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A crop circle or crop formation is a pattern that is created by flattening a crop. Although claims have been made that crop circles had been reported as early as the late 1600s, there is no strong evidence for them prior to the 1970s, and the term seems to have been coined by Colin Andrews in the early 1980s.

The phenomena of crop circles began in the United Kingdom, and most reports continue to come from the UK, although they have been reported in Australia, Canada, the United States, Japan, and the former Soviet Union. The number of reported crop circles were greatest from the 1970s to the 1990s, but the frequency of reports has decreased in the 2000s and 2010s.

Early crop circles were fairly simply affairs, generally circles, and were often believed to have been caused by UFOs in the shape of a flying saucer but, as time went on, they became more and more elaborate. Most crop circles appear overnight, although some have been reported to have appeared during the day.

In 1991, Doug Bower and Dave Chorley took credit for having created crop circles throughout England, using such tools as a plank of wood, rope, and a baseball cap fitted with a loop of wire to assist them in walking in straight lines. They claimed to have been responsible for all of the circles made prior to 1987, and more than two hundred of those made between 1978 and 1991, leaving about a thousand unclaimed circles.

While few doubt that many known crop circles were indeed created as hoaxes or art projects, crop circle enthusiasts consider the duo's claims to be overly enthusiastic and that many of their claims were absurd. At least one of their supposed creations was described as being impossible to have been made by a human hand.

Nevertheless, the scientific and mainstream media consensus today is that crop circles are created by people as hoaxes, for publicity, or as art, and that the most complex formations are made with the assistance of GPS devices and lasers.

Still, there are those who believe that, while some crop circles may have been created by human hands, others were created by UFOs as messages to other extraterrestrials, or through unknown phenomena. Others have suggested that the formations may be the result of strange meteorological phenomena, such as freak tornadoes or ball lightning. Some have even proposed that the formations were done by Gaia, as a message to stop global warming and human pollution.

Among the claims made by those who believe that many crop circles are not created by human hands will point to such physical features as anomalous bends in plants, precision walls, and an organized directional flow of plants on the floor of genuine crop circles, as well as the way in which the plants are intricately whorled into bundles in their centers. Another characteristic of crop circles believed to be genuine is the way in which their creation leaves the plants undamaged, unbruised, and unbuckled.

It has been suggested that governments have created evidence of hoaxing so as to discredit the paranormal origins of the phenomena.

Whether created by pranksters, artists, extraterrestrials, or other unexplained phenomena, topics related to crop circles are the focus of this portion of our guide.



Feature Article

Crop Circles

crop circles

Crop circles are large, usually intricate, patterns caused by the flattening of crops such as barley, corn, rapeseed, or wheat. Although some crop circle researchers claim that there were reported crop circles as early as 815 A.D., there are few details prior to the 1970s, and earlier reported crop circles were simple in design, as compared to the increasingly complex formations that began appearing in the 1970s and later.

Early crop circles were believed, by many, to have been caused by alien spacecraft, or UFOs, landing in the fields. Prior to the late 1970s, crop circles were simple, circular depressions in crops, soil, or even snow, which appeared to have been made by a heavy object, which fit the idea that a circular craft, such as a flying saucer, could have produced the phenomena.

More recent crop circles often do not fit that scenario, and are referred to as crop formations, because they are not always circular in shape. These intricately designed crop formations are believed by some to be messages left by alien beings, intended to be seen from space, while others might wonder why a being from another planet would travel to earth in order to leave a message in a corn field.

Some have attributed at least some of the crop circles to a naturally occurring ring or arc of mushrooms, known as fairy rings, or fairy circles, that most often occur in forested areas, but which sometimes appear in grasslands or ranges. Fairy rings may be seen as rings of dead vegetation, or a ring of discolored grass, when the fungus is present in the ring beneath the soil.

It has even been suggested that crop circles are created through ball lightning controlled by an intelligent entity, such as Gaia, as a message warning people to stop global warming and pollution.

Others deny the involvement of an intelligent entity, but insist that, apart from those that were clearly man-made, most crop circles are produced by lightning discharges flowing through corn stalks, or other crop vegetation, causing them to act like magnetized compass needles, deflecting them to the ground in a clockwise or counterclockwise movement, sometimes creating intricate patterns.

Perhaps the most amusing explanation for crop circles came from Tasmania, a southern island state of Australia. Australia grows about half of the world's supply of poppies, used in the production of morphine and other opiates. In 2009, Lara Giddings, the state's top lawmaker, blamed locally seen crop circles on stoned wallabies.

"We have a problem with wallabies entering poppy fields, getting high as a kite and going around in circles," she said.

A spokesperson for the poppy producer, Tasmanian Alkaloids, agreed, saying that livestock which ate the poppies were known to act weird, walking around the fields in circles.

Apart from late-night radio and several online crop circle research sites, the prevailing belief is that crop formations are man-made. Indeed, several people have come forward to claim responsibility.

In 1991, Doug Bower and Dave Chorley claimed responsibility for starting the phenomenon in 1978, using a plank of wood and other simple materials to create several crop formations in southern England. Others have come forward to claim responsibility for other crop circles throughout the world, some of the more complex ones made through the assistance of GPS and laser technology. In more recent years, many crop circles are commissioned as works of art, particularly in the United Kingdom.

What is the truth about crop formations? Surely, many of them are man-made, as people have claimed credit for them, even demonstrating the means by which they were created. However, this probably doesn't account for all of them.

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