Trick, or Treat? Considering the Avebury Henge Crop Circle “Ghost”
Abstract: The sharply defined areas of new growth of oilseed rape, and broad areas devoid of any new growth seen in this December, 2006 Google Earth satellite photo of an Avebury Henge crop circle “ghost” remain unexplained by “folk” reasoning promulgated by a sincere U.K. farmer and others. Observable characteristics revealed in the Google Earth image suggest lasting changes in the parent crop circle’s soil structure to explain what we observe in this Google Earth image. BLT Research Team’s X-Ray Diffraction study of crop circle soil is a unique and important step forward in documenting changes in the crystallinity of specific clay minerals found in the soil of one Alberta crop circle. This well-documented alteration in soil may be associated with other, as yet undiscovered changes in the structure and/or composition of crop circle soils, particularly with changes in the composition of resident micro-flora normally found present in fertile soil. If confirmed, such alterations could be integral to the future appearance of a crop circle “ghost”.
This magnificent crop circle at Avebury Henge in the U.K. appeared in a field planted in wheat on July 24, 2005. It is an expansive formation, this made evident by the 3 people standing in the lower left hexagon. The “ghost” of this formation subsequently appeared in that same field, in that same location the following year in a new crop of oilseed rape.
Using Google Earth to explore the U.K.’s “crop circle country”, I discovered the above Google Earth image, taken by a satellite, of a “ghost” of the original Avebury Henge formation. This photo was fortuitously acquired by a satellite on December 30, 2006, and can still be seen on Google Earth at the time of this writing (October 23, 2014)
Careful inspection of the Google Earth photo, captured 18 months after the appearance of the original wheat crop circle, reveals that in essentially all areas where the wheat crop was laid down in the original formation, few to zero oilseed rape (or other) plants appear to be growing. Conversely, in several precise areas where wheat plants were left standing in the original formation, it is evident that there are oilseed rape plants growing in the Avebury “ghost”. Plant growth is abundant surrounding the central star and, upon close inspection, is especially remarkable in the thin-line areas where standing wheat plants had previously highlighted the original borders near the periphery of the original formation, and inside its central star. It is unknown if, between the harvesting of the original wheat crop and subsequent planting of the oilseed rape crops, this soil was tilled by the farmer.
So, how is it that such precise design details of the Avebury Henge “ghost” formation, as we see in the Google Earth satellite image above, appear to have remained so sharply defined and firmly locked into the memory of this site, 18 months after the original crop circle occurred?
“Ghost” crop circles are relatively rare. I can identify exactly zero peer-reviewed, published scientific studies specifically addressing “ghost” crop circles. The sparse attention these enigmatic events have received has been only via occasional photographs and a few anecdotal reports. Clear satellite photos of “ghost” crop circles like this one, at least any available in the public domain, seem to be rare indeed!
Other photos of “ghost” crop circles suggest a widely varying degree of new crop growth within “ghost” formations. It appears that new growth in “ghosts” can range from almost no growth in areas of previously flattened crop (as shown above) to similar areas in other “ghosts” that appear to grow vigorously.
An example of such a “ghost” crop circle photo that appears to show more vigorous new growth is shown below, stemming from the original August 14, 2002 East Field Crop Circle we see on the left. Here we observe the darker green color of growing plants, and definitely not an absence of new plants, in areas where crop was laid down in the parent crop circle formation. Compare this to the nearly complete lack of growth seen in the Avebury “ghost” satellite image. Why this difference?
Why Do Ghost Crop Circles Occur?
Several different lines of reasoning (opinions) have been promulgated to explain the appearance of crop circle “ghosts”:
1. New crop circles frequently bring tourists, sometimes many tourists, who wander about in areas of the parent crop circle where crop in the formation has been “laid” (flattened). This results in trampling of the plants underfoot and matting of those plants over the soil floor of the formation. If the crop circle is created and then heavily visited when seed heads have matured, it is assumed that the feet of tourists then repeatedly press many of these seeds into the soil, which subsequently germinate and grow the following season–producing new plants that define the areas where those throngs of tourists previously walked within the original formation. This mechanism does not explain what we see in the above Google Earth satellite photo.
