Recently, Australian researcher Greg Jefferys has received media attention for his discovery of images depicting “Crop circles” from the 1940s via Google Earth overlays. But one controversial aspect of his research that gets less attention is his idea that a correlation could exist between ionized plasma vortices (otherwise known as ball lightning) and these apparent circle phenomena.
With Google Earth, one can presently view up to 35% of England’s open country side. It was in viewing archived Google aerial images that Jefferys discovered a series of photos that, arguably, portray a series of what are recognized in modern times as crop circles. Despite how a majority of the formations, beginning in the late 70s, were accounted for by admitted hoaxers Doug Bower and Dave Chorley, Jefferys argues that the 1945 images may point to evidence of how these strange formations were occurring much longer ago (also see Eltjo H. Haselhoff’s The Deepening Complexity of Crop Circles, where the author asserts that both crop circle and “ball of light” phenomenon associated with the formations may date back as far as 1678).
But even looking back several decades or more, could humans still be held accountable for some of these anomalous formations as well?
A vast majority of modern crop circles appear as clusters of ornate geometric designs. However, the odd circular shapes in these 1940s black and whites cited by Jefferys don’t appear to be as intricately crafted; if anything, the majority take on a rather basic circular shape (even appearing to resemble photographic flaws in some instances). While a few of the images do depict more complex designs, these are cited as being likely targets used by parachutists, according to Jefferys. At least a few of the images do seem to depict convincing instances of circles in fields, which obviously pre-date the modern “creation” of such phenomenon by hoaxers… or do they? Fortean Times, among other publications, have featured past assertions that pranksters had claimed to be using simple machines that employed ropes to create crop circles as far back as 1940. Still, others would state that there is a variety of evidence that involves physical alterations to the plant matter in question (as we’ll soon examine more in-depth) which excludes the simple “hoaxer” explanation. But before we start pointing fingers again at extraterrestrial tampering, let’s revisit another “alternative” theory that’s still slightly closer to home.
Cirlces of Light: Ball Lightning and Crop Circles
Ball lightning is a variety of natural phenomenon that has evaded our scientific understanding for centuries. However, a study published in the 1999 Physiologia Planetarium, entitled Dispersion Of Energies In Worldwide Crop Formations, may have included some insights about the phenomenon that is largely overlooked by theorists who assert an extraterrestrial influence behind crop circles, just as well as the notion that all can be explained by vandalism. The scientific community began to dismiss sightings of crop formations due to a 1993 British media report, which attributed the formations almost entirely to the work of vandals like Bower and Chorley. However, by 1994, Pinelandia Laboratory at Grass Lake, Michigan had conducted tests on a variety of samples from crop circles all over the world. A staggering 95% of them showed one or more structural modifications, including blatant embryonic deformities, noticeable enlargement in the cell wall pit composition, and outward contractions in the stem pulvini. “Not one of these clearly anomalous plant alterations had been mentioned–much less explained–by the proponents of the vandal theory,” wrote authors Talbott and Levengood in 1999, “nor can they be accounted for by the supposed methods employed to create crop formations through claims made by the self described vandals.
But what had caused these deformities? The study goes on to posit that this occurrence may be due to rapid heating caused by bursts of electromagnetic energy. Could ball lightning be the culprit? Given that little is known about the phenomena even today, again it’s hard to quantify this theory scientifically. But an erratic blast of ionized plasma definitely seems like it might generate the kind of heat expansion which would result in these types of malformations.
To pair crop circles with ball lightning phenomena isn’t a new theory. But perhaps directing more eyes toward the information that is often systematically overlooked, with regard to there being a natural theory behind their formation, could set us on the right path to solving this mystery.