Crop Circles: Alien or Otherwise?

Crop circles are patterns, often of intricate design, found in fields of barley, corn, wheat, canola, and soy. What started as simple circles have evolved over two decades into complex geometrical patterns. While some crop circles are admittedly man-made, others are believed to be alien crop circles, possibly caused by visitors from other planets.

Crop circles are created quickly, appearing overnight to the amazement of farmers and their neighbors. Several explanations have been put forth for this, and some believe that the circles are evidence of alien visitation. UFOs and strange lights have often been reported in areas where crop circles subsequently appeared. Some claim to have even seen UFOs forming these crop circles, although photographic evidence is unclear.

Many crop circles are located near ancient sites, including ancient barrows, and even Stonehenge. Many New Age believers believe that crop circles are formed along ley lines, lines of energy in the earth. Many believe that the energy emitted by crop circles is detectable through Dowsing. Some New Age followers meditate within crop circles, while others use the circle as an aid to contacting spirits.

Of course, there are some who also believe that crop circles are created by unusual meteorological phenomena. Several hypotheses have been put forth. Most popularly, it is believed that columns of ionized air, swirling like a tornado in miniature, cause crop circles as they pass over crops. Others believe that ball lightning or freakishly small tornadoes have caused crop circles.

The idea of an alien cause for crop circles has been strongly criticized. While there is plenty of eyewitness testimony, there is no hard evidence. Some photos have been doctored, while others do not provide a clear image. Further, most crop circles can be easily accomplished by people. Perhaps the best known of the circle creators were partners-in-jest Doug Bower and Dave Chorley, who used simple equipment – string, a length of wood, and their imaginations – to create crop circles that fooled and amazed everyone. It wasn’t until one of their wives suspected her husband of an affair that the truth was revealed.

In the end, approximately 80% of crop circles can be proven to be man-made. The remaining 20% are still a mystery. Crop Circle aficionados claim that “real” crop circles differ from man-made ones in three basic ways – in “real” circles, the plant stem nodes are elongated; there are expulsion cavities within the plant stem (indicating rapid heating, as with a microwave); and very small magnetized iron spheres were found distributed through the soil. To this day, nobody has managed to replicate a crop circle with all three of these criteria present.

No higher resolution available. By artist Gaspirtz, courtesy Wikipedia.
A crop circle in the form of a double (six-sided) Triskelion composed of Circles, courtesy Wikipedia.