2. In an interview with journalist Linda Moulton Howe (Earthfiles.com, Part 1. U.K. Farmers Impressed By High Strangeness in Crop Formations, 10/9/2010, http://www.earthfiles.com/news.php?ID=1770&category=Environment), U.K. farmer Tim Carson explains: “Nine times out of ten, we rotate the crop. If there had been a crop formation in wheat and lots of people have visited it, the people knock the seeds off the seed heads, which go into the ground and sprout again. When the field is harvested in August, we often see a green patch of circles that are coming up where the formation had been. When winter comes, that new green dies off. What remains under the soil is a root bed of those seeds that germinated before harvest. Now, because of modern farming techniques, the farmers don’t plow the field anymore. The farmer’s just go along with a machine and drill the new seeds into the ground and quite often they will put canola into the field that previously had wheat in it. When that starts to grow, the canola won’t come through the (older wheat) root bed. Hence, we get a ghost of the previous season’s wheat formation.”
Here is a recommendation for depth of seed placement (drilling) for oilseed rape: http://www.teagasc.ie/crops/oilseed_rape/Fact_Sheet_WOSR_August_2009.pdf
“Sow to a depth of 1.5 cm (0.5 inch).”
Shown here is a diagram of the root system of a typical wheat plant:
If oilseed rape seeds are planted at the recommended depth of 1.5 cm and the root system of an established wheat crop begins at approximately 5 cm soil depth, then Mr. Carson’s explanation as to why zero to few oilseed rape plants are seen growing in broad, previously flattened areas of wheat as evident in the Google Earth “ghost” satellite photo becomes problematic to fully accept. Neither does Mr. Carson’s reasoning explain why oilseed rape plants have established in areas where, in the original wheat crop circle, wheat plants remained standing.
3. In the same article, Linda goes on to write: “However, he (Mr. Carson) and other farmers I have spoken to say the soil is never the same again. It never grows even years later the same, where there is always a patch that remains different and never grows right again where the soil was affected in some way. So, in those cases, the soil changes might explain the persistence of ghost patterns from a previous formation?”
Tim Carson: “Right. And we should be investigating crop formations with a team of scientists who can document all the plant and soil changes.”
4. U.K. farmer Tim Carson has also mentioned, through a communication to crop circle researcher Suzanne Taylor, that previously down-trodden, matted crop can serve as a nutrient base for invading slugs which will rapidly multiply and then devour sprouts of newly planted crop. However, since slugs are living creatures that move, this reasoning doesn’t seem to address the observed sharp boundaries seen in the Google Earth satellite photo of the Avebury “ghost”.
5. From http://www.cropcirclewisdom.com/crop-circle-research.html (Readers are cautioned. The Crop Circle Wisdom website is, in my opinion, curiously replete with content which appears to be intently focused on discrediting any notion that any crop circle could possibly be attributed to a non-human source of origin. I include their “explanation” below only for the sake of completeness. Be so advised.)
“The young shoots (resulting from imbedded seed) begin to draw (suck up) (the) last of the nutrients from soil where harvested crop has already sucked up existing nutrients – thus making this region of poor soil quality. So when farmers plough their fields they will either make a mental note or mark the area where a crop circle was made. This area will have to have a double dosage of fertilizer, manure and nutrients which has to ploughed back into the soil. Farmers who bother to treat this area (at extra cost to them) with a double dosage or more are more likely to avoid a ghost circle appearing. Farmers who simply plough their fields and apply equal amount of nutrients throughout the entire field with no extra nutrient applied to where the crop circle was then they are more likely to have a ghost circle in new planted crop in the next season. If the area where a crop circle was made is not treated with double dosage then next season’s crop will have less nutrient for equal growth – so plants with(in) the crop circle boundary will grow slower and not equally as other plants within the field – hence giving that ghost effect.”
This explanation could possibly account for less vigorous growth of new plants within previously flattened areas, but does not explain the nearly complete absence of growth of oilseed rape (or other) plants in broad areas of previously flattened wheat seen in the Google Earth image of the Avebury “ghost”. Nor does it account for observations published by BLT Research (see below).
6. Here is yet another opinion presumably explaining the crop circle “ghost” that followed the July 20, 2003 West Stowell formation in wheat:
“Basically, the West Stowell formation was extremely well formed and flattened firmly in the ground in certain parts of the design. When the formation is harvested, the cutting machine on the (harvesting) combine can’t lower its blades enough to cut the flattened parts of the formation. This causes gaps when the field is sown, sometime in late August, early September. The oil seed rape at West Stowell is certainly winter rape, which is normally sown at the end of August. When the crop germinates, it would have been sown around the parts of the design which would have been left after the combine. This is why there are large sections of earth that can be seen between the rape, which will resemble the design of 2003.”
