Crop Circles: Beyond Hollywood Hype
(Originally published by Whole Life Times) www.wholelifetimes.com / 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 puzzle. 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 real." 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 experiences. 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 linear distributions. 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 says. 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.