Despite the title, there’s nothing ‘undercover’ or ‘ultimate’ going on here. Cheesy as a deli counter 2003 documentary from Julian Gibsone for The Crop Circle Connector. Simeon Hein, Andreas Muller, Stuart Dike, Dan Darby, Peter Sorensen, Charles Mallett, Frances Mallett, are among the interviewees.
Our favourite crop circle documentary, made in 1997 and featuring an all-star croppie cast of researchers and circlemakers including Andy Thomas, Busty Taylor, Chad Deetken, Colin Andrews, Doug Bower, Ed Sherwood, John Lundberg, John Sayer, Julian Richardson, Lucy Pringle, Nick Nicholson, Peter Sorensen, Polly Carson, Reg Presley, Rob Irving, Rod Dickinson, Ron Russell, Stuart Dike, Wil Russell, amongst others. Recommended viewing.
Back in the 1990s, researcher Peter Sorensen produced annual season videos documenting each year’s circles. Think of them as the filmic equivalent of the Alexanders’ Yearbooks. They were always a pleasure to watch, a mix of crop circle documentary and ‘what I did on my holidays’. Peter’s view of the circles’ source changed over the years however, and once he expressed the opinion that all circles were manmade, video sales rapidly dipped and within a few years Peter stopped producing them. We believe 2002/2003 was the last one he did. Here are all the ones we’ve been able to find online. Our thanks to Matthew Williams for taking the time to upload these to YouTube.
Along with Croppies, perhaps our favourite circles documentary. Its subtitle, “A Journey Into The Heart Of Crop Circle Country”, says it all. Featuring one of the biggest cast lists of any circles doc, including Steve Alexander, Charles Mallett, Michael Glickman, Colin Andrews, Matthew Williams, Lucy Pringle, Terence Meaden, Pat Delgado, Busty Taylor, Peter Sorensen, Doug Bower, John Lundberg, George Wingfield, Francine Blake, Karen Alexander, Freddy Silva, Andy Thomas, William Levengood, Ed Sherwood, Kris Sherwood, Ron Russell, Simeon Hein, Suzanne Taylor, Polly Carson, Tim Carson, Isabelle Kingston, John Wabe, Dan Darby, Geoff Stray, amongst others. Recommended viewing.
90s documentary by Bert Janssen and Janet Ossebaard, with plenty of aerial and ground footage of the 1996 season, and with swift dismissal of human circle makers (Doug and Dave are referred to as ‘farmers’!), focussing instead on the researcher perspective. Interviewees include Michael Glickman, Colin Andrews, Peter Sorensen, Polly Carson, Busty Taylor, Ilyes, amongst others.
2002 US TV piece, featuring Peter Sorensen and the ubiquitous Colin Andrews.
What exactly is a crop circle?
A circle. In a crop field. At least, that’s what a crop circle was when the term was first coined. Now it seems to cover all manner of markings, from splodges to squiggles to complex configurations of circles, squares, triangles, lines, crescents, rings, and kitchen sinks. In an effort to keep up with the development of the designs, various other terms have been made up, including ‘pictogram’, ‘agriglyph’, ‘crop glyph’. Call us old-fashioned, but we’ve decided to stick with ‘crop circle’. ‘Crop formation’ seems to be the most recent variant, or ‘formation’ as it’s known to its friends. We like and frequently use that one, too, being one of said friends.
Small single circle from Weston Turville, Bucks, August 2005. “The crop circle enigma” ™ began with small single circles and circle-sets. Back in the day a single circle was known as a ‘singleton’, and was affectionately termed a ‘valerie’ by some researchers. Photograph of the Weston Turville circle by Darren Francis, who as far as we’re aware was the only person to visit this formation aside from its maker and the farmer as he combined it.
Aren’t all crop circles man-made?
Oh leave it.
Aren’t all crop circles made by aliens / ultraterrestrial intelligences / earth energies / satan / gaia etc?
But I’ve heard tell of ‘genuine crop circles’. What is meant by this? What constitutes a ‘genuine crop circle’?
That’s a toughie, and the answer depends very much on who you speak to. First off, ‘genuine crop circle’ generally means ‘crop circle not made by people’. The main problem with this is that said term assumes or implies that there are accepted criteria by which one should judge such things, factors that can be assessed and tests that can be employed to give a definitive answer either way. Quite a few people claim there are such tests and factors, though nobody seems to be able to agree on exactly what they are. Studies of lay, design aspects, and analysis of crop samples have all been cited. Others employ all manner of gizmos, black box technology, sacred rites, dowsing, and the like. The subjectivity of these methods is a sticking point, as is the fact that different people look for different things. We’ve read field reports of the same formation by different parties, which vary to such an extent that you’d be forgiven for thinking they were referring to separate circles. Terms like ‘genuine crop circle’ and ‘genuine phenomenon’ also imply that one believes that crop circles are not, or cannot, be man-made; some of them, at least. Not everybody adheres to this view. Similarly, some researchers consider all crop circles ‘genuine’ until there is evidence to suggest otherwise, others that all crop circles should be assumed man-made until evidence suggests otherwise. Most sit somewhere in the middle. Horses for courses.
