How do they make those incredibly intricate crop circles?

Let me state up front that I have no doubt whatseover that crop circles are entirely the product of man’s ingenuity. No aliens, no “plasma vortices,” or what have you. And I know it has been demonstrated how crop circles can be created by a bunch of people stomping around in a field with boards attached to ropes.

What I can’t figure out, though, is how these hoaxers are making some of the incredibly complex (not to mention large) crop circles that have been appearing in recent years, some of which can be seen on the following pages:

I mean, I can imagine a bunch of people making a single circle under the cover of darkness, but some of these things contain hundreds of linked circles in intricate, geometrically precise patterns. I could see one of these monstrosities being created over a period of weeks, in the daylight, with hundreds of people using modern surveying equipment, but how in the world do these things get done in the space of a few hours? And at night?

Or am I making too many assumptions here? Is it possible that these incredibly complex creations actually ARE made over a period of weeks, only to be suddenly “discovered” by the farmer (who is in on the joke from the beginning)?




From what I understand, the more complex patterns are sketched out beforehand, usually on a grid, so it’s not all that tough.

I saw a show on Discovery? It was done in one night with big boards, so basically a single person could stomp out a 15’ wide path if he wanted to. They synched up paths using GPS.

Well, yes, I assumed they planned it out all carefully ahead of time. Having it all mapped out on paper and actually stomping around in the dark would seem to be two different things, however. The amount of coordination alone that is required staggers my mind (assuming that you would need many people to create one of the masterpieces referenced above).

Seriously, though – take a look at some of the circles pictured in the links I provided. Maybe I just have an easily boggled mind, but I simply can’t understand how those things could be created in a single night under the cover of darkness (supposedly, nobody ever manages to catch the hoaxers in the act, which makes me again wonder if the farmers are in cahoots with the hoaxers).


Really ? I think otherwise. Some of these patterns are really intricate. Remember, these are done at night (which isnt that long in the summer) and nobody ever catches them doing it.

I would imagine it is incredibly difficult to organise such a complex circle especially at night. They must practise somehow beforehand, a bit like large parachute groups play out their manoeuvres on the ground. I would think it would be so easy for one person to ‘mess up’ and spoil the pattern, but they all look so damn fine. Respect to them I say.

How these people have managed to stay ‘hidden’ for so long and not one of the group has ‘talked’ amazes me.

I know a couple of old geezers claimed they had done some, and that’s fair enough, but there must be quite an organization at work here.

I reckon it is probably the local military (much prevelant in the traditional crop circle areas in England - Salisbury plain etc) as they would have the discipline and organisational ability, plus a lot of quality night vision goggles.

I know the people who make most of the crop circles, and I’ve made some myself. There are various answers to the question.

First of all, yes, sometimes the formation was made over a much longer period of time than is imagined. E.g. you get some farmer or eyewitness saying that the field was perfectly normal at 5am but had this fantastic formation on it at 5.30am and it’s impossible… yada yada yada. Well, the eyewitnesses are wrong. That’s all there is to it. Talk to anyone with some years’ experience in the legal system, and you’ll learn a lot about how reliable eyewitnesses are (answer: not a whole bunch).

However, almost all formations are made in one night, since it is obviously hard-to-impossible to keep the formation un-noticed in the day time. In the only cases I know where a formation was laid down during more than one night-time session, it was for some commercial or sponsored purpose and there was no need to maintain secrecy.

And so to the issue of complexity. The circle makers I know have been at it a long time, so they’ve had plenty of practice, and at least two of them are trained designers and artists who have a good understanding of design principles and the kind of basic geometry that designers find useful. They did begin with relatively simple patterns, but straight repetition is no fun, so naturally as each season comes round they like to see if they can exceed their previous efforts. Don’t confuse complexity with detail. The underlying geometry is often fairly simple if you onderstand these things - and have to do with simple and fundamental relationships between basic figures such as circles, inscribed triangles and hexagonal sections. They map these out on a piece of graph paper first. After that, it’s just a case of starting somewhere, and basing everything else on whatever element of the design they started with.

However, while the level of complexity can be deceptive (especially if you don’t know much about geometry), the level of detail is often very impressive. There’s no way around this - they just have to put in the hours and build up the details step by step. However, skilled practitioners can achieve a lot more in an hour than you would think. They can lay down a basic circle in less than ten minutes, and one of the most spectacular, large-scale and ‘complex’ formations ever made was created in less than 6 hours. We know because it was filmed in time lapse and timed.

Sometimes, for the really large formations, it’s a team effort. There was one very impressive specimen in 2001 which I know was the work of a team of 12, but this size of team is very unusual (1 2 or 3 people is the norm).

Friendy respect to Chalkpit, but I would have to offer some gentle corrections on most of his post.

I’ve made formations at night, and it’s no harder than it would be by day. As a ‘townie’ all my life, I was surprised to discover just how much visiblity there is, even in a field in the middle of nowhere at the dead of night. A full moon helps, but even wihtout it you can still see what you’re doing.

