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The Mystery Of Crop Circles

Updated on August 5, 2017
Deborah Minter profile image

Deborah is a research enthusiast! She takes special interest in this world's ancient mysteries.

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Images pepper the fields of Europe.
Images pepper the fields of Europe.
Images pepper the fields of Europe.

Crop circles are impressions of elaborate designs left in crop fields, occasionally grass, or meadows. They are predominantly found in Europe, but they have been spotted all over the world. They usually consist of circles or bear at least one circle in a formation, hence the name crop circle. These circles have captured the attention of the public. Celebrities have taken note of this phenomenon; even Prince Charles became curious after discovering a circle on his property in June 1991. The conclusive cause remains unknown. Theories abound, but the circles are confounding. The grain is typically flattened and the design geometrically perfect. There have been circles so huge that their impressive complicated designs can only be viewed from the sky. Some of these pictograms are so beautiful they could be a work of art. Who made them? What are they?

Some of them are extraordinarily elaborate. They appear mostly overnight, within hours, and in some cases in 30 to 45 minutes. In 2001 a crop circle was discovered in Milk Hill, Wiltshire, England. It remains one of the most impressive circle formations to be recorded. It was a spiral of massive circles, 780 feet large; the pattern consisted of 409 circles. The pattern was called a double or six-sided, triskelion. Many were perplexed by the design.

Spiral of Massive Circles Found in Mill Hill, Wiltshire, England.
Spiral of Massive Circles Found in Mill Hill, Wiltshire, England.

The Mowing Devil

In 1678 a story was printed in Hartford-shire as “Strange News.” It is known as the “Mowing Devil.” The illustration shows a devil holding a scythe neatly mowing an oat field. The story goes that an English farmer was told by a landowner “He would rather pay the devil himself to cut his oat field than pay the fee he asked.” He bore witness to “Strange lights and unnatural sounds in the field.” The next morning his crop looked as if the devil had mowed it. This image from the past has raised eyebrows by its resemblance to a certain phenomenon.

The Mowing Devil printed in Hartford-Shire in 1678 as "Strange News."
The Mowing Devil printed in Hartford-Shire in 1678 as "Strange News."

Circles in the Feilds

In the past plain circles in crops have been reported in England. There are even legends of Pixie circles in the fields. Circles were spotted in the 1920s when air traffic became a reality. It was now possible to look at crops from a bird’s eye view, and unique impressions in the fields were noticed. There were reports of circles until 1978 and 1980. In the 1980s the circles sparked interest in the public when travelers noticed these circular impressions in the crops. The National Farmers Union offered a reward of 1000 pounds for information leading to the prosecution of anyone damaging crops. The phenomenon was not just taking place in England, but in eight different countries at that time. In the early 1990s the elaborate pictograms began to show; each year more complex. They have been dubbed the “cropies.” To this day every year when the grain is mature an elaborate pictogram outdoes its predecessors.

Hoaxes have been discovered, and so called “crop artist” are attached to this phenomenon. Collin Andrews and other investigators have caught hoaxers on camera. There now are even self-proclaimed circle makers, although most refuse to admit which circles belong to them.

In September of 1991 two men from southern England, Douglas Bower and David Charlie commonly known as Doug and Dave, in response to a 10,000 pound reward offered by a British newspaper for information on the crop circles, claimed they were the hoaxers. They said “it was all a hoax,” perpetrated by themselves. They insisted they were responsible for all the circles made between 1978 and 1990. “The men who conned the world,” was the newspaper heading stating the phenomenon was finally explained. They claimed they made the circles using flat boards and ropes to flatten the crops. They retired from circle making after that. There have been imitators of this method of circle making ever since.

However, some facts of the Doug and Dave story do not make sense. Between 1978 and 1990 circles were made worldwide in Australia, Canada, United States, and Russia, not to mention that more than one circle was made on the same night or day, in a different place or country. The “It was all us,” claim doesn’t hold up. If Doug and Dave were fooling around in the crops, unfortunately they weren’t being altogether truthful.

The "Spider Web" found in Avebury, August of 1994.
The "Spider Web" found in Avebury, August of 1994.

Popular Theories

Theories of their creation are as variegated as the circles themselves, the most common being natural phenomenon and supernatural explanations.

Plasma - In 1990 Terrence Mean came up with the weather theory. The plasma theory is that a vortex –tornado, evaporates in a field, leaving behind a circle. Although he abandoned his hypothesis when the more elaborate pictograms appeared. Some still believe tornado vortexes are responsible for the circles.

Hoaxes - There have been hoaxers caught on camera destroying crops, though many can’t claim full responsibility or explanation for some circles. Hoaxers are commonly believed to be the culprits for the crop circle phenomenon.

Extraterrestrial theory! - It has become a common symbol to associate the crop circle phenomenon with aliens inthe public eye. It is the most haled theory for the cause of crop circles. Many professionals, and even scientist, believe the circles are extraterrestrial in origin. It has been pointed out that if aliens exist, why would they take the time to make designs in our crops? Perhaps a higher intelligence isn’t below doodling in our crops.

More clandestine theories include human technology; some believe the patterns are caused by laser beams used to flatten the plants, done by the military or other covert groups.

