A crop circle is a sizable pattern created by the flattening of a crop such as wheat, barley, rye, maize, or rapeseed. Crop circles are also referred to as crop formations, because they are not always circular in shape. The documented cases have substantially increased from the 1970s to current times. In 1991, two hoaxers claimed authorship of many circles throughout England.
Twenty-six countries reported approximately 10,000 crop circles in the last third of the 20th century; 90% of those were located in southern England. Many of the formations appearing in that area are positioned near ancient monuments, such as Stonehenge. According to one study, nearly half of all circles found in the UK in 2003 were located within a 15 km (9.3 miles) radius of Avebury. Archeological remains can cause cropmarks in the fields, in the shapes of circles and squares, but they do not appear overnight and they are always in the same places every year.
The scientific consensus is that crop circles are almost entirely man-made with a few possibly due to meteorological or other natural phenomena.
The concept of crop circles began with the original late-1970s hoaxes by Doug Bower and Dave Chorley (see Bower and Chorley, below). They said that they were inspired by the Tully “saucer nest” case in Australia, where a farmer found a flattened circle of swamp reeds after observing a UFO. Since the 1960s, there had been a surge of UFOlogists in Wiltshire, and there were rumors of “saucer nests” appearing in the area, but they were never photographed. There are other pre-1970s reports of circular formations, specially in Australia and Canada, but they were always simple circles, which could have been caused by whirlwinds. In Fortean Times David Wood reported that in 1940 he had already made crop circles using ropes near Gloucestershire.
Early reports of circular formations
In 1686, British scientist Robert Plot reported on fairy rings in his The Natural History of Stafford-Shire, and said they could be caused by airflows from the sky. In 1991 meteorologist Terence Meaden linked this report with modern crop circles, a claim that has been compared with Erich von Däniken’s pseudohistoric claims.
A 1880 letter to the editor of Nature by amateur scientist John Rand Capron, describes how a recent storm had created several circles of flattened crops in a field.
In the 1960s, in Tully, Queensland, Australia, and in Canada, there were many reports of UFO sightings and circular formations in swamp reeds and sugar cane fields. For example, in 8 August 1967, three circles were found in a field in Duhamel, Alberta, Canada, and the Department of National Defence sent two investigators, who concluded that it was artificially made but couldn’t make definite conclusions on who made them or how. The most famous case is the 1966 Tully “saucer nest”, when a farmer said he witnessed a saucer-shaped craft rise 30 or 40 feet (12 m) up from a swamp and then fly away. When he went to investigate the location where he thought the saucer had landed, he found a nearly circular area 32 feet long by 25 feet wide, where the grass was flattened in clockwise curves to water level within the circle and the reeds had been uprooted from the mud”. The local police officer, the RAAF and the University of Queensland concluded that it was most probably caused by natural causes, like a down draught, a Willy-Willy, or a waterspout. In 1973, G.J. Odgers, Director of Public Relations, Department of Defence (Air Office), wrote to a journalist that the “saucer” was probably debris lifted by the causing willy-willy. Hoaxers Bower and Chorley were inspired by this case to start making the modern crop circles that appear today.
Modern crop circles
The majority of reports of crop circles appeared since the 1970s, and spread in the late 1970s as many circles began appearing throughout the English countryside. This phenomenon became widely known in the late 1980s, after the media started to report crop circles in Hampshire and Wiltshire. After Bower’s and Chorley’s 1991 statement that they were responsible for many of them, circles started appearing all over the world. To date, approximately 10,000 crop circles have been reported internationally, from locations such as the former Soviet Union, the UK, Japan, the U.S., and Canada. Skeptics note a correlation between crop circles, recent media coverage, and the absence of fencing and/or anti-trespassing legislation.
Although farmers have expressed concern at the damage caused to their crops, local response to the appearance of crop circles can be enthusiastic, with locals taking advantage of the increase of tourism and visits from scientists, crop circle researchers, and individuals seeking spiritual experiences. The market for crop-circle interest has consequently generated bus or helicopter tours of circle sites, walking tours, T-shirts, and book sales.
The last decade has witnessed crop formations with increased size and complexity of form, some featuring as many as 2000 different shapes, and some incorporating complex mathematical and scientific characteristics.
A video sequence used in connection with the opening of the Olympic Games in London in 2012 shows two crop circle areas shaped as the Olympic Rings. Another Olympic crop circle area was visible for those landing at Heathrow Airport, London, UK before and during the Olympic Games.
Bower and Chorley
In 1991, self-professed pranksters Doug Bower and Dave Chorley made headlines claiming it was they who started the phenomenon in 1978 with the use of simple tools consisting of a plank of wood, rope, and a baseball cap fitted with a loop of wire to help them walk in a straight line. To prove their case they made a circle in front of journalists; a “cereologist” (advocate of paranormal explanations of crop circles), Pat Delgado, examined the circle and declared it authentic before it was revealed that it was a hoax. Inspired by Australian crop circle accounts from 1966, Doug and Dave claimed to be responsible for all circles made prior to 1987, and for more than 200 crop circles in 1978–1991 (which other 1000 circles not being made by them). After their announcement, the two men demonstrated making a crop circle. According to Professor Richard Taylor, “the pictographs they created inspired a second wave of crop artists. Far from fizzling out, crop circles have evolved into an international phenomenon, with hundreds of sophisticated pictographs now appearing annually around the globe.”
All or part of the article above was taken from the Wikipedia article Crop Circle, licensed under CC-BY-SA.