Doug Bower interviewed in 2002
Interviewer: Why did you make circles?
Bower: Well, actually we lived in Australia from 1958 to ‘66, which was eight and a half years, and me always being interested in outer space and er, UFOs and things, erm, I saw an article in the Australian newspaper one day, about some circles in some reed beds or grass in Tully in Queensland. And, after reading it of course I forgot all about it, but when I returned home in ‘66, I met David Chorley, and he was also an artist, so we had a common interest there. And for the next few years, we used to go out on our Friday evenings, to have a drink in the pub and talk about paintings.
And one day when we were walking on, er, Cheesefoot Head near Winchester one summer evening, in the midst of the cornfields, we sat down there, and, trying to get a bit of inspiration from leaflets and paintings, and I suddenly remembered this article that I read while in Australia. And I told him about it and I said [it would] be quite a good bit of fun if we could devise some kind of way of making a circular mark in the cornfields here, and sort of arouse a bit of interest. People would think that a UFO had landed during the night, when they discovered it the next morning.
So, after returning home to my workshop I sort of thought quite a bit the next day, as to what we could use to make this circle. So we started off by using my big heavy security bar that was on my workshop door, and out first few circles were made on our hands and knees with this security bar. We were kneeling down side by side, and my goodness, it was certainly hard work. But it was quite good fun because you were down below the height of the corn, and if a car was coming down the road and the headlights were surging towards you we used just to say, ‘Down we go’, and just wait for it to pass. And,err....
But for the first two years, our circles were not seen at all, except I suppose by the driver of the combine harvester, because we were doing them in fields that were... the public couldn't see them from the roads. The ideal place of course would have been the Punchbowl at Cheesefoot Head, but at that time, there were sheep in there and I don't think it had ever been ploughed for crops, until about the third year, my wife and I drove up past there one Sunday afternoon, and they were ploughing the Punchbowl, and I thought to myself I must go back to Southampton to find Dave Chorley, and tell him that the ideal spot for doing a circle was now under crops. So we patiently waited until the spring to see the first corn arrive, and we knew that this would be the ideal spot to do our circles. And our first circle in the Punchbowl at, er, I mean, it was on the news the next evening, which pleased us quite a lot. And of course the other place which was ideal for the public to view them was the White Horse at Westbury, and Cley Hill, which we did quite a few there as well.
It was all a bit of fun, really, yes. And, being circular, and UFOs were circular, we just wanted people to imagine... just to believe the next morning, that my god, something’s landed here during the night, and the fact that it was circular, they would immediately think that it was a UFO, because flying saucers were circular, you see. There’s no good doing a square or a triangle or anything like that, because they wouldn’t cotton on to anything from outer space.
And, as I say, once the news broke, it gave us quite a fillip, you see, to carry on. Because Dave Chorley said to me one day, he says, ‘I’ve had enough of this,’ he said, ‘I’m not going to keep on doing this.’ He said, ‘Every week,’ he said, ‘we're getting nowhere with this, we're getting no publicity,’ and I said, ‘you just hang on a minute,’ I said, ‘and especially when the Punchbowl's ploughed, now that we can get down in there,’ and of course, lo-and-behold, it was on the television news the next night, and the news was rapidly spreading around that something was making these circular marks in the cornfields. And of course you know the story from then on. It just grew and grew, and of course the more publicity we got with the media and newspapers and things, it egged us on even more.
So, the circles continued, as circles, for quite a while, but, erm, Dr Terence Meaden, who is a very clever man as far as weather is concerned, he really got [irritated] us, because he was saying it was, er, wind vortices, you see, and we didn't like that. So we had to change from circles into something else.
Well, we were so secretive about all this, and we realised, when we started this, that no one, no one must know, what we were doing. Otherwise it was going to spoil everything completely. And then we said to each other, ‘well, what about our wives?’ and I said, ‘well, the fact that we go out every Friday evening, they won't be any the wiser, because that was our usual thing, is to go out Friday evenings for a pint of beer. But it was seven years before my wife really found out about this, and she came to me one day and she said, erm, ‘This car needs servicing quite a lot,’ she says, ‘with the enormous amount of miles that you're doing.’ She said, erm, ‘I'd like to know where you're going in these evenings.’
