<![CDATA[Mufon - Crop circles]]>Tue, 09 Feb 2016 22:38:26 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Crop Circles: Best Evidence]]>Tue, 11 Feb 2014 19:37:39 GMThttp://www.mufon.com/crop-circles/crop-circles-best-evidenceBy Stephen Wagner on Unknown Date on Paranormal.About.com Picture
Although science regards them as no more than clever man-made designs, many researchers say there is compelling proof that the origins of these mysterious formations is unexplained.

They began as simple circles laid down in fields of wheat, corn and other crops. Then the formations became more complex, some taking the form of pictograms that seemed to be ciphers for messages of unknown meaning. The phenomenon has continued over the years, and each summer season we are treated to ever-more complex and often beautiful crop circle designs.

The ongoing debate among many crop circle investigators and skeptics has been: Are they manmade or not? While many designs are clearly and admittedly made by people (even veteran crop circle researcher Colin Andrew estimates that up to 80 percent of them are probably manmade), some researchers insist that many formations are not - in fact, cannot be - made by humans.

Skeptical explanations for crop formations have ranged from the ludicrous (one early theory was that they were created by hedgehogs running in circles) to the probable (clever college students). The believers' explanations have been equally as diverse, ranging from the work of extraterrestrials to the idea that the formations are created by the Earth itself as some kind of warning to mankind.

On their side, skeptics have cold rationale and the confessions of such crop circle creators as Doug and Dave in the UK. In 1992, Doug Bower and Dave Chorley, two somewhat elderly retirees, came forward and claimed that they had created hundreds of crop circles over the preceding 15 years using a plank of wood, rope and a baseball cap fitted with a loop of wire to help them walk in a straight line. While their claim is called into serious question by some researchers, it is unquestioned that many crop formations have been "hoaxed" by people using little more than a well-planned design and, yes, planks of wood and rope. Such hoaxers have proved before witnesses and television cameras that they can create large, elaborate designs at night in just a few hours.

But what of the assertion that crop formations are created by some supernatural, extraterrestrial or paranormal force? What is the evidence that compels some researchers to conclude that they almost certainly are not manmade? There are peculiarities to "genuine" crop circles, these researchers say, that cannot be created or hoaxed by humans. Here is some of their "best evidence":

Number, complexity, and placement

Number and complexity: Some researchers contend that crop formations are too numerous and too complex to all have been made by humans. This may be the weakest argument against them being manmade as it naively underestimates the abilities and ingenuity of some people.

Placement: While most crop circles can be found in readily accessible fields, some are not. Some have been found within restricted areas, according to "Peculiarities of Crop Circles" - "numerous accounts of crop circles appearing inside military installations that are fenced off (quite securely!) from the surrounding area. Most notably in Wiltshire along the Salisbury Plain." This article also points out that several crop circles have been formed away from the farmer's tram lines, which makes it very difficult for the circle makers to hide evidence of their presence.

Changes to plants

Weaving: Researchers have long contended that the plants in genuine circles are weaved together in a particular way when they are flattened. Hoaxers have supposedly not been able to duplicate this pattern. "The plants are masterfully overlapping each other, and gently spiking into the standing crop in a spoke effect creating the circle," says Urn Greene at "Crop Circles: Fingerprints of the Gods?". "This is an effect that is not achieved by simply stomping on the plants with a board and or a garden roller, two tools commonly used by hoaxers to create fakes."

Elongated Nodes: Joseph E. Mason at "Arguments Against the Hoax Theory of Crop Circles" says that there is a distinct difference between crops that are bent in genuine circles and those bent by hoaxers. With photos to support his claim, Mason says: "The bent node of the plant from inside a [genuine] crop formation is elongated yet undamaged. Plant stems bent by people via mechanical means appear damaged and do not have the elongated nodes."

Blown Nodes: Many plants inside genuine circles also have "blown nodes," according to Mason.

Dried Ground: The soil beneath crop circles often appears inexplicably dehydrated, even after heavy rain.

