Below is an excerpt from my book “Forgotten Tales of Tennessee.” Click here to read more about it and order.
It was an odd sight that greeted Captain Bryan Graves of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office as he looked down on Madisonville from his small plane in June 2007. In the wheat fields below, he noticed flattened stalks created a pattern of circles: one large circle orbited by smaller ones in a pattern described as a Celtic cross.
Investigators on the ground discovered the large circle was 170 feet across. When the farmer was contacted, he said he had not witnessed anyone in the fields and was unaware the circles were there. The incident could have been considered vandalism but because the landowner did not file a complaint with the sheriff’s office, no formal criminal investigation was conducted. That didn’t stop curiosity seekers and conspiracy theorists from flocking to the site.
Other than kids committing vandalism, theories of how the circles appeared ranged from ancient Cherokee Indian curses to natural electrical or atmospheric disturbances to space aliens.
One group, the Independent Crop Circle Research Association, concluded the circles were not man made. After taking more than 1,500 samples from the site, the researchers concluded that the wheat showed evidence of application of heat of the type produced by microwaves.
Finally, the landowners erected no trespassing signs to keep the curious away. Since then, a few people reported seeing strange lights in the sky above the quiet town of about 4,000 souls.
In May 2008, another formation appeared in Monroe County. This time, circles were formed at the three points of a triangle. Again, the landowners heard no evidence of humans in the field. The landowner said he believed the circles were not man made.
Crop circles are not a new phenomenon. They have appeared in many countries around the world in fields of wheat, barley, rye or corn.
In September 1991, two English men in their 60s, Doug Bower and Dave Chorley, went to the media and claimed credit for the crop circle phenomenon. They said the circles began as a prank in the late 1970s and continued when people began to speculate the circles were the work of extraterrestrials. The men said they used wooden planks and string and demonstrated their work for television cameras.
However, skeptics claim that it would have been impossible for Bower and Chorley to have created the hundreds of patterns to appear in the fields of England during the peak of circle activity. And what of circles in other countries? Circles have appeared in countries including Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Argentina, Belgium and even the Czech Republic.
Were they the work of other pranksters emulating the Englishmen or could they be ancient symbols or alien signs?
In 2002, M. Night Shyalaman’s movie “Signs” concludes crop circles are a series of alien maps that lead to an alien invasion. The film was shot in Pennsylvania and real crop circles were created rather than generating them on a computer.
Study of the phenomenon continues among paranormal enthusiasts and UFO researchers but their theories are often dismissed by skeptics.