Circle Makers Speak #6: What is the Closest you Have Come to Being Caught?
Since our Instagram account Crop Circle Explorer ran a brief question and answer session with a human circle maker, we’ve had a fair few messages and emails from readers wanting to know more about the motivations and experiences of the makers. With time and persistence we’ve convinced some of the makers we know to fill us in on their experiences for a new series of articles. These aren’t people who regularly give interviews and they have asked to remain anonymous.
THIS WEEK'S QUESTION
It’s time for the circle making war story that everyone seems to get excited about … just how close have our circle makers come to being caught in the act?
The risk of circle makers getting caught is over-exaggerated. Once you’re in the depths of a field in the dark in the middle of nowhere, the chances of anybody seeing you are slim. You’re actually more at risk when getting into and out of the field, especially if you’re carrying equipment, but we’re generally vigilant then and can duck into cover if a car or the like goes by.
That said, we have had a couple of close shaves.
I remember one night towards the end of the season, in a field opposite a house that had security outside it. Ideally we’d have gone elsewhere in those circumstances, but with harvest underway it was one of the few remaining fields, so we got to work. About halfway though it was clear that we’d been rumbled. I doubt they saw us but they likely heard us, and were shining torches out across the crop. Luckily we were some way in and didn’t get spotted. We called it off and hastily left the scene, my companion falling in a ditch and twisting his ankle on the way out. The circle never did get discovered or photographed in the end, which I’m glad for – it would have looked blatantly incomplete.
Another night, myself and a friend put down a circle in a prime Wiltshire location I won’t name, only to find out a few days later that a well-known researcher had been on the hill above us the whole night with night vision cameras. Quite how he didn’t see or film anything I still don’t know; maybe his cameras weren’t trained on the right part of the field. That was a close escape. But even if he had filmed us, there’s no way he’d have been able to identify us from that distance.
Once, we had a formation that had to be made over two nights due to various factors not going to plan on the first night. Ordinarily we’d have left it as it was – I’ve never liked the idea of circles being done over two nights – but in this case it was too good a design not to finish, so we went back. Halfway through, some nocturnal croppies came by to visit. We heard and saw them coming before they saw us, and we had to hide crouched in the tramline with all our gear for half an hour while they did their croppie thing. I’d love to know what they thought the next day, when they realised that the very night they were there the circle had mutated, and doubled in geometric complexity.
There have been a number of cases where we’ve seen or heard people coming into the field, usually dog-walkers or poachers or night-ramblers or the like, and have had to hide and keep an eye on them to see if they’re lingering or just passing through. Sometimes it’s a simple case of waiting until they’re gone before resuming work, but on other nights we’ve had to gather up our equipment and leave as quickly and stealthily as we can. When you see pictures of a circle that is clearly abandoned unfinished, that might be the reason why, and not necessarily because it went wrong.
Other events verge more on the surreal than the risky. I remember one night we had finished our circle and had just exited the field, dawn not far off. We were walking up a footpath to the road and suddenly a blazing light came out of nowhere, headed straight for us. We all ducked for cover. I remember I ended up hiding in a tramline in an adjacent field. When I looked up I saw it was a guy on a bike, headlamp blaring, cycling at full pelt along the footpath, looking around him as if wondering what the hell was going on. He must have been as freaked out to see us as we were him, and wondering where we’d all suddenly disappeared to.
So there you have it. While being caught can be a risk, it isn’t a significant one; as long as you’re stealthy and careful you can minimise it even further, and we are always that above all else.
I’ve only ever had one incident. It was a pretty cheeky circle, all in. On the way into the field we noticed a group of youths sat drinking and smoking weed about 200 metres away on a local hill feature. You could clearly hear them, which wasn’t a great start. We almost gave up that field for one further away, but you wouldn’t have had the vantage point to view the circle if we had moved on, so we stayed with the original field.
After we’d just finished marking out the formation we heard a helicopter approaching, but you often get planes and other aircraft passing by, so initially we didn’t take much notice. Thirty seconds later we could see it would pass right by us, and at pretty low level, so we decided to wait until it went. But it didn’t pass by, not immediately anyway.
The helicopter is now within a couple of hundred metres of us and heading directly at us, but stops around 100 metres away, and puts on its Night Sun light, lighting up the whole area. Two of our three man team decided to leg it, which was the worst thing you could have done. You can’t outrun a police helicopter, and you’re just drawing further attention to yourself, so I just stood there, calling the others back and explaining that running wasn’t the greatest of ideas! The helicopter scanned around the field just missing us, then off went the light and it continued directly over us and into the distance.
Our initial thoughts were to now abandon the circle, but I insisted we carried on. My guess is the helicopter was off to a call out and its crew wanted to test the light before proceeding. We continued and finished the circle without further incident.
That’s a good question and one that comes up a lot in the believer camp, as it’s kind of used as evidence for the mystery as no one is ever caught circle making. Even Matthew Williams was never caught as he was always presented to have on talk shows and TV interviews; he actually admitted to the police that he’d made one particular crop circle just so he could get fame out of it. Williams was never caught red handed in the field.
