farmer swore that the Devil should mow it rather than he. And so it fell out, that
very night, the crop of oat shew’d as if it had been all of a flame: but next morning
appear’d so neatly mow’d by the Devil or some infernal spirit, that no mortal man
was able to do the like. Also, how the said oats lay now in the field, and the owner has not the power to fetch them away. . .”
Another English publication entitled, The Natural History of Staffordshire, printed in 1686, describes what was then called “fairy circles”: circles of up to 120 feet in diameter which appeared in fields across the county; dehydrated soil and a white sulphurous residue were found under the formations.
The July, 1880 issue of Nature magazine printed a letter written by scientist John Rand Capron, describing circular flattenings in a wheat field in Surrey, England. The letter describes flattened areas, standing centres of stalks and untouched walls of standing wheat around the outside perimeters of the circles.
Crop circles as we know them first made international news in 1980. Since then, they have evolved. They are no longer simply circles, but complex geometric designs or symbols such as the hydrogen molecule, the Celtic cross, the spider web, the solar system, the scorpion, the Buddhist Wheel of Dharma, the Flower of Life, and the square fractal! Some are only a few yards in diameter. Others cover over an acre of land. Many are literally mind-boggling. Consider, for instance:
- The Julia set fractal formation, composed of 151 circles and stretching 915’ x 500’, which appeared in a Wiltshire, England wheat field in 1996.
- The 900’ wide galaxy spiral formation composed of 409 perfect circles of various sizes that also appeared in a wheat field in Wiltshire in 2001.
- The unique 98’ x 262’ formation found in a Hampshire, England, wheat field in 2001, that looks suspiciously like a response to the message SETI beamed into space on November 16, 1974.
While it is true the majority of crop circles are found in southern England, thousands have been reported elsewhere, including Canada, France, Italy, Russia, Greece, Holland, Poland,
Australia, Romania, China, Japan, and Portugal. In fact, the U.S. is second in reported crop formations. A few of the most enigmatic American crop circles include:
- Solano County, CA: in wheat, a 300’ pictogram composed of 11 large circles with a 185’ long tail made of 28 smaller, evenly spaced spheres (June, 2004)
- Madison, TN: in wheat, a ring connected to 8 spheres, measuring in total 165’ x 169’ (May, 2007)
- Wilbur, WA: again in wheat, 6 spheres 45’ to 65’ in diameter with a triangular center section (July, 2012)
- Chillicothe, OH: in corn, a 7-ring, 36-sphere formation measuring in total 350’ in diameter (September, 2012)
- Gray, TN: 3 interconnected rings with a sphere in the center, in hay, measuring the length of a football field (May, 2015)
Although wheat seems to be the crop of choice, formations also appear in corn, oats, canola, barley, flax, wild grass, rice, hay, blueberry plants, and even small trees.
Crop circles have been increasingly visited, photographed, filmed, measured, and studied.
Yet there is no unanimous answer to the question: what are they and how are they formed?
Theories are almost as numerous as the formations themselves: the work of the Devil, demons or fairies; circular spiralling energy vortexes; the wind; poorly applied fertilizers; differences in soil type; unusual weather; Gaia (the spirit of the Earth); flocks of birds; animal movements; communication from aliens; human thought-energy made manifest; sound vibrations; disinformation from the military; mass hysteria; and of course, man-made hoaxes.
The hoax theory made big news in September, 1991, when two British senior citizens, Doug
Bower and Dave Chorley, claimed to have made every known crop circle since 1978 using only a plank, some rope, and the light of the moon. They expected the public to believe they travelled the world, creating crop circles by night while their wives unknowingly slept alone. Later, they admitted having had nothing to do with hundreds of crop circles that had appeared over their thirteen-year period of activity, but the retraction was not widely carried by the media. They were an inspiration. A new generation of circle makers have picked up the slack since Dave and Doug retired, even forming clubs and setting up websites dedicated to their “crop art.”
Today, researchers believe that up to eighty percent of crop circles are, in fact, man-made.
But what about the other twenty percent?
“Genuine” (unexplained and usually unclaimed) formations often exhibit unusual phenomena: plants are bent but not broken or crushed, and continue to grow in their new position; stem nodes are bent, enlarged, or have holes blown in them; crops show abnormal seed heads; floor lays are frequently layered, often in a complex pattern of swirls and spirals; changes occur in the soil under the formation; no footprints are found in or around the formation, which are sometimes made in wet or muddy fields. Measurements are extremely precise, often demonstrating knowledge of advanced geometry and calculations using pi, phi, fractals (complex, repeating patterns), or diatonic ratios (the spaces between musical notes). In many cases, formations appear in the space of hours, usually overnight but sometimes during the day in plain sight of passers-by, who apparently notice no unusual activity!
People who go inside a newly formed “genuine” circle often report peculiar sensations: sharpened awareness; euphoria; calmness; increased vigour; a tingling sensation on the surface of the skin. Sometimes, they experience the opposite: nausea; headaches; dizziness; disorientation; excessive fatigue; dehydration. Some people hear a trilling or whirling sound with no identifiable source. Others hear a crackling sound, like static electricity. Collective hysteria—or something else?
Sheep, cats, dogs and birds tend to avoid crop circles. Cameras, video equipment, digital
watches and other instruments malfunction, only to return to normal after leaving the formation.
Airplane pilots report problems with their instruments when flying over newly formed circles.
Some scientific research has been undertaken, and while it has not uncovered how crop circles are made or what they mean, it has come up with intriguing results. Tests performed by molecular biologist Dr. Kevin M. Folta of the University of Illinois on plant samples taken from a September, 1991 crop circle in Argonne, IL, showed considerably degraded DNA, suggesting exposure to some sort of radiation. Biophysicist W. C. Levengood has investigated the possibility of molecular changes in a variety of crop circle plants. He discovered that immature seed heads collected from crop circles are often stunted, malformed, and low in weight, and tend not to germinate. Mature seeds, on the other hand, show an increase in growth and accelerated germination (up to 40% faster than normal). The plants themselves tend to have grossly enlarged, expanded, or blown-out nodes, which appear to be caused by the water in the cell walls being suddenly superheated and forcing its way out of the plant, as would happen if they have been exposed to microwave energy.
Soil samples taken from inside some crop circles contain magnetic material that has only also been found in meteorites. Others show signs of having been subjected to recrystallization temperatures well above 1000° F. even though plants from the same location were not killed or incinerated. Some circles, such as the above-mentioned Argonne, IL circle and a July, 1991 formation in Beckhampton, England, yield soil samples with radiation levels several times higher than soil outside of the circles.
Although well over 10,000 crop circles have been reported worldwide to date, the mass media still basically ignores the phenomena. However, a handful of intrepid investigators continue their research and a growing number of curious citizens are asking questions no one can answer.
At least not yet.
BY: Donna Marie West
BIBLIOGRAPHY OF SOURCES
Alexander, Steve & Karen. CROP CIRCLES: SIGNS, WONDERS AND MYSTERIES. Arcturus
Publishing Ltd., London, England, 2006
Andrews, Colin & Spignesi, Stephen J. CROP CIRCLES: SIGNS OF CONTACT. New Page Books,
Franklin Lakes, N.J., 2003
Silva, Freddy. SECRETS IN THE FIELDS. Hampton Roads Publishing Co., Charlottesville, VA,
Internet sites: www.bltresearch.com/usacropcircles