Skepticism

Secrets of Crop Circles Revealed

I was surprised recently to find that crop circles are still making news in various places around the world. The strange designs in wheat and corn fields fell off my radar a long time ago, but apparently there are some folks currently still enmeshed in the unusual phenomenon. It seems things don’t go away simply because I stop paying attention to them. Who knew?

Once my dismay faded, I found myself thinking about the controversy yet again, so I did some quick Googling. And according to something nefarious I uncovered on the Internet, the first recorded crop circle dates back to the 17th century.

Now, I can’t speak to the validity of that claim, because I found it on a very obscure website; the kind of website that comprises what I like to refer to as the “Hinternet”. Plus, instead of researching it further, I decided at that point to eat a bucket of Buffalo wings and flip back and forth between yet another airing of A Field of Dreams on the Superstation and a delightful offering of soft porn on Cinemax. (Hey, I know I have issues, but this is important to where I’m going with this post.)

But whether the claim is true or completely fabricated, it’s safe to say that crop circles didn’t become widely known to the public until about the 1980s. Nor did crop circles enjoy the popularity that they have in the years since.

Lately, these Spirograph-like designs pressed into crops have found their way onto various news broadcasts (when there is no storm/terrorist threat/fuel crisis with which to instill panic in the viewing audience of course). They’ve become major stories on PBS and Discovery Channel programs. And they have even been featured in blockbuster movies.

And since crop circles wormed their way into popular culture, they have steadily proliferated in number and, most impressively, complexity of design.

For decades the debate over crop circles and just what causes them has flourished. Speculation about their origins has become a hot topic, particularly among the scientific community and the drinking public. These two factions, each of which adheres to what at times can be very suspect philosophies (well, the drinking public’sphilosophies can be suspect anyway), seem to fall on opposite sides of the crop circle fence. Yet despite the fact that the drinking public can rarely recall its most brilliant ideas – hey, who hasn’t solved all the world’s problems at one time or another down at the pub only to have no recollection of what they said the following day? – both sides are just as passionate that their point of view is the correct one, grasping onto their pet explanations like Kirsty Alley grasping a knish.

Scientists on the one hand, contend that the mysterious designs in agricultural fields that seem to spring up magically overnight are merely the product of a handful of devious artistic pranksters. They see crop circles as nothing more than art installations carved out by a collection of normal people whose tools include a flat plank or board suspended from a rope and possibly a flask filled with whatever spirits keep them sufficiently “inspired” to finish the circle.

After all, many crop circle makers have come forward, admitting their deeds, and others have been caught on tape or even in the act by farmers and various branches of law enforcement, lending credence to the rational viewpoint espoused by scientist and skeptics.

The drinking public on the other hand, cannot believe that anyone of their ilk would have the means or the wherewithal to pull off such immaculate hoaxes. They have instead argued in favor of all manner of wonderfully imaginative causes for the agricultural design phenomenon, including atmospheric vortexes, electromagnetic fields, plasma storms, and my personal favorite, subterranean earth gods (awesome!).

Often, one will see a particularly technical-minded member of the drinking public researching various aspects of the bent stalks within a circle. These folks will usually note the uniform manner in which the stalks are pushed over, and then they will declare that there is no force known to man that can have such a “bending” effect on a plant; not even say a shoe with a foot in it.

As it is in many cases, the most interesting thing to me about this subject is the psychology behind the belief. Why are some people not satisfied with the easy explanations? Are their lives so devoid of excitement that they must ignore the logical and the rational, and make giant leaps to the extraordinary or the outrageous? I mean, subterranean earth gods? Come on. How do they get from dudes with a plank to invisible time travelers?

As I sat there watching A Field of Dreams thinking about crop circles with the tangy remnants of the Buffalo wings still on my chin, I let my mind wander, and being a card-carrying member of the drinking public, I discovered it’s not that difficult.

You see, like many of life’s bigger mysteries, the answers are right in front of us. It’s just a matter of how we get to them. In some cases, they are hidden amid a variety of different sources, only to be discovered by an “accident of convergence” – a principal by which seemingly unrelated pieces of information, once converged, produce solutions that we might not even have been looking for in the first place.