There are many theories for the reason these formations are created and explanations as well. Some believe there are secret messages and codes in the crop circles. It is thought by some they are map ways for underground water pools. Distinct symbols can sometimes be distinguished in some circles, such as a double helix or numerical symbols. Other formations resemble things but are not always a familiar symbol. Some believe they are a spiritual message to mankind. It remains unknown if the formations are an actual message, an existing symbol, or entirely random.

Woven Crops! Some Crop Circles have been woven as well as flattened in the fields.
Woven Crops! Some Crop Circles have been woven as well as flattened in the fields.

Anomalies of Crop Circles

There have been many anomalies found to be associated with crop circles. Within the circles, the tiny joints in stems, called nodes, are burst open from the inside out. This is similar to what happens to living tissue in a micro wave oven. Electronic instruments go hay wire inside a circle. Wrist watches suddenly change time and batteries go dead. Compasses spin wildly. People become faint or ill, but that doesn’t stop curiosity seekers from continuing to walk over or explore a circle. In eight different countries, these anomalies have been found.

One of the strangest things is the size and amount of symbols and circles found in a single formation. There have been recorded up to 1500 circles in a single pattern. The condition of plants is peculiar. Throughout the world, the flattened stalks in formations have been found to have fallen over and remain completely undamaged as if they have been gently bent, bending at the growth node of ten to ninety degrees. In one incident, after a circle appeared in a wheat field, nothing again grew within the circle, not even weeds. This is a rare occurrence in the crop circle phenomenon, but it has been known to happen. Oddly these particular circles were in a remote location.

Under a microscope the nodes bear abnormally enlarged wall pits. A coating of meteoric iron has been found in some formations, a shimmering covering consisting of particles of iron of meteoric origin melted together. There is stunted, malformed seed heads, with seeds either missing altogether or smaller than normal in both size and weight. One of the most peculiar anomalies is the way the stalks are flattened in a formation. They seem to be arranged in an order. They are pressed down in a counterclockwise spiral form, or other precise patterns within the circle causing a 3D effect. Arthur Shuttlewood on Star Hill 1972 said, “The grain was flattened like a lady’s fan opening up.” The arrangement of the flattened corn appears to be part of the elaborate design of a circle, part of the art. These anomalies have been discovered in Canada, United States, England, the Netherlands and Israel.


The are Easily viewed from the sky.
The are Easily viewed from the sky.

The Farmers Plight


Whether crop circles are caused by hoaxers, natural phenomenon, or Extraterrestrial origins, farmers cannot be blamed for destroying them. Most farmers will still harvest the fields, after they’ve been “crop circled,” but there are times when the crop is destroyed or beyond salvageable. Many crop circles are massive in size, and in rare cases the crop is rendered useless by abnormally contaminated stalks damaged by the formation. One of the most classic crop circles known as “The basket,” was destroyed by a farmer. In Bishop Cannings, an hour and a half after the circles discovery farmer Norton mowed it down, destroying it forever. “What is taking place in the fields is pure vandalism,” he shouted. The fascinated onlookers were horrified by the destruction. Farmers of the fields call “cropies,” “trespassers”. Most farmers are frustrated by the damage to the crops and grain.

Though many believe, farmers included, that vandals and hoaxers are to blame for the patterns in the crops, the locals don’t believe there is an explanation. The complex patterns often appear, several in one night or in short periods of time. The majority of residents in Wiltshire County don’t believe they are made by human hands. Hoaxes exist to be sure, but the process or method of a hoax can be determined. The crop is cut or the weight or pressure applied to the stalks is clear. Even the fancy well-made circle’s technique can be determined. Most are made clumsily, or there will be tracks leading to a conventionally made circle. However, some “odd” circles defy explanation. The method of creation for the category of these sophisticated crop circles remains unknown.

2016 was a particular year for elaborate designs, among them… the “Antsy Wilts” circle, August 12, 2016, located at Antsy farm, in a mature wheat field, measuring approximately forty-five feet in diameter. It is an elaborate design of leaves and interwoven triangles surrounded by circles. Its origins remain unknown to farmers. There is also a ring of unknown symbols on the inside of the circle. This year’s circles have appeared in Wiltshire, Hants, Dorset and Wilts in grass lands and crops. Beautiful invasive designs litter the land in Southern England.

The crop circles leave us with more questions than answers. The reasons for their purpose are still speculation, from pranks, to elaborate art, to the belief that they’re encoded messages provided to mankind. Very few circles, or better said crop formation, are void of any circular shape. Giant triangles or intricate patterns without curves or circles have also been found imprinted in the crops. Every crop circle season will present us with a new design, with something more elaborate. One thing that can’t be disputed is that the crop circles are not going anywhere anytime soon. The question remains who or what is making these “odd” symbols. Crop circles will continue to mystify.

Cited Sources:

History’s Mysteries: Crop Circle Controversy - 2011 Documentary

Crop Circles by Werner Anderhub and Hans Peter Roth 2000 ISBN 1-57990-297-9

Live Science crop circle mystery: A closer www.livescience.com/26540-crop-circles.html

2017 Crop Circles-Temporary Temples temporarytemples.co.uk/crop-circles/2017-crop-circles

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