The mystery of England's crop circles
Wiltshire, the home of mystical Stonehenge, is also awash in complex field formations that some say contain strange powers
By BILL STRUBBE, Postmedia News; Ottawa Citizen April 7, 2012
The lingering midsummer twilight filtered through the window into the upstairs chamber of the farmhouse B&B as my sister and I settled into our twin beds. Before turning off the light she asked me, "What do you want for your birthday?" reminding me that tomorrow I would officially transition into the middle age of 40.
Pondering a moment, I jokingly replied, "How about a crop circle? That would be just fine," and after a long day we quickly drifted off to sleep.
At the crack of dawn I was shaken awake by my sister exclaiming, "Get up! Look out the window."
I sat up and there across the field on the lower slope of a hill, etched with one of Wiltshire's famed chalk White Horses, beckoned a pristine crop circle. We threw on our clothes, rushed out the door and beelined along the tractor line through the knee-high barley toward this exquisite mystery I sensed was meant just for me.
Fifteen years passed since my auspicious crop circle experience, and as my 56th birthday approached, I decided to fulfill my dream of spending the summer among these crop formations, along with the colourful cast of characters who chase them.
Though this phenomenon enjoyed its 15 minutes of fame in the 1990s, dozens of these often complex geometric patterns still appear every summer. Notorious pensioners Doug Bower and Dave Chorley have claimed credit for some pedestrian formations (Google them for details), but despite night watches by researchers and irate farmers who offered a bounty, circle makers are rarely, if ever, caught in the act and the mystery remains.
Crop circles - more accurately, agriglyphs or pictograms - were the reason I ventured into Wiltshire, and ground zero was the Silent Circle, a café and bookshop in Yatesbury, about 130 kilometres west of London, started by crop circle researcher Charles Mallett, who explained that sightings filter in from passing vehicles or pilots scouting the landscape. Like storm chasers, once an approximate location is established, a carload of "croppies" heads out to find it.
A new one had been discovered that day, so I drove to East Kennet and parked. The midsummer sun lingered along the horizon as I walked up the tractor line to the formation. While some sleuths experience swoops of energy inside circles, anything subtle I might have felt was overwhelmed by mere excitement.
Reverently walking the perimeter, I eventually discerned its arcing quadrennial form. Though I was initially disappointed by the seemingly uneven lay of the crop, later aerial photos revealed a lovely Celtic Cross, the interplay of light in the feathered lay creating a sublime three dimensionality.
The next day, another was reported near Chicklade, west of Stonehenge. Five of us crowded into a car and set off, scanning the fields until spotting it. As we reached the crop circle the sun broke through, bathing the sixpetal formation in light. Near the tidy centre whorl I played my wooden recorder, when a truck bounded up and two farmers jumped out, one yelling, "This is criminal damage you've caused here!"
When we replied that we had only just arrived, he retorted, "You bloody well know you made it, and it's a right poor one, too!"
Understandably, grangers are not pleased because of lost crops. Some immediately mow them out; others, especially in "popular canvas" fields, make the best of it with a donation box. One famous glyph, shaped like a beautiful mathematical structure known as a "Julia Set fractal," appeared in daylight near Stonehenge in 1996 and reportedly netted the farmer thousands of pounds.
In a formation dubbed the "Unfinished Symphony," within sight of one of Wiltshire's eight White Horses etched on the hills, I met James Reed lugging a metal donation box, into which I dropped a few pounds.
"My fellow farmers would hang me for fraternizing with the croppies," Reed laughed.
Later that day, while I pondered the lovely swirls of another formation - two circles joined by cryptic code - poor Reed arrived again and laughed, "Well, this one was already here, so it doesn't count."
In that same glyph, I met a trio of healers and conversation ensued. "For eight years I've come to see crop circles and with all the energy lines intersecting throughout the countryside I feel that this land is important," explained Cynthia Barnard, a shaman from Boxford, Mass.
While crop formations appear the world over, that a preponderance pop up in Wiltshire is not thought coincidental. Here, rendered in stone and earth across the sacred landscape stand countless ancient stone works, the most famous being Stonehenge. Far older is the mother of all stone circles, Avebury Henge, so enormous that thatched homes encroach into the ring
Nearby is conical Silbury Hill, the largest artificial mound in Europe. So deftly constructed was this 40-metre-tall mount that it has defied 5,000 years of erosion. Directly across the highway crouches West Kennett Long Barrow, believed to be a ritual chamber and later a tomb. I reached it via a 10-minute walk across the fields, and I spotted another small crop circle.
Downing a cider at the lively Barge Inn, I met Mathew Williams, an ex-circle-maker holding the dubious distinction as the only person prosecuted for "criminal crop damage."
While explaining the thrill of the illicit art and the tricks with boards and ropes of his former avocation, the discussion unexpectedly veered to paranormal experiences that he, and other circle makers, encountered while making formations; darting light orbs, shadow humanoid figures appearing, eerie sounds and once discovering he had created a formation that a group had meditated on the previous night.
"Often circle makers don't know why they suddenly feel inspired and because of my strange experiences there seems to be a lot more going on than meets the eye." Then Matt added: "Some people are offended that humans might be the conduit, but I say that it is proof of human potential, and why deny that?"
Yet human hands do not explain numerous associated anomalies: watch, cellphone and camera malfunctions within formations - most famously, an inexplicable two-hour glitch in equipment hired by National Geographic; altered soil structure evidenced by "ghosts" of accelerated crop appearing in following summers and snow melting more quickly on former crop circle sites; elongated and blownout grass nodes best explained by a microwave burst; and the ongoing, keen interest of the British military....................http://www.montrealgazette.com/travel/m ... story.html