Okay. If you can’t tell us what constitutes a ‘genuine’ crop circle, at least tell us what constitutes a ‘good’ crop circle.
It depends what you like. Personally we go for precision, neatness and sophistication of lay, and aesthetically pleasing design. Yes, we know that’s vague, but it is difficult to define. Here’s an example of a circle we like: Hackpen Hill, 4th July 1999 (photo by Peter Sorensen). There are some formations rated highly in croppiedom which we personally don’t get along with, for example Bythorn, Cambridgeshire, September 1993 (though we’re not that keen on pentagrams as a rule), the East Field ‘pictogram of pictograms’ of 1999, the ‘dolphins’ of 1991 (ersatz hippy tat), anything involving ladders or eyes, and the Beckhampton ‘Charm Bracelet’ of 16 August 1992 (cheesy crap – nice lay, though), to name a few. A lot of it comes down to personal taste, and we suspect that for all the posturing, most pronouncements about particular formations and their place in the phenomenon as a whole are aesthetic. This is simplifying the point somewhat, though crop circles are artistic as much as anything else. One human circlemaker we spoke to (as opposed to all the non-human circlemakers we’ve spoken to; haven’t you?) said he considered crop circle researchers to be more akin to art critics than paranormal investigators, and we do think there is a great deal of truth in this.
Wasn’t there some guy who analysed crop samples and concluded that some formations couldn’t be made by people?
Doctor William Levengood, together with Nancy Talbot and the less-famed John Burke, collectively known as the BLT Research Team. We were just about to get on to them. When they’re not making sandwiches (and nobody else has made that joke) they examine plant-samples from crop circles. They report a number of biological changes to the plants including elongation and bending of nodes, expulsion cavities (tiny holes around the nodal area), shrivelled seed-heads, cellular alteration, and severely stunted or accelerated germination, deducing that such anomalies are consistent with brief exposure to some form of intense microwave energy. An awful lot has been written and said about the BLT results over the years. We hope to be able to present a more detailed overview of their work on this site in the future.
But didn’t the good doctor analyse lodging and find the same anomalies he reports in crop circles?
There were patches of ‘strange lodging’ which Levengood examined and in which he found anomalies akin to those found in crop circle samples, leading him to speculate that occasionally what is defined as lodging may in fact be caused by similar ‘forces’ as crop circles (if indeed one believes – as Levengood seems to – that the circles are made by said ‘forces’). This doesn’t necessarily mean he considers all lodging to be malformed crop circles, or – to look at it another way – that he believes crop circles to be sophisticated lodging. Wait for our BLT analysis to make this aspect clearer. What’s that, you say? Their same results found in lodging? Their ‘strange lodging’ clutching at straws? And people call us cynics.
Is there a simple way to tell which crop circles are man-made and which aren’t?
This is probably the most commonly asked crop circle question, and we’ve dealt with it at various points elsewehere on this page and on this site. We find all alleged ‘authenticity’ tests to be lacking to one degree or another. Put another way, in circle-speak the term ‘genuine crop circle’ means “I don’t know who made this”, though it sometimes means “I know who made this but I don’t believe them because I think it’s such a great circle”. It may also mean “this formation is genuine because it fits into my theory”, or conversely “this formation is man-made because it doesn’t fit into my theory”.
Genuiness is in the eye of the beholder. All crop circles are genuine, but some crop circles are more genuine than others.
How long have crop circles been appearing?
The answer to this one is relatively straightforward, compared to some of these questions. Contrary to popular view, crop circles did not – as far as we can tell – first appear in fields close to the Percy Hobbs pub in the mid 1970s. There are many (largely anecdotal) accounts of formations throughout the 20th century and earlier.
The sign of The Percy Hobbs pub, near Cheesefoot Head, Hampshire. In the 1980s this pub sign looked rather different. In the mid-1990s it was re-drawn (as pictured here) into a stylised representation of Doug Bower, in honour of the pints he sank and plans he hatched in the snug, before he kicked ass at darts and dominoes then ventured into the fields. Photograph by Darren Francis, Summer 2006.
The problem of course is that the further back in history one goes, the more hazy the reports get, though there are photographs of circles throughout the world from the 1960s onward at least (many reproduced – poorly, we regret to add – in Terry Wilson’s book The Secret History of Crop Circles); the difference, of course, being that back then they were called ‘UFO nests’ and not ‘crop circles’. Croppie lore speaks of a photo from the 1930s of a formation in Sussex, though we haven’t seen this one ourselves. An article from Nature magazine in 1880 by spectroscopist J Rand Capron details an investigation into circles that appeared near Guildford, Surrey, in that year. Similar reports have been found in the 1686 book The Natural History of Staffordshire by Robert Plot, this time detailing grass formations (or were they?). That’s the kind of evidence we want to see ourselves, instead of taking every historical mention of a mark in a field (or even not in a field) and interpreting it as crop circle lineage. It might be, but it equally might not be.