Such is the case with crop circles.

And I am proud to be the one to reveal those answers to you. What better place to do it than right here on Skepchick, the Mecca of accidents of convergence?

The accident of convergence in this case should become apparent shortly, but what it all boils down to is this: The game of the millennium is afoot, and science and crop circle mystics everywhere are missing it! For you see, this question is one that needs equal measures of ration and madness to be answered in full, and the inherent segregation of the two sides has prevented them from coming together in the name of discovery.

Fortunately, I am not bound by logic, nor am I averse to delusion, bad judgment, or a lack of common sense. In fact, I’ve depleted my reserve of each to achieve the accident of convergence necessary to solve the mystery of crop circles.

It’s very simple really. One merely need know where to look to find the convergent ideas that ultimately shine some light on such a controversial subject. And for me, there was no better starting place than the world’s favorite entertainment medium: The movies.

Now, if movies have taught us anything it’s that fields made up of one crop or another are perfect places for all manner of unusual things to exist. There have been children in the corn. There have been catchers in the rye. There have been cabins in the cotton. There have been amber waves in the grain. And there has been splendor in the grass. Movies are a great source of information for people like me who are too lazy to do anything but assume that what’s onscreen is an accurate reflection of reality.

And one of the most amazing things that movies have taught us within the last couple of decades is that all the dead baseball players live in crop fields. This has become common knowledge, and just screams out to be converged with the crop circle phenomenon. We know this as well as we know that billionaires fall in love with hookers and DeLoreans make great time machines.

But what may not be common knowledge is that dead baseball players and aliens are mortal enemies. Yes, aliens! You know, the kind from other planets that abduct rednecks and seem to have over-developed anal fixations?

In fact, this notion is so far out of the mainstream, I couldn’t find a single mention of it in any movie, so I had to consult some tea leaves, a Magic 8 Ball, my imaginary friend, Larry, and a weird dream I once had, just to confirm it.

Most people think aliens only make bicycles fly, and that they occasionally cause humans to sculpt topographical features in their mashed potatoes. But in reality, aliens are full of hate. Aliens hate dead baseball players, and dead baseball players hate aliens. These two groups hate each other more than Kirsty Alley hates the words “fat free”. (Don’t ask me why I’m picking on Kirsty Alley. I don’t really know, but it’s kind of fun.)

Theirs has been a battle of attrition, a dance of determination, a war of wills, a veritable game of bloopers and practical jokes that has continued unabated for time out of mind. And as many of you no doubt will, now that you know, I fear the fate of the galaxy may hang in the balance.

It’s bad enough to be aware of this ongoing struggle, but to see the remnants of it, in the form of crop circles everywhere we look, can at times be terrifying. Because that’s what crop circles are. Crop circles are the signature identifiers, if you will, of the monumental struggle between these two warring forces.

You see, the aliens, in the dark of night, when all the dead baseball players are asleep, swoop in and create crop circles using . . . well . . . technology. And when the dead baseball players wake up, they see a clearing in the field, and thinking it’s a baseball diamond, they grab their equipment, and run for the clearing, ready to play ball. Only when they get there, the clearing is nothing more than a representation of a lace doily, which not only thwarts their game for the day, but threatens their masculinity.

I don’t know how many times those poor dead baseball players have stood in the middle of a freshly cut crop circle, gloves at their sides, shaking their fists at the heavens, cursing the dreaded alien enemy forces.

Contemplating it is enough to bring one to tears.

The dead baseball players’ only recourse is to play baseball games in Iowa that somehow make the dreams of those who can see them come true — even though they’re dead and it’s only a baseball game. Nothing issues a stronger blow to the alien forces than people living out their childhood dreams in a cornfield.

They hate that.

They watch this spectacle from afar or with their invisibility cloaking device engaged, and they either destroy the soft tissue of some nearby cattle (probably with laser weapons mounted on their wrists), or they simply drip their acid saliva onto expensive cars and hiss in frustration. (Since they built the Pyramids and Stonehenge, aliens have run out of constructive avenues for their rage.)

