Go on, consume!



By Mike J
On a moonless night in July 1990 I found myself in the middle of a Wiltshire field with a plank, a rope, and..well, you can guess the rest.
I thought no more about it until July 1991, when I discovered to my astonishment that our circle had been photographed, investigated, dowsed, analysed, replicated in glossy coffee-table books and on designer T-shirts.
By July 1992, it was completely impossible for me to prove that I'd been involved in creating the circle. In fact, my limited attempts to do so ended in threats of MI5 surveillance and the accusation that I was lying, claiming to have hoaxed a circle which everyone knew was genuine.
This is how it happened:
Summer 1990. Circles and rumours of circles. Operation Blackbird: a million pounds' worth of surveillance equipment perched on White Horse Hill. By day, crowds of circle-spotters, drawn by breathless tabloid and TV reports, farmers barricading their fields or charging admittance, self-proclaimed 'serious' investigators trying to keep their dignity amidst the charade. By night, the Wiltshire B-roads crawling with suspicious vehicles, N-reg transits with their headlights turned off, crawling up cattle droves and down dirt tracks, spying, chasing each others' tails, watching the watchmen.
My friend Siegfried*, while walking the ridgeway from Avebury to White Horse Hill, comes across the Operation Blackbird crew investigating a circle in a field below the hill, surrounded by a gaggle of eager circle-spotters. It's the first crop formation he's seen, and he inspects it closely. It seems to him rather unimpressive. Casually flattening a few random stalks of corn with the edge of his boot, he notices that he can closely duplicate the effect of the circle. He points this out to one of the scientists, who we will later recognise to be Pat Delgado.
Mr.Delgado tells Siegfried that the effect is entirely different - and, in any case, it's not possible to reach the centre of the field without leaving any tracks. Siegried points out that the corn rows are seeded a good three inches apart, and the ground is dry enough not to leave an imprint. Losing patience, Mr.Delgado tells him that they've already calculated that it would take an entire army detatchment all night to duplicate a circle, and their vehicles and lights would certainly give them away.
Siegfried gives me a call. He's sure that three of us could make a circle at least as good as the one he saw. Would I be prepared to help him test his theory? Sure, I tell him. It's high summer, and any excuse to spend an evening out of London will do for me right now. I call my friends Simon* and Alice*, and we fix an evening the next week.
The day before our experiment's due to to take place, Alice calls. There's no point. The whole thing's been blown. Have I seen the news? It's the morning of the crude fake which broke on breakfast TV news, Andrews and Delgado leaping around in front of the cameras, congratulating themselves on having captured a genuine phenomenon, only to find a mess of broken stems with a ouija board in the centre. The media, through which crop circle frenzy has slowly simmered and now suddenly boiled over, crow triumphantly. The entire scam is blown. The scientists are a laughing-stock.
I call Siegfried who reacts gloomily to the news, but I suggest we still go ahead. Who cares about the gullibility of the 'experts'? What we want to establish, for ourselves, is whether a circle can be simply man-made or not.
The next evening, we set off down the M4, Siegfried nursing a four-foot plank with a coil of thick rope knotted through a hole in its centre, and a diagram of the circle he wishes to attempt. It's well-chosen - slightly more sophisticated than a simple ring, but not so fancy as to look suspiciously elaborate. It also has a meaning, a particular symbolic significance which he wonders if anyone will recognise. (In all the endless dissection, analysis and re-analysis of the circle which will take place, no-one will ever ask what this symbol might signify, let alone decode it.)
We know that the Vale of the White Horse is under heavy paranormal surveillance, so we decide to head round the back of the hills, through Devizes, to find a less obvious spot. We cruise around randomly, looking for a suitable field. We eventually find one, on a slope rising up above a quiet trunk road, with a dirt track leading to it and high hedgerows which will conceal our car while we work. We retire to the nearest pub and wait for darkness.
It's almost eleven before the midsummer dusk edges into night, and we park the car off the farm track and pick our way into the field. Alice waits in the car, to keep an eye out for passing traffic. Siegfried, Simon and I walk down the field's tractor tram-lines with ease, and then edge more carefully through the waist-high rows of corn. Of course, we snap a few stems, but in the darkness it's impossible to tell how many. Siegfried lays the plank down flat on the ground, and smooths out a circle with it. I stand on the flattened corn and hold the rope taut, while he and Simon take the plank out to the full extent of the rope and push/pull it to form concentric circles. This takes about twenty minutes.
We're almost finished when the sound of an engine cuts the night silence, bumping along the track between the fields. We lie down in the pattern of flattened corn just as the beam of headlights sweeps over our heads. The sound of the engine idling alongside us, some thirty yards away. It's a moped. We're sure we've been spotted, but Alice later tells us that the driver was inspecting our parked car, in which she was lying pressed against the floor of the back seat. After a few minutes, the moped putters off and we finish up. Maybe thirty or forty minutes altogether. So much for the all-night army detatchment.
As we pull out again onto the trunk road, we look up at the site, and discover that the field has an almost imperceptible slope across it: our circle, however good or bad it might look in daylight, won't be visible from the road as we planned. We're not too bothered. We aren't expecting to fool anyone: there must be dozens of trampled corn-stems, and the pretty obvious imprint of my boot-heels in the centre of the circle. The main point was to establish to our own satisfaction that a man-made circle was relatively easy to accomplish - and, since we all need very little excuse to spend a warm summer night out in the country, to have an interesting evening into the bargain.
And that was the last any of us thought about that night for at least a year.
The next summer, by chance, Siegfried and I are working on a film in Namibia, sharing an A-frame shack in a crumbling resort on the Skeleton Coast and driving to locations daily in the desert interior. One day, a package arrives for me from my sister Anna*, with a few news clippings and magazines to keep me in touch with the real world - and a T-shirt with a crop circle logo on it. Our crop circle.
I haven't told Anna what our circle looked like, and the coincidence seems wildly improbable; my first reaction is that this must be some other famous crop circle with a similar design. But Siegfried insists it's ours, down to the last detail. Since he's not returning to England, I give him the T-shirt, and we both forget this odd bit of synchronicity in the whirlwind activity of round-the-clock film-making.
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