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Crop Circle

Going Around in (Crop) Circles

Over the past fortnight, legendary paranormal researcher Jacques Vallee has posted two guest-blogs on (the insanely popular website) Boing Boing, on the topic of crop circles. In the first, “In Search of Alien Glyphs“, he details his own alternative theory for their construction (first set out in “Crop Circles: ‘Signs from Above’ or Human Artifacts?“:

In Sept. 1991, I published in a New Age magazine my own hypothesis about the Crop Circles phenomenon. I speculated they involved a military aerial device (not a space-based instrument) for generating such designs using focused microwave beams, such as a “maser.” At the time nobody wanted to hear that the beautiful pictures in English corn fields might be crafted by a technical team inside some lab, bouncing signals from a hovering platform and using individual corn stalks as simple pixels to calibrate a lethal device. So my paper was met with dead silence.

Vallee then related his own theory to recent news regarding military use of microwaves. The comments from the Boing Boing crowd were as would be expected – a few supportive of the theory, or at least of Vallee’s outside-the-box thinking – but mostly along the lines of…

Just for giggles, why not try some *gasp* actual science?

Look at the stalks. Have they been blasted with microwaves, or just bent by a guy with a two-by-four on a rope?

This fails even as a troll. Stupid conspiracy theories shouldn’t have easily testable disproof.

Nevertheless, Vallee followed up his post with a second last week, titled “Alien Glyphs, Human Myths, Blogging Bliss“. He began by addressing the many comments to his previous post, by saying his blog entry “could be considered, among other things, as a social science test of the role of belief systems in the manipulation of memes and factual data,” going on to “explain why the hypothesis is not a joke but a logical result from observation and from the process of asking the right questions.”

On the first point, I fully agree with Jacques. For every crazy gullible believer out there, there’s also some armchair expert who thinks any ‘skeptically-oriented’ explanation that they hear solves the case – without reading any further. In the crop circle case, it’s largely the ‘Doug and Dave’ headline, though if the ‘skeptic’ has read a bit more deeply, it would be the claims of groups like the Circlemakers and some of their public demonstrations. Belief systems are of all kinds, and aren’t just restricted to crazy woos.

On the second point, I can only claim partial agreement. As all readers would know, I am *heavily* in favour of people putting forward alternative, out-of-the-box explanations of mysterious phenomena (as long as they are recognized as such). And Jacques has been clear on multiple occasions that it is just that. So I say good on him for doing so.

However, for me, parsimony suggests that crop circles are, quite simply, made by human artists with relatively simple equipment. Jacques lists three points which might support his theory. Firstly, that their growing complexity suggests “a classic, step-by-step program of technology development.” In my opinion, the same could be applied to the ‘technology development’ of artists (e.g. as personal computers became more ubiquitous, more complex circle design was facilitated). His second point was that the “blown” nodes in the crop stalks showed that “something was coupling energy into the plants in the form of heat.” This is certainly one of the key points in favour of something odd happening in crop circles – however, considerable doubts have been thrown on the science behind this (see for example, “Balls of Light: The Questionable Science of Crop Circles“, which concludes that node changes are “as one should expect when whatever kind of mechanical force flattens the plants”). I do though have to admit ignorance as to the quality of the data and conclusions of CNES researcher Jean-Jacques Velasco, which Vallee cites in his Boing Boing blog – so this may indeed be something of note. Lastly, Jacques notes that the crop circles “are close to ancient megalithic sites, which excites the curiosity of New Age tourists from America, but they are even closer to the most highly classified military electronics labs in Britain.” Again, both are highly attractive sites to ‘underground’ artists, so this could just as easily be in support of the man-made hoaxing theory.

From my own (admittedly limited) reading on the matter, the rule of parsimony when it comes to complex, intelligent designs found in crop fields, and taking into consideration the complex designs executed under commission by groups like The Circlemakers, I heavily lean towards the human ‘stomp-board’ hoax theory (see The Field Guide: The Art, History and Philosophy of Crop Circle Making, and the excellent documentary Circlespeak for wonderful overviews of the topic). Certainly, there’s still room for debate, and there are additional mysteries even when accepting the hoax theory – even circlemakers talk about mysterious light sources appearing during construction of the glyphs. Add to that the trickster nature of the the circlemakers themselves (as discussed in my review of The Field Guide, linked above) and I still find crop circles a fascinating topic of discussion – and a fine source of eye candy to boot.

