Art design

Crop circles were created by supernatural forces. Named Doug and Dave.

CONHOLT, England – Standing at hip height in a large field of wheat in southern England, one can make out an odd series of depressions in the swaying green crop, where some of the wheat has been pushed lower than the rest.

It is only by looking at the field from above that the real picture is revealed: the swirls and sharp angles that have been driven into the wheat form an intricate pattern comprising a series of four circles orbiting around a larger circle, all within a larger jagged one. -sharp disc that looks like a huge bicycle gear.

These strange markings in a farming district called Conholt, near the Hampshire and Wiltshire county border, are a crop circle, a rare current example of the mysterious patterns that regularly puzzled people around the world in the 1980s and 90s, sparking speculation about extraterrestrials. visitors, ancient spiritual forces, weather anomalies, secret weapon tests and other theories.

The once rapid flow of circles that germinated in this part of England and spread to fields from California to Australia has now slowed down. When this particular example appeared on the night of May 22, it was the only known example in England.

Three decades after the height of the crop circle craze, the phenomenon has taken on new significance as a reminder that even before the age of social media and the internet, hoaxes could spread virally around the world. whole and that true believers could cling stubbornly to conspiracy theories despite the lack of evidence – or even the existence of evidence to the contrary.

In the case of the crop circles, the most significant contradictory evidence emerged on September 9, 1991, when Britain’s Today newspaper ran a front-page story under the headline “Men Who Fooled the World”, revealing that two mischievous friends of Southampton had secretly made over 200 of the models over the previous decade.

Doug Bower, then 67, and his friend Dave Chorley, 62, admitted to a reporter, Graham Brough, that in the late 1970s they started using planks of wood with ropes attached to them. each end to draw circles in the crops holding the ropes in their hands and pressing the boards under their feet. They then watched in amusement as their anonymous antics garnered media attention and began to be copied by imitators around the world.

The exploits of Mr. Bower and Mr. Chorley are the inspiration for ‘The Perfect Golden Circle’, a new novel by British writer Benjamin Myers. Set in 1989, it follows two friends as they journey through English summer nights creating increasingly complex patterns of culture.

The real pranksters phoned the newspaper to tell the truth, according to Mr Brough, now 62, who says he verified their claims by checking an archive of more than 200 crop circle drawings stored in a shed behind the house by Mr. Bower. The designs were clearly aged and matched the patterns they had created over the years, Mr Brough said.

“I spent a week asking them to show me how they did it all, and I never laughed so hard in my life,” he recalled. “The prevailing wisdom at the time was that aliens were about to land any day now, but it was all started by these two guys having a few pints in their favorite pub and then going out into the night for a drink.. a bit of fun.

“The so-called experts were adamant that humans couldn’t have made these circles, but Doug and Dave showed me how they did it,” Brough continued. “They trampled the crop without breaking the actual wheat trees and used ropes attached to a center stake to make the circles and a bit of wire hanging from a baseball cap as a sight to line things up and make sure their lines were straight.”

The newspaper filmed the pair creating a pattern in a Kent field, then showed it to Pat Delgado, co-author of bestselling books on the mystery, who said it was definitely created by a non-human “superior intelligence”.

The newspaper quoted Mr Delgado as saying that “this could in no way be a hoax”.

“Delgado said not only was it 100% alien-made, but he could feel the aliens had just left,” Mr Brough said.

“When I told him the truth and had Doug and Dave come over, he recognized them right away because over the years they had often been among the first to show up to look at a new crop circle. He said, ‘Oh my God, that’s why you were still here!’ and he admitted that he had been framed.

Mr Delgado’s co-author, Colin Andrews, a retired electrical engineer from a British regional council, quickly convinced him to retract his admission that he had been duped, arguing that the pranksters could not have produce the blizzard of models appeared all over the world. .

“People who wanted to keep believing in aliens and everything just ignored the evidence, no matter how obvious,” said Rob Irving, who started emulating the two pranksters’ work in 1989 and bonded. of friendship with them after they were made public.

Mr. Irving and a small group of friends formed the Circlemakers, who saw themselves as a conceptual art collective rather than pranksters and were intrigued by the power that anonymous creations held over the imaginations of millions.

“We took over from Doug and Dave and became the most active group creating circles,” said Mr Irving, 65, who now teaches art and creativity at the University of Gloucestershire. “The power of art came from the mystery, and Doug always regretted coming forward because the mystery was lost.”

