Crop Circle Primer Presented by The Croppie

Crop Circle Basics

A crop circle, or crop formation, is a pattern flattened into an area of plants. Today, a proportion of these formations are not round at all, but take their name from the period before 1990 when they were exclusively circular in appearance. The circular areas of flattened crop almost always appear to have been swirled to the ground from above.

Formations appear overnight, although a small number of people have suggested --- to considerable criticism --- specific formations were made during daylight hours. The most notable example is the Julia Set formation that appeared at Stonehenge, Wiltshire during July 1996.

The crop circle phenomenon is a global one, with examples appearing in countries as geographically dispersed as France, Australia, USA, Spain and Indonesia. However, the overwhelming majority of crop circles are found in England; specifically the southern central counties of Wiltshire and Hampshire.

The English crop circle season typically spans the period between mid-April and the second or third week of August. It begins with formations in fields of oilseed rape (canola) until mid-May when barley crops become the focus of the circle makers. From late June until harvest time, crop circles are most frequently discovered in fields of wheat. On increasingly rare occasions some circles have been located in crops of oats and maize (corn).

Etchilhampton, Wiltshire, England, 2018. Photograph by Nick Bull Photography

Crop Circle Development

Nobody is truly certain when the first crop circle was discovered. The earliest known report of what could be considered a crop circle, albeit one attributed by the author to 'storm damage', is to be found within the 29 July 1880 edition of Nature journal. Solicitor John Rand Capron, in the English county of Surrey. He wrote:

The storms about this part of Surrey have been lately local and violent, and the effects produced in some instances curious. Visiting a neighbour's farm on Wednesday evening (21st), we found a field of standing wheat considerably knocked about, not as an entirety, but in patches forming, as viewed from a distance, circular spots.

Examined more closely, these all presented much the same character, viz., a few standing stalks as a center, some prostrate stalks with their heads arranged pretty evenly in a direction forming a circle round the center, and outside these a circular wall of stalks which had not suffered.

The first major development in the appearance of crop circles occurred in May 1990 at Chilcomb Down, Hampshire. Two circles of different sizes were linked by a straight corridor and flanked by four straight avenues of flattened crop. Further examples of this new style occurred throughout the season. Such formations were christened pictograms by cerealogists (circles researchers) to differentiate them from round crop circles.

The first pictogram: May 1990, Chilcomb Down, Hampshire. Photograph by Colin Andrews.

1991 was a notable year in crop circle development. Pictograms were accompanied by insectograms, formations bearing some resemblance to bugs. More importantly, we saw the appearance of the first type of large formations resembling the modern day phenomenon. The first of these was located at Barbury Castle, Swindon, Wiltshire, and resembled a crooked triangle with a wheel at each corner. This was later followed by a representation of a Mandelbrot fractal in Cambridgeshire.

The iconic formation at Barbury Castle, near Swindon, from Summer 1991.

Circle Creation Theories

Various theories have been proposed to explain the origins of the crop circles. Three of the most notable are examined here in turn.

Meteorological Factors

Following the discovery of a succession of small round crop circles between Westbury and Bratton, Wiltshire, amateur meteorologist Terence Meaden began to theorise on the circles' causation. He suggested they had been caused by whirlwinds. With the arrival of the pictograms in 1990, Meaden's theories would slowly become discredited.

Paranormal Forces

Although cerealogists Colin Andrews and the late Pat Delgado shied away from explicitly naming extraterrestrials as the specific cause of many crop circles, they stated an 'unknown force' was responsible. The pair regularly linked the causation of crop circles with unusual events occurring in or around them. Examples included interference with electrical sound recording equipment and the crash of a Harrier aircraft after it had passed over some circles. Contemporary belief in a link between crop circles and the paranormal continues through many individuals on a personal level. The most notable modern proponent is Horace Drew, a retired DNA scientist living in Australia.

Human Involvement

By the end of 1991 various individuals had stepped forward to claim they had made crop circles in the English countryside. The most notable of these were Doug Bower and Dave Chorley, two men from Hampshire. In the early autumn of 1991 they contacted TODAY newspaper which, in turn, shared their story as spectacular front page news. Bower and Chorley's confession gained traction where others had failed by producing a crop circle that was declared 'genuine' (not man-made) by cerealogist Pat Delgado. In the same year a group called the Wessex Skeptics performed a similar feat to dupe cerealogists Terence Meaden and Busty Taylor.

Doug Bower and David Chorley. Photograph credit unknown.

Since 1992 other individuals have stepped forward and claimed to have made crop circles. The most noteworthy of these are Julian Richardson, Matthew Williams and Circlemakers.org, all of whom have demonstrated their circle making ability for the television cameras.

Visiting Crop Circles

In recent years Wiltshire farmers have been less accommodating of crop circles. This is, in part, due to repeated targetting of their fields by circle makers. A small proportion of tourists have contributed to the issue by entering formations without permission. Others have trampled standing crops within or outside of crop circles. In response, some farmers have taken to cutting out new formations as soon as they are discovered.

A defaced crop circle at Cherhill Down from 2017. It is believed to be the only circle made in oilseed rape to have mown out by a farmer. Photograph by GJ Multimedia.

It is still possible to visit certain crop circles in the daylight hours with permission of farmers. This access may or may not be dependent upon payment of an admission fee.

The Crop Circles-UFOs-Ancient Mysteries-Scientific Speculations Facebook page (maintained by the Crop Circle Connector) is a reliable source of information for details of which circles are open to the public.

Inside a crop circle you can expect to meet a wide range of people with different motives for visiting. Some come to experience the formation as a kind of spiritual temple, a place of relaxation or the ideal setting for a family picnic. Individuals may lie down, walk around, sleep or perform New Age rituals. We've seen people who are topless, in robes, in cycling gear or dinner suits! Remember to respect those around you by remaining quiet, not shouting down the views of others, and by tidying up after yourself.

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a copyright violation, please follow the DMCA section in the Terms of Use.