Are they alien or something a little more earthly? That has been the real question for decades as people strive to find the truth behind the mysterious patterns that have been appearing in fields all over the world. How do they form, and where are they from? Science may not have all the answers, but there are some interesting theories. The truth is out there...

The history of crop circles

Photo of crop circles in the middle of a green field
Credit: Robert Hoetink / Shutterstock

In 1966, an Australian farmer saw a UFO take off over a swamp on his land. When he went to investigate what it was, he didn’t find a flying saucer, but instead there were circular patterns flattened in the reeds and grass around the swamp. When investigators showed up, they said it was likely caused by a dust devil or waterspout, not quite as exciting as a UFO. Despite the boring diagnosis, the press referred to the site as a “flying saucer nest,” and the story took off from there.

For the next few decades, crop circles started to mysteriously show up in fields around the world, most of them in the English countryside. Simple circles started appearing in the ‘70s and became more complex until they reached a peak in the ‘90s. Simple circles could be easily explained with odd weather phenomena, but the more complex they got, the harder it became to explain.

The most complex crop circle came in 1996 in England right across from the famed ancient monument Stonehenge, which has its own alien-related history. This circle was formed to depict a Julia Set, a complex mathematical function. Because of its complexity, it could not be passed off as being created by the weather. Someone (or something) intelligent had to be behind its creation.

Alien theories

Photo of an intricate crop circle pattern in a green field
Credit: Pojbic / iStockPhoto

Some people truly believe that aliens are behind these agricultural patterns. Theories range from UFO landing/takeoff sites to intergalactic lasers. There are even videos of aliens supposedly creating crop circles within seconds. One interesting theory involves crop circles left as messages to the human race from aliens or even time travelers. Despite the many hoaxers that have come forward taking credit for creating crop circles, there are still many people that believe in more alien origins.

There are also other theories claiming that energies from Earth are behind the formation of crop circles. It is believed by some that geomagnetic activity flowing through Earth can cause crops to flatten in certain patterns. Others believe that crop circles are formed by spiritual forces such as sacred sites or buried artifacts.


Photo of a crop circle in a field of wheat
Credit: allou / Shutterstock

While the alien theories are fun to read about, the truth is far less exciting. Over 80% of crop circles have conclusively been proven to be created by a hoaxer: a person whose goal is to confuse people and make them believe in aliens. Even the 1996 Julia Set, which was believed by many to be too complex for the average hoaxer, was proven to be a fake when the culprits eventually came forward.

Manmade crop circles are made using measuring tools and a garden roller, both of which can be found in almost any hardware store. There are even instructions online to show you how to “create your own crop circle and mystify your neighbors!” The more well-versed in complex mathematical shapes you are, the more attention your crop circle will get.

It’s no surprise that most crop circles form right off major highways or in fields with easy-access roads. If they were created by alien spaceships, they would be able to form even in the most desolate places. According to all scientific knowledge and research, crop circles are nothing more than agricultural graffiti.

Aliens or humans? You decide.

Photo of an intricate crop circle in a field of wheat
Credit: Markus Gann / Shutterstock

While there is ample evidence showing that humans are the ones behind crop circles, there is still some doubt even within the scientific community. So for now, the interpretation is left up to you. Are aliens trying to communicate with us?