flash of light, a spinning ball of crackling air, a sound
like a train crash, and then nothing. Silence, and
all that is left behind is a strange circle in the field.
Crop circle formations have been in existence for hundreds,
possibly thousands, of years. Their exact nature, cause,
and message, however, are still shrouded in mystery. Numerous
theories abound. Some view them as evidence of spacecraft
landings, others see the formations as the result of bizarre
meteorological activity, and others yet dismiss them as
carefully orchestrated pranks.
circles (or crop formations) are areas of fields where crops
have been flattened to make a pattern, be it circular or
more complex. Crop circles usually appear in fields of some
sort of grain, such as wheat or corn, although some have
appeared in mustard, soybean, and sugarbeet fields. Single
circles have reached diameters of 100 feet. The crops that
are affected are amazingly swirled, woven, and flattened
not crushed or broken they will continue to ripen
until harvest. Formations range from simple single rings
to more complex quintuplets and even a Celtic Cross
of four circles linked by one large ring.
1989, a circle was reported with satellite rings featuring
swirls in opposite directions and a tadpole form with a
long, curling tail. The appearance of more complex formations
is largely centralized in the Wessex Corridor,
the British breadbasket near Stonehenge and Avebury. Since
1980, over 750 circles have been reported in Britain alone,
and others have been found in the former Soviet Union, Japan,
New Zealand, Canada, and the United States.
who study the rings call themselves cereologists,
after the Roman goddess Ceres, matron of agriculture. One
such man is Dennis Stacy, who, while modest about his crop
circle knowledge, has quite a bit of insight into their
historical relevance. Stacy states that the sudden appearance
of so many circles over such a short period of time (about
fifteen years) could lead to speculations of a cycle of
an undetermined number of years. The first recorded sighting
of a crop formation in this cycle was 1976, by a farmer
at Headbourne Worthy in Hampshire, England. The average
cycle of activity seems to be at least ten years in length,
says Stacy, however the time between cycles is yet unknown.
The crop circles have seemed to gain complexity as more
have been discovered. Stacy believes that this could mark
an evolution of sorts inside the cyclical theory. Sunspots
behave in a similar fashion.
if cereologists could figure out the cycle pattern of the
crop circles, who can tell them how the formations are made?
While no information has ever been captured on film, there
are people who have seen crop formations as they occur.
Most eyewitness accounts offer vivid descriptions of blowing
winds, loud noises, and bright light, but no one can make
much sense of why these events occur.
earliest known record of an eyewitness account of crop circle
formation is from a four-page pamphlet which circulated
in August of 1678 in southern England. A Hertfordshire farmer
was engaged in an argument with one of his mowers. He said
that he would rather the Devil himself should Mow
his Oats than his hired man. That night the farmer
reported a strange light in his field and in the morning
found a crop circle there. The publisher of the pamphlet
said that a mowing devil had made the circle,
and plact every straw with that exactness that
it would have taken up above an Age for any Man to perform
what he did in one night.
recent eyewitness accounts have excluded devils but have
retained reports of strange happenings as circles were being
formed. Vivienne and Gary Tomlinson of Hambledon, Surrey,
were going for an evening stroll on Thursday, May 17, 1990.
As they walked a path alongside a wheat field near their
home they noticed the two-foot high, dry wheat swaying gently
in the breeze. Abruptly, the weather changed as the wind
began to come from two directions at once. What was once
the soft sound of the wind caressing the wheat changed to
a high-pitched whine, hurting the Tomlinsonss ears.
The winds picked up, sucking the couple into a whirlwind-like
area off the path. The swirling eddies were descending on
them and the Tomlinsons noticed a thick mist in the winds.
Straining against the forces of nature, Vivienne pulled
herself and her husband out of the vortex. The wheat was
being beaten down to the ground into a circle formation
by the winds as they stood mere feet away. Then as suddenly
as it had descended, the winds broke, raised, and jumped
across the rest of the wheat field, creating more circles
as they did.
formations may trace their history back to prehistoric Britain,
when the shamans of the early inhabitants of the Isles saw
the circles as messages from the heavens a view that
some share today.
veins of UFOlogists have seen a new glimpse of proof in
the circles, claiming that extra-terrestrial intervention
caused the patterns to be stamped in Britains fields.
Especially enticing to the UFOlogists are the intricate
patterns of connecting and intermingling circles and lines.
However, a strong argument against UFO involvement is the
lack of damage done to the crops. Most circles have swept,
woven stalks, not broken stalks that come from human or
mechanical involvement. And besides, says Paul Fuller, co-author
of Crop Circles: A Mystery Solved?, It is simply
not permissible to attempt to account for anomalous phenomena
by reference to other unexplained or controversial phenomena(e.g.
Ley Lines, the hole in the ozone layer, UFOs,
etc.). Despite the subject matter, circular reasoning
is not allowed.
Terrence Meaden, a physicist from Britain and a member of
the Tornado and Storm Research Organization (TORRO), has
his own theory, based on a decade of crop circle investigations.
