Bring up the subject of crop circles at a party and you are sure to be entertained by a lively discussion about aliens, hoaxes, fractals, magnetism, ball lightning and other seemingly unrelated subjects which have one thing in common – intricate circular designs made in grain fields over a short period of time – usually in England but also in farm areas around the world. Bring up the subject of crop circles among a group of farmers and the discussion will sound more like a television crime drama plot – illegal trespassing, property destruction, lawsuits, threats and bankruptcy. While people outside of farm country see crop circles as decorative distractions to break up monotonous acres of swaying plants, farmers see them as the calling cards of the enemy – and they don’t care if it’s humans or aliens making them … they just want it to stop because it is costing them more and more in lost income as their numbers increase, inflation increases and prices decrease. A new report suggests farmers in England have had enough. Could this be the year of the crop circle wars?
“Farmers lost £30,000 in income between 2018 and 2022 as a result of 92 crop circles of varying sizes. The wheat and barley lost over the period could have made 300,000 loaves of bread, and the flattened rapeseed could have produced 600 litres of canola oil.”
For the non-English, £30,000 is $32,650 and a study by The Guardian arrived at that figure by converting the area destroyed by 92 crop circles into things the average non-farming, grocery buying person can understand: land, bread and cooking oil. Those things are costing the consumer more in 2022 because of Russia’s war against Ukraine, which has substantially reduced the crops both countries normally sell on the global market. With the prices of wheat and barley – the two favorite crops of crop circle makers – increasing by 30 to 40 % due to inflation and supply chain shortages, every bent reed is taking profits directly out of the pockets of farmers already dealing with the slimmest of profit margins. Needless to say, these farmers aren’t impressed by crop artistry.
“Of course, I don’t believe this rubbish that it’s done by aliens. Funnily enough, pictures of the circle were up on the internet within hours. Yet it was in a really remote position. It couldn’t be overseen from anywhere aside from a small patch of my neighbor’s land – he was the one who pointed it out to me.”
The Guardian used farmer George Hosford from North Dorset as an example. A 70-meter diameter crop circle on his farm in July 2021 cost him £1,000 ($1090) initially in lost profits, and he did not have figures on the additional crops destroyed when sightseers came for weeks to look at it. Hosford explains how these crop circles push farmers further into a bind. The fees for insurance are too high to make a claim, the local police don’t seem to care or be able to find the perpetrators, and, while the wheat and barley is only bent, not broken, it still can’t be harvested because the combines end up pickling up too much dirt and gravel along with the grains. Oh, and you can stick your “It’s aliens” up your own crop circle – the farmers are convinced the makers are humans like the infamous Doug Bower and Dave Chorley.
“The so-called experts were adamant that humans could not possibly have made these circles, but Doug and Dave showed me how they did it. They stomped down the crop without breaking the actual wheat shafts and used ropes tied to a central stake to make the circles and a bit of wire hanging down from a baseball cap like a gun sight to line things up and make sure their lines were straight.”
In 1991, reporter Graham Brough revealed how Bower and Chorley provided him evidence that they were personally responsible for making over 200 crop circles in ten years and showed him how they did it with ropes, planks of wood and a lot of walking and stamping. Earlier this year, The New York Times interviewed Rob Irving, became friends with Doug and Dave and took over for them with a group he formed called the Circlemakers. Irving considers the Circlemakers to be artists and says the power that people attribute to crop circles is nothing more than the power of mystery to control the imagination. That doesn’t impress farmers, and they’re even more angry when they find out that people are actually paying the Circlemakers to make circles in their fields. While corporations are offering thousands of dollars to stamp their logos in wheat fields, circle makers are also collecting online fees by uploading videos of their creations, often contacting drone photographers as soon as the circle are finished – those drone photographers are making money too. Each crop circle video is estimated to make around $500 from YouTube alone.
“The tourists can cause even more destruction than the original circle. It is just so irresponsible to be trespassing and destroying food in the middle of a global wheat shortage, so if it was me I would be looking to prosecute.”
A farmer interviewed by The New York Times (who wished to remain anonymous) points out the final indignity suffered by the farmers who are victims of crop circles – while they have a legal recourse to prosecute the makers for trespassing and property destruction, they have rarely won in court. In 1992, two teenagers in Hungary who went public with how they made their crop circle became the first to be sued – the owner of the field sued for $3,000 in damages, but the judge ruled that the teens were only liable for the damage caused in the circle itself (about $30 in crops) and the rest of the damage made by the thousands of visitors was not their responsibility. In 2000, Matthew Williams became the first man in the UK to be arrested for causing criminal damage after making a crop circle – he was eventually fined $108 and order to pay $43 in court costs. In 2019, five people were arrested in Alabama for making the world’s ugliest crop circle (more of a Rorschach blot) and charged with 3rd degree criminal mischief, a felony, for causing an estimated $7,500 in crop damage. An Internet search found no resolution to the case, so it is probably a safe bet that the farmer didn’t get the $7,500. That is about the extent of crop circle lawsuits.
Could 2022 be the year farmers rise up against crop circle makers? You may notice we have paid little attention to those who claim that crop circles are supernatural or alien-made. That is because the people closest to the circles – the farmers – are convinced they are human creations. While it is true that it would probably be impossible to sue aliens for damages, they also suffer damages from sightseers. If the farmers resort to violence – scaring circle makers or tourists, shooting at drones, etc. – will they win in court? Will they care after already losing their cases to collect damages? Even the good farmers of Wiltshire who benefit from the tourist spending generated by being near Stonehenge are getting fed up with sustaining losses. How much longer will they hold back?
Will the war in Ukraine finally put an end to the making of crop circles? We may soon find out.