The Historic Crop Circle Project
Crop Circle Reseach
The purpose of this project is to locate evidence that creates a history of crop circles prior to the Doug and Dave period, that is to say, a history of pre-1978 crop circles. Ideally this evidence should be empirical or from primarily source material so that the history of crop circles can be placed in an overall historic context

The first complete history of crop circles is found in Terry Wilson's book "The Secret History of Crop Circles" and also in his website Old Crop Circles (click this link to visit site). Wilson has also published a website that extensively examines the claims that renowned hoaxers Doug Bower and David Chorley were the originators of crop circles, which and be viewed at this site

Historic Crop Circles

This work will demonstrate, through the use of reliable archival material that, whilst the debate surrounding the history and origin of crop circles began in the 1980’s, crop circles have been occurring historically in the English rural environment for at least the last 300 years and have left a clear historic record in early publications and scientific journals including a 19th century issue of Nature. This work will analyse these historic descriptions beginning with a 17th century woodcut claimed by many to be the earliest description of a crop circle, to show a chronological and descriptive consistency of the phenomena that stretches over at least three centuries. The various causative agents historically and recently ascribed to crop circles and the results of scientific research from the late 20th century will also be briefly examined in the light of these historic descriptions.

Crop circles appear every year all around the world, in their hundreds, while over 10,000 crop circles have been documented in recent historic times.  Yet despite these numerous documented appearances the origin, or causative agent, of crop circles continues to be the subject of debate, having no agreed scientific explanation.  And although crop circles (well defined circular areas of flattened plants usually in grain crops) have actual, empirical existence and can therefore be measured, photographed and examined over an extended period of time there has been a tendency for scholars to put them into the same basket as UFO’s, ghosts and other difficult to document paranormal phenomena. Whilst there is no dispute that crop circles actually exist, the question of their origin remains controversial, for despite the relative antiquity of crop circles their frequency and complexity appears to have increased significantly over the last thirty years.   This sudden increase in complexity, which has often incorporated complex geometric relationships in the circle’s designs, is one of the factors that has generated the often heated debate as to whether crop circles are a phenomenon of human, supernatural or natural origin, the latter two causes being first proposed, respectively, in the 17th and 19th centuries. 

The other major factor affecting the debate on crop circle origins was the claim by two elderly landscape painters, Doug Bower and Dave Chorley, in 1991, that they had created all England’s crop circles as an ongoing series of hoaxes begun in 1978.   As a result of the extensive national and international media coverage given to Bower and Chorley’s claims the years immediately following 1991 saw a number of other professional British artists also claim that they were the creators of crop circles while some even started businesses making ‘crop circles’ for promotional purposes.

These hoax claims, and the motives of the hoaxers, is interesting and worthy of study in its own right in the context of scientific and artistic fraud, however these topics are not within the focus of this paper. Yet, as a study of the existing literature on crop circles makes it clear that a portion of the total number of crop circles that appear each year are in fact made by hoaxers, this paper will remove the ‘hoax’ factor from consideration by dealing only with crop circles that were reported significantly earlier than the year 1978, which is the date that was given by Bower and Chorley as the start date for their dubious activities. The most recent report relied on will come from a 1963 issue of New Scientist.

An examination of archival material in general circulation in the field of crop circle research shows that the term “crop circle” came into general usage around the late 1980’s and is commonly attributed to popular crop circle author Collin Andrews. However while the phenomena now known as a crop circle, that is a circular, or ovoid, imprint in a crop, has only been given this name recently the phenomenon itself has a clearly documented historic presence in the English countryside which can be traced back to 1678 in the form of a chap book known as The Mowing Devil, which will shortly be used as the starting point for this paper. 

Existing Literature
The lack of academic or scientific literature and the absence of any sustained scholarly research on the subject of crop circles are factors that make this subject quite unique. Over the period between 1982 and 2012 only 24 articles, concerned in some way with crop circles, have been published in academic journals and only seven of those twenty four works were peer reviewed, the remainder being news or opinion pieces.  This contrasts strongly with the fact that over the same period of time there have been many thousands of articles, books, magazines, newsletters, television documentaries, photographs, websites and even one Hollywood feature film published in the general media concerned with the subject of crop circles, their origins and causes. This extensive popular media coverage demonstrates the enormous public interest in the subject; a level of interest that contrasts starkly with the lack of interest shown by scholars. It can be safely stated that the reluctance of scholars to undertake research into crop circles has its origins in an interesting “Catch 22” situation defined by folklorist Gillian Bennet:  “Firstly, no one will tackle the subject because it is disreputable, and it remains disreputable because one will tackle it.”

