[dropcap]S[/dropcap]ummary: ‘So it’s all done with planks and bits of string, is it?’ A crash course on crop circles for beginners.
Crop circles are not a modern phenomenon.
They are mentioned in academic texts of the late 17th Century, and almost 200 cases- some with eyewitness accounts- have been reported prior to 1970. Since then, some eighty eyewitnesses as far flung as British Columbia and Australia have reported crop circles forming in under twenty seconds; cases are often accompanied by sightings of incandescent or brightly-coloured balls of light, shafts of light or structured flying craft.
Serious attention was given to the simple circles in 1980 in southern England. The designs appeared primarily as simple circles, circles with rings, and variations on the Celtic cross up into the mid-1980s. Then they developed straight lines, creating pictograms, not unlike petroglyphs found at sacred sites thoughout the world. After 1990 the designs developed exponentially in complexity, and today it is not unusual to come across crop glyphs mimicking computer fractals and elements that relate to fourth dimensional processes in quantum physics. Their sizes have also increased, some occupying areas as large as 200,000 sq ft. To date there have been over 10,000 reported and documented crop circles throughout the world, with some 90% emerging from southern England. While many still go unreported each year, the emegence of the phenomenon in the world media and the internet has allowed more information to be lodged.
If you happen to buy the story that all crop circles were originated by two sexagenarians armed with planks of wood, garden rollers and string, you are not in the minority. Once in a while, governments like to control public interest in unexplained phenomena by generating a disinformation method called ‘debunking’, a technique invented during the Cold War for the sad purpose of controlling mass opinion (this was the prime motive of the 1953 Robertson Panel, details of which are obtained under the US Freedom of Information Act). The method is very effective, particularly when the media provides little or no scientific or factual data with which the public can form an educated opinion on the subject. This absence of evidence is then replaced by ridiculing the subject through association with other ‘fringe’ topics; so-called experts are brought-in to explain away all the events as freak weather conditions or as the work of general pranksters, even sexually excited animals!
According to TV documentaries, all crop circles up to 1992 were made by two simple, elderly men called Doug and Dave. It has since been discovered by researchers such as George Wingfield and Armen Victorian that the D&D story may have originated at the British Ministry of Defense- in collusion with theCIA,amongothers.Evidence supplied by a high-ranking informant in the British Ministry of Defence suggested that the government had every intent to discredit the phenomenon by putting forward two hoaxers in an effort to quell growing public interest in crop circles (the full story appears in my book, Secrets In The Fields). When confronted to provide evidence on certain claimed formations, Doug and Dave changed their story, even reversing previous claims; or they simply could not explain unusual features found in the genuine phenomenon. When they claimed making all the formations around the English county of Hampshire, for example, it was pointed out that half the known formations had actually occured in another county- “Er, no, we didn’t do those either,” they replied. In the end, not even Doug and Dave knew which ones they had made. And although they claim to have made hoaxes since 1978- at the time the published date of the first design- unpublished evidence confirmed crop circles dating back into the 1890s. The public has never heard these retractions, nor been given the opportunity to compare the mess created by D&D with the mathematical elegance of the real phenomenon.
In 1998, however, the surviving member of the deceptive duo did make an incredible admission to British newspapers that he’d been guided by an unknown force.
Since Doug and Dave’s inauguration, many copycat hoaxers have appeared on the scene. Some do it to disprove or derail researchers, some for profit, some because they are sociopaths, some because they genuinely believe they can communicate back to the phenomenon (with very interesting results, I may add). Prior to 1989 the hoaxing problem was virtually unheard of. After 1990 designs of man-made origin vary by year- in 1992 and 1998 it was as high as 90%, in 996 as low as 20%.
That people with a good amount of training can go into a field and eventually create a coherent pattern has never been the issue- recently, a group of known hoaxers called Team Satan/circlemakers was paid to go to conveniently out-of-the-way New Zealand to make an elaborate formation for The Discovery Channel. The deceptive tactics used to trick a viewing public into accepting the hoax theory are dealt with here.
The real issue is that no man-made crop circle has satisfactorily replicated the features associated with the real phenomenon, and this has baffled scientists and researchers. Crop circles are created by a force seemingly at odds with modern science. Central to the hoax argument is that a physical object is required to flatten the crop to the ground, resulting in the breaking of the plant stems. In genuine formations the stems are not broken but bent (left), normally about an inch off the ground and near the plant’s first node. The plants appear to be subjected to a short and intense burst of heat which softens the stems to drop just above the ground at 90