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What are Crop Circles?

Michael Pollick
Updated May 17, 2024
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Depending on one's view of paranormal phenomena, the formation of crop circles is either an elaborate hoax or visible evidence of metaphysical energy at work. About the only thing both sides can agree on is that the circles do exist. There is sufficient photographic and eyewitness testimony to support the claims, but no one can agree on the purpose of the circles or the means used to create them. Some people have confessed to creating crop circles as hoaxes, but a number of elaborate formations still remain unclaimed by human pranksters.

Although there have been claims of crop circles for centuries, the phenomenon became more widely known in England during the late 1970s. Landowners growing cereal crops such as wheat and corn began to notice some unusual formations in their fields. Stalks of grain appeared to be trampled in a circular pattern, but not always damaged or destroyed. It was as if the grain stalks were bent by a powerful force, but there was little evidence of a human intruder or mechanical device. Because of their simple shapes, these formations became known as crop circles.

Shortly after the worldwide media picked up on the first crop circles, even more elaborate formations began to appear in other countries. While some were still simple variations on circles, others reflected an advanced knowledge of geometry and mathematical elements called fractals. Some of these advanced circles stretch out across hundreds of acres of land, which believers claim is proof that humans could not have created them in the middle of the night with primitive tools. The intricacy of these circles would require a significant amount of measurement and coordination, which would far exceed the capability of most pranksters. There would also have to be a staging area for the dozens of people needed to complete such a task, and little evidence of such a large human presence exists.

The theories behind the circles range from alien technology to psychic energy to subterranean electromagnetism. Some believe that UFOs use an unknown power source to bend the stalks into elaborate patterns without destroying their DNA structure. Others suggest that a form of psychic energy could form the circles, much like a tornado carves a visible path of destruction. Some have even suggested that the fields are situated above subterranean energy sources that cause the crops to bend but not break. One hint to the phenomenon emerged when two British men confessed to using wooden planks and a string to trample down simple crop circles. They did not claim responsibility for all the circle formations, but their crude methods proved that crops could be bent through purely mechanical means without damage.

Whether crop circles are the work of men, aliens or psychic forces, they are an interesting diversion from the mundane world. We may never be able to explain their origins completely, but many circles are enjoyable to view through photographs available on the Internet and books on the paranormal.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to WiseGeek, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.
Discussion Comments
By Rotergirl — On Feb 12, 2015

@Pippinwhite -- I'm with you. Crop circles are obviously planned and man-made. They're too regular and too decorative to be anything else. And I laughed at your aliens comment. Really, why would a bunch of aliens fly a zillion light years to earth, just to draw circles in the corn patches? Doesn't make any sense, and if they did, then they're not a bit more mentally evolved than we are.

I don't completely discount the possibility of aliens out there somewhere, or even that they've visited here. I just think they have more important tasks. You know, anal probes and all.

By Pippinwhite — On Feb 11, 2015

I can't say I believe that these are anything but man-made, unless a tornado has been around. A tornado can do strange things that don't make any sense from a physics or real-life point of view. I've seen the path of a tornado in the dust, and while it doesn't exactly look like the stylized crop circles that make it into the newspaper and online, it still looks plenty creepy. But then again, tornadoes are plenty creepy all by themselves.

I just think most people do crop circles as a joke, to prank their friends, or punk the media. I don't subscribe to the "aliens did it" theory. I would think they would have better things to do, unless they just have a "let's play with the humans" mindset.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to WiseGeek, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range...
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