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Crop Circles:

What follows is only intended to demonstrate what appears in the conclusion. Any other point of strangeness or alleged aspect of the "crop circles mystery is dealt with elsewhere, here.

Was a crop circle found in Surrey by John Rand Capron in 1880?

Let's start with the original material.

The original material is a reader's letter, not a scientific paper, which was published in the scientific journal Nature, volume 22, pages 290 and 291, on July 29, 1880.

Below are scans and transcripts of this letter:

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The storms about this part of Surrey have been lately local and violent, and the effects produced in some instances curious. Visiting a neighbour's farm on Wednesday evening (21st), we found a field of standing wheat considerably knocked about, not as an entirety, but in patches forming, as viewed from a distance, circular spots. What did Capron find as he looked at the "circular spots" more closely?

Examined more closely, these all presented much the same character, viz., a few standing stalks as a centre, some prostrate stalks with their heads arranged pretty evenly in a direction forming a circle round the centre, and outside these a circular wall of stalks which had not suffered.

I send a sketch made on the spot, giving an idea of the most


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perfect of these patches. The soil is a sandy loam upon the greensand, and the crop is vigorous, with strong stems, and I could not trace locally any circumstances accounting for the peculiar forms of the patches in the field, nor indicating whether it was wind or rain, or both combined, which had caused them, beyond the general evidence everywhere of heavy rainfall. They were to me suggestive of some cyclonic wind action, and may perhaps have been noticed elsewhere by some of your readers.

Guildown, Guildford, July 23

J. RAND CAPRON

Who was John Rand Carron?

John Rand Carron was not a scientist, but an amateur scientist, who frequently sent letters to report some observation to the scholarly journals of that time.

He is sometimes introduced as a "spectroscopist". Spectroscopy is not the modern spectrometry, but was at its source. As it had been discovered that light is diffracted through a prism and its spectrum can be separated that way, and as photography had been invented, people started to mount a prism onto cameras and take photographs of the spectrum of various phenomena, such as rain, sunlight, aurora borealis, etc., in order to compare these spectrum. J. Rand Capron published a much appreciated book with 136 such photographs he had taken:

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He had also published in 1879, the book "Aurorae: Their Characters and Spectra", E. and F.N. Spon, U-K and USA. At the time, one theory about auroras was that they were mists emanating from the earth, what we now know to be totally wrong. J. Rand Capron was not supporting that theory and was one of the first to try to establish the chemical and physical nature of auroras. The book was a quite complete history of auroras sighting reports, with geographical distribution, colors, sizes, phosphorescence, spectra, polarization of their light etc. He compared auroras spectra to other spectra, he concluded there was no match, and that the true nature of auroras is still unknown.

He also published an article in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1882 titled "Report of Examination of the sun's Disk at Guildford, March 21, 22, 23, 1877, for Suspected Planet Vulcan". At the time, some astronomers thought there was an undiscovered planet, maybe quite similar to Earth, but hard to detect because it was supposed to be circling the Sun behind it as seen from Earth. He published articles about a partial eclipse of the Sun, a lunar eclipse, meteors etc. He became a Fellow of the Astronomical Society in 1877.

John Rand Capron was born in London on February 19, 1829, and educated at the Guildford Grammar School. He then worked there as a solicitor, employed in his uncle's practice, then as a partner of his uncle. He succeeded in this business, and was soon appointed Borough coroner and Clear of the Peace. In his leisure, he studied natural phenomena: under a typhoid attack at school, a microscope was lent to him, and this started his interest in science and its mysteries. He studied geology, started a collection of minerals and fossils, turned to spectroscopy, and astronomy.

He was of philanthropic character, had much interest in all the social institutions in his neighborhood, providing help to the poor, and a businessman, chairing for example at the Guildford Gas Light and Coke Company. He died of illness on November 12, 1888, at the age of 59.

A 1880 crop circle or a not?

The case for the 1880 J. Rand Capron crop circle cannot be understood if the history of what became known as the "crop Circle Phenomenon" or the "Crop Circles Mystery" is not told. Please understand that this is not the entire and detailed story of the crop circles, only the summarized highlights that are relevant to the discussion of the "1880 crop circle".

Crop circles were invented by Doug Bower and Dave Chorley in 1978. Bower had lived in Australia and heard of the "saucer nests" affairs there. Cases where an alleged UFO was seen and thereafter, a circle, dubbed "saucer nest", was found. The first one there, in 1966, was the famous "Tully saucer nest", near a locality called Horseshoe Lagoon.