Increased Size: Dr. Eltjo H. Haselhoff, Ph.D., a former employee of Los Alamos National Laboratories, noted these alterations in crop circle plants in his research: "It was discovered that the plant stems inside these formations had increased in diameter, as an effect of intensive heating, with an astonishing circular symmetry. Moreover, this effect perfectly matched the radiation pattern of an electromagnetic point source at a height of four meters and ten centimeters above that field." This finding, he says, supports the contention that the formations were created by the "balls of light" (see below) that witnesses have claimed to see at crop circles.

Bent Unbendable Plants: Some plants just should not be able to be bent, say some researchers. "Crop circle formations often appear in canola (oil seed rape) fields," says Joseph Mason. "This plant has a consistency like celery. If the stalk is bent more than about 45-degrees, it snaps apart. Yet, in a 'genuine' crop circle formation, the stalks are often bent flat at 90-degrees. No botanist or other scientist has been able to explain this, nor has it ever been duplicated by a human being."

Altered Seeds: Tests by some researchers have shown that seeds planted from crops that were part of crop circles grow abnormally. Biophysical Effects found in Crop Formation Plants by BLT Research says that the seed-heads (barley) from the 1992 formation at Barbury Castle are "stunted and seedless." Some crop circle plants also produce seeds that are noticeably smaller than normal plants.

Crop Yield: At the other end of the spectrum, "Peculiarities of Crop Circles" says that some farmers have experienced increased crop yield in fields in which formations have appeared: "In 1997, Tim Carson who farms East Field (where the 'DNA' formation appeared in 1996) reported to researchers that his yield was up 30-40%."

Cellular Changes: There are microscopic changes as well, Joseph Mason says, and provides photos that show the differences. It isn't explained what the differences mean, however. BLT Research also shows photos that depict an unexplained cell wall enlargement in a crop circle wheat plant.

Electromagnetic and radioactive effects

Effects on equipment: Researchers claim that their electronic equipment is often affected when they are examining crop circles. "There have been numerous reports of electronic equipment failing in crop circles and compasses spinning out of control in and over the crop circles (when flying over in aircraft)," according to "Peculiarities of Crop Circles". "This range of equipment includes watches, mobile phones, batteries, cameras. No explanations for these occurrences, other than the indication of a strong EM field distortions."

EM Measurements: Longtime crop circle investigator Colin Andrews says he has recorded electromagnetic (EM) measurements of 40-50 nano Teslas at the centers of some formations, which he says is 10 times the radiation level of a normal field.

Strange sounds: Researchers say they have sometimes detected an unexplained sound at 5KHz frequency emanating from crop circles for just a few days after they are formed. "This corresponds to reports of eyewitnesses who often claim to hear a 'trilling' sound coming from the direction of the formations," says "Peculiarities of Crop Circles".

Radioactive isotopes: In 1991, two American nuclear physicists, Michael Chorost and Marshall Dudley, applied their expertise to crop circle research. "After subjecting a number of seed and soil samples to rigorous lab analysis," according to Freddy Silva's article, "Analysis of Crop-Circle Affected Crops and Soil," "their main discovery was that the soil in genuine formations contained no less than four, short-lived radioactive isotopes - vanadium, europium, tellurium and ytterbium. Tests conducted on soil from the Beckhampton July 31 formation yielded alpha emissions 198% above control samples, beta emissions 48% above, both of which seemed 'strikingly elevated,' since they were two to three times as radioactive as soil from outside the formation." Analyzed DNA samples from plants in another circle were found to be considerably more degraded than that of surrounding plants.

Physical side effects

Extremes: Extremes of physical effects on people who enter crop circles have been reported. While some feel elation, others feel ill effects, including "nausea, headaches, dizziness, tingling sensations, pains and giddiness." Some claim their menstrual cycles have been affected while others say they have literally been knocked off their feet.

Animals: People aren't the only ones affected. According to "Crop Circles: A Deeper Look" from the Foundation for Paranormal Research, "one researcher allowed his dog to enter a newly formed circle. The dog became violently ill and vomited for about an hour afterward. Sheep in the area go into a frenzy."

