Crop circles are geometric patterns depressed into fields of tall stalks such as wheat, corn, and barley. A lot of people believe that these came from extraterrestrials. More likely, they came from Home Depot.
It was 1976. Led Zeppelin was showing the world how to rock. Apple opens its doors, paving the way for pretentious assholes in a new millennium. And the Viking project lands on Mars, taking the first color photos of the surface of the Red Planet. We like to think that last one was partially responsible for inspiring Doug Bowler and David Chorley to make a series of crop circles as a practical joke, but we'd be lying.
Regardless, Bowler and Chorley spent a couple of years doing this as a hobby before it garnered national attention through the UK. It was considered an unexplainable phenomenon and people were seriously intrigued by what could be causing these patterns. Apparently, no one at any point thought of two guys with a board of wood and some rope stomping down crops just to fuck with us. When scientists said it could possibly be an anomalous weather phenomenon, Bowler and Chorley made even more complex patterns.
Eventually, crop circles started appearing not only in Southamptom where the pair began their little foray into curiously inexplicable pranks, but in North America and continental Europe. The patterns continued to get more and more elaborate as time went on, leading some to believe they could see hidden messages in the geometry.
After 15 years of this nonsense, Bower confessed to his wife that he and his buddy Dave were responsible for many of the circles. Apparently, she noticed unusually high mileage on their car, and he thought she suspected him of having an affair. Ask yourself though... would it be more humiliating to confess to an affair, or confess to getting drunk with a friend every weekend and stomping on someone's corn?
The cat was out of the bag at that point. Feeling the joke had run its course, Bower and Chorley went to the newspapers to tell their story. At least they had the balls to do it themselves instead of waiting for their grandkids to confess to the whole thing like with Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster. By now, the whole thing was pretty ingrained into the collective pop culture unconscious, so the public reacted in the way one might expect.
Unfortunately, as is often the case with reality, the truth just wasn't a very sexy answer, so the public were split between ignoring Bower and Chorley and following their example. More on the second later.
The logic of the UFOlogists (we swear to god this is actually what they call themselves) was that Bower and Chorley couldn't have possibly done all of the crop circles across the world in those 20 years. Or indeed all of the ones after that. So if it wasn't these two that did it, it must be aliens!
Things only got worse when the granola chomping, pyramid worshipping, beaded headband wearing New Age movement hopped on the bandwagon. As if the theories weren't nutshit enough as it is, the New Agers decided that crop circles were instructions to find ley lines or something like that. To be honest, it's difficult to discern what exactly they're trying to tell you at any given moment. Whatever the case, they started trying to use dowsing rods around crop circles and draw connections between the geometry of certain circles and landmarks such as Stonehenge that act as a magnet for hippies and people who think Elvis isn't dead.
And it only gets worse. You recall we mentioned people following Bower and Chorley's example? Turns out a bunch of people wanted in on the act. Because if there's one thing conspiracy theorists are good at, it's tricking one another out of their money.
As you might expect, numerous people faked crop circles and came forward as the hoaxers later. But a few not only faked the crop circles, but also falsified evidence of UFOs for the sake of saying they had evidence. You're probably thinking, "So what, that's just crazies tricking crazies." If only it were that easy.
Circlemakers.org is a legit company that makes crop circles for commercial purposes. They make them for advertising, events, movies, PR stunts... If for any conceivable reason you would like to hire a guy to squash some wheat so that it looks like your logo from a plane, these are the guys you hire to do it! This service exists!
Where it gets funny is that a number of self-proclaimed experts in alien studies have said that certain crop circles are just too perfect to fake. A lot of these were actually imprints from Circlemakers. That the dudes actually filmed themselves making. The paranormal theories are being crushed under one of the world's most bizarre enterprises.
Like all good modern myths, conspiracy theories, and lunatic fringe beliefs, the people who continue to hang onto it do so almost purely out of faith and/or sheer, determined douchebaggery. Science has spent a lot of time and effort over the last decade or so to call this phenomenon on its crap.
In 2002, Scientific American published an article by a man named Matt Ripley who dsecribed how he'd been making crop circles in his spare time since 1991 and that it was damned easy to do on top of that!
In 1999, Andrew Collins did a two-year-long study on crop circle hoaxing and determined that 80% of them were very obviously manmade. We're going to guess that the other 20% were made by dogs. Why? Because it probably makes more sense than this alien crap. You know how dogs spin around before they lie down to flatten the grass they're using as bedding? There you go! We just demonstrated more logic than UFOlogists.
In 1997, Carl Sagan weighed in on the issue, saying that crop circles were bullshit because there was no proof that aliens made them. Not one shred of evidence compared to the hundreds of cases where hoaxers were either caught or stepped forward to admit to it. Even Bower and Chorley spoke up to say they totally agreed with Sagan. Of course, they might have just been afraid that he would use his super-mutant intelligence to fry their brains from the inside out or something.
Seriously, he's not throwing that ball. That's telekinesis.