US billionaire Laurance Rockefeller is to fund the UK's biggest survey
of crop circles
Scientists will be carrying out aerial research over Wiltshire next
month in the hope of finding out once and for all whether the mysterious
patterns are genuine or the work of hoaxers.
Some believe they are created by UFOs during nocturnal visits. Others
say they are connected to ancient "ley lines", or put it down to natural
phenomena such as unusual forms of lightning.
The first few crop circles of the season have already appeared in
several West Country fields. The area has long been the focal point of
those in Britain who believe that the circles are the work of extra
Last year a US Website advertised week-long tours of UK crop circles
priced at $2,199 per person.
Until now research has been carried out by amateurs and enthusiasts,
known as croppies. But there is a growing scientific discipline based
around the study, known as cereology.
Mr Rockefeller has given his financial backing to the UK's largest and
most scientific study.
One of Mr Rockefeller's areas for charitable giving is what he calls
"spirituality", which includes research into UFOs and other unexplained
Work funded by the billionaire has already built up the biggest crop
Many farmers believe crop circles are the work of hoaxers, and say they
cause thousands of pounds of damage every year. Several people have come
forward to claim responsibility.
In 1991 two landscape painters, David Chorley and Douglas Bower, claimed
they started the hoax in 1978, after drinking in a pub.
They said for the past 13 years they had been sneaking around southern
England at night, fashioning as many as 25 to 30 new circles each
In a BBC CountryFile special in January, Mr Bower, 74, showed how his
patterns were made with planks of wood, lengths of rope and a ball of
He said he was amazed that many followers of crop circles still
refused to believe they were a hoax.
But it seems there remain unexplained factors, such as the lack or
tracks or footsteps.
An earlier version of this story included a picture of Larry
Rockefeller, Laurance Rockefeller's son.
Larry Rockefeller has no
involvement in funding the crop circle research and BBC News Online
regrets any confusion.