In 1991, two men from Southampton, England, announced that they had conceived the idea as a prank at a pub near Winchester, Hampshire, during an evening in 1976. Inspired by the 1966 Tully Saucer Nests, Doug Bower and Dave Chorley made their crop circles using planks, rope, hats and wire as their only tools: using a four-foot-long plank attached to a rope, they easily created circles eight feet in diameter. The two men were able to make a 40-foot (12 m) circle in 15 minutes.
The pair became frustrated when their work did not receive significant publicity, so in 1981, they created a circle in Matterley Bowl, a natural amphitheatre just outside Winchester, Hampshire—an area surrounded by roads from which a clear view of the field is available to drivers passing by. Their designs were at first simple circles. When newspapers claimed that the circles could easily be explained by natural phenomena, Bower and Chorley made more complex patterns. A simple wire with a loop, hanging down from a cap—the loop positioned over one eye—could be used to focus on a landmark to aid in the creation of straight lines. Later designs of crop circles became increasingly complicated.
Bower's wife had become suspicious of him, noticing high levels of mileage in their car. Eventually, fearing that his wife suspected him of adultery, Bower confessed to her, and subsequently, he and Chorley informed a British national newspaper. Chorley died in 1996, and Doug Bower has made crop circles as recently as 2004. Bower has said that, had it not been for his wife's suspicions, he would have taken the secret to his deathbed, never revealing that it was a hoax.
Circlemakers.org, a group of crop circle makers founded by John Lundberg, have demonstrated that making what self-appointed cereologist experts state are "unfakeable" crop circles is possible. On more than one occasion, such cereologists have claimed that a crop circle was "genuine" when in fact the people making the circle had previously been filmed making the circle.
published an article by Matt Ridley
who started making crop circles in northern England in 1991. He wrote about how easy it is to develop techniques using simple tools that can easily fool later observers. He reported on "expert" sources such as the Wall Street Journal
who had been easily fooled and mused about why people want to believe supernatural
explanations for phenomena that are not yet explained. Methods to create a crop circle are now well documented on the Internet
On the night of July 11–12, 1992, a crop-circle making competition, for a prize of several thousand UK pounds (partly funded by the Arthur Koestler Foundation), was held in Berkshire. The winning entry was produced by three helicopter engineers, using rope, PVC pipe, a trestle and a ladder. Another competitor used a small garden roller, a plank and some rope.
In 1992 Hungarian youths Gábor Takács and Róbert Dallos, both then 17, were the first people to be legally charged after creating a crop circle. Takács and Dallos, of the St. Stephen Agricultural Technicum, a high school in Hungary specializing in agriculture, created a 36-meter diameter crop circle in a wheat field near Székesfehérvár, 43 miles (69 km) southwest of Budapest, on June 8, 1992. On September 3, the pair appeared on Hungarian TV and exposed the circle as a hoax, showing photos of the field before and after the circle was made. As a result, Aranykalász Co., the owners of the land, sued the youngsters for 630,000 HUF (approximately $3000 USD) in damages. The presiding judge ruled that the students were only responsible for the damage caused in the 36-meter diameter circle, amounting to about 6,000 HUF (approximately $30 USD), and that 99% of the damage to the crops was caused by the thousands of visitors who flocked to Székesfehérvár following the media's promotion of the circle. The fine was eventually paid by the TV show, as were the students' legal fees.
In 2002, Discovery Channel commissioned five aeronautics and astronautics graduate students from MIT to create crop circles of their own, aiming to duplicate some of the features claimed to distinguish "real" crop circles from the known fakes such as those created by Bower and Chorley. The creation of the circle was recorded and used in the Discovery Channel documentary "Crop Circles: Mysteries in the Fields".
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The UK-based artists Circlemakers.org have been asked to create numerous crop circles since the mid 1990s for movies, TV shows, music videos, adverts and PR stunts.