Paranormal investigators Chad Lewis and Terry Fisk gather data from a series of three crop circles in Tilden on Monday.

Photos by Candice Novitzke

Crop circles appear in Tilden

By Candice Novitzke

07/20/04 - Chippewa Herald

TILDEN -- There's been many things in Francis Swoboda's field in the town of Tilden -- barns, animals, and, of course crops. But on Monday, paranormal investigators Chad Lewis and Terry Fisk of Eau Claire asked if he knew there were crop circles in his field not more than a mile from his home.

Crop circles are a modern mystery and a source of controversy. They consist of flattened crops in simple circles like the ones in Tilden or in extremely elaborate patterns. They appear suddenly and to some, mysteriously.

Some people have speculated that they are made by alien spacecraft. Others have called them a hoax made by pranksters. Swoboda just calls them a little bit annoying.

It all started when May Chi-Hi graduate Adam Prince was driving by Swoboda's field and happened to see what looked like a crop circle.

"I just looked at it I could see something up in the field," he said. "I wasn't really looking for anything. I wasn't even sure what it was, but when you go by you can kind of see something out there."

Prince decided not to investigate on his own. He searched the Internet and discovered
that Lewis and Fisk were both from Eau Claire and investigated such phenomena. He e-mailed them to let them know the location.

Lewis and Fisk have investigated dozens of paranormal occurrences and are known both nationally and locally. They spent Monday afternoon investigating, measuring and pondering in Swoboda's field.

They found there was already a footpath between the oat and a nearby clover field that led to the circles. It's unknown whether the creators of the circles or someone else made the path.

The formation consists of three circles linked together by an approximately 5-foot wide path. The middle circle is 65 feet in diameter, while the two smaller ones are each roughly 54 feet in diameter.

Lewis said the circles appear to have been formed a couple days ago because plants are already starting to spring back up. No footprints were visible in the dirt surrounding the area, though he acknowledges that Monday's rain could have erased any tracks.

Various existing crop circle theories include government airplanes, extra-terrestrials, electrical or magnetic phenomena, and humans.

To Lewis, who has seen several reputed crop circles in the Midwest, the Tilden circles seem a bit "rough around the edges" compared even to some he's seen.

They also discovered that before the circles were made, a straight, eight-inch wide path was made through the center of the area intended to be circles. This might be a possible way for circle makers to maneuver without having yet made the circles.

Lewis said there have been six reported crop circles in the past few years in Wisconsin, but none in the Chippewa County area.

The pair took samples of oat plants from inside and outside the circles. They will be tested for various properties that could provide more insight.

"If there are any strange results, we'll take soil samples," Lewis said.

They also measured the area for radiation and for magnetic activity, which are sometimes found near unexplained phenomena.

It's believed that "hoax" crop circles are created by at least two people working like a compass. One person stands in desired center of a circle holding a rope to which is attached a person walking. The walker has a board on the ground to which is attached ropes. As the walker proceeds forward, pivoting around the center person, he or she steps down on the board, lifting it by the ropes and stepping as plants are pushed down and a circle is created. As the circle is formed, the pivoting rope is shortened and the circle works inward.

The circles in Tilden could be made with a large board and 30 feet of rope, Lewis said.

"It would be difficult to get in and out of here without being seen, but not impossible," Lewis said. "We're here with more questions than answers."

Swoboda believes that it's only kids who were trying to stage a hoax.

"I had hay to unload if they wanted work -- they could have done that instead," he said with a chuckle.

"You could see where they looked like they were trying to be sneaky but they weren't," Swoboda said. "Morons -- at least if they were going to do it -- do it right."

Swoboda will lose as much as four acres of the oats he uses to feed his dairy herd because of the damage.

"That's what makes you so mad -- usually the fields don't get this good," he said.

This year's oat crop was particularly good, because the growing season was long and the oat plants hadn't yet been knocked down by a storm. Now, Swoboda might have to redo the fields because the weeds are already starting to grow up where the oat plants were flattened in the crop circle formation.

But, Swoboda looks at the crop circles like any of life's little mishaps.

"There's a lot worse things that could happen," Swoboda said.

Three crop circles recently appeared in a field of oats west of Chippewa Falls in the town of Tilden.  Paranormal investigator Chad Lewis of Eau Claire, who examined the circles, estimates there's a 50-50 chance they're part of a hoax.
Closely cropped
Chippewa County spirals lead examiners in circles
Tom Giffey
Leader-Telegram Staff
07/22/04 - Leader-Telegram
Tips and story suggestions arrive in our newsroom every day. Rarely, however, does the phone ring with a report of possible otherworldly phenomena.

That’s what happened Monday when paranormal investigator Chad Lewis called to say he was examining crop circles in a Chippewa County field.

I knew it wasn’t a crank call. Lewis, of Eau Claire, has a local (and even national) reputation for investigating ghosts, UFOs and other paranormal goings-on. He holds a master’s degree in applied psychology, has written two books on the paranormal and is finishing a third, hosts a periodic program on Community Television and co-hosts a two-hour talk show called “The Unexplained” on low-powered radio station Wolf 108 (WLFK-LP 107.9) in Eau Claire. (The show runs from 10 p.m. to midnight Mondays.)

My job usually involves mundane mysteries — Who will win the election? Will the Legislature pass the bill? — so I couldn’t resist the chance to see something that might be, if you’ll pardon the corny expression, out of this world.

