Photos © Colin Andrews, Alick Bartholemew, and Busty Taylor. Text © Freddy Silva 1997
The season of 1990 began early with a surprise at Bishops Cannings. Two celtic cross designs with three pencil-thin rings stood side-by-side in the wheat. Amazingly, one developed a fourth ring that intercepted the other formation. This addition of elements also began occurring in other formations.
Surveillance groups began to get organized above fields in an attempt to catch the circlemakers 'at it'. In one situation a shining object was filmed hovering above a field when several small red lights were seen emanating from it. They operated slowly above the heads of the crop and disappeared at phenomenal speed when approached. Wherever these balls were seen, small 'grapeshot' circles later appeared in the crop.
The next surprise signaled a major step in the design of crop circles. At Chilcomb Farm two circles were connected with a straight line and flanked by four rectangular boxes- the pictogram was born. This set the standard for the next month as one dumbell design came after another. Soon they developed haloes, many of which were recognized as variations of ancient symbols of the Sun God in cultures throughout the world. The Circlemakers appeared to be calling all parts of the human race.
The connecting line feature, along with the boxes, allowed the phenomenon to develop an intense diversity and progression almost overnight, not to mention size- some were now as long as 150 ft. But then came the true sensation. On the night of July 10, 1990, the inhabitants of the village of Alton Barnes heard a peculiar buzzing sound which caused all dogs in the village to bark incessantly throughout the night. As the dawn light bathed the Vale of Pewsey, none of the farmers' cars would start. And as they approached their fields no one could believe their eyes- a 603 ft pictogram lay majestically in the wheat. It consisted of nine circles in a row- five single circles and two dumbells, one flanked by two boxes and encompassing a three-fingered claw. Only a few miles away, an almost identical design had also materialized. Photos of the Alton Barnes pictogram made the front pages of the world's press. Thousands of visitors flocked to the area, almost in a sense of pilgrimage. Inside the formation people behaved as if they were on drugs- there was a sense of giddiness about, as if a long lost family had suddenly reunited. Complete strangers talked with one another, smiling, even skipping along the path of the formation.
It was later discovered that the 'trident' design in this and other formations of the year bore a close resemblance to traditional and esoteric symbols associated with transformation. How appropriate this explanation becomes in light of the circumstances, for here at last was a crop circle that single-handedly transformed thousands of people of all races practically overnight.
In light of these important new events, a second, large surveillance project was organized. And this time the Army also decided to join in.
The project was planned to cover three weeks, but to everyone's surprise a discovery was made only on the second day. Ironically, during the night that key researchers had not been present, a primitive-looking formation appeared below the ancient hill fort of Bratton Castle. With a heavy media presence at hand, excited researchers entered the formation only to be faced with a mess- the typical vortices were missing, the wheat appeared trampled and broken, and right in the centre lay a ball of wire, and a horoscope game with a wooden cross. The formation was obviously a well-orchestrated hoax, a crude attempt at deception to humiliate and discredit researchers thoroughly. Later, information was leaked from a high- ranking official in the Army that the crop circle had been constructed by a well trained top military unit with special clearance from the Ministry of Defense. Whatever the motive, the damage had been done and the public was turned off the phenomenon.
Apparently, the exercise had been carried out to get 'circle fever' under control and to diffuse the surveillance before anything explosive might be caught on film. It was only ten days later, within view of a much reduced media presence, that the researchers back at the surveillance unit secured a real event taking place at night on camera. The film showed a whirl motion, some 15-seconds in duration, snaking through the crop forming a question mark. The copy of the film was handed to the BBC but has since 'disappeared'.
Further forays into proving that circles were made by man were announced by several British tabloids, each of whom paid large sums of money to people who came forward claiming ownership of these works of art. Naturally, all kinds of opportunists came forward with the most ridiculous of stories to collect handsome rewards. A German film crew went a stage further and paid four locals to create an embarrassing hoaxed formation using clothelines. Even though the formation was quite obviously a mess they proceeded to screen it on German TV and disillusion the whole German viewing public.
During several ministerial conferences involving the British government, it became obvious that the Army should still keep the phenomenon under close scrutinity, using 'appropriate steps' where necessary, and 'disinformation' should the matter get out of hand in the public sector. Under a CIA directive, farmers were even approached and paid to cut down any fields containing crop circles, whether the crop was ripe or not.
Meanwhile, another huge double pictogram materialized near Silbury Hill, followed three days later by a design that Hopi natives called 'Mother Is Crying'. The pictogram appeared as Saddam Hussein was laying waste the oil fields in Kuwait.