March 8, 1992
This file shared with KeelyNet courtesy of Mathew Bevan.
SOURCE: The Times DATE: 27 July 1990
George Hill goes down on the farm and discovers that corn circles
are grist to a media mill, whether messages in Sumerian, natural
phenomena or simply hoaxes . In spite of the giant graffiti
mockingly imprinted this week on a cornfield just under their noses,
the research team seeking to crack the mystery of corn circles at
Westbury Hill in Wiltshire mean to continue their vigil until the
crop is harvested in two or three weeks’ time.
The standing corn is the writing-paper on which some little-
understood influence inscribes, with uncanny precision, signs which
seem to grow more numerous and more complex every year. With five
low-light video cameras trained day and night on the ripening
cornfields which stretch away to the horizon from their vantage-
point on the chalk ramparts of the prehistoric Bratton Fort, the
team hopes to catch the moment of formation of one of the circles.
The scene at Bratton Fort on Wednesday, on the morning the hoaxers
had been at work, did little to promote the credibility of the
circles as a genuine scientific phenomenon. Down below was the
evidence of the work of a party of buffoons to damage somebody
else’s property and livelihood, while high on the escarpment the
angry and excited figure of Colin Andrews, one of the leaders of the
project, was letting himself be drawn by bands of the international
media into dropping hints which will not help workers in the field
to gain respectable backers for future research.
An atmosphere of silly-season gaiety hung over the encampment. It
will be harder than ever now to wrest the subject from the mystics
who prefer supernatural to natural explanations, and the cynics who
are satisfied that everything can be explained on the basis of
bucolic humour or press circulation-battles. Because the story is
all about ripening corn, it breaks every year just at the time when
serious news tends to be afflicted by its usual summer drought. As
Mr Andrews spoke of “an airborne consciousness”, which he declared
could not inappropriately be described as “supernatural”, the
representative of the Today newspaper stood at his shoulder with a
For those who have been so merrily making hay out of the corn in
recent weeks, any turn in the tale, whether hoax or otherwise, can
be turned to account except one: a natural explanation. A solution
to the mystery would spoil the fun and they would be thrown back on
the Loch Ness monster. So successful has the drive to mystification
been, that a spokesman for the Meteorological Office yesterday was
still taking the classic attitude of conservative science to a
puzzle with overtones of the occult, and dismissing the whole
phenomenon as “a glorified hoax”.
In spite of Wednesday’s prank, and earlier jollities like the
appearance of the message “WEARENOTALONE” on a Hampshire hillside
in 1983, and last year’s report of rings at an Essex village called
Littley Green (Littley Green Men: geddit?), there can be no doubt
that many circles are not hoaxes. If the 400 rings which have been
reported this year are all man-made, then the sun must have touched
an alarmingly large number of industrious humourists.
Many are in remote spots where the chances of publicity would be
slight. Similar circles have been reported in many other countries
where there has been no ballyhoo to encourage pranksters, and as
long ago as 1936, 1918, and even 1678. “It is usually easy to
distinguish a natural circle from a man-made one by looking at the
way the stalks have been pressed down,” says Paul Fuller,the joint
author of Crop Circles a Mystery Solved, to be published next month.
“If you visit a fresh one, you can see how the crops have been
pressed down in a spiral or circular pattern, sometimes so gently
that they have not even been flattened, sometimes pressed so firmly
into the soil that they leave a mark in it. The traces left by human
intervention are quite different.”
But there are aspects to the circles which make them tempting
subjects for science-fiction speculation. Witnesses who have been
nearby when they form frequently speak of strange lights and buzzing
noises, or sensations similar to those associated with strong fields
of static electricity.
Tests with instruments have sometimes confirmed that electric
phenomena are involved. The growing number of circles may be
partly explicable by changes in agricultural practice, but it is
impossible to account for the eerily systematic patterns of recent
examples. Fancy and superstition have ranged exuberantly in
proposing explanations for the phenomenon.
Claims that the cause involves flying saucers, fungal infections,
ley-lines, giant hailstones, rutting stags or mass-movements of
hedgehogs have been suggested, and gleefully perpetuated by those
who thrive on mystification.
This year, the bouillabaisse of red herrings has been enriched by a
suggestion that the signs are a warning of ecological disaster
written in 3,000-year-old Sumerian script although it has not been
explained why an entity which has not yet discovered the ABC should
be supposed to have any up to date information about other events on
The mystifiers are less happy with the evidence of the small number
of witnesses, including some impeccably sober citizens, who have
actually observed the formation of circles. Their testimony
threatens to spoil the fun. One of them is Melvyn Bell, a Wiltshire
labourer, who saw a circle in 1983, long before the story was taken
up by the tabloids. “It didn’t seem a matter of great interest to
me at the time,” he says. “I was riding on the old Ridgeway near
Lavington at about eight in the evening one day in August. About a
quarter of a mile away I saw a small cloud of dust above a cornfield
it looked like one of those spinning clouds of debris you sometimes
see outside a supermarket. I was looking down the hill towards it,
higher up than the top of the cloud. It was all over in a few
seconds. It laid out a circle about ten yards wide in the corn. I
heard no buzzing noises.”
Of all explanations, the whirlwind solution is the one that
commentators drawn to occult answers dislike most. Mr. Andrews
mentions it briefly and dismissively in his own book, Circular
Evidence, written jointly with Pat Delgado and published last year.
Supernaturalists have suggested that Mr Bell’s evidence should be
discounted because he is an employee of Dr. Terence Meaden, an
academic specialising in research into atmospheric processes, whose
book The Circles Effect and Its Mysteries, also published last year
(there must be a supernatural explanation behind this exponential
growth in the number of books on the subject).
