Crop circles are not new. The first 'recorded' incidence took place in the 1687, where a farmer, apparently annoyed at the amount it cost to pay a labourer to cut his crop, complained that he would rather "have the devil" do it. That night, the crop seemed to be on fire, but in the morning, a circular pattern had appeared in the crop.
In the 1880's, mysterious circular spots of flattened wheat appeared in a field in Surrey for which no explanation could be found. A meteorologist described them as suggestive of cyclonic wind action, and there had been violent storms in the area over the previous few days.
In 1947, in Lincolnshire, a young farm labourer was working in an oat field on an ordinary April day. He heard a buzzing; like that of bees; that became a distant but high-pitched hum. Before passing out, the lad was vaguely aware of circles being formed in the oats. He was unconscious for more than 3 hours and was found to be suffering from the effects of a massive drop in air pressure.
That was one of the very few "eye-witness" accounts of crop circles in the making. There are one or two others.
In July 1981, a much-respected retired aircraft engineer was walking his dog near Westbury in Wiltshire: county of many crop circles! He witnessed a wide but invisible "force", moving across a corn field at about 50mph. The force stopped, and in around 4 seconds, had spun, forming a perfect, flattened circle in the crop. There was no wind, but earlier that day, there had been a thunderstorm. The man went on to develop a rare form of cataract, which he is certain is not coincidence.
In 1990, on a humid May evening, a young couple were walking through a cornfield on Bryony Hill, near Hambledon in Surrey. As they started downhill, they noticed that a sudden wind had got up, and looking back uphill, that it was actually bending trees. A dense "whirlwind" of mist rolled down the hill towards them, accompanied by a deafening, high-pitched noise. The change in pressure as the mist rolled over them was such that they couple could hardly stand, hardly breathe; their hair stood on end and they had pins and needles all over. While this was happening, the couple were aware that in a matter of seconds, a six foot wide circle had been formed in the corn around them. The whirlwind split in two, one forming a second circle, the other going off into the distance, while a succession of mini whirlwinds, described as "small, glistening vortices", were forming tiny circles in the corn. The experience left the couple nauseous and in shock, and they both had perforated eardrums.
On the face of it, these events look to have been caused by freak meteorological or atmospheric conditions - 3 of the 5 events involve high humidity or near-thunderstorms, and weather conditions were not recorded for the other two, though the "fire" in the 1687 incident was probably lightning. The changes in air pressure and experiences of the 1947 lad and 1990 couple suggest that they had inadvertently found themselves in the centre of small tornadoes. Not at all unlikely ... per unit area, the UK has the highest incidence of tornadoes in the world ... we are just lucky in that virtually all our tornadoes ARE small ones!
But the above crop circles were simply that - circles. The possibility that tornadoes might have formed complicated, geometric crop patterns is rather less likely!
Beautiful "spirograph" patterns began to appear in British crop fields in the 1970's. By the end of the 1980's, any number of artistic geometric masterpieces had popped up in fields all over the country, with the majority found south of the Thames.
There is no doubt that many, possibly the majority, were man-made. In 1991, Doug Bower and Dave Chorley admitted that they had been making crop circles of increasing complexity since 1976. But they didn't claim to have made all of them, and unless they were in two places at once, they couldn't have made all of them. There lies the problem of identifying which crop-circles are man-made, and which are "natural" ...!
Crop circles of near-impossible complexity have been man-made, with the perpetrators giving demonstrations of exactly how they were made. On the other hand, equally complex circles have also been claimed as man-made, but with the supposed perpetrators being mysteriously completely unable to describe how they were made, or replicate them. Beautiful, complex crop designs, that any human crop circle maker should be extremely proud of, have never been claimed as such. Not easy to work out real from fake then.
Despite years of scientific research into crop circles, we are no nearer knowing for sure which are genuine, or how, why and by whom the genuine ones are made.
It was thought that the ability to replicate a circle exactly would prove it as a fake, but that theory has now been discounted, as in most cases the replication team was a small army of trained people using all manner of scientific measuring equipment including night vision goggles! This is another problem - the emphasis (and therefore the scientific budget) is put on disproving crop circles, with the latest research suggesting that 80% of English circles are proven man-made, with 20% being "inconclusive"; but both the For's (and the Against's!) say that figure is unreliable. So far, there is still not even complete agreement as to what criteria should be used to denote a genuine crop circle. But there are ways ...!
1. The presence of magnetized iron spheres in the soil
2. "Microwaved" crops; where the molecular structure is broken down, and the stem falls because it is softened at the base. This suggests that a massive electric charge has occurred. Occasionally, charred stems are found in such formations, and in a "genuine" crop circle near Guildford, the charred and exploded remains of birds were found.
3. Seeds from inside some crop circle have been found to be dehydrated and wizened, but remarkably being viable and taking less time to germinate than healthy seeds.
4. An obvious one - circles formed on wet nights without a trace of mud on the flattened stems.
The difficulty is, this kind of scientific evidence needs to be collected as soon as possible after the formation of a crop circle, and before anyone has trampled it, and even though no-one can explain how these anomolies might have occurred, the experts are reluctant to admit them as "proof" of a genuine crop circle.
These days crop circles are found all over the world, but nowhere are they are as complex or as numerous as in England. The 2009 English crop circle season has started ... what will turn up this year?