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Friday, 16 August, 2002, 13:15 GMT 14:15 UK
'I make crop circles'
People in crop circle, Circlemakers photo
Farmers often charge spectators an entrance fee
'Tis the season for crop circles. And the Mel Gibson film, Signs, has renewed interest in who - or what - might make these mysterious markings. Here, controversial crop circle maker John Lundberg tells of his nights in the Wiltshire fields.

I don't regard myself as a hoaxer - I'm not interested in rug-pulling anybody. Yet the assumption is that if I make a crop circle, it must be because I want to undermine the beliefs of people who think they are not man-made.

John Lundberg: "Some regard us as heretics"
But the myths and folklore that build up around crop circles are what fascinate me. And we've always tried to have as good a relationship as possible with the crop circle research community, even though we're at odds with it.

It's like with politics - there are the moderates who are happy to coexist with us and the extremists who won't even admit that one crop circle might be manmade. They're the ones who have really demonised us. They regard us as heretics.

Silbury Hill circle, Circlemakers photo
Ancient sites like Silbury Hill are favoured locations
So some really weird conspiracy theories have grown up around us. The most amusing is that we're with the government or the secret service, that we're disinformation agents who get sent out to cover up genuine circles made perhaps by extraterrestrials, time travellers, ley lines, whatever.

My art collective - myself, Rod Dickinson and Will Russell - get thousands of abusive e-mails and phone calls. We've had attacks on our property, and one of my team had bricks thrown at him. But at least this is not America - people don't carry guns here.

Following long tradition

My group, Circlemakers, now describe what we do as art practice but at first it was just curiosity.

Mel Gibson in Signs
Signs has renewed interest in crop circles
When in 1991 Doug Bower and Dave Chorley admitted that they had been making circles for the past 13 years, interest plummeted.

We wanted to crank it up again by making formations so huge and so complex that people would once again start asking the question: 'Is it possible that these things are manmade?'

As we're all based in London, we spend a lot of money on petrol and a lot of money driving up and down the M4 to Wiltshire.

The season runs from April, when the first crop is oil seed rape. In June it's barley and by mid-July it's wheat. That's the best crop to work in, that's when the most spectacular circles appear. Because each stem is upright, you can get pin sharp clarity.

Circlemakers photo
Tools are a surveyor's tape and a plank
We used to design the circles on paper, but because the formations have got so big, it's easier to use a computer.

It's all very low-tech once we get into the field. We use surveyor's tape measure and a stalk stomper, which is basically a plank of wood. To make a circle, one person stands in the middle as a pivot and another holds the end of the tape and walks around them.

Crop circles are treated as legitimate tourist attractions in Wiltshire. One made in 1996 got more visitors than Stonehenge and the farmer grossed about 30,000 in four weeks by charging a pound a person.

Assuming a formation isn't heavily visited, the farmer will be able to lower the blades on his combine and harvest the flattened crop away.

Unexplained experiences

It sounds slightly embarrassing, but I have had a UFO sighting while making circles in Wiltshire.

John Lundberg
"It was a classic UFO sighting"
It was a black cigar shape with very fast strobing lights. It appeared on the horizon and slowly arced over us, completely silent. It was a classic UFO sighting in that we didn't know what it was.

I've seen balls of cracking light at the edge of the field, which is slightly unnerving. But what I see most often is flashes of light, as if someone's holding a flashbulb in front of my eyes.

Twice this has happened while we've had journalists with us. One, from The Face, was very sceptical of that side of it. About halfway through making the formation, he came rushing up to me shouting: 'Did you see that flash of light?' He's a believer now.

Send your comments:

Colin Andrews, a researcher, states that 80% are man-made. If so, where do the other 20% come from? What about the chemical changes to the crop, the "magical" bends, the strange things that happen in the formations - I have experienced time-loss in one. The hoaxers do a great job, but so does something else.
Dan, UK

Man-made, perhaps, but why are so many of the designs unique? Why do they show astounding interplay between different plane symmetries? These men are either mathematic and graphic art geniuses (as well as firs- class athletes), or just making it up.
James Pautler, US

My heartfelt thanks to the gentleman who makes crop circles. They are gorgeous. I never thought they were anything but man-made. I appreciate their beauty.
Mrs J Cristy, England

Seeing UFOs in Wiltshire is by no means uncommon and can hardly be attributed to the "spiritual" process of making a crop circle. The amount of military activity on Salisbury Plain makes flashes in the sky a common occurrence.
Chopper, UK

Real Time gives people a chance to tell their own stories in their own words. If you've got something to say, click here.

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14 Jul 00 | UK
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