Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Mary Jo with new acquaintances at the
Etchilhampton crop circle, early August.


(Continuation from September 7th post: “Crop Circle Confessions”

    From American Public Media, Writer’s Almanac, Nov. 12, 2013 -

Voyager 1 was launched in 1977, sent out into the solar system to explore Jupiter and Saturn along with its twin, Voyager 2. Both probes carry a greeting to any sentient life forms that they may encounter, in the form of a gold-plated record. The information on the record was selected and compiled by a committee chaired by Carl Sagan; it includes spoken greetings in 55 languages, a selection of music from different eras and cultures, and a variety of images and sound recordings from nature, including a baby crying, ocean waves, and whale song. President Jimmy Carter said: "This is a present from a small, distant world, a token of our sounds, our science, our images, our music, our thoughts and our feelings. We are attempting to survive our time so we may live into yours. We hope someday, having solved the problems we face, to join a community of galactic civilizations. This record represents our hope and our determination, and our good will in a vast and awesome universe."

In early August of this past summer, Mary Jo and I traveled to England. 

When I tell friends that we traveled to England to see crop circles, I get the same sort of stare our kids gave us when we told them we just finished reading Fifty Shades of Grey. 

An amused look also crept over the face of the British customs agent when we exited the Heathrow terminal upon arrival in the UK.  We said were visiting England to see crop circles. 
“So, what makes you thing you’ll find them here?” he asked, forcing a quizzical smile.  “I remain skeptical.”

I, too, was skeptical.  But in this quest I vowed to keep an open mind, to be the “objective journalist” and record our trip as best I could.  But, upon our return home whenever crop circles are mentioned, I’m asked the similar question:  “So, do we know how they’re made, or who makes them?” 

Following my first-hand experience, having been in and around crop circles, and in discussing and thinking about them, I have as many questions as answers.  But, I’ll say our experience was fascinating, with earthly (and perhaps a touch of heavenly) beauty, and as a result I now believe more firmly in the greater force at work in and beyond our earthly realm.  That energy and higher intelligence exists I credit to the existence of God.  But from a practical point of view, there are so many things in our immediate world and in our universe that remain a mystery, having no clear explanations. 
In becoming aware of crop circle advocates, those who believe these designs in crop fields are messages from a more intelligent life, perhaps from “extra-terrestrials” who come from places we can’t touch, there appears to be an equal number of persons who, through science known to them or from perceived threat to their lives and belief systems, vocally oppose the idea that crop circles are anything other than man-made designs.  Those designs, they say, can be credited to sophisticated pranksters, “hoaxers” who’ve conjured up a puzzle bone for the gullible masses to chew. 

I tend to believe that most crop circles are the visible signs of someone’s (or some entity’s) knowledge.  I’ve joked that, if individuals can believe there are sacred images in burned toast or an image on a barn as being the sign from a higher power, the phenomena of crop circles can as easily point to the pleasant thought that our planet earth and the human race are not alone. 

Now, relate that to your beliefs in whatever way that you will!


We had the opportunity to see many interesting things during our two weeks in England.   Our second week we were on our own for a quick, broad overview more typical of the average American tourist:  Glastonbury, Salisbury, Penzance and London.  But it was our first week, spent several hour’s drive west of London, that was our singular reason to fly to England, to look for and experience crop circles.   

For whatever reasons – excellent croplands, for one – crop circles appear most abundantly during summer months, and they center in the Wiltshire County countryside. 

For six days (our first day spent getting settled) we tramped the rolling hills, snaked single-file into crop fields, hiked along the public walking paths, and absorbed first-hand what ancient people there might have seen, smelled and felt when they were inspired to build earthen mounds or move stones that weighed many tons into patterns. 

Wiltshire County encompasses an area where several major landmarks are located.  Stonehenge, Avebury, Silbury Hill, Kennet-Long Barrow.   These and other lesser-known but equally impressive monuments were the work of ancient people some 4-5000 years ago.  They happen to be located along a line of energy referred to as a “ley line,” that runs, more or less, between Cornwall in the southwest of England, toward the northeast. 

Our evenings were spent in quiet comfort at Court Hill Farm, originally a manor farm of the Bishop of Salisbury (built around 1250) in the small town of Potterne (about 1500 people).  Potterne, in turn, is a mile or two from the larger market town of Devizes, of roughly 11,000 people.  Potterne is also located along A360, the highway that connects Devizes with Stonehenge.   This road was the old coach route connecting London with Bristol.  Nearby is the Kennet and Avon Canal that in the 1700s linked the pottery factories and their goods (too fragile for rough country roads) with the markets of London.  A series of some 29 locks, 16 of which are in a straight line one after the other, after the other, allow the specialized, narrow canal boats to “climb” Caen Hill on their way eastward. 