This paper seeks to, at least partially, remedy this situation by “tackling” the subject through an examination of the historic occurrence of crop circles and will show that there is a small but solid body of existing historic evidence that supports the thesis that crop circles existed in the English rural environment long before any of those people who claim to have been the originators of crop circles were born.  Due to the controversial nature of the subject of crop circles this article will rely only on historic documents with unquestionable provenance and descriptions published in reputable, archived, academic journals.

Crop Circles in History

17th Century
The first clear historic description of a crop circle comes from the 1678 chap book entitled The Mowing Devil, an original of which is held in the British Library.  The existence of this pamphlet is noted in the 1834 edition of The bibliographer's manual of English literature, which describes the original work as four pages plus a front-piece.  The Mowing Devil was also reproduced in at least four separate 19th century books as well as in a number of books published in the 20th century before 1978.   This certainly ensures that there can be no doubt as to original’s provenance as a reliable archival document. Added to The Mowing Devil’s descriptive value is the fact that the chap book combines a woodcut drawing of a crop circle with a detailed textual description of the crop circle. Interestingly there is also a description of its formation (shown below). Despite the obvious similarities between the Mowing Devil’s “circle in a crop” and modern “crop circles” there is some dispute regarding the general interpretation of the description as being that of a crop circle, which will be dealt with further along.
Being a True Relation of a Farmer, who Bargaining with a Poor Mower, about the Cutting down Three Half Acres of Oats: upon the Mower's asking too much, the Farmer swore That the Devil should Mow it rather than He. And so it fell out, that very Night, the Crop of Oat shew'd as if it had been all of a Flame: but next Morning appear'd so neatly mow'd by the Devil or some Infernal Spirit, that no Mortal Man was able to do the like. Also; How the said Oats ly now in the Field, and the Owner has not Power to fetch them away.
Licensed, August 22, 1678

The original chap book held by the British Library is made up of five A5 sized pages, the first page, or front piece, as shown above and the following four pages of text, without further illustrations. Pocket sized chap books, to a large degree fulfilled a similar function in the 17th century as does a tabloid newspaper today, in as much as it was a means by which groups and individuals could disseminate simple blocks of information to the populus outwards from London into the regional areas. In 1678 all printing presses were required to be licensed and each piece of printed material had to pass censorship requirements, which were enforced by the Worshipful Company of Stationers. The license date shown of The Mowing Devil front piece indicates it was printed on a licensed press and that its contents had passed the censorship requirements of the Worshipful Stationers. Once the Mowing Devil chap book had been printed, almost certainly in London, it would have been distributed throughout the city and the English countryside by itinerant vendors who specialised in the sale of such things.  Printed materials, and chap books in particular, were seen as a novel new form of media that was accessible to the general public and, as such, an effective way of distributing all forms of information including news, political propaganda and religious messages.

The format of The Mowing Devil is similar to most chap books of the mid to late 17th century in that text of the first page offers, an illustration, a “headline” and a short text, like the first paragraph in a modern newspaper article, that summarises the “newsworthy” story contained in the following pages. In the case of the Mowing Devil the front piece does not mention the Christian “moralistic” narrative contained in following text, though the fact that the “news” concerns a devil’s interaction with a farmer’s crop would have given the 17th century reader a fair indication that the book may contain some form of religious message along with a description of the newsworthy event. This is interesting, for ascribing a religious or spiritual message, from a supernatural causative agent, to a crop circle is a feature of the modern response to the phenomena with many 21st century publications that include descriptions of crop circles also including a religious or spiritual narrative.

Whilst the moralising aspect of the last four pages of the Mowing Devil tends to dominate the text, within those four pages is a clear description of the process of the formation of a crop circle: “… his Field of Oats was publickly beheld by several Passengers to be all of a Flame, and so continued for some space, to the great consternation of those that beheld it.” (In this context the word “passenger” has its old English meaning of a person passing by.) However when the farmer inspected his oat field in the morning he found the oats were not burnt at all but laid in flat, neat circles.  Its is worth noting that the original text uses the plural, circles, indicating that the illustration was one of several circles that appeared in the crop that night, for that this “clustering” of circles in crops occurs in every one of the following reports quoted in this work.

