Since the eighteenth century, the world has been fascinated by the nocturnal phenomenon of crop circles – strange, inexplicable patterns appearing in farmer’s fields overnight. Explanations for these occurrences have included everything from cyclonic wind action to alien interference.
In the 1970s, these circles became more prominent in the media and the patterns began changing from basic circles to more complex and obscure patterns. For instance, a 200 foot replica of the face of the Japanese cartoon character Hello Kitty was pressed into a field in Wiltshire, England in 2004.
This rather commercialized crop circle is not the result of alien involvement, but of John Lundberg and the circlemakers.
The circlemakers are a group of cereologists, or crop-circle scientists, who plot and craft crop circles in farmer’s fields all over the world. By using carefully plotted blueprints and simple materials like wooden planks and rope, the circlemakers are able to bend, not break, the stalks of the crops and form complex and intricate patterns which were formerly believed to be impossible to create by human means.
The circlemakers group was founded by Lundberg in the early 1990s. They began by covertly creating crop circles to emulate the elaborate hoaxes of earlier decades, but eventually word got out. They became infamous for their subtle methods and intricate designs, and eventually the group was approached by companies who wanted circles made for them, either for television and movies spots or for publicity stunts and advertising. Over the years, the group has crafted circles for companies such as Red Bull, Shredded Wheat, and NBC-TV.
The circlemakers’ activities were inspired by the efforts of Doug Bower and Dave Chorley, who began circlemaking as a prank thought up in a pub in 1976. They began with simple circles, but when newspaper articles began doubting the circles’ supernatural origins, the pair began making more complex patterns. For years, the duo covertly made circles without taking any credit for their work.
The ruse might have gone on, had Bower’s wife not grown suspicious of the high mileage in his car. Bower became concerned his wife suspected he was having an affair, and he confessed what he and Chorley had been up to. Shortly thereafter, the circle-crafting duo informed a local newspaper of their activities. Chorley died in 1996, but Bower has been making crop circles as recently as 2004 and continues to inspire other circlemakers to greater mischief and more ambitious experiments.
The circlemakers operate out of England, but their work can be found in a wide variety of locations across Europe and the United States. For instance, a 2006 campaign, which was sponsored by Microsoft to promote the release of the Xbox 360, resulted in three identical crop circles across the United States. Two were printed into beaches on the California and Florida coastlines, while the third was mowed into a grassy field in Oklahoma.
The circlemakers maintain a website to showcase their escapades and provide information about their activities. The website boasts details about the group’s history, as well as photographs of their works and a beginner’s guide to becoming a circlemaker.
While the circlemakers may be demystifying one of the world’s oldest mysteries, they are simultaneously developing a unique and competitive new art form which is always pushing itself to new levels of complexity and madness.