Kennet-Longbarrow:  Tomb?  Site for rituals?  The
purpose is speculation, although several skeletons were found
within small, partitioned rooms.

With a variety of things to see and do from a tourism point of view - and not to overlook the many pubs, coach inns and the Wadworth Brewery, also in Devizes - most visitors have little contact with the dozens of crop circles that appear in Wiltshire crop fields each summer.  That’s due both to lack of time as well as considered interest.  As many as three dozen crop circles per month “land” during the summer months, spread over a generous countryside in a variety of crop fields.  These have been witnessed and recorded for some 30 or more years, now.  Although artwork and reports of crop circles from previous centuries exist, they apparently lacked the regularity and complexity of design found in recent times.


Many visitors on tour in Southern England include a whistle stop at Stonehenge and then move on to other sights.  We brushed with Stonehenge on our first full day in Wiltshire when we turned to the right instead of toward the National Trust parking lot entrance, away from the busy highway toward a field where we would see our first crop circle. 

That was a bit surreal, to walk in a wheat field a half-mile from Stonehenge.  There we were surrounded by at least six tumuli – ancient dirt mounds approximately 30-ft. in diameter, 10-ft. in height - that for the most part farmers avoided over the centuries as they cultivated their fields.  Tumuli can be seen in many locations, and their purpose isn’t clearly known.  From our vantage point on the slight rise above the highway (the dual carriage way A303, where trucks and cars buzzed endlessly past) we observed a continuous line of several hundred people circling those giant stones.  Visitors are prevented from approaching the stones by rope barriers. 

Our view of Stonehenge from the field across the highway.
(with telephoto lens)

Later that week, we would visit Stonehenge, but it would be at daybreak, before the day’s regular crowds appeared.   A special pass was obtained by our tour leader, allowing our group of seven to walk among the stones (but not touch them). 

It was this connection with soil and crops that offered a close connection to the earlier inhabitants of that place.  I found myself always looking down, kicking at the ground, examining tilled soil, hoping that the next chunk of flint I saw – and the pieces of rock are endless – might show signs of having been worked by ancient hands. 

Typical flinty Wiltshire soils.

The first circle we entered made its appearance about four nights prior to our visit, according to our tour leader, Barbara.  In other words, this circle was considered to be rather “fresh.”  That fact would become more apparent through closer inspection of the design execution, and by the energy the circle gave off.  Barbara drew a pair of dowsing sticks from her backpack, as she would often do during our week together, and she placed them in front of her, sticks in parallel.  Then she slowly entered the circle, the laid-down area of crop that made up the geometric design.  As she did so, the copper rods swung wide apart, as if repelled, one from the other.  Then, from inside the circle with dowsing sticks spread apart, pointed in opposing directions,  she walked outside the circle’s perimeter.  As she did, the sticks gradually but quickly closed to the parallel position once again. 

Barbara has visited, examined and “measured” crop circles for some 23 summers, and she is familiar to people in Wiltshire crop circle circles.   In what seemed to be a most remote site, we met people who recognized Barbara and who had met her years earlier in other crop circle visits.  Her knowledge of these circles is extensive.  Her belief is firm that they are made by “others.”

Barbara demonstrating copper dowsing sticks.

She repeated her demonstration many times with her dowsing rods, measuring the energy of nearly one dozen circles during our six day stay in Wiltshire.  Her sticks were most reactive near the centers of circles.  There were at least two crop circles where her dowsing rods did nothing, and those circles, she said, were known to be man-made.  One was a crude crop circle,  a replication made by men hired to execute a design in a field of barley for a French film crew.  The other example was claimed to be the brain-child of a young man who lived on a canal boat not far away, near the Barge Inn.  Its creator was proud of his design and execution, but without knowing this history, our group had already agreed with Barbara’s dowsing rods:  this circle was a dud and it lacked energy.

A most pleasant surprise was the overall beauty of the Wiltshire countryside, its rolling hills, beautiful fields, and farm and village buildings with their thatched or tiled roofs.  We frequently edged toward the side of the road with our van in order to let large tractors pulling grain wagons, or huge combines, pass along narrow roads hemmed by hedges.  Numerous fields then were in the process of being harvested, and some were adjacent to those fields in which we walked.

The soils were dark, but flinty.  A good five to ten percent was broken stone, I’d estimate.  Beneath the loose soil, at a distance of one or several meters, were beds of chalk, whitish bedrock that in a few places approaches the surface.  Huge, white horses were etched into the hillsides in seven or eight Wiltshire locations.  Some were known to be very old, while others were examples of recent artwork from villages honoring early ancestors.  Contrasting with the bucolic scenery were occasional “tank crossing” signs and light tan barracks, signs of the British army.  Wiltshire is also an area used regularly for field maneuvers, war games and gunnery practice.  We saw several Sikorsky helicopters flying at low altitude over the adjacent hills, but we heard no artillery fire while we were there.