Then you have the famed ‘Mowing Devil’ woodcut of 1678, though we have reservations here; the crop appears to have been cut rather than swirled flat, and so – unlike the Capron or Plot reports – doesn’t tally with what one might now define as a crop circle.
The Mowing Devil of 1678. We were quite shocked to discover that there have been four different versions of the Mowing Devil image doing the rounds over the years. This is a reproduction of the authentic one. We’ve noticed that almost all accounts we’ve read of the Mowing Devil in crop circle books quote from the cover text only (which you can read on this image), such that one might be forgiven for not realising that the true account is considerably longer. The full text has been reproduced in a few books, though – for example The Field Guide by Rob Irving and John Lundberg (pages 27-31) or Terence Meaden’s Circles From The Sky (pages 186-188).
We’d also repeat a point made by Bob Boyd in The Circular # 31 (May 1998) that, if crop circles have been appearing so long, it seems strange that Charles Fort – exhaustive archivist of tales of all things wyrd – makes absolutely no mention of them. We suspect that, even if they have been appearing as long as the evidence might suggest, it’s never been in anything approaching the numbers or complexity we see today.
Like all croppies worth their salt we are intensely interested in reports that pre-date the 1970s. The sheer number of reports is certainly suggestive, though the intangibility of almost all of them is frustrating. Pre-1970s circles are another item on the long list of things we hope to do a more detailed feature about in the future.
How many crop circles appear each year?
It varies. Up until the mid-1980s, less than ten circles appeared annually in the UK on average, and non-UK circles were comparatively rare. From the late 1980s to the late 1990s annual numbers did steadily climb, peaking in 1999 then dropping a little to between a hundred and a hundred a fifty a year in the UK for the early part of the 2000s. The last few seasons (we write this paragraph in July 2008) have seen quite a sudden drop from this, with UK circles averaging about 55 in 2006 and 2007. There has been a great deal of speculation as to why this might be. Theories range from fewer circlemakers out in the fields to sunspot and other cycles, or of the ‘genuine’ circlemakers having taken a backseat and leaving the fields to the ‘hoaxers’ (or vice versa). After the sudden drop in 2006 it was speculated by Andy Thomas in particular (see article here) that the dry Summer had something to do with it; “It is widely recognised that the majority of crop formations cluster around the main aquifiers… in the UK, and many believe that natural energy generated by their water contributes to their creation. In 2006, the UK suffered the driest conditions since 1976 – could this have been an important factor?” Although Andy makes an interesting point here, it is perhaps worth pointing out that 2007 had about the same number of circles as 2006 and it absolutely bucketed down with rain for most of the Summer.
We can’t leave the subject of annual circles numbers without mentioning that we still see it claimed that over 300 circles appeared in 1989, with double that number in 1990. This is entirely down to Terence Meaden’s cataloging methods; Meaden would count (for example) a quintuplet as five separate circles, a triplet as three separate circles. This means that circle numbers from any year in which Meaden was cataloguing data – up to 1991 in fact – should be treated with suspicion.
How big was the biggest crop circle ever recorded?
Ah, the ‘Size Queen croppie’ question.
There have been a few very long pictograms – for example East Field, Alton Barnes, Wiltshire, 12th June 1999 (1040′), Ashbury, Oxfordshire, 26th July 1994 (approximately a quarter of a mile), Etchilhampton, Wiltshire, 30th July 1996 (eight tenths of a mile, which might sound impressive but the actual design was just a path with 13 circles spaced along it) though due to the nature of these designs the actual amount of flattened crop is relatively little. The formation with the greatest amount of flattened crop is generally reckoned to be East Field, 9th July 1998 (see photo by Werner Anderhaub), which covered approximately 6000 square metres. Though this was a fair few seasons ago we think the record still holds, but would be curious to see how it compares to – say – the August 2001 Milk Hill formation. Speaking of which, although Milk Hill 2001 holds the record for the most circles in a single formation (409) its diameter is ‘only’ 767′. Compare this to the Windmill Hill Julia Set of July 1996, which – although it had less than half the circles of its Milk Hill sibling – spanned anywhere between 800′ and 1,000′ tip to tip depending on who you ask. Or compare it to the Alton Barnes, Wilts formation of 7th July 2007; 1033′ foot tip to tip, with approximately 130 circles. So which is bigger? Which we guess means that ‘size’, as much as ‘genuineness’, is relative. Would you like it any other way?
See also the article Size Matters Not for further discussion of this topic.
Hackpen Hill, 24 May 2008.It’s been pointed out that this formation is the ‘spine’ of the Milk Hill 2001 formation, and that it’s about the same size. It is on both counts. Why do croppies find this formation less interesting than its Milk Hill mother? We don’t know. If size is your game, it’s a good circle. If geometry is your game, it’s a good circle. If lineage is your game, it’s a good circle. If precision is your game, it’s a good circle. If ‘the season is young and I want my circle fix’ is your game, it’s a good circle. To tell the truth we know the reason for the neglect entirely. Croppies are fickle and get bored. Want the next bigger and next better thing and next thing. Don’t see what is in front of their eyes. For curio value we’d also add that this was in the same field as the 1999 Hackpen Hill formation mentioned above in this page. Photograph by Peter Sorensen.