It’s not quite true that circle makers are never caught, but this is very rare. There’s nothing mystical about this. There arent’ that many people out trying to catch them, and there are lots and lots of fields that the circle-makers can work in, covering a vast area. The makers only need to find one where they can work undetected. Besides, all the circle-makers have to do is drive or walk by their chosen field a few times and check it out for safety. if there’s any risk, they go somewhere else. If not, they get out the kit and start working.

Practising beforehand… parachute manoevres… nope. I’ve never heard of this going on, or being necessary. Field, bit of graph paper, pick a starting point and then derive everything else from there.

As for people ‘messing up’ - it happens all the time! The formations can look nigh perfect from the air or from a distance, but close-up you’ll find many ‘good’ sections that look very neat and careful, and some that are messy.

Not one of the group has talked? Not true, and not that surprising anyway. First of all, most participants don’t see any point in talking about it. Making crop circles is many things to many people - a form of art, a form of therapy, a way to perpetuate a harmless mystery, fun etc. Not many of them see any benefit in yakking about it. Plus, why leave themselves wide open to charges for criminal damage? However, many circle makers have given interviews about their work - provided it’s done in such a way as to avoid liability for prosecution!

The ‘couple of old geezers’ were Doug Bower and Dave Chorley, two guys from the Southampton area who first decided that since UFO-nuts were always going on about ‘physical evidence’, they’d give them some! One of them was an artist, and still is. (The other sadly passed away some years ago). They gave their story to the ‘Today’ newspaper some years ago, 1995 I think.

A week before the piss poor ‘Signs’ movie opened in the UK, there was a special free screening organised for all the UK circlemakers! Lots of people attended (I was there) and we all signed a Signs poster for Doug Bower.

It has never been suggested that Doug and Dave were the only circle-makers, or that they were responsible for all the formations.

Local military… nope, nothing to do with it.

  • Ianzin, doing his bit to try and fight ignorance. Much good though it may do me.

Thank you, ianzin. This is exactly the sort of information I was looking for.

Note, BTW, that I didn’t ask how you instill your circles with all those bizarre electromagnetic fields that can only be detected by dowsing… :wink:


But, how do you keep all the circles equidistant and geometrical?
How do you keep your triangles equilateral and all that in the dark? How do you measure the angles and distance on the ground Do you use ropes of a certain length? Say you have a design that is five-sided, how do you make sure the angles are right? You’d need a giant protractor or something.


That was great** ianzin ** and very believable, I give you credit since this isn’t the kind of thing where you could provide proof. But you still didn’t tell us *how *. For example, I imagine, to make a perfect circle is easy enough, get one guy to stand at point A with a rope, put another guy at the end of the rope and stomp out a circle. But to get the right measurements for the grid how do you do that, what tools do you use to smoosh the plants down, Dont the farmers get mad at you for messing up there crops?

I’ve never participated in making a crop circle, or even seen one myself, but I can offer a few WAGs. First, the most intricate ones probably aren’t done all in one night. The actual grain-stomping, yes, that’d have to be done overnight, but you could probably do a lot of low-impact surveying and marking over a few nights beforehand. For instance, you might lay down ropes on the boundaries of shapes, or put stakes in the ground at a few reference points. Then you just fill in the boundaries (which would be easy to coordinate, even with people who don’t know how to do the surveying), and pick up the ropes after you’re done.

The surveying itself could be done with nothing more than a good compass, and a well-practiced stride. I’m sure a lot of them use more than that, but that’s all that would be really necessary. Basically, all you do is draw out your design on paper, plan out a path through it, measure all the relevant bearings on your drawing, and scale up inches to paces.

If you have a GPS receiver, then it’s even easier. Draw your original map on graph paper, and figure out the coordinates of each relevant point (such as centers of circles). Then, just go out to those coordinates in the field. The accuracy of modern GPS units is very good, and the precision (which is all that really matters here) is even better. No part of your diagram is likely to be shifted by more than a couple of feet, relative to other parts of the diagram, and on the largest (and most impressive) patterns, that’ll lead to a negligible amount of distortion.

It helps to have a professional surveyor on your team to supply some basic “tricks”. GPS and compasses aren’t even required - just good old-fashioned geometry, stakes and motivation. And yes, a lot of the surveying could be done during the day before the “flattening”.

I wonder if anyone has compared the advent of GPS (and the unrestriction of it) to how complex the circles got? Thats a good research project for you guys.

One more thing, if someone makes a mistake while making a crop circle, the crop circle fanatics always call it a hoax.

Three words: Really Big Spriograph. :slight_smile:


Hee Hee! I was thinking the same thing! The pictures from the OP looked like what I did with a Spirograph from the 60s. Do they still make the original Spirograph?

Now, what would be REALLY impressive would be a “Crop Circle” that wasn’t based on circles, spirals and geometric shapes. Like a huge portrait of Jennifer Lopez!

