Text © Freddy Silva 1998. Photos © Freddy Silva, Colin Andrews, Steve Alexander.


It was already dark when a couple living at Alton Barnes heard a loud hum outside their home. They went outside to see what might be causing such a disconcerting sound when, to their amazement, they witnessed a large red ball of light several hundred feet up in the night sky, encircled by smaller yellow spheres. After fifteen minutes of hovering above the crop circle-fertile East Field , the 'craft' projected a beam of golden white light onto the field, a sight previously witnessed in 1989 a few miles to the north at Europe's largest man-made pyramid, Silbury Hill.

Shortly after at 1 AM, Polly Carson, farmer of the said field, wrapped up her night vigil with nothing new to report. When she returned four hours later she discovered a new and cyclopean development in crop circle language- a 500ft-long spiral, much resembling the DNA strand. There were no tracks in or out, no damage to the plants, no compression of the soil- not a living soul had walked upon the now spiraled plants. It also showed just how multi-layered the symbols had become, for this was also the symbol of sine/cosine which enables 3D objects to be calculated into 2D, as well as a demonstration of the fundamental principle of light, which travels as both waves and particles.

A few weeks later pilot Rod Taylor was ferrying a passenger in his tiny Cessna. The route would entail flying over one of the world's most visited Neolithic monuments, Stonehenge. At 5 PM on a clear sunny day nothing unusual was seen 500 ft above the Wiltshire countryside. Forty five minutes later his passenger drove past Stonehenge and noticed that cars had come to a standstill, with people getting out to look at something spectacular now lying in the field next door. It was a representation of the computer-generated Julia Set, a mathematical design which is used to calculate complex measurements dealing with chaos theory. And now here it was, embedded in a pristine sea of wheat without a mark- 149 circles, aligned to the same magnetic flux points as the prehistoric monument across the road. A guard and a second pilot would later shrink its time of creation down to just fifteen minutes.

1996 would mark another watershed in crop circle history- the designs contained anywhere from 89 to 198 features, a logistic which finally seemed to drill the nail home that human involvement was now out of the question. But as large and detailed the designs were, they were also the least number to appear in a decade. The Circlemakers had switched from quantity into quality.

The intricacy and obscure information contained in the pictograms also seemed to rise. At Littlebury, a design appeared beneath high voltage wires bearing the symbol of the Egg of Life, an element of sacred geometry dating to early Egyptian culture that combines the harmonics of music with the electromagnetic spectrum. It is a pattern that underlies all structure including biological life. Ironically, Gerald Hawkins was later to discover it contained a number of diatonic ratios based on his new crop circle theorems.

Strange symbols looking like Sanskrit also appeared, one beside an avenue of circles 3/4 mile long. The symbols were eventually deciphered as the original signs of the base and solar plexus chakra, elements which, when combined, open the heart chakra. Synchronistically, channelers prior to this season announced that the Earth's heart chakra was about to be opened. But even stranger was a crop circle at Goodwood Clatford which demonstrated knowledge of the physics behind sound vibration- cymatics. What's more it did not contain the normal spiral features of crop circles, nor any plants typically bent at 90º an inch above the soil- these plants were bent six inches from the top, giving the design an embossed appearance.

More wonders were to come. There was a meticulous representation of another sacred geometrical symbol, the Vesica Piscis, and a symbol demonstrating the principle of cosmic alternation- the very process by which God creates the web and flow of the universe, more widely known as the yin and yang force. But the summer's real surprise was the triple Julia Set on the slope of ancient Windmill Hill, consisting of three logarithmic spirals. On the ground it was astonishing; at the center of all 198 circles lay every facet of circlemaking over the past 25 years: stems were delicately braided into nests, wreaths and 'catherine wheels'; a rare center detail was a 'hut', a grouping of plants some eight inches in diameter bent six inches above ground and drooped outward, creating an effect reminiscent of African grass huts; by moving the plants aside one could still see the stems on the inside lying perfectly upright. In other centers appeared standing clumps of circular plants, some six-inches in diameter, others displaying no more than a single upright stalk.

An engineering company was asked to create this design. They replied that just to survey the area to place the stakes required for mapping the design would take up to eleven days, at a cost of over $5000. No holes were evident at Windmill Hill, nor damage to the plants. What's more, given the four hours of darkness required to achieve such an endeavour would have required a circle to be referenced, mapped, laid and then constructed with the anomalous central features every 56 seconds.

But 1996 was not without controversy. Six miles away in the field below Olivers Castle, a bunch of dubious characters were busy hoaxing an untidy 'snowflake' design which was later shot on video, complete with encircling balls of light, and passed on to researchers in the hope of entrapping them and making money out of the process (see Media Frauds). According to one of the guilty, the hoax was connected to The Discovery Channel. Ironically, the day it was announced at an informal announcement in England that the fraud had been uncovered, the US television channel announced it had scrapped plans to air the video. Given that no formal statement had been made of the announcement, it was curious how the Discovery Channel had discovered the details. Despite the Cold War being over it seems there is no end to spies.

Once again, another year that produced more conclusive evidence pointing to non-human intervention still had detractors trying to tell the public otherwise.