(Originally published by Whole Life Times)
THE SHAPE OF THINGS
By Jolene Rae Harrington
In the early morning of Aug. 28, 2002, a farmer and his son discovered
two giant Crop Circles in their 180 acres of corn in Eaton Rapids,
Michigan. Though authorities are doing their best to assure the uneasy
townsfolk that it was the work of teenage pranksters, the Eaton County
Sheriff admits, "Everybody wants to know if the aliens have landed."
Until the release of the Hollywood blockbuster Signs, the crop circle
phenomenon was something of which most American farmers were either
blissfully unaware or unconcerned. Never mind that their brethren's
across the sea in the UK have been confronting this sort of strangeness
every summer for decades; American Gothic plowed on, comforted by the
media's shallow pronouncement of "hoax" ("Those rascally Brits!").
America's heartland may never rest easy again, thanks to the Disney
release that includes a Crop Circle formation as its inciting incident
of terror. Though its purpose is to entertain rather than educate, the
movie's cascade of horrors imprints on the public psyche the
characterization of Crop Circles as something quite sinister. The actual
phenomenon, however, has so far proven itself to be not only entirely
benign but to many, downright inspirational.
During a recent interview, M. Night Shyamalan, Signs writer and
director, revealed: "In the course of the movie, I try to give an
explanation for what I think they are." Navigational signals for hostile
yet inept aliens? Even the most zealous UFO researchers would dispute
this premise. Ironically, of all the truly frightening elements
associated with extra-terrestrials-animal mutilations, abduction
scenarios, half-alien/half-human babies-Signs chose to sully the
thoroughly innocuous Fortean manifestation. Though the movie has at last
thrust the mystery into the limelight, it misleads and needlessly alarms
an already edgy public.
Fortunately, a well-timed antidote has arrived on the scene: Crop
Circles: Quest for Truth, a stunningly beautiful and thought-provoking
documentary produced and directed by William Gazecki. This maverick
filmmaker prides himself in looking for "the truth behind the truth." As
he demonstrated with his Academy Award-nominated documentary Waco: Rules
of Engagement, Gazecki refuses to take anything at face value, pushing
past neatly-wrapped conclusions to uncover the viewpoints of those
actually on the scene. In his latest opus, he journeys into the fields
where dedicated researchers seek to get to the heart of an intriguing
To tell the Crop Circle story, Gazecki relies on a colorful assortment
of experts, all of whom come across as articulate and intelligent
observers. Some critics have assailed Gazecki for not including skeptics
and hoaxers in his film. "I chose to focus on what is, as opposed to
what isn't," he explains. His documentary is a gentle rebuttal to the
notion that every Crop Circle is a hoax. "The facts don't add up for
anything more than a handful of convincing fakes in any given year,"
Gazecki asserts. "That leaves a huge, unexplained and authentic phenomenon."
Such an unconventional viewpoint is bound to stir controversy, which
suits Gazecki just fine. "I hope to inspire public debate that leads to
deeper study, to challenge our belief systems and offer opportunities
for alternatives that are meaningful." Accompanied by a hauntingly
melodious score by David Hamilton, Crop Circles: Quest for Truth
gracefully guides the viewer along to one startling conclusion: "They're
Crop Circles Defined
Crop Circles have been appearing for years in grain fields all over the
world, with the greatest concentration in southern England. They may
have begun as plain spheres, but they have evolved in the past decade
into large-scale, artistic and elaborate geometric patterns. Adding to
their mystique is that they usually form overnight, with no evidence of
a human presence.
A convergence of particular meteorological, geological and perhaps even
spiritual conditions seem to be Circle prerequisites, and apparently
England's Wiltshire region is Circle Heaven. Despite Shyamalan's
depiction of water as Circle-makers' enemy, water may be a necessary
ingredient: approximately 95% of Crop Circles appear above underground
aquifers and chalk beds. The charged air prior to a rainstorm also seems
to be "Circle weather." Esoteric geophysicists identify ley lines-earth
energy that courses along particular meridians-that are particularly
strong in Wiltshire, long considered by its inhabitants to be a "holy
landscape." Mounds, megaliths and other stone monuments of uncertain
origin such as Stonehenge abound on Wiltshire's windswept plains,
perhaps as a response to these subtle energies. Could ancient sacred
sites and Crop Circles both be the progeny of the same anonymous
creator? Historian Isabelle Kingston wonders, "What came first? Did
there appear in the land these circles, and did they [early inhabitants]
mark these places to hold the energy there?"