All the same, with the intellectual snobbery that one often finds in the comments to popular blogs like Boing Boing, I do feel that Jacques would do better to concentrate more on his strong points, such as the folkloric element of ‘alien’ encounters (as outlined in Passport to Magonia and Dimensions) or the sociological elements of UFO belief (as found in Messengers of Deception). Though, given the introduction to the second blog post, he may be going down the latter route somewhat with the crop circle topic. In his favour also, Jacques has many high-level contacts in science, finance and the military – so perhaps he has first-hand knowledge of certain projects that the rest of us do not which lead him towards this microwave weapon theory. He has promised a third Boing Boing blog on the topic soon, so stay tuned.

Previously on TDG:

  1. Balls… of light
    Tromping around in a farmer’s field at night, without permission, is liable to result in shot-gun pellets in one’s bum. So what’s the compulsion, I wonder in this context, sufficient to send people into the fields to create on such a vast scale? Similarly what drives urban artists to create some of the incredible displays that appear on the sides of buildings, railway lines and the like? Definitely something spiritual going on.

    1. numbers
      The thing that makes it most difficult for me to dismiss crop circles as all manually prankster-made is just how many of them are made, for so many years. I grew up farming and we knew when people had been in our fields, usually it was either kids walking across it for whatever reason, teens drinking, couples coupling, or some drunk redneck making use of his expensive knobby tires at the expense of our harvest. Many times we’d walk out and catch people in the act of trespassing, and confront them at riflepoint. That may be less of a scare to DIY circlesmiths in England where there are fewer firearms. In all cases, we amused ourselves by forensically recreating the events (hey we didn’t have TV, gotta do something with our evenings) – it wasn’t difficult to determine how many people were involved and what they were up to, nor usually was it a challenge to determine their sex based on shoe prints or things like brand of cigarette butts found, etc.

      So crop circles… there are thousands of them! For decades! How often do you hear of people getting caught? How often do you see a half-completed circle from pranksters getting run off in the middle of their prank? How often do you see a screwed up design in which someone obviously measured wrong? Has anyone ever tried to recreate one of the truly huge and complex circles in broad daylight with a team to get a clear idea of how many hours it takes to organize people & keep them motivated to produce a perfect set of glyphs?

      I’m an educated professional at what I do, and I do it daily in a well lit office with an organized work bench and purpose engineered tools, and I still screw up simple tasks sometimes, sometimes in a way that I can’t recover gracefully. Where are the botched circles?

      1. in the newspapers
        The pictures of botched circles are in the English newspapers, next to the pictures of the ugly girls in skimpy outfits. You know, on the same page as the reports from fishermen about the small fish they caught. Right above the stories about the trains that didn’t wreck and the airplanes that landed safely, and the man that didn’t bit his dog.

  2. Crops and robbers
    I’m with Vallee on crop circles. Not all crop circles are made by artists & drunks, there is a genuine phenomenon. I’m divided on what, or who, is responsible — secret ‘black ops’ tech, a daemonic reality/consciousness, multidimensional/folkloric beings… there’s a case for each, depending on one’s viewpoint. With evidence of perfectly-bent microwaved stalks, changed on the molecular level, I lean more towards secret technology, but I don’t discount the other options, simply because we just don’t know. Well, someone knows, but they aren’t telling! Maybe Vallee knows that someone, and is giving us a hint.

    By the way, crop circles aren’t limited to Britain. Yes, the overwhelming majority of crop circles are located there, but they’ve appeared in other countries. One of the earliest examples appeared in Queensland, Australia, in the late 1960s (heralding Greg’s birth, perhaps).

  3. Fairy rings
    Great to see him blogging but I think he’s way off on this one. I’m currently reading Passport to Magonia and I’ve been making note of the precursors to crop circles that he documents. I left the following comment, still held for moderation.

    M. Vallee,
    It’s exciting to see you writing on this topic. I recently read Invisible College and Confrontations, and I’m in the middle of Passport to Magonia. I feel that these books contain the most insight into UFO phenomena that I have come across.

    I’d like to quote some material from Magonia, where you make note of some UFO phenomena that seem to be closely related to crop circles.

