Historical references to crop circles

Many historical references have been found regarding descriptions that seem to fit the characteristics of modern crop circles, although they were not called as such at the time. There is of course, much debate over many of these references, but this page is intended to be an archive for the primary source documents of these growing number of historical references so that all researchers can examine these references and judge for themselves the merits of whether these descriptions and drawings can truly be classified as 'crop circles'. If any reader knows of additional historical references to crop circles that cannot be found here, please contact us so we can add it to this list.

(1678) The Mowing Devil, or Strange News out of Hertford-Shire. Woodcut pamphlet. August 22, 1678.

Although the woodcut depicts the "mowing devil" cutting the plants with a scythe, the text of the woodcut describes plants that have not been cut, but instead flattened ("...the said Oats ly now in the Field, and the Owner has not Power to Fetch them away."):

"Being a True Relation of a Farmer, who Bargaining with a Poor Mower, about the Cutting down Three Half Acres of Oats: upon the Mower's asking too much, the Farmer swore That the Devil should Mow it rather than He. And so it fell out, that very Night, the Crop of Oat shew'd as if it had been all of a flame: but next Morning appear'd so neatly mow'd by the Devil or some Infernal Spirit, that no Mortal Man was able to do the like. Also, How the said Oats ly now in the Field, and the Owner has not Power to fetch them away. Liscensed, August 22nd, 1678."

The most thorough research on the "Mowing Devil" possible crop circle was done by researcher Andy Thomas and was publsihed on his website Swirled News, in his article "The Mowing Devil Investigated", Dec. 22, 2005.

(1686) The Natural History of Stafford-Shire. Robert Plot, LLD, Keeper of the Ashmolean Museum and Professor of Chemistry in the University of Oxford.

The first known ‘crop circle investigator’ was Robert Plot, Professor of Chemistry at Oxford University in late 1600’s. In 1680, Plot visited farms in southern England to examine this phenomenon first-hand.

Robert Plot, in his words, ‘excavated’ over 50 crop circle sites, and noted farmers’ stories about other crop circle reports. Plot noted simple circles, circles with squares, circle rings, and spirals. Plot noted that animals tended to stay away from crop ‘figures.’ Plot did his own historical research, uncovering additional historical reports. Plot published his first work mentioning crop circles in 1686 in the book The Natural History of Stafford-Shire. Plot hypothesized that crop circles were formed by hollow thunderbolts - - or else it was elves, dancing witches, deer, or mosses. Plot did the first ‘crop circle’ soil sample testing -- he compared dirt from the center of circles with dirt from the inside edge of the circles, and with dirt from outside the circles; where he noted soil dehydration in the circles, and occasionally finding white, sulfurous residues. Plot noted that crop yields, in the areas within the crop circle boundaries in successive years, increased by up to 30%. Many of these same findings are still being found in crop circle formations today.

(1790-1793) Gentleman's Magazine, "Hints Towards A Natural History of Fairy Rings"

A running series of letters by several authors are published under “Hints Towards Natural History of Fairy Rings.” Many descriptions of crop circles and geometric formations are given, and even a few diagrams of crop circle sites are published.

Prior to the invention of photography, this series of articles seems to generate some confusion between what 'fairy rings-type' crop circles are (flattened circles of grass or grain) and ‘fairy rings-type’ fungus rings are. Various authors don't seem to be able to make the distinction between the two type, although each are described. One letter references a purported paper published by the Royal Society on fairy ring (crop circle) origins which laid out the hypothesis that some particular effect of lightning causes the flattening of the plants.

(1829) The Hope of Isreal; Presumptive Evidence that the Aborginies of the Western Hemisphere are Descended from the Ten Missing Tribes of Isreal. pp. 121-122. Barbara Ann Simon.

In a letter, dated March 24, 1823, a Missionary gives an account of some Osage Indians who were located at Fort Smith, Missouri, just before the signing of a peace treaty with the Cherokee tribe.

An Osage priest from the “Atmosphere” clan was selected to celebrate their peace medicine, and the Missionary accompanied the priest as an observer. The text reads: “The priest ordered his senior attendant to form a circle of grass about four feet in diameter, and to place a large tuft in the center. By this he made a long prayer: then stepping on the circle, and followed by his attendant, they passed on. The chief informed [the missionary] that this circle of grass was a representation of GOD. He adds ‘it is their universal practice to salute the dawn of every morning with their devotion’.”

This remarkable passage is describing almost a universal practice among many Native American Indian tribes. In light of the "Magic Circle in the Prarie" mythology which is also widespead among many tribes across the USA and Canada (see below), it appears that these tribes may have been replicating crop circles that they had been seeing in the prairie grasslands for perhaps hundreds of years.

