3.1 Were crop circles invented in 1978?
If there is a single, over-riding part of the D&D story which needs to be assessed, it is the idea that they actually invented crop circles. Even if one wishes to believe the rest of their story, this particular issue stands out as the most significant – probably in the history of the subject. Let’s have a closer look...
What D&D actually claim
Did D&D really claim to have invented crop circles? Yes they did, but they were slightly coy about it. However, due to the good number of interviews we have available, we can put the pieces together. In the Today report, the claim is that: “We started it in this country in 1978” (10.09.91); and that “We invented the thing in this country 13 years ago” (ibid).
Note well the use of the term, “in this country”. This implies that there was an extant crop circle phenomenon overseas prior to 1978, and that D&D, far from inventing it, merely brought it over to England. Bower continued to qualify his story with this (albeit ambiguously phrased) specification, for example on Dutch television in 1991: “The first night we ever did it... in a place called the Strawberry field... that was the first one ever in England” (my emphasis).
During the interview conducted by Clas Svahn a year later. Bower is on record as stating: “We started the actual circle phenomenon in 1978... there’s no such thing as a genuine crop circle.”
So according to their story, D&D instigated the crop circle phenomenon when they began work in 1978, and we can further pin down the origins of crop circles to a specific location close to Andover, as given in the Today exposé and elsewhere:
If this is true, then the will be no evidence of crop circles prior to 1978. But of course, we know that there is plenty of evidence prior to that date. Immediately following the appearance of D&D on the scene in 1991, several critics of the pair pointed this out, and if Bower had leafed through the back pages of Circular Evidence he would have found textual descriptions of a few of them. Enough for him not to ignore completely, anyway.
Bower in fact conceded (on Dutch TV) that there were earlier markings similar to crop circles, but claimed that they were all “storm damage”. What he actually knew of them is impossible to say, but we do know that circles researcher Paul Fuller met him in 1992, as reported in Crop Watcher magazine (issue 16, p14) and showed him evidence of some circles which pre-date 1978. Bower was not familiar with this historical evidence, and as Fuller recounted: “I have shown Doug three pre-1978 photographs I have of crop circle events (Wokurna, Bordertown and Rossburn) and Doug had to admit he was both curious and surprised... Doug was totally unfamiliar with this evidence.”
Here are two of the images which Fuller placed in front of Bower in 1992 - both of these circles are from 1973:
When Clas Svahn interviewed him, Bower referenced the older cases, and this time seemed to accept that evidence of pre-1978 circles existed. He said: “There’s plenty of [old] circles that look like circles, but they're storm damage, the wind and the rain create those that looked like circles. Even today there’s been a lot of damage in the past few weeks with the heavy rain, and a lot of them look like circles, but they’re not clean cut [like] what we were producing, and [in our circles] the walls of the corn are perfectly straight all the way round you see, but a whirlwind doesn’t act like that, it’s ragged edges and rough.”
Subsequently, he spoke more about earlier cases, claiming that Tully 1966 (and others) were distinct from familiar crop circles by being “dish shaped”, and claimed they had “slanted edges” (as said at the public meetings with Ken Brown in 1993).
So - is there convincing evidence of crop circles as we know them, prior to 1978? Let's have a look...
Crop circles before 1978
The creator of this website, Terry Wilson, has published a book and separate site detailing many of the historical cases which pre-date D&D. The website OLD CROP CIRCLES contains voluminous documentary and photographic evidence from the UK and around the world. Below is a light sprinkling of the data on record:
Another report is published, along with a photograph, of rings in a crop field, one of which is described by the witness as consisting of, "a circle in which the barley was 'lodged' or beaten down".
This is probably the earliest photograph in existence (click here for more information on the case).
As with the circles of 1880, this case was reported in a recognised journal, in this case New Scientist. The report is from a visitor (as it happens, the well-known figure, Patrick Moore), who reports first-hand, "circular or elliptical areas in which the wheat had been flattened". They are described as "very well defined" and exhibited "spiral flattening".
(click here for more information)
There are several cases known from 1966, and one of them - Tully - was supposedly heard about by Bower when it happened, and inspired him a dozen years later to invent crop circles. He claimed the Tully saucer nests were hoaxed "by farmers" as a prank, although he gave no sources for this new information. (The circles were swirled in reeds growing in water.)
The photograph, right, is one he almost certainly had no knowledge of. It shows a flattened, swirled circle in plants which are growing on firm ground.