    From Chapter 2, The Good People:

    “…we can state the following: (1) public rumour associates the sightings of flying saucers with the discovery of circular depressions on the ground; (2) when vegetation is present at the site, it exhibits the action of a flattening force which produces either a stationary pattern (“spokes of a wheel”) or a rotating pattern (clockwise or counterclockwise)…

    “Do I need remind the reader of that celebrated habit of the fairies, to leave behind them strange rings in the fields and prairies?”

    I feel that in this case you may need to take a page from your own book. Something as complex and imaginative as crop circles is not likely to have been created by a government technology intended to inflict pain. It makes no sense to me whatsoever that they would spend decades creating breathtaking geometric designs in fields, while avoiding detection, before getting around to the intended purpose of the technology.

    In your analysis of UFOs, you looked through history for precedents and parallels to get a deeper understanding.

    With their dream-like symbols and obvious associations with fairy rings and UFO nests, crop circles are much more likely to be associated with UFOs, which, as you have proposed, are not controlled by space travellers, but are only the latest manifestation of an as-yet-unidentified level of consciousness that has been interacting with humankind throughout all of recorded history.

    With great respect,
    John Topp

  4. All?
    I’m thinking that more than likely ALL explanations for crop circles are correct. Over the years, crop circles have become more and more complex, and artistic. It would seem to me that the original mystery and mystique of these great rings, that could not be explained, is what would later draw (very human) artists and hoaxers to try their hand at it, more than likely just to try and “get away with something”.

    UFO’s: more than likely.

    Government Microwave weapons: Tests to try and master the same alien technology? Or maybe responsible for early circles until the project was completed or abandoned?

    Artists and Hoaxes: It’s clear to me, that in recent times many, many of these are just from ordinary people getting a laugh.

    I think this is where much of the confusion comes from: they are all made in different ways and each one is different. So one data set might not match up to another.

    Its a thinker no doubt…

  5. Stoned circles?
    I remember an article back in the ’70s… it may have been in the old Omni magazine (or not), but it speculated that the crop circles may have been around for a lot longer than we can imagine. Well, at least in the UK.

    It suggested that Stonehenge may have originally been a circle in the wild wheat (or whatever) that was then marked out with stones by the indigenous peoples and made into a holy spot.

    If memory serves, it went on to mention that Britain has many such ancient sites with circular stone markers and that each of these might represent a former, prehistoric crop circle.

    I don’t live in the UK so I can only guess as to the validity of the premise… but I do recall that article almost every time something about Stonehenge or crop circles comes around.

  6. Mysteries of Energy
    Great fun to see this topic being blogged and discussed in such a timely fashion as the “new season” is on the doorstep. I have been researching the crop circles and visiting the UK to investigate them in person for the past 10 summers. There are so many fascinating and intriguing stories and details that space won’t allow, but permit me to share some perspective.

    First off, thank you Daz for sharing your remote viewing session. I know enough of the art to find decipher the gist of your scribbles, but would love to hear your detailed experience and interpretation. Also, Bravo to the comment by The Cancerman YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT! There is a genuine phenomenon of unexplained and mysterious appearance of these formations (or else we wouldn’t find the man made ones so compelling). Humans are explorers, tricksters, artists by nature and can’t resist the temptation to imitate the real thing. True too that the genuine formations show up in seconds with little evidence of the technology used to create them. Likely, the military industrial complex is as perplexed and would lick their proverbial chops to get there hands on something like that and have programs to develop it themselves. But why on earth would they develop it, keep it hidden, but demonstrate it on the scale of 100-200 times each summer on public farmland all over England?

    Humans can create some splendid designs in the crops, but certainly cannot account for all of the formations. They also cannot recreate many of the details noted by researchers and casual observers alike. Most “hoaxers” will admit to this as well. I have been in a few formations where the wheat/barley was not pressed to the ground, but rather, the design was created by the gentle bending of the stalks about a foot above the ground! Is it physically possible for some number of humans to bend hundreds of thousands of individual stalks without breaking the stems or killing the plant, or leaving any evidence of having been there in damp chalky soil? The way the stalks have been laid down and interwoven is often more compelling, creative and intricate than the overall formation itself. Not that humans can’t recreate some of these effects, but to what aim and in how much time? Having met or seen a number of the “circle makers” I find it highly unlikely for them to gather on a cold rainy night in the countryside to spend 5-6 hours creating such a masterpiece in miserable conditions. But, such formations show up.