Talking about the police, after my very first circle over a decade ago now it almost happened to me and ended my circlemaking career right there and then. I was walking back down the tramline feeling pretty good as it all went as well as could be expected with no noticeable mistakes that I was aware of. I just went over the brow of the field and I could see a flashing blue light right behind the hedge at the edge of the field which also happened to be my exit point. I could not believe it! I thought shite I’ve been rumbled, and my very first circle as well. I crouched down and carried on walking with my gear until I reached the edge of the field. I hid behind the hedge and just observed.
After I calmed down a bit I realised that it would be ridiculous to presume the police were waiting for me to exit the field. They left after about fifteen minutes or so as they were talking to a motorist they had stopped by the side of the A4. I look back on that experience now as a good thing as it taught me to always be vigilant and never get too cocky when circle making as you never know what’s round the corner.
Another time I dropped off my gear next to the field and then drove to a nearby pub and parked my car. I walked back down the lane, entered the field, grabbed my gear and started walking down a tram line. Just as I got about fifty feet into the field I noticed torches flashing about in the lane I had just come from. The coincidence of me just entering the field and torch lights was enough for me to think that someone must have seen my stashed gear and were waiting for me to come back. I hid down in the tramline, heart in mouth and sure enough the torch lights were skimming and scanning the crop in the field I was in. I could see heads of wheat lighting up right next to me as the torch light licked the crop. By this time I was laying down thinking I’m going to get caught. After a while the torch lights moved on and were scanning other parts of the field. I just kept quiet and lay still hoping not to be seen, I don’t think whoever it was had entered the field, luckily.
After a while the torch lights seemed to stop but I stayed laying there for some time just to make sure the coast was clear. All of a sudden some kind of vehicle entered the adjacent field with its headlights blazing. I thought what the hell is this as the vehicle seemed to be scanning parts of the field I was in. I thought ‘Christ, this guy is angry and really wants to catch me, I need to get out of here’. After the vehicle was quite a distance away scanning other parts of the field I decided to leg it out of there as it might be my only chance. I ran as fast as I could to the edge of the field leaving all my gear in the tram line. I walked back along the lane as fast as I could and made it back to the pub and my car without anyone noticing me. I was sure that all my gear would be found by the farmer the next day and thrown away. It did go through my head that night if I’d had anything incriminating in my gear bag. I went back the next day to see if my gear bag was still there. I parked up for a quick getaway and quickly entered the field. I wasn’t expecting to find anything but as I ran full steam down the tram line I kicked something that sent me flying and landed flat on my face in the muddy tram line. It was my gear bag! I got back up and got the hell out of there. Suffice to say that was a close one.
To put my answer into some context I think you need to know the likelihood of being caught in the act. In a large field with good access, away from the fringes of human settlements, you can expect to spend a night completely undisturbed. It’s so difficult to spot somebody in such a location that there are recorded cases of two circle making teams operating in the same field without realising each other was there. In my opinion, the real dangers come from working too close to the edge of a field or in a location where you will be silhouetted against a background light source. Even then, they’re remote. If someone comes into the field then you duck or make yourself scarce. Despite these caveats, I’ve still had a few scares including one which involved a stranger walking up a tramline directly parallel to the one I was in.
On one of my first circle making adventures I worked too close to the edge of a field. It was away from any mapped public footpaths, but someone still decided to take their dog for a walk at midnight. As the dog got closer it sensed me and began to growl, becoming angrier and angrier. Fortunately, its owner kept it on its lead. On another occasion I had just started on a new formation with another maker when we heard stumbling footsteps and voices from the edge of the field. Foolishly, I made a loud shushing sound to my colleague. We both froze and spent the next ten or so minutes in a silent standoff with whoever else was there. Eventually, they left and I could make out the outline of two people as they went. We subsequently realised there was a small, private fishing lake in the adjacent field. I think the people who had disturbed us probably shouldn’t have been there either. Two sets of people up to no good.
Being caught red-handed by the police is something no circle maker wants to experience. I’ve had to sit it out at the edge of a field for twenty minutes whilst a police helicopter circled above. They probably had more serious matters to attend to, but it wasn’t worth the risk of being picked out on thermal imaging cameras or the Night Sun searchlight. Another time, I was with a few other makers when we finished our job. We decided to walk a quarter of a mile back to our van whilst carrying our equipment. It’s not a risk I would commonly take, but we were on a road that was extremely quiet and it was a moonless night. We had taken only a few steps from the field when a police patrol car ambled around the corner. Somehow, the occupants failed to notice us discarding our kit in a ditch as they pulled alongside us. I don’t think they believed any part of our cover story but they had no reason to keep us. I imagine the two police officers were kicking themselves when they saw our circle in the press just a couple of days later. Had it been in Hampshire or Wiltshire I don’t think the police would have been so naive.