Crop circles are patterns created by the flattening of crops such as wheat, barley, rye, or corn. Since appearing in the media in the 1970s, crop circles have become the subject of various paranormal and fringe beliefs, ranging from the hypothesis that they are created by freak meteorological phenomena to the belief that they represent messages from extraterrestrials.
Other hypotheses, insufficient to explain myriad circles with clearly discernable images and complex geometric patterns, attribute them to atmospheric phenomena, such as freak tornadoes or ball lightning.
The location of many crop circles near ancient sites such as Stonehenge has led to many New Age belief systems incorporating crop circles, including the beliefs that they are formed in relation to ley lines and that they give off energy that can be detected through dowsing.
UFOs and other lights in the sky have been reported in connection with many crop-circle sites, leading to their becoming associated with UFOs and aliens. Some people claim to have seen images of UFOs forming crop circles or overflying them, though photographs have been dismissed by experts as being indistinct or clear hoaxes.
In 1991, two men from Southampton, England, announced that they had conceived the idea as a prank at a pub near Winchester, Hampshire, during an evening in 1976. Inspired by the 1966 Tully Saucer Nests, Doug Bower and Dave Chorley made their crop circles using planks, rope, hats and wire as their only tools. Using a four-foot-long plank attached to a rope, they easily created circles eight feet in diameter. The two men were able to make a 40-foot circle in 15 minutes.
Bower’s wife had become suspicious of him, noticing high levels of mileage in their car. Eventually, fearing that his wife suspected him of adultery, Bower confessed to her, and subsequently, he and Chorley informed a British national newspaper. Chorley died in 1996, and Doug Bower has made crop circles as recently as 2004. Bower has said that, had it not been for his wife’s suspicions, he would have taken the secret to his deathbed, never revealing that it was a hoax.