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Crop Circles: Has There Been a Government Interest in the Controversy?

Claims that portions of the UK Government have taken an interest in the Crop Circle mystery have circulated for years. Housed at the National Archive, Kew, England is a now-declassified Air Ministry file that details an event that had Crop Circle overtone to it. On 23 March 1964, the file reveals, the Reverend T.E.T. Burbury of Clifton Rectory, Penrith, wrote to the National Physical Laboratory at Teddington – which in turn forwarded his letter to the Air Ministry via the Meteorological Office at Bracknell – about a Crop Circle-style formation that had been found in the vicinity. “Does an apparent column of blue light about eight feet in diameter and about fifteen feet high which disperses and leaves a mark of very slightly disturbed earth, the same diameter, mean anything to you?”asked the reverend, continuing: “I examined the ground which is about one hundred yards from the nearest building and there are no pylons near. There was no sign of burning, either by sight or smell; the grass growing between the exposed ground appeared quite normal. There were no signs of bird tracks or droppings; the ground simply appeared to have been lightly raked over in almost perfect circle.”

Nick Redfern, 2006

In the above case, the Air Ministry seemed less than impressed with the report and suggested in an official, internal memorandum that the encounter probably had more to do with the condition of the liver of the person concerned than it did with anything paranormal. Yes, really! Bringing matters more up to date, according to the Wall Street Journal on August 28, 1989: “British agriculture and defense officials want to know more about the mysterious crop circles which have appeared across the countryside…so does Queen Elizabeth, who is said to have sharply questioned Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher about the circles recently. While those talks are kept secret, a Buckingham Palace spokesman says the Queen took a hurriedly published book about the circles to her summer palace in Scotland this month.”

Crop Circle researcher George Wingfield has uncovered similar data. Eton-educated and formerly employed at the Royal Greenwich Observatory, Wingfield said that in September 1990 the British Government called a secret ministerial briefing to debate the matter of the Circles. According to Wingfield’s sources, the meeting was supposedly convened to try and determine the nature of the mysterious formations, lest the British Government be placed in the potentially embarrassing position of having to admit its ignorance of the phenomenon. And the stories continue of official interest, in one form or another. Several years later, the film director John McNeish stated that he had received an order from Buckingham Palace for a copy of his book Crop Circle Apocalypse.

Nick Redfern, 1998

Now, we have to go back in time to the Second World War. In early 1941, Sir David Petrie was appointed the first Director General of the Security Service, MI5, and was given substantial resources to restructure the organization, whose origins date back to 1909. As a result, MI5 became one of the most efficient agencies of the War. After the defeat of the Nazis in 1945, it was learned that all of the Nazi agents targeted against Britain had been successfully identified, and in some cases recruited as double-agents, by MI5 – something that contributed to the success of the Allied Forces landing in Normandy on D-Day on 6 June 1944. A number of files pertaining to the wartime activities of MI5 have been declassified and are now available for public inspection at the National Archive, Kew. One deals with MI5 investigations of what are intriguingly described as “markings on the ground.”

According to the report: “This account is not concerned with the activities of fifth columnists such as sabotage, capturing airfields and key points, and harassing the defending army, but in the methods used in communicating to each other and to the enemy. Reports from Poland, Holland, France and Belgium showed that they used ground markings for the guidance of bombers and paratroops (and of lights by night).” The author of the report continued: “Such ground markings might be the cutting of cornfields into guiding marks for aircraft, painting of roofs and the inside of chimneys white, setting haystacks on fire, and laying out strips of white linen in pre-arranged patterns. For guiding and giving information to advancing troops they would conceal messages behind advertisement hoardings and leave markings on walls and telegraph poles.” Most notable of all: from interviews conducted with Allied personnel who had taken part in the hostilities in Poland, MI5 had determined that one of the ways that Nazi spies were communicating with German Luftwaffe pilots was by “beating out signs,” twenty meters in diameter,” and “on harrowed fields or mowing such signs on meadows or cornfields.” Crop Circles!

So, yes, there has been an interest – by government agencies – in strange formations found now and again in fields. And that interest goes back to the 1940s when there was no paranormal angle to the situation. So far, at least, the interest appears to have been undertaken at a sparse, low-level. In other words, I haven’t found any strong evidence to suggest there might be a “top secret government Crop Circle research program” hidden away somewhere. Maybe I’m wrong. So far, though, the evidence for such a thing is lacking.

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Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.
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