And I said, er, ‘Well,’ I said, ‘we are journeying around the countryside quite a bit,’ and she wasn't very satisfied with this, so I had no alternative but to hand her the huge album of all the press cuttings, the publicity lovers that we were, and show her.
And she said, ‘Well this doesn't mean a thing to me, really,’ she says, ‘I know all about the circles,’ she says, ‘but you're telling me that you and David are doing them...’ She said, ‘There's only one way to prove it,’ she says, ‘that’s to take me out one night and tell me what you're going to do,’ which we did, and then, it was proved.
But of course it was nice then, because once she knew, although we were only going out Fridays and perhaps another night, once she knew about this, we could go out Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and we were doing more - that's when the circles started to increase, because up until then, we couldn't do many circles, because we were only allowed out, so to speak, on Fridays nights, and someone even made a remark, I don’t know whether it was Pat Delgado or not, but he said, ‘It’s very, very strange that these circles only seem to appear Saturday mornings.’ And of course [laughs], that was quite true you see, because it was Friday nights that we started doing the circles. But once our wives knew about it, then the circles increased because we were out more nights then than the Friday night.
You must remember that our circles were quite small compared to what's happening today, and, erm, although we were treading down a lot of farmers' corn, we knew what we were doing as far as a bit of vandalism was concerned, but the bit of fun that we got out of it, out of the small circles that we were creating, erm, we didn't seem to mind that very much, and, erm, as I say, I wouldn’t, er, I would never dream of doing 700 hundred, 800 hundred or 1000-foot long patterns and things in fields really, because, I mean, after all, it is a form of vandal - well, it is vandalism isn't it?
As the years rolled by, it was getting more and more difficult and, erm, for instance, in the early days, you could back your car into the farmer's field, in his gateway, pop out, do the circle, get back in the car again and have a cup of coffee, and still stay where you were all the time. But nowadays, the last few years, it would be impossible for you to leave a car, an empty car, if a police car came by now and saw an empty car at one o'clock in the morning they would certainly stop, and go back [to investigate] but in those early days, no one seemed to take any notice at all.
The money side of it doesn't really come into, or never has come into it really, because it was the laughs and the fun that we had at night. We were aware of it, after a while, jewelry being made, and tapestry wall hangings and all the rest of it, but, erm, as far as we were concerned, we were just having a laugh from it. But there was no way, really, that we could make money out of it.
Doug's wife, Ilene, interjects: No, but we were angry, that people were using it, as a means of making money out of more gullible people. They were forming associations, they were doing, as you [Doug] said, making jewelry, posters, T-shirts, all this sort of thing. They were using your creations, and people's gullibility, to make money for themselves.
Doug Replies: Well, they still are, even today.
Ilene responds: Yes, I know!
Doug Bower resumes: Er, I had a good laugh at some of the things that they said, I mean, for instance, if you see people laying on their backs in a circle, joining hands, and doing a dance around, to me that was incredibly funny when I first heard of it, but after a while, I got to a different way of thinking, and I thought to myself, well if this is what they want to make of it, it’s entirely up to them. I can’t understand why it got so big, but I can see now that it's more or less uncontrollable, because these people are going to do exactly what they want, and if they get pleasure from it, OK.
Interviewer: Have you had [threatening] phone calls, or letters?
Bower: Well, we were very surprised that we did receive two letters, from a group called The Black Watch, and [they] said that we had to stop making circles in cornfields, and erm, it did worry us quite a bit because the way you’ve got to look at this is that, if anything happened to us in any form, then the suspicions would then go to the people that sent these letters.