There are several well-documented circles from the first half of the 1970s. The image, right, is of one which appeared in Australia after Doug had left, and shows the floor detail. A swirl is clearly evident, and the crop stems are pressed firmly to the ground.
Amazingly, this was just one of seven circles which appeared in the same field!
(Click here for more images and information.)
These half-dozen examples are picked from a body of cases numbering literally hundreds prior to 1978. They cover the whole world, and although the strength of the evidence varies from case to case, they all tend towards an undeniable realisation that crop circles are far from a recent "invention".
But if we are correct, and crop circles have been appearing regularly before 1978, wouldn't country folk and farmers have known all about them? Of course they would, and in fact, if one bothers to research the matter, there is copious evidence in this respect as well. Below is another smattering, this time of testimony from rural people whose reports have surfaced in various places over the years - again, voluminous documentation of crop circles before D&D:
So why, if this is the case, were crop circles not being reported and discussed, if they really had been appearing in so many places, and for so long? Why did no-one know about them? Why was there no media coverage?
And here is the front page of an entire magazine article about them, published abroad in 1979, just after D&D supposedly invented them solely in the UK, with no media coverage!! The article is called "The Ring Phenomenon" - note, the term 'crop circle' was only coined in the 1980s, but this paper discusses an effect which, it says, usually consists of "a circular, swirled area in a grain or wheat field" - obviously the same phenomenon. (Click the image to read the full article.)
But again, we have to raise further questions. After all, if the circles were appearing so often before 1978, why do they not show up on historical aerial photographs of the landscape? The answer is that they do!! Research by Greg Jefferys in particular has demonstrated that the best aerial photos from bygone eras show a good number of markings which - although we cannot prove it - appear to show crop circles. Here are a few of them:
All of these photos are all from the 1940s. Top-left is a field in Surrey, England; Top-right is a field in Halesowen, in the Midlands; bottom-left is a field in Warwickshire; and finally, bottom-right (which has not been authenticated by Jefferys) is a circle discovered by myself in a field in Germany. None of these circles is present on any later images of the same locations.
But are they crop circles? They might be - but there is almost certainly never going to be sharp aerial imagery from this era to categorically prove it. The best of the images available is the circle top-left, at Great Bookham in Surrey. It appeared some time between 1945 and 1950, and when we zoom in, details of the circle emerge:
There are several details to note.
Taken as a whole, the evidence of older crop circles is overwhelming - close-up ground shots and detailed site reports, anecdotal evidence from farming communities, media coverage, evidence on aerial photography - the only issue which remains to be addressed is Doug Bower's contention that the markings extant before 1978 show "dish-shaped" depressions caused by storms and rain, as distinct from the other effects we know as "crop circles".
We can settle this easily by looking at the evidence - evidence which Bower presumably knew nothing about. Below-left is a rare shot of one of the Tully circles of 1966. This photograph has never, to my knowledge, been reproduced in crop circle books and magazines (although others from the same event have). And below-right is a newspaper photograph from the 1970s. Do these images show sharp edges, or "dish-shaped" damage which we can be certain was caused by storms?
When Bower differentiates between old "storm damage" and the crop circles he claims to have invented in 1978, he is essentially asserting that there are two species of circles. These, he says, can be identified by the nature of the circle edges - although it is unclear what research he is relying on. So, we conclude by looking at two more photos - one from the UK in 1987, and another from Canada in 1991. Note the lack of sharp edges, and the slanting sides. So the question is - are these crop circles as we know them, or are they some other unknown effect, known to be caused by "the wind and the rain"?
The fact is that the circle sides are merely one component of a crop circle's anatomy, and tend to be determined by the nature of the crop itself. There is no logical, evidence-based reason to divide circles into two independent categories, based on the appearance of the edges, as Doug would have us do. Neither is it viable to assert that there were no sharp-edged circles anywhere in the world before 1978.
And so here we let the matter rest. It is up to impartial readers to decide whether to accept the substantial evidence of pre-1978 circles, of the same type we have seen in the many years since - or accept the assurance of one man that they don't exist.
Chorley: The first night we ever did it ... that was the first one, don’t matter what people say, about going through the years, they’ve seen them 1940, that was the first one ever in England. The rest were storm damage. (Interview on Dutch television, 1991)
I beg to differ - it does matter what people say, and significantly, what evidence they can present!