How significant is the placing of crop circles?
Without knowing who / what put a particular formation in the field, this is an impossible question to answer. We do know, however, that factors as mundane as availability of fields containing particular crop types, or ease of access to those fields or to points where the maker may remain unseen or may leave a vehicle, are considerations.
A number of studies have been made into the positioning of crop circles in relation to each other, the most impressive of which is probably this one. Freddy Silva has also written about this puzzling crop circle aspect, with particular regard to formations from the 1999 season (The Cereologist # 31, pages 7-11, and also in Secrets In The Fields) and his findings – that circles reference not only prominent landmarks but also the location of the next circle – make for fascinating reading. However, he does ignore the vast majority of 1999 formations along the way, getting around this by dismissing them as ‘hoaxes’. The question of whether circlemakers deliberately position formations in relation to ancient sites and other prominent landmarks has also been addressed in The Field Guide (pages 167-168) and elsewhere.
It might also be worth mentioning in passing here that in any given season formations will be trumpeted as aligned to something or other – and indeed they will be aligned to that something or other (usually a barrow, stone circle, hill or such) – though the majority of circles aren’t aligned to anything. Or at least anything that gets noticed. And who bothers writing about alignments in a circle that doesn’t have any? Nobody. Except us.
Crop circle of “mysterious origin” that appeared opposite Silbury Hill 6 July 2000. Yes, it’s aligned to Silbury Hill. But so are the tramlines. Does that mean that the farmer was guided by arcane forces when he sowed his field? Photograph by Peter Sorensen.
Where is the best place to see new crop circles?
Theoretically, one can see crop circles wherever there are crop fields, and our advice is to check the ‘new formations’ websites throughout the Summer to find the nearest formations to you. However, a much simpler answer for lazy croppies is that if you visit the Avebury / Alton Barnes area any time between late June and mid-August you are guaranteed to see circles. Visiting on most Saturday and Sunday mornings in this period will also guarantee that you can see fresh, ‘appeared the night before in a field that was being watched and then dawn came and there were hundreds of orbs’ circles.
So why do most crop circles appear on Friday and Saturday nights?
Because some ETs / faeries / earth energies / demons / field pixies have day jobs.
What do the farmers make of it all?
Farmers? Who are they? Oh you mean those annoying sorts who sometimes turn up to spoil croppies’ fun when they’re out trampling through crop fields? Who sometimes even have the sheer cheek to throw people out of fields or cut circles before hundreds of people visit and stomp the crop to chaff and dust?
Actually we do feel very sorry for farmers, especially those in Wiltshire. Bear in mind that some of these people have had crop circles on their land every single year, and in some years multiple formations, for nearly two decades. Is it really surprising that they might be getting sick of it?
While we’re on the subject of farmers, we’d add that although it says in the Crop Circle Code of Conduct and in many croppie books that visitors should always ask permission from the farmer before entering a formation, we know very few croppies that do so – and this includes some very prominent researchers, some of them published authors. As such we find it bemusing that croppies will bemoan the illegal activities of ‘evil hoaxers’ before engaging in illegal activities themselves by trespassing on farmers’ property.
How comes nobody has ever been caught making a circle?
They have; see here.
Why do people who research crop circles call themselves cerealogists?
Because it adds the illusion of science to them and to their efforts. Actually, few people seem to use this term any more; the PC term at present is ‘croppie’. Though commonly believed to have been co-opted from Trekkie, we personally prefer the theory that ‘croppie’ is a compound term derived from ‘crop circle groupie’.
‘Cerealogist’ is sometimes spelt ‘cereologist’. What’s that all about?
When the journal of the same name was first published, it was spelt ‘cereologist’, though as they note in their editorial in issue 3, “‘a number of learned readers have pointed out that it is etymologically incorrect” and that it should in fact be ‘cerealogist’. It fluctuated after that – indeed the cover-banners are spelt differently depending on which issue you look at. There was actually a reader-poll, the results of which favoured ‘cereologist’. We disagree; surely the term is derived from the word ‘cereal’, and therefore ‘cerealogist’ makes more sense. Michael Glickman also favours ‘cerealogist’, as he notes in his column in issue 7 of said organ (reproduced in his book Cornography). We welcome this; it’s nice to agree with Glickers on something for a change.
Does this etymological pondering matter? Of course it matters. Even if it is a made up word.
Is there any proof that some crop circles are made by aliens?
And before you ask, complexity of design in a formation is not proof that it was made by aliens. Anomalous plant effects reported in formations are not proof that formation was made by aliens. Balls of light seen in and around a formation are not proof that those balls of light were guided by aliens (or indeed were aliens themselves) and made that formation. Crop circles that depict aliens are not proof that aliens are taken to self-portraiture. Not knowing how a crop circle got into a field in the middle of the night is not proof that it was put there by aliens.