Another witness testified: "During a third visit into the main Chiseldon formation in 1996 I encountered a couple who couldn't understand why their normally placid cat suddenly became agitated the moment he crossed the threshold of the formation. He protested and looked around frantically for a way out. Once outside he was back to his normal self."

Highly intricate mathematical design

Euclidian geometry: Some researchers contend that certain crop circle formations contain sophisticated geometry that an ordinary hoaxer most likely would not even understand. Gerald S. Hawkins, former Chairman of the astronomy department at Boston University, says that he detected relationships between crop circles and Euclidean geometry. According to an article at "The Crop Circular", "Hawkins found that he could use the principles of Euclidean geometry to prove four theorems derived from the relationships among the areas depicted in crop circles. He also discovered a fifth, more general theorem, from which he could derive the other four. 'This theorem involves concentric circles which touch the sides of a triangle, and as the [triangle] changes shape, it generates the special crop-circle geometries,' he says. Hawkins could find no reference to such a theorem in the works of Euclid or in any other book that he consulted. In July 1995, however, 'the crop-circle makers... showed knowledge of this fifth theorem.'"

Diatonic ratios: At least one article claims that the circle makers, whoever or whatever they are, have been encoding within crop circles diatonic ratios - how notes in music are related to each other. "Musicians have used the musical notes of the first octave to encode messages in their music," the article says. "For example, the last fugue of Bach keeps repeating notes B-A-C-H. The Circlemakers, since 1988, have also been encoding messages by including diatonic ratios, and hence sets of notes. When geometries are tested against lists of initials, the code appears to fit one and only one list: the first 25 presidents of the Society for Psychical Research of London." A reason why the circle makers might identify these people is not offered in the article. "Music and Harmonics" at Crop Circle Research.com offers additional information and some sound samples.

Sacred geometry: "The Sacred Geometry of Crop Circles" says that so-called sacred geometry is evident in crop formations and reflect "the universe, its pure forms and dynamic equilibriums shared a higher purpose: the attainment of spiritual wholeness through self-reflection, thereby giving structural insight into the workings of the inner self. When analyzing crop circle forms through the precise and unalterable practice of sacred geometry one cannot help but appreciate that a mind of scholarly intelligence is involved. That these symbols are occurring primarily in wheat, the very symbol of the Earth Mother, is significant in itself. Perhaps they are here to draw us as a race together by this interaction with our symbol of life?"

Eyewitnesses and balls of light

Balls and clouds of light: Several eyewitnesses to crop circles testify that they have seen strange balls or clouds of light in and around crop circles as they were being formed, and even some time after they were formed. In an article by Linda Moulton Howe, she quotes a witness who saw a bright light that seemed to come up out of the ground after he and a friend entered a large crop formation known as the Galaxy in 1994: "It was so bright, it lit up the hills in the background. It was bluish-white in color and about as big as the formation, fifty to sixty meters wide. The bright light formed some sort of cloud and it changed shape continuously as it hovered over the formation. After a couple of seconds, it rose at slow speed and disappeared into the darkness. My friend and I were totally flabbergasted!"

Oliver's castle video: One of the most controversial crop circle videos, known as the Oliver's Castle Crop Circle Video, appears to show several swirling balls of light actually creating a formation in a field of grain. The video has been shown on TV documentaries several times. Although there are still some diehard believers, most experts who have analyzed the video concluded that it was a hoax - a clever computer-generated effect.

Another video shot in August, 1999, seems to show a ball of light at the Barbury Castle "dolphins" crop circle.

Urm Greene says that he had video evidence on a CD-ROM he is offering that shows "a British Army helicopter chasing and finally catching up to an small, glowing, pulsating UFO within a crop circle field."

Far out ideas

There are some who say the evidence for the supernatural origin of crop circles lies in psychic connections.