At its height, there were probably five groups creating crop circles, Mr. Irving said, but there was a conflict between those who were driven by art and creativity and other artists from cultures who boasted of their work or even had their own paranormal theories about the origins of certain circles. .

Some members of Mr. Irving’s group have used their skills to get into lucrative work creating images for paying clients, earning tens of thousands of dollars for creating huge logos and symbols about cultures, the grass or sand for brands such as Nike, Mitsubishi and Hello Kitty.

No one has come forward to admit they created the latest circle at Conholt, which Mr Irving described as “a rather nice design without being mind blowing”.

While Mr. Irving liked to create circles that could be seen by audiences from nearby hills or other vantage points, the few crop artists still active tend to focus on an internet audience, reaching out to drone photographers as soon as they have finished their work.

This can draw throngs of onlookers, like the dozens who walked through Conholt’s fields to see the latest design, much to the anger of the farmer from a neighboring property.

“Tourists can cause even more damage than the original circle,” said the farmer, who declined to be named. She said the owner of the damaged field had considered mowing the design to deter visitors “but then they would lose even more wheat”.

“It is so irresponsible to encroach and destroy food in the midst of a global wheat shortage, so if it was me I would be looking to sue,” she said.

A single crop circle maker was prosecuted in Britain for vandalism, in November 2000, after he sent a picture of himself making a pattern to a “ufologist” to prove it was not made by extraterrestrials; the photo was passed on to the police.

Mr Andrews, the co-author of Mr Delgado’s books on crop circles, said he had also been tempted to give police details of people like Mr Irving, who he said cruelly deceived the public and investigators like him.

Mr Andrews, 76, claims to have coined the term ‘crop circles’ after first viewing one in July 1983 and admits he has since lived through the phenomenon, having sold hundreds of thousands of books and traveled the world, dropping out to three paid lectures or public appearances per week.

He said his invitations to speak ‘stopped immediately’ after the confessions of Mr Bower and Mr Chorley, but he continues to monitor crop circles and insists he is ‘more convinced than ever’ that there are non-human causes.

“Where’s the proof they’re all man-made?” Mr Andrews said, quickly adding that although they are all man-made, he believes the people making the circles have unwittingly ‘been prompted by an independent non-human spirit’.

After suggesting in the 1980s that the circles were created by fluctuations in the Earth’s natural magnetic forces, Dr. Andrews now believes that a God or “high level of nature” is sending us a signal (that the planet leads to chaos).

“The mystery is still out there,” said Mr. Andrews, who now lives in Guilford, Connecticut.

Jeffrey Wilson, one of the founders of the Independent Crop Circle Researchers’ Association in the United States, noted with some skepticism that there is no scientific evidence for Mr. Andrews, but said that in his opinion, about one in five cultures don’t have circles made by humans.

A former science teacher who now works as a retail data analyst in southern Ohio, Mr. Wilson, 52, emphasizes that non-human-caused circles can be distinguished by things like higher levels of radiation and physical changes in plants.

He said his group had about 40 volunteers ready to investigate the circles, but a drop in US sightings since the peaks in 1996 and 2003-04 means “we haven’t been able to get out into the field to investigating a circle since September 2012, in Chillicothe, Ohio.

“We still don’t have enough information for a valid hypothesis, so anyone who tells you they know how the circles are made is lying to you,” Wilson said.

Stephan Lewandowsky, professor of psychology at the University of Bristol in Britain, said Mr Andrews’ theory that a hidden hand causes people to circle is an example of how “conspiratorial cognition and conspiracy theories self-seal”.

“If you poke a hole in a theory with new evidence, like the evidence that people make crop circles, it will seal itself by incorporating the new evidence or overturning it,” Dr. Lewandowsky said.

“And,” he continued, “if you point out that there’s no evidence for a theory, they’ll say, ‘Exactly! It shows how hard the Deep State is working to cover it up,” or the lack of alien sightings proves how advanced aliens are because they are invisible.

Dr. Lewandowsky noted that this type of thinking long predates social media. “What happens is that some people feel like they’ve lost control, and instead of admitting that we live in a world that we can’t control, they reassure themselves that there is an agency involved and someone who can be blamed, whether it’s actor-rigged mass shootings, or 5G causing Covid, or whatever,” he said.

The difference now, said Dr Lewandowsky, “is that while it took years for people to pay attention to crop circles and for the idea to spread, the internet sends ideas around the world in days. “.

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