Text © Freddy Silva 1997. Photos by George Wingfield, Alick Bartholemew, Richard Wintle and David Parker.

Despite the disinformation campaign performed by the British government to quell public interest in crop circles in 1990, the formations continued to appear throughout southern England in greater numbers, larger dimensions and intricate designs. The first set of 'insectograms' appeared in the field next to Stonehenge, seemingly undetected by the ever-vigilant security teams. Several sets of pictograms involving 'keys' also manifested in the now legendary Alton Barnes area. One was a staggering 360 feet long.

Then came even more bizarre shapes- dolphinograms, six-pointed stars, threefold dumb-bells and other strange symbols. In one surveillance operation an entire field was rigged with perimeter laser alarms, super-sensitive microphones and overhead cameras. In the middle of the night a fine mist descended over the field. When morning broke, a perfect crop circle lay in the field and none of the sensitive equipment was triggered. It literally materialized out of thin air.

During the summer of 1991 some 600 new crop circles appeared. One of the most celebrated cases involved the British Prime Minister's country residence. This location, consisting of several dozen acres, is guarded against terrorist attack by Britain's most expert crack troops. It is a maximum security zone patrolled 24-hours a day. Yet despite these precautions, a Celtic cross design appeared in a field in from of John Major's house, one of the circles transformed into an arrow pointing directly at the residence. The media were quick to ask the Prime Minister if a serious breach of security had taken place. "No," he replied, "it was all merely the result of poor soil conditions."

This was the summer when serious contamination of formations began to take place. Some of the hoaxing was done by pranksters looking for attention, some by mischief makers. But, more sinisterly, it was also carried out by known government infiltrators who purposely added man-made features to genuine formations in a attempt to throw the researchers into total confusion. At the height of the hoaxing, an American tourist etched out huge letters on the side of a hill, 'Talk to us'. A reply came back a few days later when a most bizarre-looking formation resembling Hebrew script appeared at Milk Hill. Thought to be a hoax at first but since confirmed to be genuine, it was deciphered as a form of post-Augustan Latin and etched in Freemasonic script, creating two words: OPPONO ASTOS­ "I oppose acts of craft and cunning." How appropriate given the circumstances. To this day this formation represents the closest the Circlemakers have come to communicating in recognizable script.

Then on the morning of July 11 the British tabloids announced, 'NOW EXPLAIN THIS!'

At the foot of a Neolithic hill fort named Barbury Castle lay an enormous design, some 12,000 sq. yards in area. Local residents had reported mysterious lights the night before, accompanied by a loud rumble more intense and prolonged than thunder. A nearby town had also reported total loss of power, and its military base scrambled all helicopters. In the morning, the military sealed off all access roads, citing 'military exercise' as an excuse (incidentally, Salisbury Plain, which lies barely twenty miles further south, is a sealed-off military area of several thousand acres where the military always conduct their exercises. It is unheard of for them to seal off civilian areas in peace time).

One thing was certain- the government's official line that this phenomenon was a manifestation of mini-tornadoes was now seriously ill. For here was an unmistakable symbol, a design that is perhaps one of the most important in Hermetic philosophy (top of page, centre). It is a cosmic law, a collection of numeric, musical and geometrical harmonies which founded the prevailing order in every ancient civilization. It is literally a depiction of the realm of God: it embodies the principle of the Three In One- the Father, son and Holy Ghost, with the Godhead at the centre; it is representational of the cosmic egg, symbol of creation where the three elements- mercury, sulphur and ether- are given substance by the breath of God and made into matter. The central circle contains the total area of the surrounding three circles. The sum of all circular areas comes to 31,680 sq. feet which, 3168 being the gematrian number representing Lord Jesus Christ. The same number was also revered by pagan religions as the number of the highest principle- the Creator.

A month later, yet another unmistakable symbol appeared, this time at the opposite end of the country near Cambridge University. It was a replica of a Mandelbrot Set, an important element of chaos theory which was discovered by Benoit Mandelbrot who, ironically, had taught at Cambridge. Even more coincidental was that this crop circle had appeared one year to the day when a lead article in New Scientist Magazine had admitted that it was impossible to draw this diagram without a computer.

Then, as if on cue, Today newspaper announced, 'THE MEN THAT CONNED THE WORLD'.

An article described how two elderly - and presumably extremely active - pensioners had made all the crop circles. Doug and Dave had sneaked out under cover of darkness, without either of their wives suspecting for 15 years, and constructed all the circles with a plank of wood, a rope and a baseball cap fitted with a ludicrous apparatus to, supposedly, help them construct straight lines in the dark by aligning the sight with distant objects (in the dark!).

The two men proceeded to demonstrate for all the world's cameras how they had done it. After several hours, the result was an embarrassing mess. A second attempt proved just as pathetic.

Doug and Dave were challenged to a TV debate with several researchers, including an authority on the subject, Colin Andrews. "Had they hoaxed the first formations in 1978 ?" "Yes," said Dave. Then Colin pulled out photos of patterns going back to 1971. "Who then had made these?" "No," they answered, sheepishly, "we didn't make those." And if they had faked 200 circles, as they claimed, by whom were the remaining 2300 or so circles created? They had also claimed never to have been active in the Avebury area, but this had in fact been the prime circle-making area since 1988. Who made the the Barbury Castle tetrahedron? And the Mandelbrot Set? Who made those in other parts of the country? And since the countryside was swarming with people on the lookout for hoaxers, how come they had never been caught? No answer. How had they created the anomalies, the mathematical precision? The more questions were asked the more they backed down their claims. In the end, even Doug and Dave were not sure which ones they had done. But something in their soundbite-style replies gave the impression that their whole scheme had been orchestrated.

A newspaper article credited the Doug and Dave story to MBF Services. After much reluctance from the newspaper staff, it was explained that a freelance press agency had passed on the story to the newspaper. When asked for the phone number of MBF, the phone was hung up. Investigations eventually led to a 'research and development' lab in Somerset where work is conducted on classified government defense projects.

Just before the Doug and Dave incident, a French government scientist had warned researchers not to risk their reputations on the crop circles, for shortly the British Government would engage two artists and would present them to the press as the crop circles creators, to "put an end to all the wearisome fuss."

But in the end the damage was done. The event demonstrated how quickly public interest in crop circles- or any unexplained phenomenon- could be deflated simply by presenting a pair of alleged hoaxers. Once again the public was given a logical reason to believe the whole thing was a joke.