Crop circles are patterns in fields, formed by the bending of the crop, which appear under mysterious circumstances, usually overnight and without an obvious cause or explanation. The majority of these circles (90 percent) appears in England, in particular in the southern counties of Wiltshire and Hampshire. Other circles have been found in 26 countries around the world, including the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, India and several countries in Europe.
There are several theories as the origin of these mysterious circles:
The scientific community, as well as many laypersons, believe that crop circles are caused by humans as pranks, for fun, as a form of art, in an attempt to confound the scientific community or in homage to ancient cultures. One famous pair of hoaxers are Doug Bower and Dave Chorley, who admitted they made hundreds of crop circles between 1978 and 1991, and who may have inspired other pranksters to follow in their footsteps.
The most popular theory in the non-scientific community is that crop circles are the work of extraterrestrials. Those who support this theory believe the circles are marks of UFO landings or messages from aliens which have yet to be interpreted. Proponents of the extraterrestrial theory of the crop circle phenomenon cite eye-witness reports of strange lights and noises, as well as strange physical sensations when near crop circles, as evidence of "Space Brothers" activity.
Meteorological events, in particular dust devils - wind vortices - are another possible cause of crop circles. Proponents of this theory say the hilly conditions in areas were crop circles are frequently found in the south of England can cause these types of winds. Further, Dr. Terence Meaden believes dust particles in the highly charged air may appear to glow, which would explain the mysterious lights sometimes associated with crop circles.
Electromagnetic radiation is another possible theory behind the creation of crop circles. Other possible sources of the "energy" might be a fungus, or something manmade - a long-buried structure, unexploded bomb or chemical wastes.
In the 1990s, studies showed the crops in crop circles appeared as if they had been heated in a microwave oven. There are claims the soil within some circles had been altered, and no longer resembled the surrounding soil composition. Scientists studying crop circles have found strong magnetic fields, which would explain the strange physical sensations experienced by some crop circle tourists.
New Age explanations
Because the vast majority of crop circles is found near ancient sites such as Stonehenge or Avebury, or ancient burial mounds, some believe that crop circles are messages to humans from ancient ancestors, Gaia or God, perhaps warnings to stop polluting the environment or to stop global warming. Some believe that crop circles are tied to ley lines - ancient mystical energy lines that criss-cross the planet.
Looking at photos of various crop circles, it is hard to believe natural phenomena created any of them - the intricate designs and precise lines seem to indicate the act of an intelligent entity. However, whether that entity is human artist, alien prankster or divine messenger will continue to be a subject of some debate until definite proof can be obtained.