(1852) The Plow, The Loom, and the Anvil, Part 1 Vol. 5, "Notes of a Western Tourist". pp.155-156. Rev. Robert Sewell, Madison, New Jersey.

Rev. Robert Sewell left for a tour of the 'western states' (now the upper Midwest states) on June 29, 1852. He traveled across New York, Canada, Michigan, and crossed Lake Michigan to land in Wisconsin. After staying in Fulton, WI a short time, he began his return trip on July 9, 1852, heading towards Janesville, WI when Sewell wrote this passage:

"The driver pointed out to us several circular burnt places in the grass which had been caused by lightning, and several telegraph posts close by had been shivered by the same means. We passed several Indian mounds, remnants of a race now extinct, whose history is unwritten, and must forever remain in oblivion."

(1880) "Storm Effects," Nature, volume 22. pp 290-291, 29 July 1880. J. Rand Capron.

Specroscopist J. Rand Capron's letter to Nature includes this text: "The storms about this part of Surrey have been lately local and violent, and the effects produced in some instances curious. Visiting a neighbour's farm on Wednesday evening (21st), we found a field of standing wheat considerably knocked about, not as an entirety, but in patches forming, as viewed from a distance, circular spots.

Examined more closely, these all presented much the same character, viz., a few standing stalks as a centre, some prostrate stalks with their heads arranged pretty evenly in a direction forming a circle round the centre, and outside these a circular wall of stalks which had not suffered.

I send a sketch made on the spot, giving an idea of the most perfect of these patches. The soil is a sandy loam upon the greensand, and the crop is vigorous, with strong stems, and I could not trace locally any circumstances accounting for the peculiar forms of the patches in the field, nor indicating whether it was wind or rain, or both combined, which had caused them, beyond the general evidence everywhere of heavy rainfall. They were to me suggestive of some cyclonic wind action, and may perhaps have been noticed elsewhere by some of your readers."

(1890) The Sherrard Family of Steubenville. pp.53-54. Robert Andrew Sherrard, Thomas Johnson Sherrard.

During the summer of 1805, Robert Andrew Sherrard recounts a tale about a rattlesnake incident while harvesting a wheat field located three miles from Smithfield, Jefferson County, Ohio, but in the process gives an account of flattened, swirled wheat, and perhaps the earliest reference to an RDF-type crop circle:

"The wheat in this field was blue stem, the first of the sort I had seen, and as the ground was newly cleared, this new crop lay twisted and swirled in all directions which made it hard to reap."

The Magic Circle in the Prairie

Henry L. Schoolcraft, while doing Indian ethnography work in the Midwestern states of the USA, collected an oral tradition which seems to contain a reference to a crop circle. This legend seems to originally been of Algonquin origin, but other tribes also have a derivative of the same story:

  • In Shawnee: "Waupee", or the "White Hawk" discovered the circle.
  • In Algonquin: “Algon the Hunter” who chooses a white hawk feather, discovered the circle.
  • In Chippewa: “White Hawk” discovered the circle.

As this appears to be a widespread mythology, this would indicate a much earlier origin of the incident, perhaps dating back several hundred years.

(1839) Algic Researches, Comprising Inquiries Respecting the Mental Characteristics of the North American Indians. First Series: Indian Tales and Legends in Two Volumes. Vol. 1. "The Celestial Sisters, A Shawnee Tale." pp. 67-73. Henry Schoolcraft.

(1847) Historical and Statistical Information respecting the History, Condition and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States, "The Magic Circle in the Prairie." Henry Schoolcraft.

(1851) The United States Magazine and Democratic Review (May 1851) "The Magic Circle in the Prairie" pp.434-435. Henry Schoolcraft.

(1856) The Myth of Hiawatha and other Oral Legends Mythologic and Allorgoric, of the North American Indians, "The Star Family." pp.117-118. Henry Schoolcraft.

(1875) Belden, The White Chief; or Twelve Years Among the Wild Indians of the Plains. From the Diaries and Manuscripts of George P. Belden. "The Magic Circle On The Prairie." pp. 501-507. Genreal James S. Brisbin.

(1906) Indian Fairy Tales as Told to the Little Children of the Wigwam,"Daughters of the Stars." pp.10-20 with illustration of "the magic circle". Mary Hazelton Wade.

(1912) Thirty Indian Legends of Canada, "The Daughters of the Star." Margaret Bemister.

A description of this reference by researcher Paul Scott Anderson can be found at the Canadian Crop Circle Research Network (CCCRN) website here.





Crop circle research reports from W. C. Levengood are located here.

Historical crop circle references can be found here.



Page last updated on September 9, 2008

© 2008 ICCRA - Jeffrey & Delsey Wilson.