He believes that the key to the crop circle mystery is meteorological,
not extraterrestrial. However, Dr. Meaden's weather report
borders more on the unique than the harsh. He explains that
the cause behind the formation of the circles is something
better than fiction, a theory of his own called
the plasma vortex phenomenon.
who like to fantasize that something from outer space is
responsible can be excluded, Dr. Meaden says bluntly.
Meaden purports that a spinning, electrically charged ball
of air makes contact with a field of crops and leaves a
circular impression. Airflow between the grains accomplishes
the swept and woven patterns. Purdue University professor
of atmospheric sciences John Snow also holds this viewpoint.
My personal opinion is that some of the crop circles
are possibly due to action by vortices distant cousins
to the dust devil or whirlwind. Snow explains that
vortices are actually quite common, and can sometimes be
seen around buildings on a windy day.
Meadens plasma vortex phenomenon theory not only explains
how the circles are made, but also why most of them form
in a concentrated area of southeastern England. His answer
is a geographical one as well as meteorological. The hills
around the natural English wind tunnel known as the
Wessex Corridor are low, isolated, and near the ocean.
As a light breeze comes in off the water the hills act as
gentle obstacles in the wind tunnel, throwing long, unstable
eddies far downwind. A small number of these eddies may
then turn into spinning vortices, and may be helped by stronger
winds higher in the atmosphere.
University professor Christopher Church has been using Dr.
Meadens theory in experiments at the University. Church
uses a scale model of the Hampshire hills set in a special
wind tunnel and has formed the tentative conclusion that
the wind from the ocean is not enough for the formation
of crop circles to occur. A vertical force is needed to
complement the horizontal breeze and begin the process.
This force, Church theorizes, could be thermal energy from
the wind in all of these scientistss sails has been
lessened by arguments pointing out the actual conditions
present when most circles form: calm nights with no wind.
And besides, how could anything as powerful as a plasma
vortex have enough control to cut formations as precise
as those seen in Meadens studies? If we assume
that crop circles are genuine, says Kent University
professor Roger Jennison, I would not go along with
any suggestion that they are created by air currents because
there would be too much turbulence for anything as
finely crafted as the circles. Snow agrees. Crops may appear
solid when viewed from a distance, he says, but actually
there is mostly open space in there. That makes a very interesting
fluid mechanics problem that I don't think has been addressed
connection dismissed early on is to fairy rings.
Or circles of mushrooms found growing in forests and fields.
While they suggestion seems preposterous at first glance,
mushrooms and wheat being of two entirely separate scientific
kingdoms, it does raise some interesting parallels. Could
fairy rings be present in the fields of the crop circles,
weakening the bases of the stalks and causing them to fall?
So far no evidence has suggested this is so, and the speed
at which most crop circles are formed (some witnesses have
reported formation to take a few seconds), throws this theory
out. Also of interest: when fairy rings were studied in
the 18th century, scientists dispelled the myths of their
folklore (traces of the midnight revels of the little
people) by giving the rings a meteorological explanation.
We now know that fairy rings are a natural, botanical occurrence
that has nothing to do with the weather. Could Dr. Meaden
and his adherents be throwing us off the track?
implies the existence of an original, says cereologist
Manfred Cassirer. Some cereologists believe that the crop
circles are all the work of pranksters. The more complex
formations are known as pictograms, are they
account for five to 10 percent of the circles reported since
1990. For the record, I am persuaded that the complex
seen in 1989 and 1990 are probably hoaxes
attention away from the core phenomenon, which is rather
smaller and less complex in its variety of patterns than
most people assume, tells cereologist Jenny Randles.
In the summer of 1991 two hoaxers came forward with an incredible
tale. David Chorley and Douglas Bower, both 60 years old
and both retired landscape artists in Britain, told cereologists
that they were the creators of hundreds of circles between
1978 and 1991. The two men showed reporters their tools
balls of string, long boards, and simple surveying
devices and how they used them to make crop formations
ranging from simple circles to repeated, complex, insect-like
if Chorley and Bower had only been in the hoaxing business
since 1978, what is to account for the circles before that
year? And besides, the two men had confined their trickery
to a small area of Southern England. Therefore they could
not be responsible for the hundreds of circles reported
elsewhere in Britain and the world. Retired astronomer Gerald
S. Hawkins read about Chorley and Bower and questioned the
pair's story not only because of their meager territory
but also because of their apparent mathematical genius.
Hawkins is famous in the scientific community for his studies
of Stonehenge and had been asked by colleagues to look into
the crop circle enigma in 1990. In a letter to Chorley and
Bower in September of 1991, Hawkins asked them how they
managed to discover and incorporate a number of ingenious,
previously-unknown geometric theorems into their artwork
in the crops.
crop circle enigma lives on. Some cereologists seem to have
made up their minds as to how these mysterious formations
come about. Others are just as confused now as when they
started. The spirit behind the study was best summed up
by Sally B. Donnelly when she wrote that researchers
and the locals may enjoy their novel oddity so much that
another ring is more interesting than a conclusive answer.