A farmer saw a UFO fly away in the sky, and below the spot where the object was seen hovering, he found out there was a round cleared area in the swamp grass. The water in this circular area was slowly rotating and appeared to be completely cleared of reeds. The farmer had passed the same spot some three hours earlier, as close as 12 feet, and this round was not there. Later in the day, the farmer returned along the track and stopped for another inspection. He found out that the cleared area of the lagoon surface was no longer visible. Instead, there was a floating mass of reeds, approximately 30 feet in diameter; which had apparently come to the surface of the lagoon during the time he was absent. The floating mass of reeds and grass was noticeably distributed in a radial pattern, in a clear clockwise manner. The farmer noticed the reeds were quite green in this mass, as they were in all the surrounding reeds in the lagoon. The outer perimeter of the floating mass was thrust down markedly as if indented by a massive inverted saucer shape, with a circular center about 6 to 8 feet in diameter. The farmer told his story, showed the round to other people, photographs were taken, the Royal Australian Air Force investigated, more details appeared on the spot: about 6 feet to the north of the "nest" a rectangular patch of the swamp couch grass, approximately 5 by 6 feet had been clipped at water level and pulled out completely. Underwater checks indicated three large holes in the muddy floor of the lagoon beneath the round, suggestive to some that the UFO had a tripod landing gear, and other "saucer nests" were found in the lagoon. Thus, the saucer nests were publicized in the Press, and any unrelated circle in the fields or anywhere that was found later became associated with UFOs, as flying saucers landing traces.

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Above: The original, first, "Tully saucer nest".

When Doug Bower moved back to England and met Dave Chorley, they became good friends, and in 1978 decided to do rounds in the fields to fool people into thinking saucers had landed. They did that, first in vain as not many people saw them, but eventually they did one that was easily noticeable from the nearby road, and the "crop circles" craze started.

They did simple rounds initially, because saucers were supposedly round. It was not a big success in the world of ufology at first. While the media headlined about saucer landings and little green men, The first ufologists who investigated a crop circle, as Ian Mrzyglod and his Probe group, found no evidence the rounds were caused by landed saucers. Mrzyglod wondered if they could be caused by the wind, and contacted a meteorologist about that.

This was Trowbridge meteorologist Dr. Terence Meaden, who had once debunked a UFO report which was just a mock-sun phenomenon. Meaden has studied physics, had a doctorate, but he had developed an interest in meteorology, and especially tornadoes and whirlwinds. After publishing a book about it, full of anecdotes about cows taken off the ground by tornadoes and so on, he had created a small unofficial amateur group of other professional and amateur meteorologists who were also fascinated by tornadoes: the Tornado and Storm Research Organization, TORRO. Meaden edited its journal, The journal of Meteorology, or "J-Met". Despite the imposing name, it was certainly not the big professional peer-reviewed scientific journal for meteorology, but mostly an amateur bulletin about tornadoes reports, tornadoes anecdotes, weather oddities, and an occasional scientific paper.

After reading Mrzyglod's report, he went on the spot at fall, and the circles were barely visible, as the field had been harvested. He responded to Mrzyglod that it could have been created by whirlwinds and published in his J-Met an article titled "Mystery Spiral in Wiltshire Cereal Field".

Bower and Chorley know nothing of all this. They did not read the newspaper that p8blished the first three crop circles story and, thinking their prank did not get any attention, they were ready to abandon. But they did a last try in 1981 with three circles at a place called "The Devil's Punchbowl" at Cheesefoot Head, a highly visible place, and became aware of the sensation it made.

Farmers believed it was caused by helicopters, and Meaden believed it was caused by whirlwinds. Bower and Chorley heard about that, and decided to have a good time at the expense of the scientist. They created multiple rounds, geometrically symmetrically placed, "triplets", "quadruplets" and "quintuplets", thinking Meaden would look like a fool now. But Meaden said his theory explained that, he claimed wind vortices can create such symmetrical patterns. That play continued, with Bower and Chorley creating a "crop triangle", adding lines to crop circles, creating crop circles uphill when Meaden said the fact that crop circles are downhill proves the wind theory, creating anti-clockwise swirled crop circles as Meaden had said that the fact that the crop circles are always clockwise proves his theory. When people said they saw "lights" or "UFOs" in the crop circles, Meaden said the wind vortices are able to create luminous plasma, etc.

In the meantime, crop circles visitors, the curious, paranormal researchers, started to wonder whether they could do such crop circles too. Some thought it must be impossible, but all discovered it was very possible to do them. The next step was to do more and more "complex" figures, because some "crop circle experts" argued that simple circles can be hoaxed, but the more complex couldn't. And, logically, it became an art. It changed from a "saucer landing hoax" an art. With competition between circle makers, teams of circle makers. Who would do the next wonder crop circle? The biggest? The most "difficult" to do?

Now, crop circles experts claimed there are crop circles all over the world. They said that because Bower and Chorley explained that they invented the crop circles. The "experts" lied, claiming Bower and Chorley said they did all the crop circles in England and in the entire world. They never said that, they only said they started it in England in 1978, and that others joined: when they stood in their crop circles, they would often meet "experts" and tourists from other countries who marveled at the crop circles and wondered whether they could try to do some in their own countries, and that it why some crop circles "appeared" in other countries too.

