The oldest reference to what some have called a crop circle dates back to a 1678 woodcut pamphlet from Hertfordshire entitled The Mowing Devil. It tells of a farmer who, refusing to pay the price of a labourer to mow his field, said he would rather the devil himself mowed it. Sure enough, that night his field appeared to be on fire and in the morning was found to have been mowed in an unnaturally perfect manner.
Much is still unknown about the purpose of Peru’s ancient Nazca Lines created between 500bc and ad500 but research has shown that the lines, only 10cm deep in some places, could easily have been created with careful planning and simple technologies without aerial assistance.
There are 3D pictogram crop circles, which are the work of groups of circle makers who treat the craft as an art form. They refuse to publicly take credit for individual works, due to the legal implications of the damage they’re causing and the fun they get from deceiving cerealogists. As well as cultivating a booming tourist industry around the crop circles, some companies have used them as an imaginative PR tool. After London’s successful Olympic bid, a national tabloid engineered the appearance of a huge London 2012 logo in a French field.
Crop circle researcher Colin Andrews allows that 80% of crop circles are probably man-made, but the other 20% are the work of a ‘higher force.’ The distinguishing characteristics of ‘fake’ and ‘genuine’ circles are unclear, and there have been cases where cerealogists have deemed a circle ‘un-hoaxable’ only to be presented with evidence of the hoax.
In 1990 at the height of public interest in crop circles, a group of cerealogists (the title those who study crop circles have given themselves) set out to solve the mystery once and for all. Their mission, named Operation Blackbird was a hi-tech surveillance project based on a hillside in Wiltshire, funded by the BBC and Japanese TV and aided by the British army. On the 25th July, cerealogist Colin Andrews announced to the press that a circle had formed but it proved to be a hoax with a Ouija board style game and a wooden crucifix having been left in the centre.
In 1991 Doug Bower and Dave Chorley, both artists in their 60s, announced to the press that they were behind many of Britain’s crop circles going back to 1976, having conceived the hoax in a pub. To prove this they filmed themselves making a circle for the BBC. At first their designs were simple, but grew more complex to counter theories that they could have been formed naturally by weather. Their tools were two four ft planks with ropes attached at both ends, and a hat with a wire loop that could be positioned over one eye as an aid to creating straight lines by focusing on a distant landmark. Doug first broke his silence when his wife suspected he was having an affair on account of his car mileage and nocturnal activities. They claim to have invented the notion of crop circles but acknowledged that other groups, influenced by their works, operated independently and abroad accounting for the hundreds of circles each year.
The Daily Mail commissioned a 3D crop circle in 1999; in 2006 it reported on a new one as 'world's first 3D crop circle'.
If little green men land in your back yard, hide any little green women you've got in the house.
Only one person has been arrested for making crop circles. He published his actions online in 2000 and was fined £100.
The Troggs' Reg Presley spent much of the royalties from Notting Hill’s ‘Love Is All Around’ on crop circle research.
In 2008 a crop circle was discovered showing a coded pattern accurately depicting pi to ten decimal places.
Further explanations put forward to explain crop circles include:
It is a delightful challenge to try to depict interesting aliens.