A number of commentators have stated that the Mowing Devil crop circle could not be a “genuine” crop circle because it was “all of a flame” (all aflame) and there for burnt, however the statement that when the farmer inspected the crop in the morning he found no sign of burned oats but rather neatly laid out circles of oats tells us that the “flame” was in fact a bright light of some form. Indeed a 17th century rural resident would have no conception of, or point of reference to, a source of terrestrial light other than from some form of flame, so a bright light in a field at night could only be described as a flame or assumed to be coming from a fire of some kind.

These descriptions combine with the contents of the front piece to give a clear impression of a crop circle that conforms in all its essential details to the 19th and early 20th century descriptions that will shortly be discussed. The “flame” also relates to the theories for the involvement of some form of electromagnetic radiation in the formation of crop circles that resulted from scientific research in the 1990’s, which will be discussed later in this work.   It is also worth noting that the image on the front piece shows not The Devil (Satan) but “a devil” or “some infernal spirit” mowing a circular formation inside a mature crop of oats in a pattern easily recognised as a familiar crop circle design.

Whilst it seems that almost no modern account of the crop circle phenomena is given without some mention of the Mowing Devil there are only two academic works that deal with it in any detail. The most comprehensive of these is Bruce Mason’s 1991 Master’s thesis Belief, Explanation and Rhetoric in the Crop Circle Phenomena of Southern England.  In this work Mason, a folk lore specialist, gives a detailed examination of the Mowing Devil document and accurately places it in its historic context.   The only other analysis of the Mowing Devil is in a peer reviewed publication by Theo Meder, also a folklorist, who maintains that the Mowing Devil text has nothing whatever to do with crop circles and incorrectly claims that the Mowing Devil chap book is actually a traditional folk tale about the devil “… internationally known as ATU 820: The Devil as a substitute for day labourer at mowing.”  However the real ATU 820 actually refers to a completely different story, found not in England but almost exclusively in northern Europe, concerning a situation where an evil foreman overworks his farm laborers until the devil shows up in the guise of a day laborer. The devil, who has a magic sickle, mows faster than all the other workers but the arrogant foreman tries to keep up with the devil until the he (the foreman) exhausts himself and dies.   The story in The Mowing Devil  has no foreman, no mention of a magic sickle and no mowing competition or death; while ATU 820 has no circular formations in the crop, no neatly laid straw and no passers by seeing a flame in the field and no farmer who can not remove his oats from the field. Indeed there can be no doubt that the Mowing Devil text does not relate in any way to the Northern European folk tale other than both involve the mention of a devil. Further the Mowing Devil is not presented in the format of a folk tale, rather it is presented in a news format, as a news item, with the clear claim that the event described within the chap book is a true story and that it actually happened only a few days prior to the booklet going to print. Indeed the date of the licensing of the publication, the 22nd of August, is exactly around the point of time one would, today, expect to see a crop circle in a field of oats.