Although we were prepared to encounter rain – and it did rain one evening and part of an early morning – our days were, for the most part, sunny.  But even a sunny day means there is cloud cover of low, fluffy cumulus in at least 50% of the sky.  Temperatures ranged from the mid-60s to mid-70s the entire week, with light breezes, most pleasant for spending time outdoors.

Our group in front of Silbury Hill, a man made mound of over 4000 years.
(That's right- I was the lone man in the group!)

The fields where these crop circles “land” are random.  One crop circle here, one there.  They are often many miles apart, with sometimes two unfolding in the same night.  Pilots who rely for income on taking people aloft to view and photograph crop circles make it their business to know when and where the latest circles pop up.  Within hours, several internet sites post aerial photos of the new circles, adding to the information gathered of older ones.  The crop circle photo announcements are accompanied with general directions.  Nearby roads and highways are named, along with other pertinent information.  Within 24 hours a new crop circle design is analyzed by one or more “experts” who then dissect the geometry, comparing it with previous, similar crop circle designs.  Opinions are offered as to what this all could mean.

Sometimes, word of mouth provides the news.  One afternoon, when having a late lunch at a Subway in Devizes (local pubs serve lunch but shut down their kitchens for several hours in the middle of the afternoon) we met several other “croppies” who dropped news of a new circle near Etchilhampton.  This hill was located on the far side of Devizes from where we ate lunch, but it was still only a ten-minute drive.  

Etchilhampton crop circle
as viewed from the air. 

When we arrived at the car park area to one side of the lane, it was apparent we had found the right field.  Other vehicles were already parked there, including a tour bus and several campers.   This crop circle, which had appeared overnight, was the largest one we experienced, measuring what I estimated to cover 150 yards in diameter.   The formation, even to our new eyes that had little to compare it with, appeared nicely done, with “crisp” lines in the wheat.  Barbara’s dowsing sticks reacted like a Geiger counter to uranium. 

Hampton-Etchel crop circle as
viewed from further up the hill.

I found this circle to be quite relaxing, and for whatever reasons (perhaps the jet lag catching up with me), after lying down on the wheat, under heavy cloud cover and the threat rain, I fell asleep.  Jokingly, I say I “lost time” there - which in a way, I did.   Seldom do I find my surroundings in public relaxing enough to fall asleep, even after hours of having had insufficient sleep.  Serenity was found within that circle.

I napped while the "New Swirled
Order" whirled about me.

Mary Jo met several women from Manchester who take their vacations in the Wiltshire area each August to experience crop circles.  Others we met had come from Spain, Belgium and Holland, each for the express purpose of visiting crop circles.

Two special experiences offered to us by Barbara:  flights over the fields of Wiltshire in order to see the circles from the air, and a visit with Michael Glickman, retired architect, teacher and an expert and critic on crop circle designs. 

Seeing the fields from the air made the crop circles stand out.  Mary Jo took photos during her flight, while I stayed on the ground, content to visit and watch the planes come and go.   One of her photos was included in my first crop circle blog, of a design near Hackpen Hill.  In fact, we visited that hill that very same morning.  This was a circle of pleasing design, one that seemed to us to be quite “active.”  Our location was near one of the white chalk horses, and just beyond the horse, the grain harvest was underway.  Clouds of dust billowed upward from the combines, and tractors pulling grain trams and balers followed close behind.

We had lunch prepared for us by the private airport’s owner and his wife (grass runways), and then we drove to see Michael Glickman.  From having viewed several videos prior to our trip, we knew about Glickman and his love of crop circle geometry, and his wit with visitors.  He didn’t let us down.  Confined now for health reasons to his home and unable to move without assistance, Michael will yet entertain guests in what he calls, “Tea Time With Michael.”   

His mind and his wit were as lively that afternoon as we could have hoped for during the hour or so we visited.  To condense what he said in a few sentences, or paragraphs, would be difficult, and the result wouldn’t do him or the subject matter justice.  You can see interviews with Michael Glickman posted on the internet, if you wish. 

Michael was a fully entertaining and gracious host, and we were touched by his insight and humor, knowing his health now restricted his daily routine, but not his intellect.  He is a believer that some form of higher intelligence made these crop circles – most of them, anyway – and that there are mathematical messages in the universal language of geometry, if we take time to examine each of them closely.  This he has done, for many years.   As a means of partial support, he sells books, posters, tee-shirts and tote bags that help spread his crop circle insights. 