Who found the J. Rand Capron report?

In 1982, a TORRO member, sent to Meaden a report about the 1966 Tully saucer nest, and Meaden immediately believed it was created by a whirlwind, and, as this was a 1966 report, he now was reassured: whirlwind had created crop circles in the past too! Of course, the Tully nest included a UFO in his story. But there was a misprint in the report he read, the UFO sighting hour changed from 9 a.m., daylight, to 9 p.m., nighttime, so Meaden decided the UFO was actually just air, ionized by the whirlwind and this glowing in the night (This was silly, the farmer had described a daylight, metallic-looking, non-luminous object). Incidentally, the Secretary of the Department of Air, Australia, wrote in 1966 that the Tully "saucer nest" was "possibly" the result of a whirlwind and the UFO the farmer saw has "no explanation" but could have been associated with whirlwind or "water spouts".

Meaden and the TORRO people were of course very interested in whirlwind-created crop circles in all sorts of archives, and this is how the J. Rand Capron report found by Peter Van Doorn, a TORRO member who was looking for ball lightning reports in old publications, passed it to Meaden who published it in the "J-Met".

Meaden commented that the J. Rand Capron "crop circle" was non-artificial, that it occurred naturally, the result of whirlwinds. It obviously did not fascinate Meaden as a "UFO report" or "alien crop circle report" or anything paranormal, it fascinated Meaden because he had, at last, a report of crop circles created by whirlwinds from a science journal!

Crop circles "experts" and buffs at work.

Whirlwind crop circles theorists, now known as "Meadenites", were engaged in hot arguing with another clan, the "Delgadonians". Named after Pat Delgado, a charming eccentric Englishman who had been among the first to study the "crop circles mystery", the Delgadonians scoffed at the whirlwind theory and argued that crop circles are indeed created by alien UFOs, or - as time went by and the crop circles shapes ceased to be just rounds - that crop circles are "messages" from the aliens.

Of course, the Delgadonians were also delighted by the J. Rand Capron report. Not as evidence that whirlwinds can create rounds in the crops, but as evidence crop circles are not a "new" phenomena. This seemed like a minor point initially. Why would aliens have to be among us in the past? There was no necessity.

But in 1990, shattering news had fallen on the crop circles buffs. Doug Bower and Dave Chorley revealed that they started the crop circle craze. They proved that a circle they created was called "not made by men" by "expert" Pat Delgado. The mystery was over! No whirlwinds, no UFOs, no aliens, just two pranksters!

Many "crop circles experts" then honestly dropped the matter, but those who were making a living out of it, selling books, conferences, CD-Roms, were not ready to quit. They needed to fight back. Calling "Doug and Dave" liars or alcoholic was one way, claiming that their circle-making was actually staged by the CIA was another, but they certainly realized that unproven conspiracy theories and insults were falling short. This is why they started a campaign about "crop circles before Doug and Dave". If there were crop circles before the two pranksters started their owns, they argued, it "proves" that at least not all crop circles are pranks, that some of them are indeed made by aliens!

And this worked just fine. Because their followers, their readers, did not know much on the topic, because they believed their lies about Bower and Chorley, because they knew nothing about wind and other explanation of so-called crop circles that are not even to be called crop circles, they failed to realize that the 1966 Tully saucers nest might have been created by aliens, but had no resemblance whatsoever to the crop circles! the Tully saucer nests were maybe made by aliens, but the crop circles that started to "appear" in England in 1978 were not, they were indeed made by "Doug and Dave".... as a prank inspired by the Tully saucers nests!

Crop circles buffs of course also failed to realize that the J. Rand Capron "crop circles" were not crop circles either, there were not made by aliens, not by Doug and Dave obviously, but, for once, made by whirlwinds, which J. Rand Capron figured out at the time!

When they read that it was published in Meaden's small bulletin The Journal of Meteorology, not knowing how modest the journal was and how it published mostly anecdotes, not scientific studies, they believe the 1880 crop circle to be something "proven" to be "non-human" by some sort of peer-reviewed evidence or studying. When they read that the original report was in Nature, they think the same, not knowing it was only a reader's letter from an amateur scientist.

Because the original J. Rand Capron report is quite usually truncated, they do not see that J. Rand Capron, the scientist, actually has an explanation to offer: circles made by whirlwinds.

Below: How crop circles buffs fool their readers. This is the J. Rand Capron report on a French "crop circles" website. It pretends to be quoting J. Rand Capron, but the beginning, where Capron wrote that "The storms about this part of Surrey have been lately local and violent, and the effects produced in some instances curious" and the last paragraph in which Capron wrote "They were to me suggestive of some cyclonic wind action", were omitted:

A few standing stalks as a center as evidence... of what?

