Crop formations, or crop circles, have been widely publicized by the media since the late 1970s. A crop formation is a circular pattern found in a field of wheat or similar tall-growing, grass-bearing crops. Crop formations tend to appear at night under mysterious or unexplainable circumstances.
Crop formations have also been directly associated with UFOs and UFO sightings. But a closer examination of the history of crop circles shows that most formations have been either man or nature made. Yet the origins of 20% of new crop circles go unexplained, leaving us to wonder who or what is behind these beautiful patterns.
1647: The Mowing Devil
1647 marks the first recorded crop formation in a Berkshire, England woodcut pamphlet known as The Mowing Devil. The woodcut shows a horned creature mowing oats in a circular pattern. The inscription on the woodcut tells the story of a farmer who balked at his mower’s high price for cutting oats, saying that he would rather hire the devil himself to do the work. The woodcut also suggests that if a crop circle appeared in 1647, it might have been attributed to “the work of the devil.” To crop circle gurus, The Mowing Devil is the first recorded evidence of crop formations.
1880: Nature Journal Report
In 1880, Brandon Meland reported in the journal Nature on his discovery of several circles of flattened field crops that he attributed to circular winds.
1966: The Tully Saucer Nests
Crop circle history was fairly quiet for almost a century until 1966 in Tully, Australia. While driving a tractor near a lagoon one morning, banana farmer George Pedley watched a large, spinning, saucer-shaped object rise out of the lagoon and fly off. Upon investigation of the lagoon, Pedley found a large circular formation in the reeds. Pedley showed the property owner, and they informed the authorities. During the police investigation, five more similar “nests” were found nearby, but they were all attributed to a “willy willy”—a small, circular windstorm found in tropical climates.
1978: Bower and Chorley
In the early 1970s, crop circles began popping up all over England and generating widespread media attention. By 1978, drinking buddies Doug Bower and Dave Chorley started making their own crop circles at night as a public spoof that they hoped would draw media attention. But the circles did not generate the publicity they had anticipated and were written off as the results of either wind or weather because of their simplicity. In 1981, the men created a more-complex formation in the Winchester Punchbowl where they knew it would get noticed and perplex its observers. The men continued their work for another ten years until 1991 when they were forced to go public with their scam in order to convince Bower’s wife that he was not having an affair, as he was frequently missing at night and putting a lot of extra miles on their car. Dave Chorley died suddenly in 1996, but Doug Bower continued their work alone, now as a form of public art.
1991: The Barbury Castle Circle
As crop formations became more complex during the 1980’s, they took on advanced geometry and symmetry. The Barbury Castle Crop Circle in Wiltshire, England was a major advancement in crop formations because it was the first circle that broke symmetry and is said to show evidence of mathematical patterns in the universe. Its origins went unexplained.
1992: Buckinghamshire Crop Circle Competition
Twelve teams entered this competition to create the best “hoax” crop formation for a sum of 5,200 pounds. Entries were as complex as a team of helicopters pulling pipes and ladders, and as simple as a single man with a garden roller. According to the events’ organizers, the quality of the results proved that complex crop formations could still be human hoaxes.
1992: The First Crop Circle Arrest
The St. Stephen Agricultural Technicum in Hungary produced two ambitious young farmers who were the first to face legal repercussions for a crop circle hoax. At age 17, students Gabor Takacs and Robert Dallos created a large crop circle in a wheat field outside Budapest. Three months later they appeared on a television show where they revealed that the circle had been a hoax. The property owners decided to sue the boys for the damage to their crop. After they were found guilty and fined, the Hungarian television show that the boys appeared on ended up paying for all the damages and legal fees.
In 1995, the group Circlemakers formed to create England’s definitive website on crop formations. The site serves as a forum for both believers of unexplainable crop formation phenomenon and circle artists alike. Visitors can find info on all things related to crop circles, including free, downloadable instructions for making your own.
2002: Discovery Channel Special
In 2002, The Discovery Channel asked MIT grad students to engineer their own crop circles and documented the event for television in an hour-long special called “Crop Circles: Mystery in the fields.” The show’s agenda was to distinguish hoaxes from the real thing, suggesting that, after all, there is a “real thing.”
So What is the “Real Thing?”
About 80% of crop formations are scientifically proven to be man-made, or crop circle hoaxes, so what about the other 20%? These circles of unknown origin are usually attributed to wind/weather, government conspiracy, or UFO/alien activity; however, the aliens seem to take the cake. UFOs have been linked to crop formations since one was spotted in daylight at the site of the first well-known formation in Tully, Australia. Further, over the years people have reportedly witnessed crop circles being formed by virtually nothing in seconds before their very eyes. But perhaps the most convincing piece of evidence is that the patterns and formations can only be seen in their entirety from the sky.