In current farming practice farmers utilize tractor-pulled seed drills for sowing new seed. Seed drills are set for consistent seed spacing, usually between 7-10 inches. This explanation does not account for the complete absence of new growth of oilseed rape plants seen over broad areas in the Google Earth image of the Avebury “ghost”.
Clearly, a multitude of “folk” explanations, all seeming quite logical, have been considered by both U.K. farmers and crop circle researchers as determinants of whether or not a “ghost” crop circle might later make an appearance. Each of the explanations listed above, at first glance, seems plausible, yet all are, so far, unproven opinions. To my mind, none of these explanations adequately explain the reasonably sharp definition we see in the Avebury Google Earth satellite image. Nor do they explain the following observations below, copied from The BLT Research Team’s website.
“In 1999 an elegant formation (dubbed the “Dolphins” by field-teams) occurred below the Iron Age hill fort known as Barbury Castle, a frequent site for circles over the years. This formation attracted attention for a number of reasons–not the least of which was the fact that strange balls of light were seen and videotaped flying over the formation in daylight. The following year, as the new crop began to grow in the field, the “ghost” of the 1999 formation could easily be seen, in spite of the fact that the field had been tilled and re-planted as usual. As the 2000 season progressed, the old formation was still visible because the growing plants inside the areas which had been flattened in 1999 were both a darker green in color than the rest of the crop, and they were at least 6-8 inches taller.
Above: Clear “ghost” imprint of 1999 Barbury Castle “Dolphins” formation appeared in the early summer of 2000–field had been ploughed and re-planted.
Top: August, 2000: Control plants from outside ’99 formation area. Bottom: August, 2000: Sample plants from downed area inside 1999 “Dolphin,” which are a darker green & taller than controls.
In this case at Barbury Castle and in a few others which have been followed up the subsequent year, it appears that whatever caused the original crop circle affected something in the soils (down to at least a foot in depth) which, in turn, altered the growth habit of the seeds planted in the old impression-area the following year. In a case in Iowa where a circle had appeared in full-grown corn (maize), and where soybeans were planted in the same field the following year, the soybeans were observed to grow abnormally in the circle area, producing a decrease of 50% in the number of seed-pods present with a concurrent 200% increase in the number of root nodules. This result is inexplicable, particularly in light of the fact that increases in numbers of root nodules on soybean plants usually goes hand-in-hand with increased seed-pod yield–exactly the opposite of what occurred here.
A perhaps more commonly observed long-term growth effect is apparent in the photos (below) of two different sets of formations which occurred in England in the summer of 2000. In early June, in one of the fields around Silbury Hill, a complex triangle-type formation in barley occurred over at least two nights (part of the formation occurred the first night, with modifications the next night). The following year a large bare patch of earth at exactly the same location was clearly visible throughout the summer, in which the newly planted crop refused to grow.
Left: Triangle formation near Silbury Hill (UK) in early June, 2000. Right: Bare spot in 2001 where triangle formation had been.
That same year (2000, but later on in the summer) in a wheat field on the other side of Silbury Hill, a simple 3-circle event occurred (next to a more dramatic formation) which also resulted in a bare patch of field in that location in 2001–in spite of the fact that the entire field had been mowed, tilled, re-planted and fertilized as usual. This failure of crop to grow in locations where crop circles have been is the most common long-term growth effect generally known, but it is reported in a relatively small percentage of cases overall, although in several different countries. It appears that the effects are short-lived, lasting so far as we know no more than two years subsequent to the original formation.
Left: Two formations in another field near Silbury Hill (UK), late summer 2000. Right: Bare spot in 2001 where 3-circle formation had been (new crop did grow where “stars” had been).
Long-term effects like these need to be evaluated scientifically since they clearly point to some obvious alteration of the soils–either permanent or semi-permanent–changes which, once understood, will hopefully provide an increased understanding of the causative mechanism behind the phenomenon: basic chemical analyses of the soil and an examination of various soil microbes would likely be useful.”
Surprisingly, renowned institutions such as Oxford and Cambridge Universities, both located right in the heart of the ongoing U.K. crop circle phenomenon, have shown little to no interest in directing research efforts toward increasing our understanding of the subtleties of this prolific, enigmatic, recurring, decades-long, seasonal crop circle phenomenon.