Tools? Board tied ot the end of two ropes. How to mearure distance? Well, you know the lengthof the boards you use, that helps. Also, see those lines in the fields? Tram lines, spaced evenly across, also helps. And yes, I imagine the famers do get a little angry that some crop is ruined, but I imagine that in the oeverall scheme is usually not that much money lost, as a good season can yield four crops of wheat.

The trouble with providing specific ‘how’ details is that it’s never enough. There will always be people saying “Sure, okay, you can do that, but what about this very complex feature… how d’ya explain that?”

This goes on forever, and leads to very redundant exchanges.

To the varius posters who are fixated with the idea of daytime surveying, or GPS devices, or think that the night-time darkness makes it harder… all I can do is swear to you that the details in my previous post are correct for 99.9% of all crop circles ever made. I’ve been there, I’ve done it, I know the people involved. No GPS devices, and no need for them! No surveying needed! No problem doing it at night!

As regards the night-time thing, some of my friends did try investing in some night vision apparatus, but they found they caused more problems than it solved. If there’s any moonlight at all, that’s enough. If it’s a full moon, it’s like working under floodlights (a point which I, as a townie, didn’t realise until I tried it for myself). The inevitable follow up question is: if there’s so much light to work by, why aren’t the circlemakers easily seen and apprehended? Various reasons, some of which may seem counter-intuitive unless you experience it first-hand. (1) It’s possible to have enough light to work by yet still be very hard to see from outside in a mature crop field (where the stems can easily each 3 - 5 feet high). (2) Not many people are around to actually look for the circlemakers. If nosy people are around, the makers go to a different field. See my previous post. (3) People driving by in their cars are concentrating on the road ahead and what they can see in their headlights - not shadowy figures in the adjacent field.

Okay, construction. Basic example. Two guys, both equipped with ‘stompers’ (a plank on a loop of rope, like a giant version of a stirrup, used for flattening crops to achieve the desired result). Also, a piece of rope 50 feet long with knots every 2 feet and extra large knots or tape markers every 10 feet. Person A stands in middle of heavy crop. Holds one end of rope on top of his head. Person B holds other end of rope at the (say) 30 foot mark. Walks round in a circle, keeping the rope taut, and placing one foot in front of the other (tightrope style) to create a circular track 60 ft diameter. He can then use his stomper to flatten crop, following this circle. He can flatten the whole circle, or just the perimeter, following a line just inside the 60ft circle or just outside.

Person A stands anywhere on the boundary of this 60ft circle, holding the rope on top of his head as before. Person B again stretches it to the 30 foot mark. Starting at one point on the perimeter, he walks in an arc (defined by the 30 ft length of the rope) to another point on the circle. It is elementary geometry to repeat this process and thus create 6 equidistant points on the circle, which would mark the border of an inscribed hexagon. All these 6 points can be used as starting off points for other circles of larger or smaller diameters, although it usually makes sense if these other circles are given fractions of the first - twice as big, twice as small, whatever.

In this way, you can construct more or less any pattern you want which is based on even fractions or thirds. Five-fold geometry is a little harder, but just requires more preparatory calculation on a bit of graph paper at home. If you have a circle of diamter X, you can use basic trig to work out what the length of each side of an inscribed pentagon would be. Put special knots in your rope to mark this length, and you have all you need.

This is how complex geometric formations are created. In some cases, the circlemaker wants to produce a pattern or sign or glyph. In many cases, the ‘key’ points of the design can be defined in terms of its underlying geometry and then simply ‘joined up’. If this is not possible, the pattern is drawn to scale on some squared graph paper. The circlemakers then create a sqaure grid on the crop, using markers or lengths of rope, and simply enlarge each portion of the design, square by square, until finished. This rarely produces perfect results, and even the designs produced by my expert friends tend to leave something to be desired.

There are many other techniques involved. For long straight lines between two known points, it may be enough for A to stand at one point while B stands at the other. A then holds a flashlight or glow stick on his head, and B simply walks towards it, stomping all the way. It sounds crude, but it actually works surprisingly well.

I hope this helps. Obviously I can only scratch the surface here. If you’re interested, note that on the circlemakers website (linked to above) they actually sell a little booklet all about how to make your own crop circles!

If you’ve never been outdoors at night and far away from city lights, you may not realize how much light comes from the moon and stars. Human night vision isn’t as good as a cat’s, but it’s still pretty good. I’ve gone hiking through woods at night with no light, it’s not really that hard.

The main difficulty with night vision is seeing things at a distance. You can see things in your immediate area well enough, but anything beyond a few yards (depending on conditions) fades into the background.

I don’t know about Jennifer Lopez, but there have been numerous “circles” made that depict mundane things such as celebrities, cars, etc. These are all, of course, decried as hoaxes (duh!) by the professional “cerologists.” This in spite of the fact that they exhibit the same mysterious properties as the “real” circles…