Crop Circles

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Crop Circles

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Crop circles, large designs that have appeared in farm fields, have in the several generations of their existence moved from UFO enigma to object of New Age metaphysical speculation. The first modern crop circles appeared in Australia in 1965, but they were really called to the public’s attention after they began to appear in England in 1972. By the end of the century, they had been found in some twenty-five countries.

The crop circles appeared as simple circles of flattened crops (usually wheat, corn, barley, or rye). They were enigmatic in that the method of flattening the grain stalks without breaking them was unknown and the creators of the circles did not reveal themselves. There were no obvious paths created from the nearest road to the circle, and as they multiplied in England, speculation abounded as to their extraterrestrial origin. The circles were considered by some to be maps or messages for UFOs.

Over time, the simple circles evolved into ever more complex patterns while skeptics sought to replicate the creation of the circles. Skeptics have been largely successful in showing how rather mundane equipment may be transported into a field after dark, used to make the circle in a few hours, and removed without leaving evidence of their means of entry to the site. Their success led most UFO researchers to turn away from crop circles as having any relevance to their endeavor.

By the time the UFO community withdrew interest in crop circles, New Age believers who professed to be in contact with extraterrestrials had begun to reflect upon the more complex designs as cryptic messages from their extraterrestrial friends.

Other New Agers, some not interested in extraterrestrials, have seen the crop circles as messages from Gaia—Mother Earth—and have interpreted them as reactions to the severe ecological damage affecting the planet. Crop circles, they believed, added strength to arguments against continued violations to nature. At the same time, some Christian ministers interpreted the crop circles as signs of the devil’s activity on Earth.

It is of some interest that crop circles are short-term phenomena; they last at best only a few weeks since they were created, when crops near maturity and are destroyed during harvest. Thus, they have to be recreated each summer, and only pictures of them remain. Crop circles are rarely produced in the same field from one year to the next.


Pringle, Lucy. Crop Circles (The Pitkin Guide). London: Jarrold Publishing, 2004.
Schnabel, Jim. Round in Circles. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2003.
Silva, Freddy. Secrets in the Fields: The Science and Mysticism of Crop Circles. Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Roads Publishing Company, 2002.
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Crop circles in a field near Wiltshire, England.

Crop Circles

Mysterious nonhuman intelligences are leaving strange geometric designs in fields of cereal crops around the world. Whoever unlocks the key to these bizarre circular markings will discover if the unknown artists are here to help or to hinder humankind.

Strange geometric designs have appeared in stands of cereal crops around the world, even in the rice paddies of Japan. The designs are often hundreds of feet in width and length and may cover many acres. Controversy rages over how these “crop circles,” as they are generally known, originate, as they are usually formed overnight and involve downed, not cut, swaths of grain stalks.

Although many people believe that crop circles are a comparatively recent UFO-related phenomenon that began in the late 1970s or early 1980s, the mystery is hundreds of years old. Unexplained geometric designs occurred in fields of wheat and corn in Scotland in 1678, and rural residents of England speak of the “corn fairies” that made similar designs in the fields in the late 1800s. Researchers have discovered accounts of the discovery of so-called fairy circles in fields and meadows dating back to medieval times throughout the British Isles, Germany, Scandinavia, and France. Recent evidence indicates that Chinese farmers found crop circles as much as three thousand years ago. In those cases of crop circles that have appeared since the 1980s, investigators have determined that the crops were biochemically or biophysically altered.

Cerealogists (experts in this bizarre field of research) state that since 1989 there have been in excess of two hundred formations in the UK each year. The so-called golden years of crop circle appearances seem to have been 1990 and 1991, in each of which there were between three hundred and four hundred formations.

In 1991 Doug Bower and Dave Chorley, two retired artists in England, confessed that they were responsible for making the crop circles that had baffled the world for so long and that they accomplished the most intricate of designs by using a simple board pulled by a length of rope. While the confession of Bower and Chorley satisfied a good many skeptics and journalists, serious crop circle researchers asked how these two elderly gentlemen could have accomplished their hoaxes throughout the world in such great numbers.

While admitting that there have been hoaxes, cerealogists point out that pranksters have been unable to create crop circles with the same precision and undisturbed nature as those thought to be of alien or unknown origin. Some suggest pranksters and tricksters far older than the retired artists as the perpetrators of the enigma. Why deviate, they ask, from the suspects who were originally named as culprits? The creators of the crop circles might be found among that group of beings commonly called fairies, elves, or devas—entities that have played a significant role in the myths and legends of every planetary culture for centuries.