Whilst Meder and other sceptics argue that this woodcut is simply “a traditional folktale about the devil”, the ascribing of a supernatural cause to an unexplained natural event has been commonplace through most of human history and is still common enough today.  We know for example in the 1780’s, when (probably a volcanic cloud) blotted out the daylight for at least ten hours on much of the American east coast bringing on a deep and unnatural nightfall, the event was attributed to supernatural causes by various well educated people, some saying it was caused by the Devil others saying it was God punishing a godless society, in what might otherwise have been described as a relatively enlightened society.  Indeed even in the year 1990 the Rev. Peter Saunt was quoted in the British newspaper the Independent of Sunday as scribing the causative agent of crop circles to “… an Occult power, some spiritual force.” 
Further the woodcut’s pictorial and textual description has an overwhelming number of obvious similarities to later 19th and 20th century descriptions of crop circles, for example compare the description that the laid stalks “… appear'd so neatly mow'd by the Devil or some Infernal Spirit, that no Mortal Man was able to do the like” with the 19th century description in Nature by Capron “…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.”  Capron’s description also fits neatly with the woodcut’s illustration, as does the 1963 description by Sir Patrick Moore “There was evidence of spiral flattening, and in one case there was a circular area in the centre in which the wheat had not been flattened.”  The fact that the author of The Mowing Devil noted, both in the text and drawing, the neatness with which the oat stalks had been laid indicates this ‘neatness’ was a prominent feature of the formation, as it is in modern crop circles. And while Capron noted the neatness with which the stalks were laid in his description, Moore noted the spiral nature of the flattening, which is obvious in the drawing of the devil’s “mown” circle. The last indicator of interest in the Mowing Devil description is “How the said Oats ly now in the Field, and the Owner has not Power to fetch them away.” This is an important end note to the description for it indicates that the oats had not been cut but were flattened, as per Moore’s description, for had the oats been cut the owner could easily have gathered them up but if they were flattened by having the stalks bent at the base as is universally the case with modern crop circles, they could not be gathered. Exactly this problem was recounted by farm laborer, Paul Germany, who observed a crop circle form on the farm where he was employed in Essex in 1935; “The farmer gave me a pitch fork and told me to try and raise the fallen corn, I stood in the circle but I faced a futile task, as fast as I raised the corn stalks they sprang back into place.”  (It should be noted that the word ‘corn’ is a generic term which in old English referred to grain crops generally and not the American maize plant which is now days often called corn.) This is an important component of The Mowing Devil’s textual description of the “mown” oats for the fact that the word “mowing” was used has been seen by many commentators as indicating that the circle in the crop of oats had indeed been cut rather than flattened, as is the case with a modern crop circle. However this statement, that the oats could not be gathered up, which is mentioned twice in the text, clearly indicates that the crops had not been cut but flattened.

19th Century
Spectroscopist John Rand Capron’s article in Nature, in 1880, was the first description of crop circles to be published in a scientific journal.  Whilst there do exist earlier works, which some have claimed to be descriptions of crop circles and that might be considered scientific, such as the work by Robert Plot who, physicist Richard Taylor says, “…in 1686 … discussed crop-circle formation in terms of airflows from the sky” it cannot be conclusively argued that these descriptions were actually referring to crop circles.    Indeed Mason makes the point that Plot’s descriptions of what he was investigating were so “accurate and detailed” that there can be little doubt that he was studying the fairy rings in grasses we now know to be caused by fungus.  However this is certainly not the case with Capron’s very detailed description of the neatly flattened circles he viewed in a wheat field.

J. R. Capron was born in 1829, the son of a wealthy leather merchant in Guildford. After studying at the Royal Guildford Grammar school he was articled as a solicitor to his uncle. Capron became a wealthy businessman with a passion for both biology and astronomy and had the funds and intelligence to explore the new technology of photography to become one of the earliest scientific photographers.  Though Capron’s profession was as a solicitor and coroner he became a highly respected “gentleman” scientist who built a private observatory on his property on the Hog Back ridge West of Guildford.  Capron’s reports of his observations were regularly published in scholarly journals. He also published several scientific books, which included Photographed Spectra in 1877 (made up of reproductions of 136 of his photographs) and Aurorae: Their Characters and Spectra in 1879. Capron became a Fellow of the Astronomical Society in 1877 and was regularly published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

In his article in Nature in July 1880 Capron described what he considered to be the after effects of a storm on a field of standing wheat in the south of Surry on a neighboring farm not far from his observatory. He had originally included a sketch of the circles in the crop of wheat with the article sent to Nature. However whilst the drawing, which was “made on the spot”, was not published with the article Capron’s description was an accurate, detailed description by a trained scientific observer, written immediately after the inspection of the circles in the crop of wheat and, like the Mowing Devil’s descriptions there can be little doubt that what Capron described was that phenomena which was to later become known as “crop circles”.
… 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. 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….  to me suggestive of some cyclonic wind action.
Capron’s description is important for several reasons, apart from the fact that it was published 111 years before the claims by various ‘artists’ that they were responsible for the creation of all English crop circles.  Most important is the accuracy of Capron’s description, which corresponds exactly with many later photographs of crop circles, and it is a great pity that the diagram drawn by Capron to accompany his text has not survived.  Of further interest is the fact that Capron mentions that there was not one, singular, circle in the crop but a cluster of circles, for this cluster or grouping of circles is exactly what was noted by Sir Patrick Moore in 1963 but was not noted by modern crop circle researchers until 1981.

