Watched by a gathering of global media, they worked methodically in a field of wheat for over two hours using nothing more than planks of wood. The end result was a perfect crop circle: the aliens would have been proud.
The two men explained that they had come up with the idea over a couple of pints of beer in 1976, inspired by mysterious circles that had appeared in Australian sugar cane fields (now widely accepted as having been caused by whirlwinds). They had travelled across country to produce their patterns, but focussed primarily in the area around the town of Warminster in Wiltshire, which had become well known for UFO sightings of the “lights in the sky” variety.
It’s clear that they found their shared secret a source of endless amusement. The pair approached “experts” telling them they were wildlife enthusiasts who often wandered the fields in the region and would be happy to keep an eye out for new circles – ensuring a ready audience for their latest works.
And when meteorologists trying to debunk the whacky theories around alien or supernatural entities suggested that downward winds were to blame for the circular patterns, Bower and Chorley added a set of geometric shapes to their repertoire.
“They called us ‘superior intelligence’,” chortled Chorley, “And that was the biggest laugh of all.”
Whether our apparent visitors are foreign royals, fairies or alien life forms, the success of English hoaxes suggests that many of us, like Fox Mulder, “want to believe”. Today, crop circles are still appearing regularly in the fields of Wiltshire, a fact that does no harm to its tourist industry. If you find yourself in the west of England, why not take a look – and perhaps take the opportunity to sample some of the local “Croppie Ale” whilst you’re there.