An Introduction to Crop Circles
Revised and Updated Edition
By Andy Thomas
From Introduction and Chapter 1:
What Are Crop Circles?
An unmistakable air of mystery surrounds certain parts of southern England, especially counties such as Wiltshire, places that were once part of the ancient kingdom of Wessex. This region has long been home to the unusual and unexplained.
Believed by many to be the ancient land of King Arthur himself, the Wessex landscape embraces the Stonehenge and Avebury stone circles, the enigmatic Silbury Hill and hundreds of ancient burial mounds. It also plays host to scores of UFO sightings, reports of mysterious black cats and dogs, covens, ghosts and, most famously, crop circles, those increasingly elaborate shapes found swirled into fields each summer.
Crop circles – also known as corn circles, crop formations, crop glyphs or agriglyphs – were first brought to wider public attention in the 1980s, but there is clear evidence of them at least as far back as 1678. Although two-thirds of circular activity occurs in England, crop circles are found all over the world. Many other countries have reported events, including, more prominently, Italy, Germany, Canada, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Australia, Switzerland, Poland, Russia and the USA.
Formations can be found etched into many types of crops, and laid down in either a clockwise, anticlockwise or even radial fashion. Wheat and barley fields are the most commonly visited, but oilseed rape (canola), rye, oats, maize, flax, peas and various other plants have also been known to host designs. Natural mediums have been utilised by the phenomenon too, amongst them grassland, bracken and heather. In Britain, the majority of crop circles appear within the county of Wiltshire, but other areas have also received their fair share, with prominent examples including Hampshire, Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire, East and West Sussex, Warwickshire, North and South Yorkshire, the East Midlands, and as far north as Scotland.
This book exists to give a brief, yet insightful, overview of the crop circle phenomenon – the history, the development of the patterns, and the possible theories which might explain them. While not intended as a definitive study (some excellent books and websites for the more dedicated researcher are listed under Further Information), it hopefully serves as a good introduction to something far more complex and intriguing than most people are aware of.
What the crop circle mystery has done, above all, is to provide a fascinating forum of debate about the nature of reality and the mysterious world around us, as both sceptics and mystics strive to prove their cases. Indeed, the continuing absence of a definitive answer to the circles has stimulated an unexpected deepening of thought in many people as they grapple with the issues and strange matters arising from this compelling and yet frustratingly elusive phenomenon.
The lack of physical evidence in paranormal mysteries has always been frustrating for researchers, whether studying the Loch Ness Monster, ghosts, Bigfoot or UFOs. Crop formations present the exact opposite of this – the evidence arrives on a regular basis, in stunning and beautiful form for all to see. Paradoxically, this undeniable presence has almost certainly increased the controversy around them, with detailed examinations (and subsequent heated discussions) easily available to all, not just the lucky few. We shall explore the arguments about man-made versus mysterious later, but most open-minded observers accept that at least a proportion of formations cannot be explained by human activity.
While some formations are just a few feet across and simple, the vast majority are now highly sophisticated patterns and generally span hundreds (occasionally thousands) of feet. Although tractor lines cross most English fields (the stripes visible in aerial photos), agriglyphs have also been found in the middle of farmland without them, with no visible trails leading in. They are mostly placed fully within the selected field, although boundaries and even roads have been crossed on noted occasions, with one large ring in 1993 at West Overton, Wiltshire, encompassing three fields around an entire T-junction.
Most of the more ‘intelligent’-looking crop glyphs seem ambiguous in their symbolism, but more direct ones have alluded to everything from ancient or religious iconography to modern scientific and astronomical data, sparking many discussions about their origins. Some designs embody incredibly complex geometrical features and display mathematical qualities beyond pure chance or haphazard placement.
Books and papers have been inspired by these elements alone, and the late Professor Gerald S Hawkins (famous for decoding the geometrical layout of Stonehenge) even derived a whole new mathematical theorem based on observing the diatonic ratios embodied in crop circles. In addition to the geometry, complexity is often found in the laid crop itself, with layered flows, swirls and weaves. Other notable physical features can include biological anomalies in circle-affected crop (absent in known man-made designs), suggesting some kind of heating or energy process at work.
Despite many crop circles seemingly being created at night, apparently in the pre-dawn early hours, there have been a number of proven daylight occurrences (sometimes with eye-witnesses), and large designs have arrived within very short periods of time. Although similar patterns have been known to form in less visible mediums at other times of the year – ice, snow and earth circles have all been reported – the vast majority of crop designs are found between April and September in the UK (with seasonal variations in other parts of the world), the peak months being July and August, and the epicenter of English – indeed global – activity being around Avebury and Silbury Hill. Local weather conditions do not seem to be a major factor in their arrival, as they are known to appear in rain and fog as well as clear conditions, and there is no obvious correlation with lunar or astrological cycles influencing individual appearances.
Although crop circles have been found on many types of soil worldwide, it is an interesting fact that the vast majority of English formations appear to arrange themselves in direct conjunction with aquiferous rocks – strata which carry large volumes of underground water. Mapping out the distribution of the circles onto geological charts makes this connection undeniable, with chalk appearing to be the primary attractor for the Wessex examples. Circles in other countries have similar correlations with their regional aquifers.
The geological connection would seem to be an important factor in the placement of formations. As water is known to create energetic effects in the ground, a natural component may contribute to the process of circle creation, whatever other causes may be involved. Of course, many believe there to be an intelligent impetus of some kind that must also play a part, as will be discussed further under Theories and Beliefs.
The circle mystery is certainly multi-layered. All manner of peripheral anomalous phenomena have been reported in and around crop glyphs over the years. Most notably, aerial lights have often been seen coming down into fields where new formations are subsequently discovered, and floating balls of light have been witnessed, and filmed, on numerous occasions in and around existing patterns.
Whether the circlemaking process originates in the sky, or from the earth, or is a combination of both, isn’t yet known, but eye-witnesses often speak of a descending presence. On occasions when crop circles arrive, there have also been reports of buzzing electronic sounds, very high-pitched whistling/trilling effects, and even loud roaring.
We explore all of these aspects and much more throughout this book.