A deeper look into crop circles

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

   proprietorial smile.

   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

   scientific record.

      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