The first published report of Crop Circles dates back to 1678, and
references in folklore to "will-o-the-wisps" and "fairy rings" support a
pre-modern debut. Nevertheless, it wasn't until the early '80s that
their sudden proliferation attracted international attention. While the
U.S. government has no official position on the issue, the Queen of
England put the book Circular Evidence on her recommended reading list.
The author of that groundbreaking text is engineer Colin Andrews, an
early pioneer in Circle studies. The abundance of Crop designs in
Britannia demanded an authoritative response, and Andrews was an obvious
choice to advise Margaret Thatcher's cabinet.
Shyamalan also tapped Andrews as a consultant for his movie. While it is
difficult to ascertain what of Andrews' research made it into Signs, he
also lent a helping hand to Gazecki, allowing him unprecedented access
to his extensive archives, including never-before-seen video footage and
a breathtaking photographic collection.
Supernatural vs. Scientific Explanations
Gazecki's Quest for Truth takes viewers on a fascinating visual journey
through the evolution of the patterns. Starting out as elemental
circles, the mysterious designs progressed to circle groups, then to
linear constructions. The year 1990 was a record one for circle
appearances, with an astounding number embellishing fields all over the
world. Design themes continued to evolve into images that resemble
insects, "curly men," bees and scorpions, dolphins, and most recently,
incredibly intricate fractal images. The complexity accelerated in
proportion to the surge of interest, raising the possibility that the
Circle-makers are responding to their audience-or that the audience is
part of the process.
Supporting the interactive hypotheses are the numerous reports of
formations responding to human consciousness. For instance, "Croppies"
sometimes meditate on a particular pattern, only to have it appear the
next day in a nearby field. In 1996, a pattern emerged in Laguna Hills,
Calif., that researchers Ed and Kris Sherwood identified as containing
images once sacred to the area's indigenous peoples. Many visitors to
Circles also claim to have heightened psychic awareness and even healing
The spiritual aspect of field patterns is bolstered by the presence of
Sacred Geometry in all the formations. Sacred Geometry is a discipline
that identifies certain holy symbols, such as the pentagram and Celtic
cross, in all aspects of nature down to the cellular level. The precepts
of Sacred Geometry are an integral part of ancient art and structures,
and became the foundation of Masonic architecture. Some Circle devotees
express a sense of awe and reverence toward the designs, even referring
to them as "temporary temples." Experts identify striking mathematical
expressions and musical ratios in the crop designs that are also present
in Sacred Geometry, an argument for some that the Circle-makers are
using a sort of universal language to communicate. No one can say for
certain what exactly the message is, but devoted Crop cryptographers
continue to follow the other-worldly bread crumbs.
Another clue lies in the unusual electromagnetic data within formations,
currently the focus of Colin Andrews' studies. When a BBC crew recorded
an unusual electromagnetic sound inside the formation, their equipment
was inexplicably damaged. Even more astonishing are the "balls of light"
which Wiltshire residents frequently see moving through the countryside,
particularly around crop patterns. Gazecki's movie features a compelling
video of a farmer suddenly halting his tractor as a glowing orb passes
over his head. Witnesses describe the lights as moving purposefully, and
emphasize that they never feel threatened.
If this sort of speculation is too "airy-fairy" for you, then consider
two other elements of the phenomenon: science and logic. No group of
scientists has devoted as much intense investigation to the matter of
Crop Circles as the BLT Research Team. Biophysicist William C. Levengood
has painstakingly analyzed more than 350 plant and soil samples
collected from all over the world and concludes that plants taken from
within the formations have anatomic anomalies not caused by disease,
weather or chemicals. Exhaustive testing reveals that these plants grow
at different rates than control samples, and bear visible and measurable
evidence of some outside force. Another of BLT's founders, Nancy
Talbott, displays Crop Circle plants with bent, elongated and even
exploded nodes, and reasons, "The amount of energy that it would take to
do this must be quite astounding." She speculates that multiple energy
types are involved. "Electric, magnetic, and maybe even energies we
haven't yet described... we've only scratched the surface at what there
is to be understood." BLT has also discovered unusual microscopic
magnetic particles found in the soil of crop formations in perfectly
Now for logic. On the average, 250 designs appear every year, all over
the world, many in quite public locations. For example, in 1996, a
915-foot spiral of 151 circles formed next to a busy thoroughfare
opposite Stonehenge, all in a 25-minute period on a Sunday afternoon.
Three independent witnesses, including a pilot who had just flown over
the area, confirmed that the design had not been there before 5:30 p.m.
Yet shortly after 6 p.m., the pilot spotted the massive formation.
