Crop Circles a Hoax?
The mystery of those giant circles and odd geometric shapes that have been showing up in recent summers in wheat fields across southern England has been explained — up to a point.
Newspapers in London yesterday published the claims of two local men — both painters — who said they have been skulking around the countryside under cover of darkness, trampling out patterns with wooden boards as a big joke for the past 13 years.
To prove their point, the men, aided by a London tabloid, fooled a self-styled expert on the crop circle phenomena, who declared a pattern found during the weekend in a Kent wheatfield to be the genuine article, of the sort no human could have made.
Then, while the expert looked on in embarrassment, the two men — described by the newspaper as “jovial con men in their 60s” — gleefully revealed themselves as the artists.
“They called us ‘superior intelligence’ said David Chorley, who carried out the scheme with his friend Doug Bower. Chorley was referring to speculation in recent years that the circles were of such a scale and geometric precision that they must have been the work of alien spacecraft.
At first, David Delgado, the author and expert, confessed that he and a lot of others had obviously been duped by a hoax that had gone on for several years. But later he changed his tune, arguing that the men’s claims appear suspect and fall well short of a complete explanation of the phenomena, including the appearance of similar circles in other countries, including the United States.
“Yesterday there were circles discovered on a prairie in Canada,” Delgado said. “Have these guys been out there with their board?”
Other crop-circle enthusiasts said they want to question the two men closely.
“I find their claim to be incredible, to be quite frank,” said John Michell, editor of the Cereologist, a journal devoted to the study of crop circles. “We’ve always known some of the circles were hoaxes, but I find it hard to believe two men could have created hundreds of these circles, which often appear on the same nights in widely different parts of the country.”
In recent years, a cottage industry has grown up around the mysterious circles, including books, magazines and clubs devoted to the study of the phenomena.
This summer, travel agents offered package tours that brought tourists from the United States and other countries to southern England to visit the circles, and farmers who discovered the circles in their fields were charging a pound a head to visit them up close.
Scientists from Britain and Japan have monitored the sites with scientific equipment, suspecting that the circles might be the result of unusual and very sudden whirlwinds. Small armies of mystics, flying saucer fanatics and believers in the occult have made pilgrimages, trying to sense hidden energy fields.
According to Today, which broke the story with the headline “Men Who Conned the World,” Chorley and Bower followed tractor rows into the center of the fields and from there traced the patterns, trampling down the wheat using “two wooden boards, a piece of string and a bizarre sighting device attached to a baseball cap.”
Chorley told reporters that he and Bower were just two bored guys who dreamed up the circles one night in a pub.
Late yesterday, the two men demonstrated their craft before reporters gathered in a field in Hampshire, in southern England. But Colin Andrews, who is an associate of Delgado, was not convinced by their work.
“There is nothing here to impress us at all, except two very fit 60-year-olds,” he scoffed.
Delgado and his supporters say they will meet Bower and Chorley at a “secret destination” today for “some very heavy questioning.”
The sourest note yesterday came from Kent farmer Peter Renwick, who had made his field available to Bower and Chorley for their presentation to the press.
“I said they could do a small demonstration and the next thing I know, 16 million people turn up,” Renwick told the Associated Press. “All I want to do is to get my harvest in.