Dreams and psychic connections: Joseph Mason, in his article "The Pleiades and the Seventh Ray on the Seventh Day," says that "Dreams and coincidences often seem to be related to crop circle formations." He then relates a well-known triangular crop circle near Barbury Castle in 1991 to a dream he had, the seven days of creation, the Holy Trinity, and the Pleiades star cluster. And Dee Finney claims that the 1999 Whitehorse crop circle appeared in a field while she was dreaming about it.At "The Philosopher's Stone," Kris Weber Sherwood says that a snowflake-shaped crop formation, known as the Koch Fractal, at the foot of Silbury Hill in 1997, "was supremely layered with vast and interconnected meanings of profound significance; implicit in the timing, placement, design, and physical components. The genuine crop circle phenomenon has demonstrated its ability to be psycho-interactive with those giving their attention to it."

Psychics, they say, are particularly tuned in to crop circles. "Some area psychics began to pick up messages from some intelligence associated with the circles," says "Crop Circles: A Deeper Look", "predicting the very next formation; it's design and location. Sure enough, their predictions came true. This leads us to some other fascinating occurrences surrounding this phenomenon."

So what creates them? The theories on what creates crop circles, if they are not manmade, are many. But some of the most common theories include whirlwind vortexes, plasma vortexes (the balls of light?), Earth energies, extraterrestrials, underground archaeology, sound vibrations, heavenly or demonic forces, and military experiments including microwaves.

If the anomalies listed above are real, a thorough, rigorously scientific examination of crop circles and their effects is called for to help unravel this mystery.
<![CDATA[Crop Circles Explained]]>Thu, 24 Jan 2013 21:56:46 GMThttp://www.mufon.com/crop-circles/crop-circles-explainedBy Benjamin Radford on January 24th, 2013 on livescience.com Picture
According to some estimates, crop circles appear every week somewhere around the world. The strange circles and patterns appear mysteriously overnight in farmers' fields, provoking puzzlement, delight, and intrigue for both locals and the news media.

The circles are mostly found in the United Kingdom, but have spread to dozens of countries around the world in past decades. But who — or what — is making them?

Early claims of crop circles

Many people believe that crop circles have been reported for centuries, a claim repeated in many books and websites devoted to the mystery. Their primary piece of evidence is a woodcut from 1678 that appears to show a field of oat stalks laid out in a circle. Some take this to be a first-hand eyewitness account of a crop circle, but a little historical investigation shows otherwise. 
PictureA woodcut pamphlet that
some claim represents an
early crop circle.
The woodcut was actually used to illustrate what in folklore is called a "mowing devil" legend, in which an English farmer told a worker with whom he was feuding that he "would rather pay the Devil himself" to cut his oat field than pay the fee demanded. The source of the harvesting is not unknown or mysterious — it is indeed Satan himself, who can be seen in the woodcut holding a scythe. According to the original text of the legend, the devil "cut them in round circles, and plac't every straw with that exactness that it would have taken up above an Age for any Man to perform what he did that one night." This image and story cannot be related to crop circles because it states explicitly that the crop was cut (i.e., harvested) rather than laid down, as occurs in crop circles.

Some claim that the first crop circles (though they were not called that at the time) appeared near the small town of Tully, Australia. In 1966 a farmer said he saw a flying saucer rise up from a swampy area and fly away; when he went to investigate he saw a roughly circular area of debris and apparently flattened reeds and grass, which he assumed had been made by the alien spacecraft (but which police investigators said was likely caused by a natural phenomena such as a dust devil or waterspout). Referred in the press as "flying saucer nests," this story is more a UFO report than a crop circle report.

As in the 1678 mowing devil legend, the case for it being linked to crop circles is especially weak when we consider that the impression or formation was not made in a crop of any kind but instead in ordinary grass. A round impression in a lawn or grassy area is not necessarily mysterious (as anyone with a kiddie pool in the back yard knows). Indeed, mysterious circles have appeared in grass throughout the world that are sometimes attributed to fairies but instead caused by disease.

In fact the first real crop circles didn't appear until the 1970s, when simple circles began appearing in the English countryside. The number and complexity of the circles increased dramatically, reaching a peak in the 1980s and 1990s when increasingly elaborate circles were produced, including those illustrating complex mathematical equations such as fractals.

