Crop circles, in 1678: Mow'd by Devil, Infernal Spirit? No Mortal Man's able to do the like; in 1880: by rainfall, by wind?
The earliest recorded image resembling a crop circle is depicted in an English woodcut pamphlet published in 1678 called the "Mowing-Devil". The image depicts a demon with a scythe mowing an oval design in a field of oats. The pamphlet's text reads as follows:
Being a True Relation of a Farmer, who Bargaining with a Poor Mower, about the Cutting down Three Half Acres of Oats, upon the Mower's asking too much, the Farmer swore "That the Devil should Mow it, rather than He." And so it fell out, that that very Night, the Crop of Oats shew'd as if it had been all of a Flame, but next Morning appear'd so neatly Mow'd by the Devil, or some Infernal Spirit, that no Mortal Man was able to do the like. Also, How the said Oats ly now in the Field, and the Owner has not Power to fetch them away.
A more recent historical report of crop circles was republished (29 July 1880) in the describes the 1880 investigations by amateur scientist John Rand Capron:
"The storms about this part of Western Surrey have been lately local and violent, and the effects produced in some instances curious. Visiting a neighbour's farm on Wednesday evening, we found a field of standing wheat considerably knocked about, not as an entirety, but in patches forming, as viewed from a distance, circular spots....I could not trace locally any circumstances accounting for the peculiar forms of the patches in the field, nor indicating whether it was wind or rain, or both combined, which had caused them, beyond the general evidence everywhere of heavy rainfall. They were suggestive to me of some cyclonic wind action,..."
In 1996, a circle appeared near Stonehenge, and the farmer set up a booth and charged a fee. He collected £30,000 in four weeks. The value of the crop had it been harvested was probably about £150.
Bower and Chorley claimed to have started the crop circle phenomenon in 1978 and were awarded an Ig Nobel Prize in 1992 for their crop circle hoaxing. 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 (12 m) circle in 15 minutes.
The pair became frustrated when their work did not receive significant publicity, so in 1981, they created a circle in Matterley Bowl, a natural amphitheatre just outside Winchester, Hampshire—an area surrounded by roads from which a clear view of the field is available to drivers passing by. Their designs were at first simple circles. When newspapers claimed that the circles could easily be explained by natural phenomena, Bower and Chorley made more complex patterns. A simple wire with a loop, hanging down from a cap—the loop positioned over one eye—could be used to focus on a landmark to aid in the creation of straight lines. Later designs of crop circles became increasingly complicated.
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.
Scientific American published an article by Matt Ridley, who started making crop circles in northern England in 1991. He wrote about how easy it is to develop techniques using simple tools that can easily fool later observers. He reported on "expert" sources such as the Wall Street Journal who had been easily fooled and mused about why people want to believe supernatural explanations for phenomena that are not yet explained. Methods to create a crop circle are now well documented on the Internet.
Gábor Takács and Róbert Dallos, both then 17, were the first people to be legally charged after creating a crop circle. Takács and Dallos, of the St. Stephen Agricultural Technicum, a high school in Hungary specializing in agriculture, created a 36-meter diameter crop circle in a wheat field near Székesfehérvár, 43 miles (69 km) southwest of Budapest, on June 8, 1992. On September 3, they appeared on a Hungarian TV show and exposed the circle as a hoax, showing photos of the field before and after the circle was made.
As a result, Aranykalász Co., the owners of the land, sued the youngsters for 630,000 HUF (approximately $3000 USD) in damages. The presiding judge ruled that the students were only responsible for the damage caused in the 36-meter diameter circle, amounting to about 6,000 HUF (approximately $30 USD), and that 99% of the damage to the crops was caused by the thousands of visitors that flocked to Székesfehérvár following the media's promotion of the circle. The fine was eventually paid by the TV show, as were the students' legal fees.
Photos courtesy of Wikipedia, provokator.org, whispy.com, bluebirdsaresonatural.wordpress.com, ufo-reports.com, soulsofdistortion.nl, and PIN
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