20th Century
The 20th century’s first, known, published description of a crop circle, and also the first photograph of a crop circle, came from a British archaeologist, Eliot Cecil Curwen who wrote a short piece in Sussex Notes and Queries, a journal published by the Sussex Archaeological Society.  Curwen, a successful surgeon, was another “gentleman scientist” whose passion was the archaeology of Sussex on which subject he wrote two books and published numerous articles. In this article Curwen tells how, in August 1932, he was taken to a group of circles laid out in a field of barley that had been observed by walkers from nearby Bow Hill, which is the location of several circular Neolithic structures generally considered to be barrows.

The Neolithic mounds are on the grassy summit of Bow Hill from where there is a clear view to the north and west, over the cultivated fields below that held the circles. Curwen would have initially been interested in the circles because of the known relationship between vegetation anomalies and archaeological remains as well as their proximity to the known circular Neolithic structures. Because the circles in the crop of barley could not be seen from ground level Dr. Curwen first viewed them from the summit of Bow Hill and sketched their approximate size and position within the field, obviously expecting that the circles might reveal a new cluster of Neolithic remains; however on descending to the fields his examination revealed that these circular crop anomalies were not the result of remnant structures or other subsoil factors but of a bending, or lodging, of the crop’s stalks. He photographed the most obvious circle from the elevated vantage point of Bow Hill and described it as being of approximately forty meters in diameter and on close inspection it “…was found to consist of a circle in which the barley was 'lodged' or beaten down”. Curwen’s article also included a detailed diagram of the cluster of circles which is reproduced here with the photograph. In Curwen’s diagram it is seen that one of the circles overlaps a pathway and fence line separating the field of barley from the field to the immediate west and that this intersection appears to have prevented the circle forming in the adjoining field. However Curwen does not indicate if this adjoining field was sown with a crop capable of carrying an imprint or not.

It is worth mentioning that circles in this crop of barley were noted in August, the same month as the circles in the crop of oats were noted in the Mowing Devil chap book.

Patrick Moore (later Sir Patrick) is a famous British astronomer. In 1963 he wrote a detailed letter to the New Scientist regarding a mysterious circular crater, of possible meteoric origin, which had appeared in a field of potatoes in Wiltshire in mid-July 1963.   The appearance of this crater attracted significant public and media attention, including three articles in The Times. 
… police kept the public away from the field at Manor Farm, Charlton, Donhead, near Shaftsbury, Dorset, the experts were trying to establish what happened to the potatoes and barley that had been growing where the 8ft wide crater was found on Wednesday, and what happened to the cow found yesterday in a field near by with its hide peeling as if it had been scorched. The potatoes and barley had completely disappeared.
Captain John Rogers, leader of the Army team from Horsham, Sussex, said: “I am completely baffled.”

In the process of describing his inspection of this crater Moore incidentally mentioned several unusual circles of flattened wheat in the fields that adjoined the potato paddock in which the crater had appeared. At this time the term “crop circle” had not been coined and there was no real public interest in circles that appeared in crops; however there can be little doubt that Moore was also describing crop circles:

In the adjoining wheat fields were other features, taking the form of circular or elliptical areas in which the wheat had been flattened. I saw these myself, they had not been much visited, and were certainly peculiar. One, very well defined, was an oval fifteen yards long and four and three quarters broad. There was evidence of spiral flattening, and in one case there was a circular area in the centre in which the wheat had not been flattened.

This description is of significance for several reasons; firstly because the author was a highly respected scientist who had observed the phenomena closely; secondly because the description of the circles was secondary to another unusual and well documented event; thirdly because the description conforms in its essential details to the 1880 description by Capron in Nature and the 1678 Mowing Devil woodcut.
Indeed if one compares Capron’s statements that the “prostrate stalks with their heads arranged pretty evenly in a direction forming a circle round the centre…” and “… a few standing stalks as a centre…” with Moore’s “… spiral flattening, and in one case there was a circular area in the centre in which the wheat had not been flattened” both men are undoubtedly describing the same type of phenomena.

Whilst there are several existent photographs of the Charlton crater that Moore initially went to inspect, there are currently none known of the nearby crop circles.