The famed Crabwood formation of August 2002. A depiction of a Grey in a crop field isn’t proof that the formation was made by Greys. Going by that logic, Greys also made the film Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. We’ve also heard it argued that this formation – when taken in light of the message that accompanies it – is in fact a warning against Greys put there by another race of aliens (Pleidians, Nordics, Sirians, Reptilians, Arcturans, take your pick). This isn’t quite as far-fetched as it sounds, when you consider what shifty buggers Greys are, with rectal probing and embryo-theft and cattle mutilation listed amongst their hobbies in the contact ads.That doesn’t of course mean that we think this formation was made by aliens – of whatever race – because we don’t. We’d love to be able to, but simply don’t see the evidence. Aerial photo of the Crabwood formation by Peter Sorensen.
In amongst all the bickering and gossip and who-made-what allegations and insulting each other on internet forums and gallivanting around Wiltshire lining the pockets of the local landlords, does anybody actually do any research into crop circles anymore?
Something we’ve wondered ourselves, it has to be said.
A related point – why do most croppies drink so much?
There are several answers to this one:- 1. In order to support their theories; 2. Because sitting in the Barge Inn getting sloshed is easier than field work; 3. Because after one has visited the latest formations, there isn’t much else to do other than retire to your tent / B&B, or have a bevy or two; 4. Because crop circles are as much a social activity as anything else.
We’d also like to float a theory here; never mind the notion that some farmers are in cahoots with those making formations on their land so they can charge people to go in (which, considering the ire with which some Wiltshire farmers mow formations as soon as they arrive seems unlikely these days), what about the Wiltshire pub owners? They employ people to make formations, croppies flock to have a look and then hit the boozer. Utterly implausible but it just might be true. Which could be said to eloquently sum up the whole phenomenon, in a way.
The sign of the Barge Inn pub, Honeystreet, Wiltshire. This photo was taken (by Darren Francis) in Summer 2007, at which point the sign had recently been re-done. Many croppies will no doubt remember the older version, of which we’ll have a (non-digital) image somewhere and may load at some point as well.
Is it true that making crop circles can be as much if not more spiritually rewarding than investigating them?
Some might say, and so we’ve heard.
But why do so many croppies end up making circles themselves?
Like most of these questions there are several answers, some of them contradictory. The obvious reason is to test the plausibility of the ‘crop circles are all man-made’ hypothesis, to see what is and isn’t possible to create in a field at night. We think this a reasonable venture, personally, and find it bizarre that some croppies do not consider it worthwhile as research, even if they wouldn’t want to have a go themselves. Some leave it at this; others go on to make circles season after season. Some because they think it’s fun, some because they find it rewarding, some to see what they can get away with, some because they enjoy seeing other croppies making fools of themselves, most because they’re croppies too and love crop circles as much as the rest.
So these people who make crop circles… do they use strimmers, then?
We have actually been asked this question. And no, they don’t use strimmers (though if they did it might explain the ellusive ‘trilling sound’). Farmers have occasionally been known to use strimmers, though, when faced with the latest glorious message from the stars in their fields.
Why do crop circles only appear in the Summer in the UK?
Erm… because crop circles need crops? Before we elaborate we should say that we’ve been asked this question, too. It isn’t quite as dumb as it sounds (though it’s still pretty dumb).
Though the ‘because crop circles need crops’ rule applies, formations do of course appear in Spring in oilseed rape and (late Spring) in barley and in early wheat, before the fields give way to the most glorious designs which are as a rule in wheat. The (very) occasional Autumn formation might turn up in maize or grass, and Winter grass formations have also – abeit rarely – been spotted. Also worth mentioning here is a barley formation that was discovered on 15th November 2007 near Manton, Wiltshire (picture left and article here) and which is undoubtedly the latest in the year that a UK formation has appeared.
Manton, Wiltshire, 15 November 2007. Considering how cold we remember it being in the UK when this appeared, we don’t envy who / what made it in the slightest. Aerial photograph by Peter Sorensen
Why does The Barge Inn have a circlemaking equipment store next door to it?
Coincidence. Besides, it isn’t a circlemaking store, it’s a country supplies store and sawmill. That said, we wouldn’t like to speculate how many wood-planks may have been ‘borrowed’ from outside the place in the dead of night over the years.
Can I tell you my personal theory as to what crop circles mean and what makes them, even though I have absolutely no evidence for it and have never even been in a crop circle?
No. It isn’t that we don’t care, more that we don’t have the time. We hope you understand.
It’s all done by the military, though, isn’t it?
We really must be going now.
Why are you guys so cynical?
There’s a fine line between cynicism and credulity. We’ve been accused of being cynics, debunkers, disbelievers, and worse. We’re none of these things. We’re agnostics. We do think that something very interesting is going on here. We know we understand some of it, we think we understand other bits, elsewhere have an inkling, sometimes don’t have a clue. A bit like everybody else, really, but at least we’re honest.