    Of course the vandalism issue is a real point. Let’s just look at the small area of northern Wiltshire county. Every spring/summer a crime spree of vandalism occurs (assuming human crop circle makers) within an area of about 10-15 square kilometers on the scale of 50-150 times (about once every other day) for the past 20 years. These people spend anywhere from 1-6 hours stomping out intricate and large patterns, damaging crops, and the police have yet to catch anyone in the act. Only one arrest has been made, based on eye witness testimony, not police or farmers catching someone in the act. Many farmers are enraged, police are either totally incompetent or could care less. Is it worth the risk to the perpetrators? Where would Occam fall on this one? The most rational explanation is that most of them show up by undetectable source and the human circle makers pick and choose when/where they will create their formations to lessen the risk of being caught. This, of course, doesn’t explain the who, why, and how for the genuine phenomenon, but not having those answers doesn’t make the rational explanation baseless.

    Lastly, there are other possibilities besides humans, UFOs, and military laser demonstrations. There is much to be learned from this phenomenon, about the crop circles themselves and human behavior/psychology as well. Very interesting to watch so many people speculate and postulate without immersing themselves into the phenomenon enough to find that the facts do not support their pet theories and then to see how defensive they get when challenged. Hmmm . . . . maybe there is a pearl in this oyster!

    1. thanks for this
      seems every couple of years this debate pops up. I did a lot of research, as much as I could on the net, several years ago and the evidence collected by serious reseachers is very compelling. You really can’t credit all of these circles to human hoaxes. As you have said, there are too many to just say, hoaxes which are vandels could do without getting caught in the act. Also some of the anomolies found in the stalks, paticuarly the position of the bend close to nodes of the plant. Having a farming background I know that oats, wheat, barley will break at these nodes as they are the weakest point of the stalk. But this is not the case in most circles. The flattened circles done by hoaxes rely on the duability of the stalk closest to the ground and at a particular time of growth.
      I never make my mind up on anything until I have seen all available facts. On circles, I would suggest people to seek out all information before jumping to a simple conclusion based on a few people haveing said they are responsible for all circles.
      It’s like the UFO cases, if 1 in every thousand are totally unexplainable, then we have a case for them.

      1. unexplainable
        ..if 1 in every thousand are totally unexplainable, then we have a case for them.
        No you don’t. If you have a number of cases that are not explainable by anything that has been proposed, then you don’t have any explanation. In particular, you don’t have a case for anything.

  7. Alien Hoaxes
    There’s a missing element here. The two camps are not human vs. other. The “other” could potentially be working within human hoaxsters. If a truly advanced consciousness is at work, it could be inspiring these human-made works of art. That may be a convenient way to mystify hoaxing, but it can’t be totally discarded.

    What’s so annoying about the cynicism on BoingBoing is the prevalent attitude of: they’re hoaxes, nothing to see here. Even if they’re all conclusively proven as human-made, crop circles are amazing and beautiful. That should be enough to give them a second look.

    1. Aha!

      Even if they’re all conclusively proven as human-made, crop circles are amazing and beautiful. That should be enough to give them a second look.

      Maybe *that* is the whole point; to have a second look, that is.

      A while ago Whitley Strieber suggested meditating using these agro-glyphs as the focus of one’s attention. Maybe something interesting could come from it.

  8. Crop Circles
    I would like to see a small group of people with two-by-fours on a rope ‘drawing’ those circles in a matter of hours! Please show me, just for the hell of it.

    1. Seeing is…
      [quote=nobody24]I would like to see a small group of people with two-by-fours on a rope ‘drawing’ those circles in a matter of hours! Please show me, just for the hell of it.[/quote]

      1. Crop circles are probably
        Crop circles are probably hellaciously effective sigils. In this case, the contrast between the crop laid down and the crop still standing sets up an electrical contrast in a pattern which consciouness then latches on to for hypnotic entrainment and imagery guiding. I would think that the more effective electrical patterns would be peformed during clear, dry clear weather. The static charge left behind on the stompered crop would be more persistent in dry weather.
        It shouldn’t be surprising that people standing in crop circles feel strange effects or that electrical equipment malfunctions. The static charge of the frictionally laid down crop would create these effects. Just a theory.

        1. Hmmm

          The static charge of the frictionally laid down crop would create these effects. Just a theory.

          Like some kind of bio-circuit board, huh? It is an interesting possibility.

          1. static vulcano ash
            The thing to do then is to go into a crop circle of your choice, and measure. Should be easy, no?

            Of course right this minute you can’t fly to the UK.

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