Theories & explanations

Unlike other mysterious phenomenon such as psychic powers, ghosts, or Bigfoot, there is no doubt that crop circles are "real." The evidence that they exist is clear and overwhelming. The real question is what creates them.  

Crop circle enthusiasts have come up with many theories about what creates the patterns, ranging from the plausible to the absurd. One explanation in vogue in the early 1980s was that the mysterious circle patterns were accidentally produced by the especially vigorous sexual activity of horny hedgehogs. Some people have suggested that the circles are somehow created by incredibly localized and precise wind patterns, or by scientifically undetectable Earth energy fields and meridians called ley lines.

  Many who favor an extraterrestrial explanation claim that aliens physically make the patterns themselves from spaceships; others suggest that they do it using invisible energy beams from space, saving them the trip down here. Still others believe that it is human, not extraterrestrial, thought and intelligence that is behind the patterns — not in the form of hoaxers but some sort of global psychic power that manifests itself in wheat and other crops.

While there are countless theories, the only known, proven cause of crop circles is humans. Their origin remained a mystery until September 1991, when two men confessed that they had created the patterns for decades as a prank to make people think UFOs had landed (they had been inspired by the 1966 Tully UFO report). They never claimed to have made all the circles — many were copycat pranks done by others — but their hoax launched the crop circle phenomena.

Most crop circle researchers admit that the vast majority of crop circles are created by hoaxers. But, they claim, there's a remaining tiny percentage that they can't explain. The real problem is that (despite unproven claims by a few researchers that stalks found inside "real" crop circles show unusual characteristics), there is no reliable scientific way to distinguish "real" crop circles from man-made ones. [Related: Crop-Circle Artists Becoming High Tech]

Crop circle features

While there are exceptions, virtually all crop circles share a set of common characteristics.


Crop circles, as the name implies, almost always involve circles — rarely triangles, rectangles, or squares, though some designs contain straight or curved lines.  Perhaps not coincidentally, a circle is the easiest pattern for hoaxers to create.

Nocturnal creation

Crop circles are formed overnight, often sighted by farmers or passersby the next morning. Though there seems no logical reason for extraterrestrials or earth energies to only create patterns at night, it is obviously a great advantage for hoaxers to create the designs under the cover of darkness; full moon nights are especially popular.

Camera shyness

Crop circles have never been recorded being made (except, of course, for those created by hoaxers). This is a very suspicious trait; after all, if mysterious earthly forces are at work, there's no reason to think that they wouldn't happen when cameras are recording. The same thing is true with other explanations including alien spacecraft; the only things ever caught on camera making the circles are hoaxers.

No obvious human trace

Most crop circles show little or no signs of human contact. While many people consider this very mysterious, in fact it's quite logical: Hoaxers who devote the time and effort required to design and create the (often complex) crop circles are unlikely to carelessly leave obvious signs of their activities.

Access to roads

Crop circles usually appear in fields that provide reasonably easy public access, close to roads and highways. They rarely appear in remote, inaccessible areas. Because of this, the patterns are usually noticed within a day or two of their creation by passing motorists.

There are many theories about what creates crop circles, from aliens to mysterious vortices to wind patterns, but they all lack one important element: good evidence. Perhaps one day a mysterious, unknown source will be discovered for crop circles, but until then perhaps they are best thought of as collective public art.
<![CDATA[UFO alert: police officer sees aliens at crop circle]]>Tue, 20 Oct 2009 18:40:08 GMThttp://www.mufon.com/crop-circles/february-11th-20141By Alastair Jamieson on October 20th, 2009 on telegraph.co.uk Picture
A police officer contacted British UFO experts after seeing three aliens examining a freshly made crop circle near Avebury, Wiltshire.

 The sergeant, who has not been named, was off-duty when he saw the figures standing in a field near Silbury Hill, and stopped his car to investigate.

However, as he approached the 'men' – all over 6ft tall with blond hair – he heard "the sound of static electricity" and the trio ran away ''faster than any man he had ever seen''.

The officer returned to his home in Marlborough, Wiltshire, and contacted paranormal experts and told them he had spotted a UFO. 