First written Summer 2003; revised intermittently since then; most recent tarting Summer 2008.
NB: Perhaps it is only fair to say that a couple of the statements in these photo comments aren’t actually true.
Wildly over-estimating the size of formations seems to be sadly common in crop circle research. We’ll avoid getting Freudian as to why this might be, but will say that it works in reverse as well – formations which croppies don’t like and / or consider man-made are sometimes claimed as being smaller than they actually are.
Take the Milk Hill formation from August 2001. Firstly we should say that we consider this formation a staggering achievement. It has rightly earned its place as one of the finest crop circles ever. It is, of course, also very large. We’ve often seen this formation listed as being 1,000′ across, and have even seen it listed as 1,500′.
So how big is the Milk Hill formation, exactly? Andreas Mueller surveyed this formation and put its overall diameter at 787′. Peter Sorensen didn’t measure the formation but did phone the farmer to ask how widely spaced the tramlines in the field were. From this figure – 24 meters – Peter counted the number of tramlines the formation spanned and estimated its overall size as 767′, which is only 20′ different to Andreas Mueller’s figure. Therefore the claims that this formation is 1,500′ are over 100% inacurate. Even claims that it is 1,000′ are out by more than 200′.
We don’t understand why croppies feel the need to do this, particularly in the case of the Milk Hill formation, which is more than impressive enough as it is without the need to lie about it.
Let’s take another example, the formation which appeared at Woodborough Hill, Wiltshire on 11th July 1997. Judging from the tramlines (aerial shot below) we’d guess this formation to be approximately 300′. 300′ seems to be the general concensus on this formation’s diameter, from what we’ve read, with one notable exception; in an interview with Linda Moulton Howe (in her book Mysterious Lights & Crop Circles, page 60) Charles Mallett says of this formation “it was huge, a quarter mile across”. A quarter of a mile? Charles, what on earth are you on? A quarter of a mile is 1,320′, which means your estimate is more than 1,000′ out. And you wonder why the general public don’t take crop circle researchers seriously, when they can’t even get basic stuff like that right?
Woodborough, July 1997. Not a quarter of a mile across… It’s amazing how far crop circle design has progressed over the years. When this formation appeared it was praised for its extreme complexity, but it’s really nothing more than twelve rings equally centred around the perimeter of a circle half the diameter.
That said, we do find it a very striking formation. We remember attending a lecture some years ago by Andy Thomas, in which he stated that since the famed East Field pictogram of 1990, there had been a formation of high quality in East Field every year (he appears to have forgotten 1995, in which East Field didn’t have any circles at all; the only year that hasn’t happened since 1990). When it came to 1997, however, Andy’s quality East Field formation was this one at Woodborough (which was in the field directly opposite East Field, Andy’s argument being that it was ‘pretty much East Field’). Which means that (a) Andy chose to ignore the actual East Field 1997 formation – which was, it has to be said, a horrific mess; see aerial shot – and that (b) he lied about the evidence to fit his theory. Both aerial shots by Lucy Pringle.
We suspect that the croppie obsession with making formations out to be bigger than they actually are is in part due to the notion that the larger a formation is, the less likely it is that people made it. However, this ignores the fact that there are a number of known man-made circles in the 300′ range (for example the Avebury 29th July 1999 Daily Mail comission, or the Sorensen/Russell/Hein Hilmarton formation of July 2001), and even a few around 500′ (for example Cranford St Andrew, 1st August 1992 – see photo – which dwarfed every other formation that had appeared up to that point). Other croppies, amusingly (yes, Colin Andrews, we’re thinking of you specifically though you’re not alone in this) think quite the reverse; the larger and more complex a formation is, the more likely it is to be made by people. In part we suspect this is down to said researchers harking back to a hypothetical golden age when the bulk of the designs in the fields were small and simple and croppies could get on with their research without all those evil ‘hoaxers’ around to spoil the fun.
One of our favourite small formations of recent years is this one, which appeared (in amongst a series of dumbbells) near West Overton, Wiltshire, in July 2006 and which measures approximately 15′. A thing of great beauty, in our opinion, looking delicately hand-sculpted (and we suspect it probably was in a literal sense). Note the way that the flattened crop seemed to curve up the sides of the perimeter. However it has all but been ignored by the majority of researchers purely – we suspect – due to its size. Perversely, the people we know who most like it are circlemakers. What does that say? Perhaps because they see beyond the ‘bigger is better’ mentality and can appreciate it for what it is.
The first UK circle of the 2008 season was reported in oilseed rape at Waden Hill, Avebury, Wiltshire, on 19th April (ground shot, below, by Peter Sorensen).
Though the first ground report (from Charles Mallett) stated it was messy, it seems to have been generally well-received. We personally think it bodes well for the coming season.
It might also be worth pointing out that season-openers tend to be fairly sedate affairs, tucked away from sight; a 180′ design (which is big for oilseed rape) slap in the middle of crop circle ground zero couldn’t really be much more conspicuous if it tried. We’re looking forward to seeing what the fields have to offer up next.
