Mysterious phenomena reported from Great Britain beginning
in 1980. Large, wide circles, sometimes more than 100
feet in diameter, have appeared overnight in fields of grain.
The grain in the circle is not dead, but the plant stems are flattened
and sometimes darker in color than the surrounding
grain. The first report of the circles appeared in the Wiltshire
Times on August 15, 1980. It told of several circles that had appeared
in the oat fields of John Scull farm near the town of
Bratton. A year later a set of circles was discovered in Hampshire,
near Cheesefoot Head. Unlike the earlier set, which had
been randomly placed, this second set of three circles was in a
Most of the circles have been reported from the southern
counties of Hampshire and Wiltshire, the same area already
noted for its monolithic structures such as Stonehenge and
Avebury. There are some occasional reports of similar phenomena
in France, Canada, Australia, and the U.S. Between
1980 and 1987 approximately 120 circles appeared in the original
area west of London. Then a dramatic increase occurred
in 1988 with 112 reported. Over 300 were reported in 1989
and in 1990 over 1,000.
Over the years, the original circles gave way to ever more
complex patterns, called pictograms, which included circles
arranged in geometric patterns, rectangles, crescents, and
dumbbell shapes. In the case of concentric rings, the grain is
sometimes flattened uniformly, at other times in contrary directions.
Typically, a new circle appears completely formed over one
evening. The area forming the pattern is flattened, while the
surrounding grain shows no sign of disturbance. The flattened
grain shows no sign of damage other than being bent.
Explanations of the phenomenon include giant hailstones,
crazed hedgehogs, too much or too little fertilization, and
UFOs. There was even a suggestion that the circles may have
been formed by helicopters flying upside down, but the absence
of widespread helicopter wrecks disproved any dangerous
practice of this kind. It is well known that small rings in grass
meadows and lawns are known to be caused by mushrooms, but
there is no evidence that the giant crop circles result from any
known fungi. One theory that is distinct from speculations of
paranormal effects is that of physicist George T. Meaden. He
proposes a theory of atmospheric vortices that are electrically
In 1991 Doug Bower and David Chorley claimed to have
personally produced more than 250 of the circles. With the assistance
of the British tabloid Today, they created a circle and
invited Pat Delgado, the author of a popular text on the phenomenon,
to inspect it. Once he pronounced the new circle
genuine, the hoax was revealed. Other hoaxers had also produced
circles that were judged genuine. However, those who
believe in the mystery of the circles have suggested that hoaxing
would only account for a few of the more than 2,000 circles.
No one has been caught making a crop circle and none appear
to have been left half finished. Additionally, it seems difficult
to create some of the more complex pictograms in the dark. To
date, monitoring of the area has failed to catch the formation
of a circle on film or instrumentation.
Clark, Jerome. Encyclopedia of Strange and Unexplained Phenomena.
Detroit Gale Research, 1993.
Delgado, Pat, and Colin Andrews. Circular Evidence A Detailed
Investigation of the Flattened Swirled Crop Phenomenon. London
Bloomsbury Publications, 1989.
. Crop Circles The Latest Evidence. London Bloomsbury
Meaden, George Terence. The Circles Effect and its Mysteries.
Bradford-on-Avon, England Artetech Publishing, 1989.
. Circles from the Sky. London Souvenir Press, 1991.
Randles, Jenny, and Paul Fuller. The Controversy of the Circles.
London British UFO Research Association, 1989.
. Crop Circles A Mystery Solved. London Robert Hale,