Circle Time!

Those alien creatures who fashionably flatten fields are back at work. Hooray!

It’s the midst of the January doldrums, there’s more snow on the way (another four to eight inches!?!), and the Eagles aren’t in the Super Bowl, again. But you know what? Nothing can get me down, because crop circles are in the news once more. This time the big O is in Indonesia, in a rice paddy, and enterprising villagers are charging an admission fee to see the 70-yard-wide beauty.

I love crop circles. More than 10,000 of them have sprung up in 26 countries in recent decades—the vast majority in southern England, which is fitting, since the earliest known reference to the phenomenon is the English “Mowing Devil” pamphlet from 1678. But it wasn’t until the 1970s that crop circles really took off. (Great short slideshow of favorites here.) Supposedly the intricate geometric patterns were too perfect to have been created by humans, giving rise to speculation (it was the ’70s) about aliens and UFOs. But eventually two Englishmen copped to the majority of the local croppings, and demonstrated their ability to pull off a handsome sample in just an hour.

Nowadays, an artists’ collective called the Circlemakers still practices the art in England and around the world, and lately crop circles have (Boo! Hiss!) been created as advertising campaigns. Naturally, lawyers have gotten in on the action, filing suits against circle-making pranksters for damage to farmers’ fields. Also naturally, New Agers continue to insist on supernatural explanations, including the confounding “Gaia hypothesis,” which claims the Earth is alive and the crop circles are “her” messages/warnings to humanity.

Phooey on you all. I love crop circles because they’re proof of the human need to occasionally wreak a little harmless havoc—to sneak out in the dead of night with ropes and ladders and pipes and garden rollers and mess with people’s minds just for the hell of it. And so we have these phenomenal flowers that bloom in the midst of winter. Got a hankering to make your own crop circle come summer? Easy directions here, all the way at the end.