Wiltshire Police has refused to comment on the incident, saying it is a ''personal matter'' for the officer involved. 

Crop circle researcher Andrew Russell, who is investigating the bizarre sighting on behalf of the officer, described the moment his sighting was made. 

He said: ''At first he thought they were forensic officers as they were dressed in white coveralls. He stopped his car and approached the field. 

''The figures were all over 6ft and had blond hair. They seemed to be inspecting the crop. When he got to the edge of the field he heard what he believed to be a sound not dissimilar to static electricity. 

''This crackling noise seemed to be running through the field and the crop was moving gently, close to where the noise was. 

''He shouted to the figures who, at first, ignored him, not glancing at him. When he tried to enter the field they looked up and began running. 

''He said; 'They ran faster than any man I have ever seen. I'm no slouch but they were moving so fast. I looked away for a second and when I looked back they were gone. 

''I then got scared. The noise was still around but I got an uneasy feeling and headed for the car. For the rest of the day I had a pounding headache I couldn't shift.'' 

The bizarre incident occurred on the morning of July 6 this year as the police officer was driving. 

The officer claims the three figures were examining a crop circle, which had appeared several days earlier, when he stopped his car and began walking towards them. 

However, the mysterious beings disappeared when he ''looked away for a second'' and he contacted UFO experts after witnessing other paranormal activity. 

A spokesman for Wiltshire Police said: ''The police officer was apparently off duty when this happened so we have no comment to make because it is a personal not a police matter.'' 

Crop circle expert Colin Andrews, who investigated the incident alongside Andrew Russell, said he is ''convinced'' by the police officer's story. 

He said: ''I am quite convinced the officer had an experience that day and one that we have not fully explored. 

''I think with the unusual movement of the being and the poltergeist experiences there is too much additional information to say that is something in nothing.''
<![CDATA[Circular Reasoning: The ‘Mystery’ of Crop Circles]]>Wed, 02 Oct 2002 20:31:06 GMThttp://www.mufon.com/crop-circles/circular-reasoning-the-mystery-of-crop-circles-and-their-orbs-of-lightBY JOE NICKELL in OCTOBER, 2002 on csicop.com Picture
Since they began to capture media attention in the mid 1970s, and to proliferate and evolve through the decades of the 1980s and 1990s, crop circles have provided mystery and controversy. New books, touting “scientific research,” continue the trend. The topic is also getting a boost from a new Hollywood movie, Signs, starring Mel Gibson as a Pennsylvania farmer who discovers a 500-foot design imprinted in his crops and seeks to learn its meaning.

They can range from small circles only a few feet in diameter to elaborate “pictograms,” some now as large as a few hundred feet across. By the end of the 1980s books on the crop circle phenomenon had begun to spring up as well, and soon circles-mystery enthusiasts were being dubbed cereologists (after Ceres, the Roman goddess of vegetation). Circlemania was in full bloom (Delgado and Andrews 1989; Nickell and Fischer 1992; Schnabel 1994).

Most cereologists-a.k.a. “croppies” (Hoggart and Hutchinson 1995)-believed the circular designs were being produced either by extraterrestrials or by hypothesized “plasma vortices,” supposedly “small, local whirlwinds of ionized air” (Haselhoff 2001, 5-6). A few took a more mystical approach. When I visited the vast wheat crops of the picturesque Wiltshire countryside in 1994, at one formation a local dowser told me he believed the swirled patterns were produced by spirits of the earth (Nickell 1995).

Hoaxers, most croppies insisted, could not be responsible because the plants were only bent and not broken, and there were no footprints or other traces of human activity. Skeptics replied that from mid-May to early August the English wheat was green and pliable, and could only be broken with difficulty. As to the absence of tracks, they were precluded by de facto footpaths in the form of the tractor “tramlines” that mark the fields in closely spaced, parallel rows (Nickell and Fischer 1992).

