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SFU prof investigates 'controversial' crop circles

Theories about the origin of crop circles include aquifers, UFOs, and ball lightening

Tourists from all over the world visit Wiltshire England to see the crop circles, which appear in wheat and barley fields throughout the summer months.

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Paul Kingsbury / SFU

Tourists from all over the world visit Wiltshire England to see the crop circles, which appear in wheat and barley fields throughout the summer months.

Vancouver’s resident expert on all things supernatural calls it “one of the most controversial and beautiful landscape phenomenon in the world.”

Crop circles are fascinating to cultural geographer Paul Kingsbury because observers have recorded more than 20,000 crop circles and yet people can't agree on who made them.

The paranormal researcher attended a conference in the crop-circle capital of the world, Wiltshire, England this summer.

“Since the 2000s, [crop circles] are increasing in size and complexity so you’ve seen a rise of what you call cereology, which is the research into crop circles,” said Kingsbury, a SFU professor.


Unlike other paranormal phenomenon like ghosts and sasquatches, crop circles can, in theory, be created by people. But the large patterns are often too complicated to recreate, said Kingsbury.

"When the hoaxes say look we did this one in this field, when they’re pressed to show how they made these perfectly formed circles in this part of the field, they cannot reproduce what they said they did.”

Some cereologists argue UFOs are responsible for making crop circles while others maintain crop circles are linked with aquifers or caused by ball lightening. But everyone at the conference agrees crop circles are a sacred phenomena.

“What was really interesting in this conference was there wasn’t an emphasis on what is causing this,” said Kingsbury.

“It was more an appreciation about their beauty and their complexity.”

Kingsbury visited a crop circle while he was in in Wiltshire, where residents discovered 30 crop circles this past summer. There, he saw the effect those fields had on visitors.

“People claimed to receive powerful energy. A mother and son were embracing in the middle of the circle. People were mediating,” he said.

While cereologists maintain crop circles are proof of paranormal activity on earth, the patterned fields are also tourism attractions. Wiltshire is also home to Stonehenge.
Some farmers allow tourists to visit their fields for a small fee and at the end of the season, donate those funds to charity, said Kingsbury.

“There’s been thousands of pounds raised by one crop circle that the farmer then donates to charity.”

Observers have discovered several crop circles in B.C., Washington, and Oregon in recent years, according to Kingsbury. But while there is a healthy community of ghost investigators and sasquatch enthusiasts in the Lower Mainland, crop circles are not as popular, he said.

“I’m not aware of a devoted crop-circle organization in B.C. but it’s one of those phenomena that really excites people interest in the mystery.” 

Kingsbury is giving a talk about crop circles at a public lecture Thursday, Nov. 2  at 1 p.m. at SFU's Burnaby campus.

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