Dr. Meaden is the first writer to put forward a theory which
explains most of the characteristics of the circles on a basis of
current scientific knowledge. In the process, he goes far to
providing a rational explanation for many of the UFO reports which
have puzzled researchers for decades. Drawing partly on the
extensive records gathered by Mr Andrews and his colleagues, he
shows that circles tend to appear in very specific conditions of
weather and topography.
“I would say there is no mystery about the basic process,” he
says. “The primary thing is a vortex formed on the lee side of a
hill in very still atmospheric conditions. If a mass of air near the
ground becomes electrically charged, as it can be by friction where
a dry crop and dust have been stirred by the wind all day, very
complex processes might develop, and produce the buzzing and glowing
that have been described.”
In their familiar form, whirlwinds happen only in daylight, when
warm air creates upcurrents which spin as they rise. But where a
layer of cool air lies above a warm layer, parts of the upper layer
can fall away, and as they sink, spiral formations like smoke-rings
may form. These spinning masses, some larger than others, some
hitting the ground quite hard, and others scarcely brushing it,
might well be the most credible explanation for many of the detailed
characteristics of the circles, including the delicate concentric
forms sometimes seen.
It is more difficult to understand how they could produce treble and
quintuple patterns of rings, and harder still to see how they could
lead to the complex angular spurs and key-patterns photographed this
year. “Imagine a round clock falling to the ground,” Dr Meaden
says. “If it falls gently, it may leave a plain round impression
behind. If it falls so hard that it smashes, then parts of the
mechanism might shoot out this way or that. Further vortices inside
the main vortex might fly out as it disintegrates. I think many of
these patterns are genuine, and offer clues to the internal
structure of these objects.” But not even Dr Meaden can offer a
clear explanation for the apparent tendency of the patterns to grow
more complex year by year. If that trend continues, a degree of
mystery will continue to cling to the circles, and it may not be
long before it seems worthwhile for us to brush up on our Sumerian.
(c) Times Newspapers Ltd.
1990 SOURCE: The Times DATE: 25 July 1991
Crop Circles; Letter From Mr Ralph Noyes
I read with interest your report on the reappearance of crop
circles (July 16). Hoaxing is undoubtedly taking place in some
cases. We in the Centre for Crop Circle Studies are cooperating
closely with the Wiltshire police in the hope of eliminating this
nuisance, which is not only troublesome to farmers but muddies the
The event in the field near Alton Barnes which occurred on July
1-2 (there has since been a second formation in the same field) was
seen within hours by members of CCCS. It will by now have lost
much of its delicate texturing as a result of sight-seeing by
members of the public. But in its pristine state it showed the
hallmarks of a genuine occurrence, particularly in the complex
layering of the grain where the main shaft of the formation crosses
the central elements of a ring and circle. We do not believe it
could have been a hoax. Mr. and Mrs. Carson, who farm the land, have
our full support in repudiating the suggestion of trickery.
Yours faithfully, RALPH NOYES
(Honorary Secretary, Centre for Crop Circle Studies),
9 Oakley Street, SW3. July 16.
(c) Times Newspapers Ltd.
1991 SOURCE: The Times DATE: 12 June 1991
Tokyo scientist rustles up corn circle
Yoshi-Hiko Ohtsuki By Nick Nuttall, Technology Correspondent
A JAPANESE scientist who has been enthralled by the annual
appearance of crop circles in Britain has created the phenomenon in
his laboratory. The shapes, identical to those which started to re-
appear last week, were made without the assistance of UFOs, farmers’
lads, rutting deer, frenzied hedgehogs or any of the other exotic
theories which have sprung up around the phenomenon.
Yoshi-Hiko Ohtsuki used a machine which he developed to produce ball
lightning. The professor of physics at Waseda university, Tokyo,
has thus helped to confirm theories proposed last year by Terence
Meaden, former associate professor of physics at Dalhousie
university in Halifax, Canada, and founder of the Tornado Storm
Research Organisation at Oxford polytechnic.
Dr. Meaden suggested, to gales of derision by lovers of more
outlandish explanations, that the topography and climate of such
counties as Wiltshire and Hampshire triggered the formation of mini-
whirlwinds. As they broke down over fields, he suggested, a
doughnut-shaped eddy within the column swept downwards, swirling the
Dr. Meaden said yesterday that Professor Ohtsuki, who first visited
Britain two years ago to examine the phenomenon, had told him in a
letter that he fired mini-whirlwinds over plates of fine aluminium
powder in his ball-lightning machine to replicate the swirls.
The findings have been lent further weight by another Japanese
scientist, Tokio Kikuchi of Kochi university, who has developed a
mathematical model based on Dr Meaden’s theory which has been shot
on video. It also creates more complex shapes, similiar to those
that have appeared in recent years.
Supporters of more exotic theories had said that a scientific basis
for corn circles is defied by these complicated configurations. Dr.
Meaden believes that the final answer to the circles’ complexities
might be found in the appearance of sun spots which lead to
electromagnetic changes in the Earth’s atmosphere and crust.
If so, the number of complicated corn circles may fall over the
coming years. Solar activity is believed to be on the point of
declining from a 200 – year peak. (c) Times Newspapers Ltd.
1991 SOURCE: The Times DATE: 10 September 1991
LONDON’S most famous occult bookshop, Waktins, is having no truck
with the Southampton hoaxsters who confessed to newspapers yesterday
that they were responsible for the mystery of the corn circles.
“The newspapers are full of lies,” said an angry spokesman for the
shop, which specialises in books on magic, astrology and psychic
phenomena. The enigma remains, insists the shop. So, too, will its
window display, erected last week, of books on crop circles,
explaining the phenomenon by reference to aliens from outer space,
energy currents and other causes far more plausible than two men
with a ball of string, an old baseball cap and 4 ft wooden plinths.
(c) Times Newspapers Ltd. 1991