The four accounts discussed here show that circular formations have been appearing in grain crops across the English countryside for more than 300 years. Whilst this work has focused on the only four known descriptions of crop circles published before 1965 there does exist a body of work on pre-1978 oral histories concerned with crop circles. These histories have been collected by Terence Meaden, Terry Wilson and others. Most of these recollections arose as the result of the extensive media coverage given to crop circles from the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. This media coverage encouraged people to either write directly to the newspapers or to contact crop circle researchers mentioned in the media. For example in August 1990 a seventy year old woman, Kathleen Skin, wrote to the Sunday Express recalling when she witnessed the formation of a crop circle on a clear windless day in 1934. She recalled “… I was gazing over a field of corn waiting to be harvested when I heard a crackling like fire and saw a whirlwind in the centre of the field spinning stalks and dust and seeds up into the air more than 100 feet. I found a perfect circle of flattened corn, the stalks interlaced and the ears lying on top of each other…”.  The written accounts discussed earlier combine neatly with the oral histories recorded in several publications including the website Old Crop Circles and the book The Secret History of Crop Circles.  Just these two publications hold a combined total of more than fifty separate oral histories of pre-1978 crop circles, which clearly indicate a long term awareness of the existence of flattened circles in grain crops by residents of the English country side.   Indeed Terry Wilson’s work, The Secret History of Crop Circles, shows that traditional rural terms such as fairy rings, witches’ circles and devils’ twists may not refer exclusively to those circular shapes made in meadows by fungi but to a wider range of circular phenomena that includes what are now known as crop circles.

However, regardless of the exact source of these rural traditions, the published scientific descriptions presented herein certainly proves false the claims of those self confessed charlatans who profess to have been the originators of crop circles and also demonstrates the risk of relying on information provided by persons who admit to a practice of long term deception. And if this paper proves that the origin of the crop circle phenomena does not lay exclusively in the hands of the hoaxers it then also raises the question of who or what is responsible for the appearance of these circular formations in southern English grain crops? And it is a question worth asking for crop circles continue to appear at the rate of at least a couple of hundred each year, all around the world. 

Perhaps the most reasonable theory for their appearance comes from physicist Dr. Terrance Meaden who argues for a meteorological origin of crop circles in the form of unusual atmospheric forces such as short lived but intense descending air vortexes or ionized plasma balls (ball lightning).  Meaden’s theories of the involvement of electromagnetic energy in crop circle formation have been at least partially supported by the work of plant biophysicist William Levengood who noted cellular and germination abnormalities in plants growing within crop circles and discovered that some of these abnormalities could be duplicated using bursts of microwaves on the tissue and seeds of healthy plants.  Other research, from non biological sources, by Varaksin et al on concentrated air vortexes supports Meaden’s theory that the forces within the base of air vortexes are involved in the formation of crop circles while the work by Japanese physicists Ohtsuki and Ofuruton on ball lightning shows that microwaves are likely to be involved in the formation of plasma fireballs.  Despite this support for Meaden’s theory for the involvement of air vortexes and some form of ionized plasma in the formation of crop circles his theory does not explain the increasing size and complexity of crop circles noted by Haselhoff and Taylor, though Taylor and Meaden both assert that these complex circles, which often incorporate advanced geometry in their design, are the product of hoaxers.

So it is that there remains considerable division, within both the public and academic domains, over the exact cause and origin of crop circles. Yet it is likely that this division could be resolved if, instead of an unspoken declaration of crop circles as a taboo subject, some serious scientific research or scholarly investigation was undertaken by those individuals and institutions whose primary function is the investigation of unexplained natural phenomenon. It is hoped that this paper gives sufficient proof that crops circles have been occurring for at least hundreds of years and that not all are the result of hoaxers but are unexplained natural events. For, as Columbus demonstrated to the skeptics of his time, new lands are only discovered if we are prepared to sail out of sight of the lands we already know.


