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Mysterious crop circles have been reported as far back as the 1600’s. “Modern” theories at that time usually attributed the overnight creation of these elaborate geometric symbols as the handiwork of the Devil and his various minions.

It wasn’t until 1978 that the world got it’s first real introduction to what’s become the ongoing crop circle phenomena. While out harvesting, a wheat farmer from Hampshire, England found a swirling 20 meter wide circle pressed into the middle of his ripening grain field. Minutes later he found four smaller circles spaced evenly around the large one. While it seemed reasonable that some kind of precise and crushing force had created these five circles, closer inspection revealed that not a single stalk of downed wheat was broken or even damaged. Nor were there any tracks by vehicles or strangers leading to or away from the formation. The incident received minimal media attention and after a few days the baffled farmer decided he’d been the victim of some elaborate hoax.

The discovery of crop circles rose dramatically between 1980-1990. In 1990 over 400 circles were reported in England alone. Other countries like Australia, Canada, South America, Europe and the United States also began seeing their fair share. Fields of barley, oats, canola, wheat, and sometimes even wide expanses of snow, were being decorated with bigger and increasingly elaborate patterns. These ranged from simple circles to designs that mimicked ancient hieroglyphs found on the Egyptian pyramids. Still others took on the shapes of fish, insects or complex mathematical models related to fractal geometry. Two of the most elaborate designs in this sudden crop circle outbreak were found in very close proximity to Stonehenge. But it wasn’t just their sophisticated design that baffled crop circle enthusiasts and scientists alike. The most burning questions on everyone’s mind was, who was making these ingenious patterns - and why?

Some scientists attribute the formation of crop circles to natural forces like violent weather, or rarer meteorological events like stationary whirlwinds. These are sudden bursts of air that sink to the ground and flatten crops very quickly and in a spiral formation. Other experts from the United States blamed the formation of crop circles on the increasing use of circular irrigation. This form of irrigation leeches salt from the soil, thus making crops weaker and much more susceptible to strong winds.

Film crews in England even set up special infrared cameras in an attempt to capture the crop circle creators. The crew heard noises the entire night and just after firstlight found a small formation of crop patterns. But the special cameras failed to pick up a single frame of photographic evidence to reveal how the crop circles had been made.

Numerous other theories abound from the bizarre to the impossible: farm machinery gone amok, crop diseases, insect and bird infestations, overuse of chemicals, earthquakes, witchcraft, radio frequencies, secret military testing -- the list goes on. A cable television network even set out to prove once and for all that two men working all night could create an elaborate geometric shape by doing nothing more than following a field’s ley lines, walking softly, and using simple tools -- a few boards and a sturdy rope.

By far the most popular and favored theory is that crop circles are messages or contacts left by UFO’s or aliens visitors. Who these aliens are, why they leave such intricate messages and what they mean are yet to be unravelled. What is known is that hours before crop circles are discovered there are always increased reports of UFO sightings in the area.

Still other theorists believe that crop circles are a universal energy or “earth language”. Because formations are always parallel to ley-lines, magnetic grids, and in many cases, to ancient structures like Stonehenge, Glastonbury and other megalith sites, some scientists are convinced that the pictograms are a form of priming energy. As the pictograms begin to take shape, more energy flows from underground, which then activates each stalk of grain or grass to fall a certain way to form the intricate patterns and geometric shapes seen as crop circles. Some people have even claimed that they recognise the patterns, but usually cannot remember from where, suggesting again the theory of a “universal language”. And that in our past all humans were subconsciously linked to this greater, all-encompassing force.

Are crop circles alien messages, an elaborate hoax, or part of an ancient and forgotten language? After decades of study answers are elusive. For now, and possibly well into the future, the truth about crop circles remains an engaging mystery.