Investigation into the circles mystery indicated that it might be profitable to look not just at individual formations but at the overall phenomenon (rather on the old principle that one may fail to see the forest for the trees). Forensic analyst John F. Fischer and I soon identified several characteristics that suggested the work of hoaxers (Nickell and Fischer 1992):

  1. An Escalation in Frequency. Although there were sporadic reports of simple circles in earlier times and in various countries (possibly as UFO-landing-spot hoaxes), the classic crop circles began to be reported by the mid 1970s. Data on the circles showed that their number increased annually from 1981-1987, an escalation that seemed to correlate with media coverage of the phenomenon. In fact it appeared that the coverage helped prompt further hoaxes.
  2. Geographic Distribution. The phenomenon showed a decided predilection for a limited geographic area, flourishing in southern England-in Hampshire, Wiltshire, and nearby counties. It was there that the circles effect captured the world’s attention. And, just as the number of circles increased, so their locations spread. After newspaper and television reports on the phenomenon began to increase in the latter 1980s, the formations began to crop up (so to speak) in significant numbers around the world. Indeed the circles effect appeared to be a media-borne “virus.”
  1. Increase in Complexity. A very important characteristic of the patterned-crops phenomenon was the tendency of the configurations to become increasingly elaborate over time. They progressed from simple swirled circles to circles with rings and satellites, to still more complex patterns. In 1987 came a crop message, “WEARENOTALONE” (although skeptics observed that, if the source were indeed English-speaking extraterrestrials, the message should have read “You” rather than “We”). In 1990 came still more complex patterns, dubbed “pictograms.” There were also free-form shapes (e.g., a “tadpole"-like design), a witty crop triangle, and the hilarious bicycle (see Hoggart and Hutchinson 1995, 59).
  2. There also appeared beautifully interlinked spirals, a Menorah, intricate “snowflake” and stylized “spider web” designs, elaborate “Torus Knot” and “Mandala” emblems, pentagram and floral patterns, and other distinctive formations, including an “Origami Hexagram” and several fractals (mathematical designs with a motif subjected to repeated subdivision)-all consistent with the intelligence of modern homo sapiens. At the end of the decade came many designs that included decidedly square and rectilinear shapes, seeming to represent a wry response to the hypothesized swirling “vortex” mechanism.
  3. The Shyness Factor. A fourth characteristic of the cropfield phenomenon is its avoidance of being observed in action. It is largely nocturnal, and the designs even appear to specifically resist being seen, as shown by Operation White Crow. That was an eight-night vigil maintained by about sixty cereologists in June 1989. Not only did no circles appear in the field chosen for surveillance but-although there had already been almost a hundred formations that summer, with yet another 170 or so to occur-not a single circle was reported during the period anywhere in England. Then a large circle-and-ring formation was discovered about 500 yards away on the very next day!

These and other characteristics are entirely consistent with the work of hoaxers. Indeed, as John Fischer and I were about to go to press with our investigative report, in September 1991 two “jovial con men in their sixties” confessed they had been responsible for many of the crop formations made over the years. In support of their claim the men, Doug Bower and Dave Chorley, fooled cereologist Pat Delgado. He declared a pattern they had produced for a tabloid to be authentic, insisting it was of a type no hoaxer could have made. The pair utilized a rope-and-plank device to flatten the plants, demonstrating their technique for television crews, e.g., on ABC-TV’s Good Morning America on September 10, 1991 (Nickell and Fischer 1992, 145-148).

Cereologists were forced to concede that hoaxers were producing elaborate designs and that “there are many ways to make a hoaxed crop circle” (Haselhoff 2001, 34). (For example, some who go 'round in circles use a garden roller to flatten the plants [Hoggart and Hutchinson 1995].) While in the past some cereologists thought they could distinguish “real” from fake circles by dowsing (Nickell 1995), the more cautious now admit it is not an easy matter, “certainly not as long as we do not even know exactly what mechanism creates crop circles” (Haselhoff 2001, 34).