Archival Material
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Capron J.‘Storm Effects’ Nature Vol. 22, 29 July 1880 pp. 290–291

Curwen E.‘Crop Marks in Stoughton Down’ Sussex Notes and Queries 1937 p.139

Gerish W.British Folklore London 1913

Lowndes W.The bibliographer's manual of English literature, Vol. 2 London 1834
Plot R.The Natural History of Staffordshire 1686

Bennet G.Traditions of Belief London 1987

Haselhof E.The Deepening Complexity of Crop Circles New York 2001

Meaden T.The Circles Effect and its Mysteries London 1989

Wilson T.The Secret History of Crop Circles Plymouth 1998


Campanella T.‘Mark Well the Gloom: Shedding Light on the Great Dark Day of 1780’  Environmental History, Vol. 12,  2007, pp. 35-58

Levengood W.‘Anatomical anomalies in crop formation plants’ Physiologia Plantarum Vol. 92: 1994 pp. 356-363.

Levengood et al‘Dispersion  of  Energies In  Worldwide  Crop  Formations’  Physiologia Plantarium Vol. 105, 1999 pp. 615-624.

Moore P.‘That Wiltshire Crater’ New Scientist, Vol. 19; August 1963 p.304

Peterson I.‘Off the Beat: Euclid's Crop Circles’ Science News, Vol. 141, (Feb. 1, 1992), pp. 76-77

Riese T. et al ‘Crop Circles and Euclidean Geometry’ International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology, Vol. 25:3, 1994 pp. 343-346

Roberts J.‘Trickster’ Oxford Art Journal, Vol. 22, (1999), p. 83

Schnabel J.‘Puck in the Laboratory’ Science, Technology, & Human Values, Vol. 19, 1994 pp. 460-479

Taylor R. ‘The Crop Circle Evolves’ Nature Vol. 465/10 June 2010 p.693

Taylor R.‘Crop Circles’ Physics World August 2011 p.2-3

Varaksin A et al ‘The Generation of Free Concentrated Air Vortexes under Laboratory Conditions’ High Temperature, 02/2009, Volume 47, Issue 1, pp. 78 - 82

Mason B.Belief, Explanation and Rhetoric in the Crop Circle Phenomena of Southern England. Masters Thesis
Websites (accessed 27 March 2012) (accessed 2 July 2012)
The Sunday Express 12 August 1990 p.

The TimesJuly 19 1963; July 26 1963; July 27 1963
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Archetypes and Motifs in Folk Lore and Literature Jane Garry and Hasan El-Shamy editors 2005 New York  Bargain with the Devil  Motif 210 by Natalie Underberg Page 308
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W. Lowndes The bibliographer's manual of English literature, Vol. 2 London 1834 p.576
Crop Circles: Signs of Contact  C Andrews, S. Spignesi New Jersey 2003

C Andrews Crop Circles: Signs of Contact  2003

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Saunt P. The Independent on Sunday 22 June 1990  p.25

Varaksin A et al  ‘The Generation of Free Concentrated Air Vortexes under Laboratory Conditions’ High Temperature, 02/2009, Volume 47, Issue 1, pp. 78 - 82

This is a copy of the front of the original Mowing Devil chap book held at the British Library.
At least four more original prints are known to be held in private collections around the world. The Bodleian Library in Oxford also holds a copy of the Mowing Devil.
The red lines were added to the page sometime after the 17th century, probably in in the 19th century. The Mowing Devil is the first in a line of documents that provides a clear history for crop circles

For the complete text of the Mowing Devil's full five pages click this link
The Complete Text of the 17th century Woodcut The Mowing Devil



Being a True Relation of a Farmer, who Bargaining with a Poor Mower, about the Cutting down Three Half Acres of Oats: upon the Mower's asking too much, the Farmer swore That the Devil should Mow it rather than He. And so it fell out, that very Night, the Crop of Oat shew'd as if it had been all of a Flame: but next Morning appear'd so neatly mow'd by the Devil or some Infernal Spirit, that no Mortal Man was able to do the like. Also, How the said Oats ly now in the Field, and the Owner has not Power to fetch them away.

Licensed, August 22, 1678

Men may dally with Heaven, and criticize on Hell, as Wittily as they please, but that there are really such places, the wise dispensations of Almighty Providence does not cease continually to evince. For if by those accumulated circumstances which generally induce us to the belief of anything beyond our senses, we may reasonably gather that there are certainly such things as DEVILS, we must necessarily conclude that these Devils have a Hell: and as there is a Hell, there must be a Heaven, and consequently a GOD: and so all the Duties of Christian Religion as indispensable subsequents necessarily follow.

