Whenever the sun sets on a field in Southern England, there is always a chance that when it rises, one can see the crops transformed into enormous works of art comprised of oddly intricate patterns of circles, rings, and other geometric shapes; with the field as the canvas.
Over the years, these strange patterns have come to be known as crop circles or corn circles. They are said to appear mysteriously overnight in fields used for farming and are created by flattening cereal crops. Initially discovered only in the United Kingdom, crop circle sightings have now spread to dozens of countries around the world over the past few decades.
Despite having been studied for decades, there has been no clear answer as to why they exist.
If we look into the origin of crop circles, there exists an old woodcut pamphlet from 1678 depicting a field of oat stalks laid out as a circle. While most claim this to be the earliest recorded evidence of a crop circle sighting, others argue that the first crop circles appeared in Tully, Australia, 1966. In this incident, a farmer stated that he witnessed a saucer-shaped craft rising from a swamp and flying away. On further investigation, he discovered an almost perfectly circular area where the grass was flattened in clockwise curves to keep the water level within the circle, with all the weeds being uprooted from the mud as well. At the time, the press referred to these occurrences as 'flying saucer nests' before adopting the name we now know it by.
In 1996, one of the world's most notorious and complex crop circles was reported in England, close to the world-renowned Stonehenge monument. This time, it was in the form of a remarkable fractal pattern called the Julia set, implying that whatever made it was unmistakably intelligent. The circle allegedly appeared in less than an hour during the daytime, which would be impossible for hoaxers to accomplish under normal circumstances.
Crop circle enthusiasts have come up with many theories regarding the creation of these patterns, many of which range from the plausible to the flat out absurd. Terence Maiden proposed a meteorological explanation, stating that these circles could be caused by whirlwinds whose course was altered by Southern England hills. This theory soon gained a lot of traction and was even referenced in 1991 by acclaimed physicist Stephan Hawking, who supported it by stating that crop circles are either hoaxes or formed by the vortex movement of air. On the other hand, molecular biologist Horace Drew went as far as to suggest that the patterns could be made by human time travelers from the distant future to help them navigate to our planet.
While these incidents cannot be taken as credible evidence for the existence of UFOs, ancient spirits, or secret weapons, there is something magical in the allure of crop circles. Despite there being countless theories regarding them, the only proven cause of crop circles so far is humans. In September 1991, two men (Doug Bower and Dave Chorley) confessed to creating these patterns for decades as a prank to make people think UFOs had landed. Claiming to have been inspired by the 1966 Tully UFO report, the duo proved their case by making a circle in front of several journalists. Funnily enough, an advocate of paranormal explanations of crop circles, Pat Delgado, examined the circle in question and declared it to be authentic before it was revealed to be a hoax.
This pair of pranksters have claimed not to be responsible for all recorded crop circle sightings, with many possibly being copycat pranks done by others. Regardless of this, the hoax could be credited for launching the crop circle phenomena that continued for several years after the initial prank. In the following years, organizations like the UK arts collective Circlemakers have surfaced. They have been creating crop circles in the UK and around the world as part of their art practice and for commercial clients since the late 1990s. There are sightings reported to this day, the most recent being in Northern France on the 12th of July, 2020. Though crop circles may have been created as a hoax, they still stand out as magnificent and elaborate works of art even after decades.