In some crop circles made by men, as pranks or as a form of art or skill, it does sometimes happen that a pack of stems, or some stems, or just a single stem, stand straight up in the center of circles.

Of course, for the Meadenites, this was evidence that a whirlwind did it. Everyone has heard of "the eye of the hurricane", the center of a hurricane where wind speed is null; exactly the same would occur with a much smaller whirlwind. Moreover, at the center, the air would blow up around the center, thus lifting the stems. This just makes sense!

Of course, for the Delgadonians, anything was evidence that the crop circles are not all "hoaxed". When a crop circle "expert" saw stems standing up in the center, they would claim that this was "evidence" the crop circle was not man-made. They would just claim that, without giving any reason, without any good reason to discard that this was quite the sort of thing one would expect in a crop circle created by whirlwinds. This makes no sense.

Let's forget for a moment those crop circles that aren't crop circles but the result of wind, and concentrate on man-made crop circles, those crop circles made to make believe saucers have landed, and those made for the sake of art.

To do a circle, Doug and Dave initially went on their knees and pushed a bar around a central spot.

Later, a rope and a stick were used to trace the circle's outline. A single crop circle maker would use a stick planted in the soil at the place that would become the center of the circle to do, he would attach one end of the rope to the stick, extend the rope, and press down the crop while walking around the rod with the rope extended.

Crop circle teams do not necessarily use a stick, because someone in the team can hold one end of the rope and stand still while another presses down the circle's outline. In some cases, the circle was then "filled" by flattening the crop inside the outline, and the stick would be removed and its remaining hole filled in by the hand with some soil. But sometimes, at the place where the rod was, quite commonly, some stems were just left standing near the stick. Because "experts" published that it was "anomalous" or that it was some sort of evidence of their pet theory, some circles makers then actually started to let the center of their formation unflattened!

I guess anyone sensible can understand that stems standing straight at the center of a crop circle is certainly no proof that aliens or UFOs or angels or psychic forces or whatever supernatural do crop circles. But is is also not necessarily evidence of wind vortices action, since human crop circle making occasionally also leaves stems up at the center of the circles, and since they sometimes do it on purpose because this has been called "evidence" of non-human making!


I actually saw a circlemaking video in which the artists took care to lift up a few stems at the center of their design, explaining that "experts" believe this proves the "authenticity" of alien or paranormal crop circles!

Of course, in 1880, there was no Doug and Dave flying saucer traces prank, and no crop circles artists who would purposefully let stems up just because they know it pleases mystery mongers so much. This means that the "few standing stalks as a centre" that J. Rand Capron noted were indeed logically more evidence of wind action that evidence of anything else. On this, Dr. Meaden was right.

By the way, what is a crop circle?

Difficulties arise in crop circles debate because there is no established and accepted definition of what a crop circle actually is.

A large number of traces on the ground have been called crop circles. For example, if someone finds a circle traces in the sand on a beach without footsteps entering of leaving this circle, some crop circles "experts" would readily include it in their "crop circle database". But isn't a crop circle supposed to be in the crop? Shall we accept that just anything apparently weird on the ground is a crop circle? What about those "snow circles"? They are, wisely, called snow circles and not crop circles, but to me the same causes are at work there: a prank! So, shouldn't snow circles be called crop circles? Who defines all this, how can anyone force everyone to agree to a common definition?

The current state of affairs is actually totally messy. And I am evidently in no position to force anyone to accept any definition whatsoever.

What about the Tully saucers nests?

They were called "saucers nests", and saucers nests were, to everyone, alleged traces caused in some vegetation by landed saucers. This was quite clear. Just because a new "phenomenon" of "crop circles" appeared decades later, should the Tully saucer nests called "crop circles" now?

This is what crop circles "experts" want. Because what was initially called crop circles was totally debunked, they are in the desperate position to call crop circles stuff that was never called crop circle before. They look into the ufology literature, find UFO traces, or alleged UFO traces, and call it "crop circle". They find some old story of witches dancing around in a field, and call it "crop circle", even if the (alleged) "crop circle" is actually a circle or footsteps. A folklore tale says the devil put a field on fire and mowed the crop. Is this a crop circle? Aren't crop circles supposed to be flattened crop, not a field on fire, not mowed crop? "Fairy rings" are caused by the undergrowth or outgrowth of fungi, are these also "crop circles"?

Don't let the "experts" confuse you with all this, don't let them fool you!

The "crop circles mystery" really started from the saucers landing traces prank by Bower and Chorley in 1978, and it became land art later. There is nothing before that proves otherwise. No case of UFO landing trace, whether real or hoaxed, no "Nazca line", no snow, ice or sand circle, no giant geoglyph, after or before 1978, proves otherwise.

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