What or who is responsible for crop circles? As the designs grow ever more complex and incredible, many early theories have fallen by the way side. Here I take a look at some of the theories and scientific information that have contributed to the phenomenon of cerealogy over the years.
Although there are a number of man-made hoaxes in any season, there are several features which tend to indicate a genuine circle. The most visually obvious of these is that the stalks of the crop are bent not broken. They are folded over and packed close to the ground, but not crushed, as they would be if someone had trodden them with planks of wood or their feet. The resulting carpet of stalks is flat yet springy, and is only broken by the arrival of human visitors. In addition to this the crop is sometimes seen to swirl in more than one direction in any given design, sometimes causing alternate layers of crop to plait together creating an even tighter floor.
The precision of the genuine circles should also be noted, as man-made efforts tend to be scruffy at the edges and more close to a perfect shape - genuine circles are rarely true circles, but more often ellipses. Be instantly suspicious of anything that is too perfect!
Other stylistic features such as clumps of crop or single stems standing upright in the midst of a circle are common, and the floor patterns and structure make each design totally unique. These minutiae are very difficult to hoax. The crop, for all that it is flattened and distorted, continues to grow, sometimes even returning to a semi-vertical state if it is young enough. When humans crush crop circles this rarely happens.
There is also a phenomenon called blown nodes. This is where the nodes or joints of a stem are exploded out, leaving a hole. It is not known what creates this - speculations have focussed mainly on microwave energy, and research is ongoing - but it is not something which can be created by man. The best laboratories in the world, see BLT, have not been able to replicate this effect, despite their advanced technology and specialised equipment. (It is important to stress, however, that whatever causes them, blown nodes are not completely exclusive to pictograms, but are sometimes found in unaffected crop too on occasion.)
The links between crop circles and UFOs has often been used on both sides of the argument - by believers and sceptics alike - but no one denies that there is a link of some kind. Strange lights - frequently silver or amber balls - have often been reported in or near crop circles, and many photographs exist which purport to show such phenomena. There is also an excellent piece of video footage shot in 1990 by Steve Alexander - one of the most prolific circle photographers - which clearly shows two silver balls of light passing through a crop circle then up over a tractor in the next field; the farmer later confirmed the sighting. Another piece of video footage, greeted with excitement at first as it seemed to show silver balls of light actually creating a recent design in a matter of seconds, has since been universally denounced as a forgery, possibly as part of the continuing conspiracy to discredit crop circle researchers. It is even said that it is not the original footage (which is genuine) but a deliberate hoaxed copy put out to the media to deflect interest in the subject.
Other high strangeness has been attached to the crop circle phenomenon for years, but the most striking argument in favour of a non-human origin for these designs is the ways that people and animals react to them. Sensations like awe, respect, fascination, amazement and excitement are easy to understand - the great beauty and mystery that is inherent in crop circles reaches out to a surprising diversity of people - but many also experience physical and emotional reactions to pictograms, ranging from euphoria to terror. Cases have been reported of visitors to circles developing flu symptoms for several days after their visit; others are so overcome by nausea or dizziness they have had to leave the circle. Equally, some sick people have apparently been cured by the circles, casting away their sticks to run about like children. Crop circles are a miracle or a curse depending on your view of them.
Is there some correlation between what you want of the circle and what you get? A sceptic feels nothing, a depressive becomes uplifted and a sick person is healed. Much research into the psychic nature of the circles is ongoing regarding positive and negative power emissions that may affect visitors.
I have had personal experience of their power - a strong sense of electromagnetic pull surging from the ground and making my skin tingle. Whatever awesome power is required to create the patterns often seems to be powerfully psychic, yet this energy also often affects electrical equipment, causing cameras, mobile phones and the like to malfunction in the circle formations.
Animals, being natural psychics, often exhibit fear or conversely hyperactivity when confronted with a circle, and no satisfactory explanation has been found for their ability to sense genuine circle from hoaxes. But they evidently do, as birds fly out of their direct route to bypass them and dogs sometimes refuse to enter them.
Many psychics claim to have channelled information from the circle-makers or the Earth. I have personally dowsed several designs and the results suggest that ancient sites do have a profound significance, and that the patterns are an attempt at subconscious communication from the circle-makers to us. It remains to be seen what that message might be, though some of the designs do tend to suggest it's more of a warning than a cheery hello!
Since the crop circle phenomenon has been with us unsolved for so long, several theories have been put forward to explain what they are and why and how they occur. Popular theories include the previously mentioned UFO connection. Although we have come a long way since claiming that crop circles were marks left by landed spacecraft - the complexity of the newer agriglyphs gives the lie to this somewhat! - we are still left with the problem that we don't know who or what the UFOs represent either.
Another theory commonly put forward by sceptics is that they are formed by crows, deer, foxes, badgers and even hedgehogs mating in the fields! Again the complex agriglyphs and other media such as the snow stand outside this possibility, and I do feel that farmers know how to recognise animal damage and wouldn't confuse it with something more esoteric. Indeed from my own sightings and experience the damage done by birds and mammals to crops bears no resemblance to the precision and beauty of the pictograms.
So is it another natural force that creates them? The most popular culprit for many years was vortex winds (tiny, loose, spiralling whirlwinds) which are often seen throwing out crop into the air at harvest time. However, once again, wind-damaged crop is very untidy and it takes a vivid imagination to accept that whirlwinds created the magnificent triple Julia, 194 circles across 1000ft or the Mandelbrot, 230ft long including its satellites.
Lightning, the Earth's magnetic field and volcanic or seismic disturbance have all been put forward, but I feel they can at best be contributory factors and not the creative force itself.
Could it be the Earth Herself, guided by intelligence inherent in Her, sending us messages or distress signals? Some researchers, the well respected Colin Andrews and Peter Sørensen among them, believe that the end of the 20th century was our 'wake up call', our last chance to make amends for all the ecological damage we have done since becoming industrialised.
Crop circles therefore can be said to act as an agent of intelligent origin, sent to raise our consciousness to the level required of us to get us off our indolent backsides and start making a difference. This is the message many people have received from these circles, with their sometimes frightening and prophetic nature, for example the solar system glyph of 1995 that showed the orbit of our planet, but no planet!
I'm sure in the light of such revelations, I'm not the only one who continues to eagerly watch the fields to see how the phenomenon changes and develops in this new millennium. Due to ill health and bad circumstances, I didn't get to any crop circles in 2000, but the reports posted on Crop Circle Connector said it all. Whatever crop circles are, whatever they mean, however they get here, and whoever or whatever is responsible for their creation, they are not going to furnish us with an easy solution, and neither - thankfully - are they showing any signs of disappearing, slackening up or becoming less incredible.
Most of them may be fakes, but I still believe there are some worthy of closer inspection. And even if they are fakes, they are still beautiful. And what compels a hoaxer to put a certain design in a certain place anyway?
I feel that the photos of these stunning pictograms speak volumes more than any article ever can, so check out Crop Circle Connector (the best place for info and pics). Do you still believe men made them with planks of wood? Do you still think there's no mystery? For my part, I don't think this is over just yet... see you in the summer!
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