Crop circles are patterns made in fields of wheat or corn by enterprising artist
s and hoax
ers. Only a few were made before the late seventies, by people who often wanted attention
for their farm or town. In 1978 Doug Bower
and David Chorley
changed that by starting their thirteen year long series of circles in fields all over the UK
. This work, along with that of other teams, would eventually attract thousands of believers and even spawn a new branch of pseudo-science
, dedicated to its study.
For the first two years of Doug and Dave's work, hardly anybody noticed the circles or cared where they came from. Besides a few police reports called for by angry farmers, there simply wasn't any attention payed to them. Creating circles is a lot of work, taking six or more hours in the dark to complete, and after two years Dave was ready to quit due to disinterest. Fortunately, Doug figured out that in order for people to become interested in the circles, they had to be able to see them clearly and appreciate their largesse and layout. He found a field with an overlooking road, and the pair made a circle there one summer night. Twenty-four hours later their work paid off with massive crowds and television coverage.
Doug and Dave invented all of the methods they used to make the circles. They used wooden two-by-fours steadied by two ropes and pressed down upon with the feet to flatten the crops. For straight lines they would look through a wire loop attached to a baseball cap at a distant landmark or star, and move the two-by-four along while keeping the landmark steady. For small, filled-in circles they used wooden planks of different lengths pivoted around one edge. When larger circles or outlines were called for, they used a bucket filled with sand and a rope, tracing out the circumference of the circle with the rope making the radius. Doug and Dave were also accomplished watercolor painters, and spent much time perfecting the shapes that they would put into fields. Making crop circles became an art.
In 1991 the pair came clean, giving the Daily Mall copies of every design they'd made, every photograph they'd taken. It was truly a grand denouement, and the paper released it in a series of six issues. David Chorley died of cancer in 1997, after telling Doug Bower to continue trying to convince the world of the hoax. In 1999 Bower did a BBC special (then at age 74!) once again showing off his technique and trying to convince the world that the circles were, indeed, a hoax.
Of course, people who go for pseudo-science often aren't the types that are easily convinced by facts, and a few cereologists weren't too embarrassed to continue their study of the circles. Fortunately for them, teams of artists all over the world had picked up the crop circle meme, and began implementing their own circles in North America and Australia. Today the "mystery" continues, with teams creating subtle and mathematical designs and experts claiming the designs are far too subtle and mathematically precise to have been made by teams.