Lucy Pringle’s aerial pictures of the Avebury formation can be found here.
The idea that ‘if there are people making crop circles all over the place, how comes they’re never spotted?’ is one that we still see repeated in books and websites over and over. And it simply isn’t true. With this in mind, we thought we’d compile a list to counter the myth.
There may well be others that we’ve missed out here and it does also have to be said that these reports vary in quality, with some of them being quite sketchy. If anybody has further information on any of these accounts, or any others that we’ve not listed, please let us know.
Firs Farm, Beckhampton, Wiltshire, June 1992
An unidentified team, spotted by John Macnish, and detailed (with photographs) on page 132 of his book Crop Circle Apocalypse. In his words:
‘It was about one in the morning and… I was driving along the A361… towards Beckhampton when on passing Firs Farm I decided to stop the car in a small lay-by just past the farm. For a few moments I scanned the fields across the road with the miniature night-sight, I thought I saw something that wasn’t there last time I looked. I got out of the car and started to walk along the chalky track which ran towards a group of tumuli on top of the hill… There were circles up there and I hadn’t seen them before…
‘I had to get this on video and I knew that the large image intensifier would show far more detail than the small portable sight.
‘Back at the car I wrestled in the dark with cables, batteries, tapes, and all the other kit I needed to record the evidence. It was some time before I stumbled back up the track and looked for a good vantage point to set up.
‘When everything was… working I switched on the small monitor and stared at the screen in disbelief, there were two huge circles and moving inside them were people!…
‘I had missed most of the construction process, all that I managed to record were two people apparently completing the two circles and walking off over the brow of the hill. I knew that this was enough, there was no way that people would be working in pitch blackness in the early hours of the morning in fresh crop circles unless they were making them.’
Silbury Hill, 6th July 2000
Perpetrators spotted arriving at the Silbury Hill car-park at 2.30am, and heading towards the opposite field with circlemaking equipment. This account is detailed on page 18 of SC # 92 (September / October 2000):
‘On the night this [formation] appeared, a lady whose camper van was parked below Silbury was woken around 2.30am by cars drawing up outside. Peering out behind her curtains, she watched some known alleged circlemakers arriving, implements in hand! This formation was there the next morning.’
The article unfortunately does not name the woman or list any sources. Another mention on page 4 of the same SC suggests that the circlemaker in question was Matthew Williams: ‘How many formations Williams and Co have or haven’t made isn’t known… see the Silbury and West Overton reports [August 25th 2000 – the formation for which Williams was prosecuted] this issue for a pointer.’
[Photo by Peter Sorensen]
Avebury, Wiltshire, 21st June 2002
Darren Francis writes: ‘I was in the area the night this appeared with my girlfriend Clai, to celebrate the Solstice; unsurprisingly, there were a lot of people about. At about 2AM we were close to the bottom of the field and I’d fallen asleep. Clai noticed torches in the field and at the top of the hill. As dawn came we could just make out the formation, went over as the sun came up, and were among the first in.’
[Photo by Lucy Pringle]
Cherhill, Wiltshire, 3rd August 2002
Makers caught by the farmer; formation unfinished.
There’s a slight degree of confusion about this case, involving two formations in the same wheat field directly below the Cherhill white horse; one a ‘flower’ design, the other a thick ring surrounding a small central circle. Some reports state that the ring appeared a few nights earlier, though the farmer himself, Mr M Ainslie, writes (on Paul Vigay’s Crop CircleResearch website): ‘Both formations appeared on the night of 2.7.02 [presumably he means 2.8.02] and are in similar place to the 1999 formation.’ And he should know, we guess. He also caught the culprits whilst in the process of making it/them, hence the ‘unfinished’ quality of the flower (some of the outer petals were flattened, some not) – presumably, if both appeared in one night, the same team were also responsible for the ring. Mr Ainslie also writes that despite rumours to the contrary, ‘as farmers of this land we have never given permission for a formation, but have on occasions been telephoned after a formation has appeared and given names of supposed perpetrators.’ As far as we know the identities of the circlemakers in this particular case are not known – apparently they fled the scene when the farmer arrived. Note also that, according to Jonah Ohayv, the team left a stomper behind.
[Photo by Derrick Hunt]
West Stowell, Wiltshire, 14th August 2002
An overlapping ring design, located close to the road in a wheat field below Golden Ball Hill, close to East Field. The makers were observed by a group of croppies on Woodborough Hill (apparently torches were seen in the field). The identities of circlemakers / oberservers are not known to us.
East Field, Wiltshire, 2nd August 2003
The creators of this formation were seen by several different groups of people, including researchers Andreas Mueller and Werner Anderhab, who observed the half-finished formation at 2.00am through night vision. A very thorough write-up of this case can be found in Allan Brown’s article The East Field/SouthField Duality. To save us having to repeat all the details here, we’d recommend you go there.
[Photo by Lucy Pringle]
Cherhill, Wiltshire, 4th August 2003
Cars were seen leaving the area after the formation was completed. Ron Russell later admitted that the formation was the work of his team, and that they had the permission of the farmer.