Regardless of general dismissal of the crop circle phenomenon by conventional scientists, it would appear that there is a genuine mystery in the formation of many of the incredible designs that suddenly appear in fields around the world. Four principal theories regarding the origins of crop circles are the following:

  1. extraterrestrial entities offering clues to their identity and intentions toward earthlings;
  2. natural phenomena, ranging from insects to lightning, from plasma vortices (a kind of ball lightning) to electromagnetic anomalies;
  3. hoaxers, such as the duo of Doug and Dave;
  4. an ancient nonhuman intelligence indigenous to this planet that is utilizing archetypal designs in order to warn contemporary humankind to be more responsible and more respectful toward Mother Earth.

Various scholars have focused on the fourth possibility and suggested that many of the designs appear to be bound by the laws of sacred geometry. Sacred geometry, these experts state, embodies harmonic waves of energy and universal proportions. Some mysterious intelligence could be attempting to communicate geometrical and proportional wave forms—veritable keys to the cosmos and symbols of the archetypal world.

The English researcher Lucy Pringle believes that many crop circle formations are due to natural causes, such as the discharge of some electromagnetic energy, but she also notes that a particular design formed around April 21, 1998, appeared very close to the prehistoric mound of Silbury Hill. She likened the double-ringed circle with thirty-three scrolllike bands between the rings to a Beltane wheel, an ancient symbol used at Celtic fire festivals on May Day.

In July 2002 a three-day conference of leading crop circle investigators was held in Somerset, England. Andy Thomas, an organizer of the meeting, commented that his eleven years investigating the enigma had convinced him of one thing—that not all the circles were made by pranksters. Other than that, he stated, it was hard to say whether the phenomenon was caused by extraterrestrials, some kind of superconsciousness, collective psychokinesis (mind over matter), natural forces, or some other thing currently beyond human awareness. Most cerealogists in attendance insisted that it is relatively easy to tell the difference between circles made by hoaxers and those made by what appears to be some kind of superior intelligence.

The first crop circle of 2005 appeared in the Netherlands, and cerealogists predicted that the strangely designed circles would soon be manifesting primarily outside the United Kingdom, the nation previously most associated with the phenomenon.

University of Oregon physicist Richard Taylor summed up his opinion about the mystery of crop circles in the August 2011 issue of Physics World when he attributed the remarkable geometric designs in farmers’ fields to the work of unknown artists practicing “the most science-oriented art movement in history.” The “art,” according to Taylor’s assessment, is accomplished by GPS, microwaves, and lasers.

While nearly everyone who has looked into the mystery of crop circles admits that a good number of them are hoaxes, Jeffrey Wilson, director of the Independent Crop Circle Researchers Association, told journalist Lee Speigel of the Huffington Post that there were many cases in which eyewitnesses observed the designs forming during the daytime. Other circles had formed after a storm front or a severe weather front had passed.

Putting hoaxsters aside, Wilson remains open-minded about the identity of the mysterious force that forms the circles, suggesting that there may well be more than one source involved in their creation. While the majority of crop circle buffs believe that the complex geometric designs are hidden messages left by extraterrestrial visitors or some hidden terrestrial intelligence, Wilson stated that he is not completely convinced that there is any intelligent source responsible. There may be natural processes that could fashion such designs, he said.

Linda Moulton Howe, author of Mysterious Lights and Crop Circles, recalled that the first time that she walked into a crop formation, she seemed to feel a “residual electrostatic field around it,” as if she were “walking into Jell-O along the edges.” Since she began researching crop circles in 1991, Howe has examined and been inside 250 formations. She stoutly takes issue with those debunkers who claim that all the crop designs are created by artistic hoaxsters with lasers or other electronic devices.

Howe said that she had often observed small, unidentified lights moving over crops and subsequent formations in England. She cited her work with Italian astrophysicist Massimo Teodorani in which they studied mysterious plasma in the mountains of Hessdalen, Norway. Teodorani expressed his opinion that there appeared to be intelligence in the plasmas that created the crop circles, but he was baffled as to what kind of intelligence was behind the phenomenon.