So far, no one has been able to solve the mystery of these marvellous creations. And they are attracting increasing interest.
Tijn Touber | February 2003 issue
Crop circles have been around for a very long time. The earliest reports date back to the Middle Ages. Back then, as now, no one knew what to make of these apparitions. On August 22, 1678 a crop circle discovered in an oat field in the British county of Hertfordshire was imputed to be the work of the devil, who ‘… considered it beneath him to harvest the grain in the usual manner and therefore made round circles, laying each stem so perfectly that it would take an ordinary human over a century to do what he could in a single night.’
The number of crop circles has increased dramatically since the 1970s, particularly in the south of England. But they are also regularly seen in the Netherlands, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Bulgaria, Israel, the US, Canada, Russia, Japan, China, New Zealand and Peru, to name but a few countries. There have been some 10,000 sightings since 1976.
Crop circles are geometric patterns of flattened plants in farmed or fallow fields that are designed with incredible accuracy. They are commonly referred to as crop circles because the first known formations were circular and were discovered in crop fields. But they also include complex geometric symbols that were discovered in fields containing other types of plants or in ice, snow and sand. Tree circles have even been observed where mature trees were bent at 90-degree angles into circles spanning 10 metres, while no storms were reported in the area.
Many people still think the circles are manmade and that the entire phenomenon is some kind of global joke. If they are right, then it is an incredibly complex joke. The enormous dimensions – often over 100 metres wide – and the extremely complicated designs are virtually impossible to replicate, and certainly not within the brief timeframe in which they were created. Take the crop circle found near Stonehenge on July 7, 1996. It comprised 151 circles, spanning 115 metres. And, according to three independent witnesses, it appeared in broad daylight … within a half-hour. The field is clearly visible from the motorway and there were a lot of tourists in the area that day within view of the field. If there had been signs of the colossal circle patterns earlier, someone would have noticed.
Searches have also often been made for footprints that should have been visible in the soft sand around the circles. But none have been found. Crop stalks often appeared to have been burned. Strange substances have been found in the circles, such as jelly-like fragments or a powdery deposit on the plants on the ground. The powder appeared to be silicon dioxide, made up of microscopically small glass balls. Extremely high concentrations of magnetite (magnetic iron ore) have also been detected, similar to the material found in meteorites. Such substances fall to the earth’s surface from the upper atmosphere every day. In some crop circles, concentrations were over 600 times the normal levels. This could indicate the presence of magnetic fields around the crop circles that attract substances containing iron. The substance also links the crop circles to the upper layers of the atmosphere. Could the crop circles be the result of magnetic fields combined with enormous heat from above?
There are some 70 eyewitness accounts from people who have seen crop circles being created. They all say that the circle is completed within a couple of seconds by something that appeared to be an enormous air current. They also report hearing an electric buzzing, a hissing noise or a high whistle. Frequently a ball or balls of light are seen, and on several occasions have been recorded on video.
So far, no one has been able to solve the mystery of these marvellous creations. And they are attracting increasing interest. In addition to the many documentaries that have been made, crop circles are a central theme in three new films. In Signs, by writer/director M Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable), Mel Gibson stars as Graham Hess, a widower who tries to solve the mystery of a crop circle near his home. There is also A Place to Stay, a romance that includes lengthy footage of crop circles from the English county of Wiltshire. The third film, currently being shot, is William Gazescki’s Crop Circles: A Quest for Truth. Gazescki previously won an Oscar for WACO: Rules of Engagement.