Crop Circles

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The first one mysteriously appeared in a field in southern England in September 1976.

Observers were amazed.  What had produced the enormous “crop circle” thatseemed to come from nowhere? 

More circles followed.  Soon the English countryside was dotted with increasingly elaborate geometric designs and symbols, all sculpted in fields of wheat, barley, and corn.  Then the phenomenon went global.  At least 27 other countries have reported circles of their own. 

Scientists were baffled.  Some suggested that unusual wind shears were at work.  In the 1980s, several zoologists (I am not making this up) theorized that the patterns were produced by exceptionally amorous hedgehogs during mating season – although it’s hard to imagine how dinner and a movie could lead to spectacular 100-foot wide circles.

Conspiracy theorists weighed in.  The government had to know something.  Authorities were no doubt shielding the public from the reality of a new kind of weapon or energy source. 

A molecular biologist named Horace Drew suggested that people living in the future might be sending messages back in time to help humanity find its way.  He claims to have cracked the “crop circle code.”  The news flashes he has revealed so far sound as if they might have come from fortune cookies: “There is good out there,” and, “Believe.”

Then there are the “croppies” – those who believe that something supernatural or extraterrestrial is staring us right in the face. 

Think about it: Myriads of people believe in ghosts, the Loch Ness monster, telekinesis and other phenomena.  But it’s notoriously difficult to document their reality.  The Travel Channel just kicked off a second full season of Expedition Bigfoot, in which intrepid investigators comb the wilderness in search of any shred of evidence for Sasquatch.  But the big hairy guy never shows up (except of course in Jack Links Jerky commercials). 

Croppies are thrilled because crop circles are different.  They are really here.  Something is really happening

Those who favor an extraterrestrial explanation remind us that aliens don’t actually have to visit our wheat fields to create the circles.  Perhaps they remain in their spaceships and utilize invisible high-energy beams.  That’s why the circles seem to magically appear overnight.  How else are we to account for the extraordinary design in the image above? 

That 780-foot monstrosity appeared suddenly in 2001 near Wiltshire, England, not far from Stonehenge.  It is composed of 409 circles that form a six-sided double triskelion with interlocking spirals.  This is evidence of intelligence.  Surely no one can entertain the fantasy that such figures are the product of wind shear or enthusiastic hedgehogs. 

The speculation continued until the fall of 1991.  That’s when Doug Bower and Dave Chorley stepped forward.

“We did it,” they confessed.  Fifteen years earlier, after a jovial conversation at a local pub, they decided to pull a prank on the global community of UFO devotees.  Armed only with a couple of wooden planks held with ropes, and a baseball cap fitted with a wire (enabling them to walk in perfect circles), they sneaked into a farmer’s field late at night and crafted their first design.

Delighted with the public response, Chorley and Bower kept at it.  Along the way they were joined by copycat artists.  The two men are now officially retired from trespassing in cornfields, but others around the world keep inventing new designs.

And that’s the end of all the fanciful speculation, right? 


Even though Bower and Chorley have provided video demonstrations of how the circles are made, tens of thousands of croppies still believe.  “You and your imitators may have made some of the circles.  But you didn’t make all of them.  The others may be conveying angelic or extraterrestrial messages.  Or perhaps a secret society is trying to threaten us.  But something big is definitely happening.”   

It’s hard to convince someone they might be wrong, even when their cherished beliefs are publicly discredited. 

But we can understand the reluctance to let go. 

Human souls long for enchantment and wonder – for reassurance that something special and mysterious lies behind ordinary life.  But we live in a disenchanted world, one in which transactions seem little more than a series of ones and zeroes, and relationships might actually begin and end on flat screens. 

Without a sense of wonder, life is hard to endure.  Can people really accept the consequences of Nothing being at the center of Everything? 

Crop circles provide the hope – even if it’s a shot in the dark – that something big, something worth knowing, lies underneath the fabric of our existence.

That’s an idea that was dear to the hearts of the ancient Hebrews: “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” (Deuteronomy 33:27)

There really is Someone behind everything else. 

And walking with him satisfies our enchantment-starved souls.