Michael Glickman: a geometry lesson.

I purchased one of his books, “Cornography, The New Swirled Order.”  He calls this series of essays, “Despatches From the Crop Circles,” and the pages are filled with his humor, with sarcasm reserved for skeptics.  

Here is one sample entry form his book:

  “One of the people who are taken in by the lies of the so-called hoaxers is Farmer Naughton of Bishops Cannings, who last year brought his combine to cut out the lovely seven-fold ‘basket’ rather than leave it for people to enjoy.  This year, to the astonishment of all, he put up an honesty box and opened the field.

“I visited him to thank him and to take him a photograph and drawing of his new formation, which to me is one of the most articulate geometrical designs we have ever had.  He said that he had wanted to cut it out immediately, but his wife persuaded him, against his better judgement, to allow people in.

“He glanced at the picture, but was anxious to let me know that he still thought it was done by vandals.  I suggested then that he and I go immediately half a mile down the road to the Wiltshire Constabulary Headquarters. We could ask why, as predictable acts of damage to property take place every year in a limited area and within a defined season, they have never made an arrest.  I told him that I was able to supply the names both of individuals who claim to cause the damage and “researchers” who aid and promote them.

“He was not too keen on that idea. I wonder why not?  A few days later, the circlemakers, to reward him I guess, delivered another formation in the same field.  He was not delighted.”


The fact that crop is destroyed by circlemakers, and also by visitors and curiosity seekers drawn to such sites, is not appreciated by most farmers.  A few farmers tolerate visitors and accept the fact that circles will appear from time to time, much like we might allow trespassing during our tourism season, I suppose.  Some farmers, probably the exception, believe they were honored, or blessed, to have been the recipient of a crop circle, and their loss of crop is therefore obligingly tolerated.

To bring a better feeling of understanding and appreciation between croppies and farmers, there was an attempt this past crop circle season to sell “passes,” a compensation system that would return monies collected from circle visitors to the farmers.  However well intended, this idea never got off the ground. 

We warily looked over our shoulders on a number of occasions, Mary Jo and I, believing that if we owned those fields, we, too, might be possessive of our land and crops.  Not once did we experience hostilities from farmers.  No one came out with dogs and shotguns.  Although we may have been naive, the many public walking trails between farm fields makes hiking, dog walking, bicycling and occasional car traffic between fields seem not so unusual, as it might in our country.  

In all cases, we observed visitors to the farmer’s crop fields take the long-way-round, stepping only in tram lines, or at best staying within the slim path already blazed by others, so as to minimize disturbance to the crop. 

Nevertheless, it was quite apparent that many potential bushels of a farmer’s crop are destroyed whenever crop circles are laid down, the stalks bent so that the combine head won’t pick them up during harvest.  This is a fact, and if the particular farmer isn’t tuned to the universe in exactly the same manner as the circlemakers – and if he believes it is the work of hoaxers from the nearby village – well, then, he will be very displeased.

In one instance, on our last day after having visited Stonehenge that morning, we drove to the Tidcom Causeway and a hill adjacent to the ancient roadway used by Romans.  This crop circle, named the “clothespins” by internet analysts who like to give each of them names, was freshly laid the night before. 

A donation for the honesty box,
crop circle near Tidcom.

We were among the few visitors there when we arrived.  The farmer, to his credit, placed an honesty box bolted to a steel drum near the edge of his field, and he had also blazed a convenient path through his crop from the roadside.  These were inviting, friendly things to do, and we dropped in the requested 3-pounds each to walk on his land and visit that circle.  As tourists, we didn’t find this to be an unreasonable request.

Make no mistake, that some in Wiltshire County do understand the value of crop circles from a tourism standpoint, and they will point out the perpetuation of this craft over a several decade period, much as one might proudly point to the work done by a colony of artists.  The mysticism and spirituality of crop circles may be mentioned, but credit is generally given to local “artists,” whoever they may be.  

According to the magazine Wiltshire Life (Sept. 2013 issue) the Wiltshire Police “are taking a hard line against the circle makers and are encouraging farmers to report any circles as criminal damage, as soon as they appear.  However, arrests appear to be few and far between, and the hoaxers have yet to fully explain their methods, timing and stealth during midnight hours.

“Witnesses claim time and again to have seen small balls of light over fields, and in the morning a new crop circle revealed.”

The chances of elaborate designs occurring over large areas, sometimes several fields in one night, without their originators standing up to take full credit, after several generations of such phenomena, seems to me slim and far-fetched.  Yet, it is also hard to imagine crop circles as the work of beings from elsewhere in this universe.

Faith in our beliefs may be strengthened, or weakened, as we choose.  These experiences we’ll continue to ponder.  

- Dick Purinton

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