In addition to the discovery of tiny spherules of magnetized iron deposited in crop circle soils, the BLT Team also demonstrated a change in the crystalline structure of specific clay minerals in soil samples (illites/smectites) taken from within a 1999 Edmonton, Alberta crop circle. Of critical importance is the fact that this change in the degree of crystallinity of the clay minerals was documented to have occurred at precisely the same sampling locations as the repeatedly – documented plant abnormalities found in crop circle plants sampled in multiple countries around the world – plant changes which indicate a non-mechanical causation for those crop formations. (BLT Research — Clay-Mineral Crystallization Study)
BLT’s conclusions from that X-Ray diffraction (XRD) study are quoted below:
1. “A sharpening of the mica 001 peak [a decrease in the Kubler Index (KI) value, indicative of growth of the illite/mica crystals] was observed in the crop circle soil samples, as compared with their controls;
2. This increase in crystalline structure was found to be statistically significant at the 95% level of confidence;
3. A correlation was found between this sharpening of the mica 001 peak (KI) and increases in plant stem node-length (NL), a correlation which is statistically significant at a greater than 99% level of confidence;
4. The increase in the KI of the mica 001 peak cannot be attributed to mechanical flattening of the crop circle plants since (in the absence of any evidence of geologic pressure) temperatures of at least 6-800°C over several hours of exposure would be required to produce such increased crystal growth;
5. Because the temperatures needed (a minimum of 6-800°C over a period of several hours) to cause mica crystal growth would have incinerated any plant material present at the site (as well as causing other measurable soil effects), and because we know of no energy which can selectively affect soils to one degree and plants at the same locations to another (as is documented here), we suggest that we may be observing a new–as yet undiscovered–energy source at work. It does appear that heat is involved, but more research is needed to determine its precise nature”.
Could it be that this recurring enigma of the crop circle “ghost” is related to this or other changes induced in soil structure at the site of a previous crop circle? Are there other, as yet undescribed changes in the structure of affected crop circle soil caused by an “undiscovered energy” that is/are affecting the fertility of soil in the parent crop circle, thus resulting in a decrease in future crop seed germination rates and/or plant growth and leading to the subsequent appearance of a crop circle “ghost”? When considering crop circle “ghosts”, these remain valid questions that can only be addressed through additional research.
We can assume that the clay-mineral crystalline changes found in the BLT XRD Study soils could not have been caused by intense heating because heat of the intensity required to alter the crystalline structure of the illite/smectites (600-800 degrees C, for many hours) would have destroyed the plants which were taken from the same sampling locations. But, perhaps there are energies not yet identified involved in crop circle creation which have deleterious and sustained effects on the living micro-organisms (fungi, nematodes, arthropods, or bacteria) normally resident in fertile soil.
Conclusion: The sharply defined areas of new growth of oilseed rape, and broad areas devoid of any new growth seen in the December, 2006 Google Earth satellite photo of the Avebury Henge crop circle “ghost” remain unexplained by “folk” reasoning promulgated by a sincere U.K. farmer and others. Observable characteristics revealed in the Google Earth image suggest lasting changes in soil structure and/or in the composition of resident soil micro-flora of the parent crop circle to explain what we observe in the Google Earth image. BLT Research Team’s XRD study is a unique and important step forward in documenting changes in crop circle soils. This well-documented soil alteration may be associated with other, as yet undiscovered changes in the structure and/or composition of crop circle soils, especially that of living micro-organisms normally present in fertile soil. If present, such alterations could be integral to the future appearance of a crop circle “ghost”.
Please note: The expense involved in conducting professional scientific research of crop circles, such as BLT’s XRD study, is considerable. Funding for this important work is limited to private donations provided by individuals who care. If you are one who understands the importance of the crop circles and you have the means to do so, please donate to BLT’s research efforts. Your tax-deductible donation can be sent to:
P.O. Box 400127
Cambridge, MA 02140 USA
Addendum: My thanks to Nancy Talbott for her invaluable advice and assistance in editing the content of this article. In addition, I would like to thank all who make their excellent photos of crop circles open-source and freely available in the public domain. These photos are of immeasurable benefit as we continue to strive to understand what is happening.
Richard O’Connor, M.D.
Executive Director, Crop Circles Research Foundation, Inc.