It’s bad enough that the aliens are forced to question why they must be outsmarted by some monosyllabic mesomorphs in the jungle, and wonder how it is that the computers they used to bridge the vastness of space can be neutralized with a virus made by Jeff Goldblum, but then to have their mortal enemies fulfilling the drinking public’s dreams is reprehensible. It’s no wonder they are enraged.

They retaliate by forming the crop circles at night to totally mess with the dead baseball players, to steer them away from the one good field in Iowa. And it appears as though the aliens are winning, because nearly all of the crop circles since the 1980s have been of a circular shape – hence the name crop CIRCLE – and sadly, absolutely none of them have featured four bases, an outfield, and a pitcher’s mound.

At any rate, it took an accident of convergence for me to discover this dreadful truth. I didn’t ask for it, but I found it nonetheless, and I’m very troubled by it.

Now you, too, know the truth about crop circles. If you feel a strong sense of foreboding, as I did when I made this discovery, don’t be too distraught, and please don’t do anything rash. I can only suggest you dull the terror with a prayer to the god or celebrity of your choice (I suggest Kirsty Alley). Or get yourself a pickle and a hot oil massage. Or do as I did and consume gallons and gallons of liquor.

We are in this together folks, and we have to be prepared to be in it for the long haul. For it seems this is a conflict that will not be settled easily and without casualties. Think of the wheat and the corn and their sacrifices so far. We must be vigilant and brave, if not for ourselves, then at least for the fallen stalks.

I can only hope that one day the aliens will mistakenly carve out a baseball diamond in the crops, thereby giving the dead baseball players the upper hand in what no doubt will be a battle that wages on for centuries. Only then will we have the pleasure of seeing a crop that is unsullied by the deadly kiss of alien technology harvested solely by a man-made combine.

Godspeed, dead baseball players. Godspeed.

Sam Ogden

Sam Ogden is a writer, beach bum, and songwriter living in Houston, Texas, but he may be found scratching himself at many points across the globe. Follow him on Twitter @SamOgden

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28 Comments

  1. About that first crop circle, since that’s a common thing that turns up — it’s from a 1678 pamphlet — almost always minus the long caption/story that goes with it. The picture is of a demonish-looking fellow cutting down the crop; the explanation is that there was a dispute between the farmer and the mower about how much the mower would get for cutting the oats. The farmer said he’d rather the devil cut them down than the mower get that much money. Well, they got cut down and left that night. This pamphlet, BTW, was a religious tract and may or may not have chronicled a real event. I’d think the event was real enough and constituted vandalism by the guy who had the dispute with the landowner.

    The pamphlet

    The printed part:

    THE MOWING-DEVIL: OR, STRANGE NEWS OUT OF HARTFORD-SHIRE. Being a True Relation of a Farmer, who Bargaining with a Poor Mower, about the Cutting down Three Half Acres of Oats: upon the Mower’s asking too much, the Farmer swore That the Devil should Mow it rather than He. And so it fell out, that very Night, the Crop of Oat shew’d as if it had been all of a flame: but next Morning appear’d so neatly mow’d by the Devil or some Infernal Spirit, that no Mortal Man was able to do the like. Also, How the said Oats ly now in the Field, and the Owner has not Power to fetch them away.

  2. If anyone can be bothered looking back through the BBC news archive, a couple of weeks ago there was a chap on the telly who said they last crop of crop circles (~late 90’s) to hit the headlines were done by him and his mate “for a laugh”. The vox pop they showed had him demonstrating his method.

  3. Yeah, there really isn’t enough media coverage of crop circles. A while ago, I went out with 21 other civil enginering students, several tens of thousands of euros of surveying gear, a plan that took a weeks worth of planning…

    and all we’ve got to show for it are the pictures we took ourselves, even after calling the newspapers.

    damn this sceptical country ;)

  4. Wow, that’s a whole lot of writing! And mostly fiction! Love it :)

    From what I can see, and the research done, crop circles have always been made by people, and there are still organised groups around the world who continue to make circles.