Nevertheless the croppies were sure that some of the formations must be genuine, citing various “unexplained” features. More recently they invoked new “scientific” evidence in that regard, such as that provided by “the BLT Research Team” in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The “B” and “T” are circle “researchers” and “L” is a semi-retired biophysicist, W.C. Levengood. He finds a correlation between certain deformities in plants and their locations within crop-circle-type formations, but not control plants outside them (Levengood and Talbott 1999). However, correlation is not causation, and there are other objections to his work (Nickell 1996a). As well, more mundane hypotheses for the effects-for instance, compressed moist plants steaming in the hot sun-appear to have been insufficiently considered.

Crucially, since there is no satisfactory evidence that a single “genuine” (i.e., “vortex"-produced) crop circle exists, Levengood’s reasoning is circular: although there are no guaranteed genuine formations on which to conduct research, the research supposedly proves the genuineness of the formations. But if the work were really valid, Levengood would be expected to find that a high percentage of the crop circles chosen for research were actually hoaxed, especially since even many ardent cereologists admit there are more hoaxed than “genuine” ones (Nickell 1996a; Nickell and Fischer 1992). For example, prominent cereologist Colin Andrews (2001) has conceded that 80 percent of the British crop circles are manmade; yet Levengood claims his research “suggests that over 95 percent of worldwide crop formations involve organized ion plasma vortices . . .” (Levengood and Talbott 1999).

Levengood and others who postulate crop-stamping, ion plasma vortices have to face the fact that those remain unrecognized by science. They owe their imagined existence to George Terence Meaden, a former professor of physics who took up meteorology as an avocation. His book The Circles Effect and Its Mysteries (1989) is still revered by many cereologists. Alas, however, he merely attempted to “explain” a mystery by creating another, and-humiliated by hoaxers-eventually retired from the scene, conceding that all of the complex designs were fakes (Hoggart and Hutchinson 1995, 59).

Nevertheless, many circles aficionados have begun to photograph supposed vortex effects which, curiously, resemble some of the same photographic anomalies that are the stock-in-trade of ghost hunters. For example, in her Mysterious Lights and Crop Circles, credulous journalist Linda Moulton Howe (2000, 137, 255) exhibits a flash photo taken in a crop circle that shows a bright “mysterious arch with internal structure that seems to spiral like a plasma.” Unfortunately for Howe (erstwhile promoter of cattle mutilations and similar “mysteries”), the effect is indistinguishable from that caused by the camera’s unsecured wrist strap reflecting the flash (Nickell 1996b). As corroborative evidence of this mundane cause, the bright strand-like shapes typically go unseen by the ghosthunter or cereologist, only appearing in their snapshots.

Again, Howe (2000, 169-176) shows several photos containing “transparent spheres” that the croppies call “energy balls,” “light orbs,” “atmospheric plasmas,” etc. They are indistinguishable from “orbs” of “spirit energy” typically seen in photographs of graveyards and other “haunted” places and that sometimes appear in snapshots as UFOs. Skeptics have demonstrated that these globelike effects can be produced by particles of dust, water droplets, and the like reflecting the flash (Mosbleck 1988; Nickell 1994; Burton 1999). Other simulators of paranormal “energy” in photos include lens flares (the result of interreflection between lens surfaces), bugs and debris reflecting the flash, and many other causes, including film defects and hoaxes (Nickell 1994).

Sometimes, however, “hovering balls of light” and other “energy” effects are reported by eyewitnesses, though not only in the vicinity of crop circles (Haselhoff 2001; Howe 2000). These too may have a variety of causes including pranksters’ parachute flares ("Flares” 1999), various misperceived aerial craft and other phenomena (such as ball lightning), false claims, hallucinations, etc. In some instances, small lights observed moving about cropfields at night might have come from the flashlights of the circle makers!

It appears that for the foreseeable future the crop-circle phenomenon will continue. At least it has moved from the level of mere hoaxing-"a form of graffiti on the blank wall of southern England” (Johnson 1991)-to represent an impressive genre of outdoor art. The often breathtaking designs (best seen in aerial photographs, like the giant Nazca drawings in Perú) are appreciated not only by the mystery mongers but by skeptics as well. Indeed as reliably reported (Hoggart and Hutchinson 1995), skeptics have helped to make many of them!