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 straight line.
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 charged.
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: Blooms-bury Publications, 1990.
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, 1990.