Circular logic

Bruce Van Dyke returns to the magic of crop circles

I experienced a squiggly feeling somewhere in my lower guts after re-reading last week’s somewhat wide-eyed gush about crop circles. When that region starts to squirmin', it means I’ve gone over the side and into the tank for a topic, momentarily abandoning the safe neighborhoods of Skeptical City in favor of the more wide-open and exposed realms of Suckerville. In other words, last week was another chapter of Gullible’s Travels.

My “cool down” came about after a sobering conversation with some folks who are convinced all crop circles are human-caused. One undeniable point was made: People very much want to believe that the circles are caused by something other than pranking humans. No argument on that front.

Further talk helped me figure out that I’m not pulling for crop circles to be the work of extraterrestrial beings, so much as I’m pulling for them to be interesting, real and a bona fide mystery. That realization did not, however, prevent me from walking away feeling a bit more scrutiny was called for on this whole caper.

But first, a clarification: The word “hoax,” when applied to the phenomenon of crop circles, implies that something here is fake. That’s inaccurate. These amazing designs in the fields of England are indeed real. Their existence is not disputable. Should it turn out they’re created by humans, as opposed to aliens or gnomes, it doesn’t mean that something “phony” is going on. Far from it. The humans then would become a terrific story on their own; how they made these complex and dazzling designs, and how they did so in the darkness of night for years and years without being detected. If, in the end, it turns out to be us after all, well, hell—so be it.

Simon Andrews is a well-known crop circle researcher. He’s been into it for 19 years, and wrote the first book on English circles, “Circular Evidence,” in 1989. What he says is sobering and intriguing.

Since 1980, at least 10,500 circles have been reported. Andrews says that most of these, about 80 percent, were indeed made by humans, which blows me away. Damn, we can be clever little sneaks when we really want to be. In fact, says Andrews, there is a group of pranksters in London called “the circle makers,” who have fessed up to making many elaborate designs in English fields, referring to their efforts as “experiential art.”

But that still leaves 20 percent of the circles with unexplained origins. These are the specimens that keep the researchers busy, and they’ve inspired a documentary, “Crop Circles: The Search for Truth,” which will be broadcast later this month. No aliens on the roof or creeping around in the attic in this one. The filmmaker, William Gazecki, thinks some of the circles are “real,” in the sense that they’re an “engaging wonder.”

Andrews isn’t sure what to think about them, but, hotshot new movies aside, he’s not real big on the UFO/alien stuff.