[Of] course, I'm a wildlife sound recordist, and have been for about 15-20 years now, and I'm out most nights, recording the sounds of deer, and mammals and birds, and all this sort of thing, and when I went to the meeting at the Guildhall in Winchester one evening [a public event held in July 1991], which was [on] the subject of crop circles, they brought up this business about the grasshopper warbler, the sound that they’d heard up on Cheesefoot Head near Winchester, and I knew immediately what this was, because I'd already recorded this bird, several years before. And this bird also sings at night, and when it came to question time after the meeting, I walked up to the stage and I spoke to Busty Taylor, who happened to be there, and the other people as well [including George Wingfield, who recalled the exchange], and I said, ‘The noise that you heard that night, was a grasshopper warbler,’ because I'm a sound recordist and I knew what it was. And, erm, they did everything but almost threw me out of the Guildhall!
But of course, there again, you see, I think the more you can add to this phenomenon, the more interest you’re going to get worldwide from audiences. You can say that you’ve got damage to your lenses of your camera and you got marks... I mean if you take... get away from the circle business a minute, people that have their films developed every week of the year, they have marks and things on their film, which was, er, which is more or less [something which] can't be explained, but the fact that these people get some marks on them when they’re photographing crop circles, they try to marry the two together. So, quite honestly, I think it is all imagination, and it’s just to make things sound a little bit more important than they are.
There was one strange happening one night, when we were doing a pictogram on top of Telegraph Hill, and, er, Dave was over one side of the pattern, doing his little bit, and I was doing mine, and suddenly I was knocked unconscious, and, erm... only for a short time of course. Something hit me on the head and, er. I immediately thought that the farmer or the farm workers were approaching us and they’d thrown a stone at me or something, but anyway, the next thing I knew David was kneeling over me and he’s saying ‘What's the matter?’, you know, ‘What's the trouble?’ And I said, ‘I don't really know,’ I said, ‘something’s hit me on the head.’ He said, ‘Well there's nobody about,’ But, er, then I started feeling what I though was blood running all down the back of my neck, and all my hair was full of blood, but of course we didn't know that it was blood because we had no torches - we couldn't use torches of course, because otherwise we’d be seen. And Dave says, ‘I think we'd better get back to the car.’ I said, ‘No, we must finish the pattern,’ [laughs], ‘we can't leave it half finished’.
But, er, anyway, I came-to quite well after a bit and we had about three quarters of a mile journey back to the car, and, erm, I said, ‘Well, we can't see what it is,’ I said, ‘until we get back to the car park and switch the headlights on.’ And anyway, when we got back to the car and switched the lights on, ‘My god,’ he says, ‘what a mess your head's in!’ I was covered in green, like green slime, and er... plenty of other things intermixed with it, and erm, I said, ‘Well, we’ll we get off home now,’ but of course when I reached home, I opened the door, and I had to call to my wife, and I said, ‘Don't be alarmed when you see me,’ I said, ‘but, erm, I've got some nasty stuff,’ I said, ‘all over my head.’
And anyway, she had a look at it and my god! It was really terrible, but, what had happened, er, it was a chunk of ice had fallen from an aircraft that was going over, and, er, how on earth - the millions of chances to one of it hitting me on the head, I don't know, but as it was a warm evening, by the time it hit me, it was just a soft piece of sludge, but it was just enough to knock me out for a minute or two, and of course, the air people from Heathrow completely deny anything falling from aircraft, but as you know, that there's plenty of reports since, of lumps of ice falling through people's roofs, and into their living rooms. But thank God it was only just a small soft piece that hit me that night.
Interviewer: And it was, of course, the chemical toilet waste [that hit you].
Bower: Yes it was, yes, yes.
[Speaking of modern, complex formations] Well, although I’m an artist myself, it's a totally different art to what we created in the fields. As I say, the fact that it [the shape of his initial formations] was circular to start with, and UFOs were circular, that was the whole idea behind it, and it's what’s come of it as the years have gone by. But, erm, the recognition that we’ve had, I suppose we’ve left our mark, and sadly, my friend Dave Chorley has passed away now, he’s creating circles up in the sky...
[A recording of David Chorley and Doug Bower is cut into the video here. This was filmed on September 9, 1991, by a news crew, and the transcript is given elsewhere on this site. There is no point in repeating it here.]