The first of which Propositions, this ensuing Narrative does not a little help to Confirm.

For no longer ago, than within the compass of the present Month of August, there hapned so unusual an Accident in Hartfordshire as is not only the general Discourse, and admiration of the whole County: but may for its Rarity challenge any other event, which has for these many years been Product in any other County whatsoever. The story thus.

In the said County lives a Rich industrious Farmer, who perceiving a small Crop of his (of about three Half-Acres of Land which he had sowed with Oats) to be Ripe and fit for Gathering, sent to a poor Neighbour whom he knew worked commonly in the Summer-time at Harvest Labour to agree with him about Mowing or Cutting the said Oats down. The poor man as it behoov'd Him endeavour'd to see the Sweat of his Brows and Marrow of his Bones at as dear a Rate as reasonably he might, and therefore askt a good round Price for his Labour, which the Farmer taking some exception at, bid him much more under the usual Rate than the poor Man askt for it: So that some sharp Words had past, when the Farmer told him he would Discourse with him no more about it. Whereupon the honest Mower recollecting with himself, that if he undertook not that little Spot of Work, he might thereby lose much more business which the Farmer had to imploy him in beside, ran after him, and told him, that, rather than displease him, he would do it at what rate in Reason he pleas'd: and as an instance of his willingness to serve him, proposed to him a lower price, than he had Mowed for any time this Year before. The irretated Farmer with a stem look, and hasty gesture, told the poor man That the Devil himself should Mow his Oats before he should have anything to do with them, and upon this went his way, and left the sorrowful Yeoman, not a little troubled that he had disoblig'd one in whose Power it lay to do him many kindnesses.

But, however, in the happy series of an interrupted prosperity, we may strut and plume our selves over the miserable Indingencies of our necessitated Neighbours, yet there is a just God above, who weighs us not by our Bags, nor measures us by our Coffers: but looks upon all men indifferently, as the common sons of Adam: so that he who carefully Officiates that rank or Station wherein the Almighty has plac't him, tho' but a mean one, is truly more worthy the Estimation of all men, then he who is prefer'd to superior dignities, and abuses them: And what greater abuse than the contempt of Men below him: the relief of whose 'common necessities is none of the least Conditions whereby he holds all his Good things: which when that Tenure is forfeited by his default, he may justly expect some judgement to ensue: or else that those riches whereby he prides himself so extravagantly may shortly be taken from him.

We will not attempt to fathom the cause, or reason of, Preternatural events: but certain we are, as the most Credible and General Relation can inform us, that same night this poor Mower and Farmer parted, his Field of Oats was publickly beheld by several Passengers to be all of a Flame, and so continued for some space, to the great consternation of those that beheld it. Which strange news being by several carried to the Farmer next morning, could not but give him a great curiosity to go and see what was become of his Crop of Oats, which he could not imagine, but what was totally devour'd by those ravenous Flames which were observed to be so long resident on his Acre and a half of Ground.

Certainly a reflection on his sudden and indiscreet expression (That the Devil should Mowe his Oats before the poor Man should have anything to do with them) could not but on this occasion come into his Memory. For if we will but allow our selves so much leisure, to consider how many hits of providence go to the production of one Crop of Corn, such as the aptitude of the Soyl, the Seasonableness of Showers, Nourishing Solstices and Salubreous Winds, etc., we should rather welcome Maturity with Devout Acknowledgements than prevent our gathering of it by profuse wishes.

But not to keep the curious Reader any longer in suspense, the inquisitive Farmer no sooner arriv'd at the place where his Oats grew, but to his admiration he found the Crop was cut down ready to his hands; and [as] if the Devil had a mind to shew his dexterity in the art of Husbandry, and scorn'd to mow them after the usual manner, he cut them in round circles, and plac't every straw with that exactness that it would have taken up above an Age for any Man to perform what he did that one night: And the man that owns them is as yet afraid to remove them.


Whilst not of the standard of a modern aerial photograph the photograph above clearly shows a 'ring' type crop circle in a field of barley. It was taken in 1932 from the top of Bow Hill, which offers a reasonable view of the field. Fortunately Curwen also provided an excellent diagram of the cluster of crop circles to accompany the photograph; shown here.
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1945 Crop Circles

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