Sunday, June 7, 2009

Summer Sees Resurgence in Crop Circles

Crop circles are one of those phenomenons which seem to come in waves and lately, we haven't heard much about them. It isn't because they've slowed down, though - in fact, one expert in crop circles was recently quoted as saying, "It's raining shapes every day now." While the past couple years have been "dry" as far as crop circles go, the 2009 season has brought a resurgence in the phenomenon, with no fewer than 20 crop circle formations recorded since April!

Crop circles is one of those phenomenon which draws a thick line between believers and skeptics. While it has been proven (many times over) that crop circles can be "faked" - that is, created by humans using very simple means - there still exist formations which lead believers to think some other force(s) is at work. For most, the simple, rational explanation that all crop circles are the work of pranksters is a textbook example of "a part, masquerading as the whole." As critics of the hoax explanation point-out, some dawns bring the appearance of numerous crop circles in disparate locations - far too many for any one team, or even 10, to have accomplished in such a short time over such great distances. As a researcher, the crop circles phenomenon is sociology under the paranormal microscope and presents an excellent opportunity for understanding more about people, their belief systems, and their reactions to the Unexplained.

One of the more interesting formations to have appeared this year is the "complete monster" jellyfish pattern discovered in a field in Kingstone Coombes, Oxfordshire - the first of its kind. The jellyfish pattern measured some 250 meters (about 0.16 miles or 600'), roughly three times the average size of most crop circles, and caused somewhere in the neighborhood of $1500 in damages. Interest was so high, the farmers had to ask people not to visit, as they were causing even more damage to the crops. A leading crop circle researcher said the formation represents the magnetic field of Earth.

Crop circles are mostly limited to the English countryside and have been appearing for over 30 years now. At first, they were a genuine phenomenon unto themselves. The mystery as to whom had created them and for what purpose(s) captured the popular interest and crop circles became a pop-culture sensation. Crop circles made international headlines, were examined on TV specials, and even appeared on the cover of a Led Zeppelin CD box set! Eventually, a number of hoaxers admitted their involvement and showed how they created the circles. However, they admitted they did not create all of the crop circles and insisted there were "mysterious forces" at work from which they had taken their cue.

Many said the phenomenon would die-out - and most believed it had done just that, following the 2006 suicide of one well-known circlemaker and the unrelated deaths of two more - but it has returned in a big way (so to speak).

Circlemakers have formed groups and consider themselves "Situationist" artists who are actively shaping the pop-culture with their works. Situationist works are generally politically-motivated performances embracing a slightly anarchic philosophy. While the psychological term, "Situationism," appears to describe the crop circlists' motivation, it is said that most Situationists reject the concept's association. The leading group (see link, above) says it sometimes works in tandem with other circle-making clubs but, again, insist unknown forces/entities are to blame for the patterns they claim not to have made. Somewhere near 20% of the crop circles studied bear no signs of human interference (footprints, post holes,

We are the heretics, calling their belief system into question by the mere fact that we exist and talk about our circle-making activities.

Researchers claim these circles are made in a matter of moments by a blast of energy which causes changes to the crops at a cellular level and alters soil composition. Some people have suffered mild reactions after traipsing through crop circles, most usually nausea and dizziness. Lab tests of crops from some of these 20% circles (called "True Circles") have produced inexplicable results which appear to bolster the "energy blast" theories surrounding their formation, including trace amounts of radiation. At any rate, a significant portion of crop circles studied cannot be explained away as the result of human interference.

Believers say some of the people involved in hoaxing crop circles used to call themselves "Team Satan" and it takes them days to complete their works, even in broad daylight. However, major companies (including Nike, Mitsubishi, Pepsi, have paid (richly!) teams of circlemakers to create works promoting their products and services, and these were made in a single night. Circlemakers have also created overnight patterns for cameras and the media, so the believers' claims that they have "nothing to do with the phenomenon" ring hollow, where the Circlemakers' Situationist claims of altering the pop-culture are evident: crop circles have been commissioned for music videos, TV shows, to promote events, and as noted above. None of the crop circles which have appeared in 2009 were commissioned.

Further, crop circles is a money-making theme for everyone involved. While circlemakers are paid tens of thousands of dollars to produce commissioned works and advertisements, believers make a healthy living through book sales, lectures and conferences, and even tours of affected farmlands. The farmers themselves have gotten in on the act from time to time. While most are initially furious over the damaged crops, most of the crops return to their normal state after a few weeks. Meanwhile, some charge sight-seers to walk on their property, for parking, and more. One farmer was said to have made well over $50,000 this way.

The crop circle "season" starts in/around May and runs through the summer; this year's season started earlier than expected. This seems to bolster skeptics' hoax claims (who wants to make crop circles in the freezing cold?). The OddBlog has to point-out that most crops are grown in the warmer months. Skeptics also attribute the lack of crop circles (in general, but more specifically in the Wiltshire area) in the last two years to the recent deaths of three well-known hoaxers. Others cite heavy rains and strong winds.

Crop circles notwithstanding, the English countryside is home to many large ground patterns dating back hundreds, even thousands, of years - such as the Cernes Abbas (see link, above). Like 20% of crop circles, no one knows who made them, how they were made, nor why.

© C Harris Lynn, 2009

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