...but, er, I'm still here. I'm not creating circles anymore, I'm retired now [sarcastically] ha ha, and, erm, [laughs] you can believe that or not, but, erm, as an artist, I create watercolours and oil paintings, and also in the fields - it's the largest canvas that we ever had, and, as I say, it pleases me to think that it's given pleasure to a lot of people.
Well, I was hoping to be knighted one day by the Queen, but I can't really see that happening because I suppose the National Farmers’ Union would create a bit of a fuss then, but, er, never mind! Sir Doug, he'll carry on as long as he can, and taking an interest in what other people are doing.
Well, time and time again I've told people how these, er, lots of people say, ‘how on earth could these two men create circles all round the world?’ Well, the answer to that is very simple. Because I've said it to the end of times, but no one seems to take any notice of what I say - not that they want to anyway - but let's take for instance, If we did a circle up on Cheesefoot Head near Winchester of an evening, we would go up [there] the next evening to have a look at out handiwork, and there would be anything up to 50 to 100 people up there, viewing it, which pleased us no end, and of course we would then rub shoulders with them and they would be from all different parts of the world on holiday, there would be people from Canada, America, Germany, France, and we used to get into conversation with these people, and, erm, they used to say to us, ‘When we get home from holiday, we're going to do a circle or two.’ And there you are - they’d gone back to America, they’d gone back to Canada, Germany, likewise Japan, and they’re treading around [making circles] just the same as we did, and there you have the circles in all parts of the world. Not from Doug and Dave, but from the people that came over here on holiday, viewing the circles that we made, and then they’re having a go themselves. They're still doing it today, aren't they?
Yes, er, when we used to go up to view what we’d done the night before, as I say, the only people that we knew were researching this was Pat Delgado, Colin Andrews, Busty Taylor, who was flying over, and Richard Andrews, and we used to get into conversation with these, and I mean, they must know even to this day that we were frequenting up there and talking with them all the time. And I always remember one Wednesday afternoon at Longstock, I took my wife up to Longstock to have a look at the circle that we'd made previous, and, erm, I met Colin Andrews up there and he said there was some connection between a bit of a rubbish dump there and the circle that was out in the field, and he gave me his business card, and he said, ‘If you hear of any circles roundabout,’ he said, erm, ‘perhaps you could let me know.’ I said, ‘Yes, I will.’ ’Cos I travel round quite a bit because I'm a wildlife sound recordist, and of course, Dave and I used to do a circle one evening and then ring him up the next morning and said, er, ‘Oh, Colin, there's a circle in such-and-such,’ and he used to say, ‘Oh, thanks very much, thanks for the information,’ [Laughs] which made it all the fun...
Well, this is a little bit of a mystery attached to this. Although we’ve had a lot of fun out of making the circles over the years, when we started reading reports that some of our designs and patterns that we were creating had a connection with the Hopi Indians in America, er... Mongolia, Aborigine tribes, cave paintings, etcetera, and what mystifies me most of all is, where is the connection of this? Erm, why is it that I could sit down and in half an hour create a pattern on a piece of paper, it was just as if my hand was being forced round with the pen, to do this pattern. Erm, I don't know where it came from, but then you read afterwards in newspapers and magazines that it seems that there’s a connection between what I drew that evening and what we were going to create in the fields, with the Hopi Indians and the Aborigine people, and, erm, it seems to me that it could be a connection between languages. But, erm, that mystifies me very much, because it makes me feel as if there is something, unknown to us, that we know we've no knowledge of at all.
Well, looking back at it all now, after all these years, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’ll never end. I'm rather pleased that thousands of people have found an interest and an enjoyment from it. I hope no one ever gets caught doing it - we had some narrow squeaks. But I appreciate the fact that that lots of people are more or less depending on this now, for their interest. I suppose, really, it's a kind of religion, but I've got nothing against these people and what they've made of it. The people that... er, the bit that gets me [cross] most of all, I think, is the so-called experts. Erm, what they’ve built themselves up as, what they say it is. They seem to know it all, the media goes to these people [for expert opinion], but the people that find some enjoyment and pleasure from it, they’re the people that I think are getting something from it and I hope it continues that way. But I don't think it’ll ever end, it’ll never end, it will go on forever.