Maybe the most unusual – and, to some, rather disturbing – crop formation of all time has appeared in the UK near Winchester, Hampshire. Making last year’s ‘face’ at Chilbolton seem crude in comparison, this image of an alien with some kind of information disc reaches new heights of sophistication. ALLAN BROWN gives his personal view…
Arguably one of the most extraordinary crop circles ever has appeared in the corner of a field just on the outskirts of Winchester. It was first reported on Thursday 15th August, apparently spotted by an Ocean FM (radio station) traffic helicopter, and news spread like wildfire that something astonishing had appeared. I was sitting in The Silent Circle café in Wiltshire when the news broke, and within a few minutes an image of the formation had been pulled off the Internet. It was interesting to note the wide range of responses that were expressed, even in a room of only a handful of people.
There is no doubt about it that this event is going to cause a stir. I think if this had gone down at Chilbolton last year, I would have been a lot more shocked than I am now. The ‘face’ and the ‘message’ from 2001 were two extraordinary formations and so different to anything else that had come before that it took me a while to integrate them. Despite their radical nature, I must say that I found the message, in particular, to be a very funny and witty formation. Those two designs had a distinct sense of playfulness about them, and, as a result, I do not subscribe to the notion that they were hoaxed as part of a covert debunking campaign. The audacity of putting those two formations down right next to a huge satellite dish has a flavour of calculated anarchy about it.
I find this current ‘alien face’ to be of exactly the same nature. I have to take my hat off to the consciousness(es) behind this formation. It is absolutely wild is it not? Is it scary? Yes, from the graphical point of view that it is a mind-bendingly accurate rendering of an archetypal scary alien. Yet, I again find this creation to be anarchic and fun-loving.
I sat in the centre of the binary-encoded disc [see image – already people are working on trying to convert it into a readable format] on Friday evening. The sun set and slowly everyone drifted off back home and I was left alone in the formation as it grew dark. It was so lovely and peaceful, under the moonlight, and not in the least bit scary. To be there, right in the middle of one of the most extraordinary cultural 'events' that I've ever seen, was an honour and a privilege.
Again, the location of the design is spot on. At the top end of the field are three microwave towers, bristling with dishes of all sizes and shapes, giving the setting a strangely sci-fi, space communication, intelligence-gathering sort of feel.
I personally found the lay of the crop to be very neat and ordered. I could not find any obvious or immediate signs of manual construction. The formation is a fair size, some 390ft by 232ft, with the radius of the disc being about 100ft. From within the formation it was impossible to make out what it was. Even having seen an aerial image, I couldn't translate how what I was seeing on the ground could possibly come together to form what could be seen from the air.
I don't feel that the face and message from last year, or the alien face of this season, necessarily indicate that we are supposed to assume that the 'circlemaking force’ is an alien species, any more than we are supposed to assume it’s a covert operation trying to fool us into thinking it is. I don't have a clue what it is, but I know that when we receive a formation consisting of triangles, we don't immediately assume we're dealing with a space-faring race of triangles, be they irregular or isosceles, evil or benevolent.
This alien image, to my mind, is an extremely prevalent cultural symbol. We all know what it is, it’s on mugs and skateboards, posters and T-shirts. Just as sacred geometry is part of our cultural language, so is this modern rendering of the archetypal 'other'. I read it as a potent symbol of transformation, of undreamt antechambers to the human experience. Hey, maybe we are indeed dealing with a race of space brothers and sisters, but that possibility has always existed and I don't think this crop glyph changes that possibility one way or the other.
Undoubtedly there's going to be a lot said about this formation, and it will certainly fulfil its presumed function of stimulating debate and creating dialogue. I suspect that we will be none the wiser as to its origins by the same time next year, but I, for one, can't conceive of where this phenomenon is going to go next. These are wondrous times.
Winchester, Hampshire, Aug 2002 (photo: STEVE ALEXANDER)