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.
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]