According to Gazecki, there are at least two dozen eye-witness accounts
of circles forming. Astonished spectators recount an invisible force
spinning the crops down in mere seconds with surprising violence, yet
without harm to the laid crop. These events are sometimes accompanied by
tornado-like funnels, balls of light, and high-pitched whistling.
Common sense dictates that the sheer volume, size, and complexity of
most designs precludes human creation. There are no traces of a
terrestrial presence, no footprints, even in mud; no broken stalks, no
trash, no discernible way in or out. Attempts by acclaimed hoaxers to
duplicate some of the more complicated designs for the media have not
matched the precision of the originals.
In August 2001, one of the most impressive formations appeared on Milk
Hill-409 circles composing a fractal wheel larger than two football
fields. A crop watcher had camped out the night before in the rain,
fallen asleep in the wee hours, and awoke to find the massive pattern.
Toward the end of Quest for Truth, a local farmer scoffs at the hoax
explanation: "Where do they practice? There's never any unfinished ones,
never any mistakes. It doesn't make sense!" By this time, viewers are
likely nodding in agreement. Besides, logic ultimately leads back to
science: human-made circles do not explain the plant and soil anomalies.
Why Crop Circles?
If indeed some Crop Circles are supernatural, then the next question is,
who or what forms them and to what purpose? Shyamalan's premise simply
does not conform to the evidence. Crop-watchers do occasionally sight
metallic discs in the vicinity of crop formations, yet there are no
reports of scary close encounters or negative effects on the bystanders.
Most researchers suspect that an outside force is involved, but even
those who endorse the ET theory do not implicate the beings that
allegedly terrorize and experiment on hapless humans. Investigator Paul
Vigay postulates that Circle-makers could be inter-dimensional
travelers. Gazecki documents Vigay's elegant computer imaging of crop
pictographs, expanding them to a three-dimensional form. Vigay theorizes
that what is left on the ground is a shadow or a wake of "a higher
dimensional shape passing through our universe."
Researchers Ed and Chris Sherwood believe that the patterns "are an
expression of the Divine." Scientist Jacques Valle implicates secret
satellite technology. Others think Gaia herself is speaking up. Synthia
Andrews, wife of Colin, believes "it may be that a mysterious force or
alien intelligence is indeed involved, but certainly people are as well."
A telling observation in Gazecki's film revolves around the formation
near Stonehenge, called a "Julia Set." It reminded a musician of a bass
clef; a computer scientist of a fractal image; a marine biologist of a
perfect nautilus; and a physical therapist of a mammalian spine. In the
final analysis, the Circles may tell us as much about ourselves as the
phenomenon. "Each of the experts holds a piece of the puzzle," Gazecki
So do we each have a piece of the puzzle within us? All it takes is
remaining receptive to the possibilities. However, the average
individual finds it unpleasant to be jarred from traditionally held
beliefs. We're creatures of habit, and if we've always brushed with
Crest, we are unlikely to change. If we've always trusted Peter
Jennings, then that's who we'll believe. The responsibility of
assembling the facts for ourselves is burdensome, so we fall back to the
complacency of pre-masticated opinions proffered by a
commercially-driven media: fluoride is good for your teeth; Oswald acted
alone; Crop Circles are hoaxes. It takes something extraordinary to lure
us out of our comfort-zone.
Gazecki's film may be just such a catalyst. It is impossible to be
casually dismissive about the strange apparitions in the fields after
watching it. If people can accept that we cannot explain all Crop
Circles, then maybe next they'll start peering beyond the pronouncements
of mainstream pundits. Such scrutiny is inevitably rewarding, not only
in ascertaining a particular truth, but also as a prompt to
introspection and an expanding philosophical perspective. Andrews posits
that Crop Circles "are subtle nudges, tweaks you might say, to our
consciousness-we are looking at our future and as long as we are open to
that idea, it will take us to a new place."
At the dawn of the 21st century, it is tempting to hide behind our
technological achievements and take refuge in scientific smugness. We've
fused the atom and mapped the human genome; can there really be any more
unsolved mysteries? Admitting that something exists beyond our empirical
ken does not compromise scientific integrity but rather strengthens it.
Acknowledging the validity of energies and forces not currently
understood prepares humanity for the next great leap forward. The
Medieval scholar could not envision the life teeming on a microscope
slide, yet somewhere along the way scientific pioneers embraced the
cosmic "what if?"
Each of civilization's significant discoveries was borne from courage
and curiosity. Will we shrink from this challenge being placed in fields
around the world today, or seize the opportunity for the next
paradigm-shattering breakthrough? If we allow Circles to tickle our
imagination and enhance our spiritual connection to our planet, then
perhaps the Circle-makers-whoever or whatever they are-will have
achieved their purpose.