smason edit.jpg (23187 bytes)Look At It This Way
by Dr. Steve Mason

We make some of our greatest gains
When we see old things
In new ways


Those Mysterious Crop Circles

No doubt you know about crop circles...those weird, sometimes quite elaborate designs that appear overnight in farmer's fields. According to reports, the local dogs didn't bark and no strangers were seen in the area. Also, there were no tracks leading to or from the spot where the unearthly manifestations occurred.

As with similar tales of woo, the only mystery is that so many puzzlements continue for so long after the truth has been revealed. The Bermuda Triangle canard was definitively put to rest back in 1975 with Lawrence Kusche's book. Yet it came roaring back to life with Spielberg's "Close Encounters" and it's still referenced as though it were fact. And what CE3K did for Flight 19, Mel Gibson's film "Signs" did for designs in the corn.

Contrary to popular belief, crop circles don't go back hundreds of years. The first ones were reported only a few decades ago. But it's possible that some people may have mixed them up with Fairy Rings, which have indeed been around for centuries. I recall seeing one myself when I lived in the northeast. Looking out the window at the top of my highrise one morning, I saw a perfect circle about eight feet in diameter formed on the lawn of the adjoining park. I hasten to add, this was merely a fungal growth and had nothing to do with wood nymphs, mischievous elves or Irish leprechauns.

The original crop circles were the work of two English gentlemen (Doug Bower & Dave Chorley) with time on their hands and a well-developed sense of whimsy. One night, after a few pints at the pub, they fastened a couple of ropes to a couple of planks and made their way to the nearest farm. The circles that were discovered the next day created such a fuss that copycats soon took over and fields everywhere fell victim to the fad.

The Pringle Potato Chip Company is now officially part of the fantasy with their latest ad showing, you guessed it, circles in a field. The only mystery here is that it took them so long to finally climb aboard.

So now for the big question: Why do such creations persist for so long after their Due Date? I can see where a little mystery is fun. A riddle breaks up the day. A conundrum takes you out of the ordinary. But once you see how the Wizard works the wheels and levers, why continue down that path. Every second person in Yakima seems to know the story behind the Patterson-Gimlin "Bigfoot" film and yet not a week goes by when I don't see a reference to the North American Yeti. And do I even have to mention the Roswell UFO crash? Here you have a whole town built on a myth of little green men.

And whenever I write such a column, I get a similar response. A reader will say: "People sure are dumb to believe all those things you mentioned but you're wrong about XYZ because that's for real and it aint no myth."

So how about you share with the rest of us? What's your favorite "for real aint no myth" mystery?

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