    NO-ONE “fakes” a crop circle… there are no fake crop circles, just like there are no fake oil paintings. Crop circling is an artform. Here is a link to a circle-makers website http://www.circlemakers.org/

    I agree with Sam that people just can’t accept the most simple and obvious explanation for some things… it’s just tooooo easy. Need a little mystery and wonder in life! And nature alone is obviously just not enough to fill that need, for some.

  5. alcari said

    Yeah, there really isn’t enough media coverage of crop circles. A while ago, I went out with 21 other civil enginering students, several tens of thousands of euros of surveying gear, a plan that took a weeks worth of planning…

    and all we’ve got to show for it are the pictures we took ourselves, even after calling the newspapers.

    damn this sceptical country

    So you guys actually made some crop circles?!?!

    That’s awesome! Can you send the pics with some details about the project? I can do a follow up post here. I mean, we all know how they’re created, but the artwork can be stunning.

  6. I agree with Sam that people just can’t accept the most simple and obvious explanation for some things… it’s just tooooo easy. Need a little mystery and wonder in life! And nature alone is obviously just not enough to fill that need, for some.

    As you might be able to tell from my post, my imagination never fails to keep me entertained, but I’m fascinated by the psychology of the true believer; no matter the subject.

  7. There was a UK Tv show a few years back where they had two circle makers make a crop circle for the cameras, then brought in a well known crop circle investagator who pronounced it genuine and impossible to have been made by humans.

    And here, because I just like it, is my crop circle joke:

    A spaceship is hovering over a Canadian field; inside an argument starts.

    “Oohtak you imbecile, can’t you navigate? We’re at some out of the way planet again.”

    “Hey, I’ll have you know my navigation skills are pretty damned good.”

    “Well, maybe if they were better than ‘pretty damned good’ we could make a warp jump and end up at home for once instead of places like this. What are we going to do while our engines recharge?”

    “We could make a crop circle.”

    “Oohtak, you devil, you mean you’re one of those behind all those crop circles? They’ve got people guessing all over the galaxy.”

    “One of many, Elrood. What do you say, you up for making one?”

    “Sure, how do we do it? Plasma vortex backdraft from our environmental pod generators?”

    “Nothing like that.”

    “How then?”

    “Well, first we need a length of rope and a board…”
    A spaceship is hovering over a Canadian field; inside an argument starts.

    “Oohtak you imbecile, can’t you navigate? We’re at some out of the way planet again.”

    “Hey, I’ll have you know my navigation skills are pretty damned good.”

    “Well, maybe if they were better than ‘pretty damned good’ we could make a warp jump and end up at home for once instead of places like this. What are we going to do while our engines recharge?”

    “We could make a crop circle.”

    “Oohtak, you devil, you mean you’re one of those behind all those crop circles? They’ve got people guessing all over the galaxy.”

    “One of many, Elrood. What do you say, you up for making one?”

    “Sure, how do we do it? Plasma vortex backdraft from our environmental pod generators?”

    “Nothing like that.”

    “How then?”

    “Well, first we need a length of rope and a board…”

  8. The last time I saw Kirsty Alley she was being interviewed about scientology. She was literaly sobbing as she spoke about how beautiful it was going to be when the great cataclysm comes, and the scientologists step in and save the world.

    Please pick on her until the engrams have consumed her.

  9. Awww. I thought maybe this year’s pin-up calendar featured Skepchicks in Crop Circles.

    Hey, now you’re onto something, Robert!

    Next year’s calendar: Skepchicks debunking various outrageous claims. . . . In various states of undress of course.

  10. Absolutely brilliant observations, although things become more complicated with the David Duchovney written episode “The Unnatural” where it is revealed that the greatest baseball player of the golden era of the game was actually an alien disguised as a baseball player. Then the question becomes: are crop circles merely random acts of stupidity where one proves he/she is stronger than a blade of grass, or is it just part of some larger Chaos Theory cog that , with the help of science, will one day lead us to discovering distant planets with giant cookie-cutters in shapes mirroring planet Earth’s crop circles and thus making us all laugh in the irony….

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