Golden Ball Hill, Wiltshire, 26th July 2004
Rod Bearcloud claims to have witnessed eight to ten people – presumably the makers – leaving this formation early in the morning of its discovery. In his words: ‘I was compelled to be at Golden Ball Hill at 4.30am on 26-7-04 for a night watch… As I was walking down the path, first I saw a gentleman out side leaning against his car as if waiting for something… A minute or so later I passed 8 to 10 people quickly walking up the path returning to their cars. I almost ran into them as they were wearing black, carrying things slung over their shoulders. Although silent they felt very intense and it put me off even going onto Golden Ball Hill. I returned to my car as the people in black loaded the cars with the things they were carrying and jumped in quickly leaving. There were 3 or 4 cars or so it seemed. Not really thinking much about them, I drove to the opposite corner of East Field and parked. I decided to walk down to a small plot of land where at this same time last year, 26 of July, 2003 I witnessed a UFO taking off… As I was returning from this spot it was getting light, I turned and looked back behind me when my eyes caught a geometric design on a field. Surprised, I took a course that led me to the field and as I entered the design I realised that it was from this direction that I saw the shady characters were returning to their cars. I realised at that moment that I was more than likely witnessing a hoax. Much to my dismay, I walked around the field carefully looking at its structure which seemed to me to be well done. There were a few things that led me to believe someone might have created it. I decided to take a path to see if I could find their path to the car park. Sure enough, I found a direct path with a lightly worn foot path leading into the direction of the field where a sign had been posted which said ‘private access’. When I walked up the path it lead me to the exact location of where I had seen them returning to their cars.’
This account has been questioned by some, who maintain that it does not prove that the people Bearcloud saw leaving the field made the circle. Another point made by John Lundberg, which we have to say we agree with, is that it seems odd that it would take eight to ten people to make what is a relatively simple formation, which requires little in the way of measuring and flattening and which – we believe – could easily be accomplished by two or three people. What were the others doing? Standing around watching? Or did they take turns to do bits?
For an alternative explanation of this formation’s origins, see Andrew Buckley’s report here, in which he claims to have witnessed it being created by an Apache helicopter. Inevitably, he didn’t think to film the incident using the ‘Panasonic video camera’ he makes a point of mentioning he had in his possession, even though by his estimation the incident lasted for several minutes.
[Photo by Lucy Pringle]
Tan Hill, nr Stanton St Bernard, 28th-31st July 2004
This relatively simple and – in our view – somewhat clunky-looking formation took a staggering four nights to complete. Contemporary records indicate that the creators were spotted at least once, though details are sketchy. Peter Sorensen writes that ‘on the second night they were spotted by researchers with night vision up above them on the hill’, and Freddy Silva writes that they were spotted twice, though does not give details.
[Photo by Peter Sorensen]
Silbury Hill, Wiltshire, 2nd & 3rd August 2004
It’s widely known that this formation took two nights to complete, appearing on the morning of 2nd August as an outline with flattened central circle and perimeter, with the much more accomplished and familiar design being executed the following night. Even at the time we remember reports that the makers had been rumbled mid-creation on the first night, and Andreas Mueller’s field report that first morning described ‘a rough executed, very heavily flattened and mechanical lay’ and the finding of ‘three white marking-plates numbered 2, 4 and 6… known to be used by several hoaxers’ and presumably left behind when they fled the scene. It isn’t clear, however, who spotted them exactly, or even if they were spotted – if they were, we’re curious as to how the spotters knew they were there since the formation was on top of a hill and not visible from nearby roads. The only vantage point we can think of in the area where it might be possible to spot somebody is the top of West Kennett Longbarrow (from where it might even be possible to hear a particularly noisy team) or Silbury Hill, but only if some sort of illumination was being used by the makers.
Freddy Silva, on his Crop Circular site, goes even further; he claims that ‘they were caught making it, by no fewer than three couples from two countries; two of these couples independently confirmed that an Italian TV crew even helped the hoaxers with the finishing touches!’ Again, no evidence, or identities, are given.
[Photo by Peter Sorensen]
East Field, Wiltshire, 18th July 2005
Another account from Bearcloud (see Golden Ball Hill, 26th July 2004, above).
In Bearcloud’s words:
‘As I was looking at the field I spotted a new formation. It was now 3:45am or so. It appeared to be fairly large. I got out of my car and looked again. I decided to go out into it. So with my glasses I figured out which tramline to go down. I lifted up my glasses again there where four people standing in the field. As I started towards the glyph they began to walk quickly out the backside towards Golden-ball Hill. It would be a long journey to go the length of the field as the glyph is only a short distance from the Alton Priors road. I realized I had been spotted so they needed to leave. It is my belief that a car parked near mine was a spotter to let them know that someone might be near by and was coming onto the field… There is a line out the top of the larger circle which left me with a feeling it was incomplete and I had fouled the conclusion with my presence.’
[Photo by Lucy Pringle]