May 21, 1999
Laurence Rockefeller, the American millionaire and phil-anthropist, is funding
scientific research into crop circles, it emerged yesterday. Why? After all,
this is a problem that everyone thought had been solved.
The Crop Circle Mystery caused headlines and arguments nearly every summer for
20 years. Strange shapes were appearing in cornfields in Wiltshire and other
counties. From the ground, the corn was seen to be beaten down, amazingly
regular. From the air, the patterns appeared.
They came first as simple circles. Later, there were circles within circles,
then more intricate patterns still - circles radiating spiral arms, circles
joined by straight lines, circles arranged in squares, even snowflake patterns
of amazing intricacy and beauty.
For 20 years arguments raged. Were they caused by circular winds? Or were
mysterious forces at work? The obvious solution was human hoax. But if so, how?
In 1992, two Southampton men, Doug Bower and Dave Chorley, confessed to making
corn circles: every summer night for 20 years. Their method was simple: rakes
and planks of wood to bash down the crop, ropes to guide them to a perfect
circle, loops of wire on hats to guide straight lines.
It began as fun but, as UFO theories snowballed, they wanted to see how
credulous people could be.
Dave Chorley died in 1996. The pair had retired from circle-making some time
before. That should have been the end of the mystery. Yet corn circles continued
'They are worldwide,' says Michael Green, President of the Centre for Crop
Circle Studies. And this week, the first of this season's British crop, 12 of
them, have been seen in fields of oil-seed rape in Hampshire and at Milk Hill,
Andrew Thomas, author of the crop-circle book, Vital Signs, claims that the
Bower-Chorley 'confession' was itself a hoax: 'They could not explain how they
laid the stalks so perfectly; nor why the circles have continued to appear.'
And now Laurence Rockefeller, brother of the late Nelson Rockefeller, is funding
a researcher to re-investigate the phenomenon.
He is paying Connecticut-based Colin Andrews to engage staff and they have flown
reconnaissance flights over Wiltshire and Hampshire. Andrews has a database of
10,000 crop circles. With computers and satellites, the research and debate has
re- opened. So what could cause them?
'First theories were circular winds, mini-cyclones or "dust-devilsÓ [tiny
tornadoes], says Montague Keen, scientific adviser to the Centre for Crop-Circle
Studies for three years. 'A meteorologist devised a theory of "plasma vortexes",
spiralling winds of electrically-charged air.'
Ball lightning was another possibility - again circular, again involving
powerful and little-understood forces of electricity.
'But straight lines do not come from natural phenomena,' says Keen. 'The
patterns became increasingly complex and no natural phenomenon can change and
evolve like that. There were too many for them all to be hoaxes.'
A U.S. physicist found evidence that corn inside the circles under-goes chemical
and biological changes. It takes up more nitrates than corn outside, and
microscopic holes form in the stem tissue. These changes seem to argue for a
sudden, sharp infusion of energy into the circle - far more than could come from
men with planks or rollers.
'I was never quite convinced that his research was sufficiently rigorous' says
Mr Keen, 'but there were certainly electromagnetic changes within circles.
Compasses behaved strangely; people felt either distress or euphoria inside the
circles; and batteries went flat unaccountably often.
'All this seems to point away from hoax towards something very strange, indeed.
There is clearly some kind of intelligence behind them.'
And if it is not natural intelligence? 'Well, then you are thrown back to
imagining some wholly unnatural intelligence.' As, for example, some form of
psychic projection from human beings - dead or alive.
'Some shapes of the early Eighties seemed similar to shapes carved into rocks by
Palaeolithic man,' said Michael Green, President of the Centre for Crop Circle
Were mental energies of past minds being channelled into cornfields?
The first corn-circle for which evidence is claimed appeared in Hertfordshire in
1678. A pamphlet shows a woodcut of a circle mown in a field of oats, and the
The pamphlet describes the sky over the field that night as being 'all of a
flame'; so here, too, for those who are willing to believe, is a link with
flying saucers and UFOs.
For, of course, there are the aliens as the final theory of crop circles.
Michael Green does not believe that little green men are responsible - but he
believes some kind of non-human intelligence is behind them.
He points to a succession of shapes, from simple to complex to very complex
indeed. Can these be messages to be read by all of mankind?
'These are written large on the landscape. They are there to be seen. There is a
non-human intelligence behind them,' says Mr Green. 'That's what points one
towards thinking the unthinkable.'
© Associated Newspapers Ltd., 20 May 1999
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