Circles called ‘clumsy’

I found Lewis and fellow investigator Terry Fisk in the middle of a waist-high field of oats west of Chippewa Falls in the town of Tilden. They had spent more than four hours trudging around the hot, muggy field examining the flattened grain taking measurements. Some of the oats, crushed in spiral patterns around the circles’ centers, already had begun to spring back up, suggesting to Lewis the circle had been made days before.

Three circles were inscribed in the gently sloping field. The middle circle was 64 feet, 5 inches in diameter while those that flanked it were 53 feet, 8 inches and 55 feet in diameter, respectively. The circles were linked by two 5-foot-wide paths about 30 feet in length.

Lewis had been tipped off to the circles by an e-mail from a Chippewa Falls teen who said he noticed the circles as he drove by but claimed he hadn’t walked out to take a closer look. This story sounded suspicious to me: I knew I was looking for crop circles, but I almost missed them. From the road I could only discern their faint edges, which didn’t look particularly circular. In addition, Lewis hasn’t been able to contact the tipster to verify his story.

Lewis also is skeptical. He figured there was a 50-50 chance the circles were a hoax.

“It’s very clumsy around the outside,” he said, indicating their ragged edges. “Most of the formations that are in geometric shapes are clean.”

Lewis was intrigued, however, by the damage to the plants. Usually, plants in crop circles are bent — not broken — close to the ground, he explained. Here, the oats were violently broken 6 or 7 inches above the root.

“It looks like something really tore these up,” he said.

He’s also curious how potential hoax He’s also curious how potential hoaxers got into and out of the field without leaving marks. Another investigator, who visited before Lewis, said there was no path through the grain leading to the circles.

Lewis and Fisk scanned the area with a Geiger counter, which measures radioactivity, and a TriField meter, which measures magnetic, electrical and radio activity. They also took samples of damaged and undamaged plants, which will be sent to a lab.

Skeptics say crop circles, which have appeared around the globe since the 1970s, are the work of hoaxers working with ropes and boards. Others claim they are created by UFOs, unexplained electrical activity or government conspiracies.

In his research, Lewis tries to strike a balance between the cynics who laugh off all paranormal claims and gullible folks who believe everything they see and hear.

“My first reaction is let’s rule out the possibility of a hoax,” he said.

“As Terry likes to say,” Lewis added, “we like to keep an open mind, but not so open that our brains fall out.”

Still, Lewis admits he was excited to find crop circles so close to home. While they’ve appeared elsewhere in Wisconsin — including Mayville, Port Washington and Wausau — never before has Lewis seen them in the Chippewa Valley.

The farmers who own the land, Francis and Shelley Swoboda, fall in the cynical category.

“It’s definitely not very paranormal,” said Shelley Swoboda, who examined the circles Monday evening.

The Swobodas figure the circles are the work of teen vandals with too much free time, like those who often leave messes in a nearby gravel pit. Mostly, they’re upset that some of their grain is ruined and worry next year’s crop might be crowded out by the weeds already creeping in.

That’s not to say they don’t have a sense of humor, which Francis Swoboda demonstrated when he called his insurance agent.

“He said, ‘Do we have any insurance on aliens?’ ” Shelley Swoboda recalled.

Giffey, a Leader-Telegram staff reporter, can be reached at 833-9205, (800) 236-7077 or tom.giffey@ecpc.com.

Three Ring Circuits At Tilden Farm Field

07/27/04 - Bloomer Advocate

"Who you gonna call?" If Shelley and Francis Swoboda of Tilden had a choice in the matter last week, probably nobody. It came as a complete surprise to the farm couple when paranormal investigators Chad Lewis and Terry Fisk knocked on their door Monday, July 20, asking to inspect their crop circles. "What crop circles?" they asked.

"We had no idea they were there," said Shelley Swoboda of the mysterious rings which appeared in their oat field just off County Highway N, at some time previous to Friday, July 16, 2004.

The field with the circles is not in a direct line of sight from the Swoboda's home, and the couple noticed no unusual activity on their farm prior to the discovery.

The investigators who called on the Swoboda's were tipped off to the presence of the rings after receiving an e-mail about them including precise directions to their location. The message was sent Friday, July 16. However, neither Lewis or Fisk checked their messages until the following Monday.

The message sent by Adam Prince, recent graduate of Chippewa High School, stated that he noticed what might be crop circles out in a field off Highway N. Deciding not to investigate on his own, Prince e-mailed BLT, a paranormal research firm from Eau Claire, which Lewis and Fisk head.

It didn't take long for news of the ringed formations to reach the media and following that, the general public. "We could have lived without the excitement of it all, said the Swoboda's, "as the culprit or culprits, whether normal or paranormal, damaged about 4-acres of the best oat crop we've had in years."

So, on Monday, the Swoboda's found themselves accompanying the two paranormal investigators - plus a newspaper reporter who had also arrived at their home - to the field where three circles were found.

Leaving the trio to investigate, Francis Swoboda, returned to the house, called his insurance company and inquired whether or not his policy covered "alien damage." A startled agent advised Swoboda to call the police. Shortly thereafter, a Chippewa County police officer joined the others in the oat field.

Fearing hordes of curiosity seekers, Francis Swoboda decided to put out a few 'no trespassing' signs. That approach has been successful to the extent that people are mostly doing drive-by's or parking off the highway for a brief period of time as they try to make out the circles, which are not all that visible from the road.

Of the three rings found, the largest said Lewis, measured 65 feet in diameter. Two others measuring roughly 54 - 55 feet in diameter were connected to the center circle by 30 foot x 5 foot pathways. "We took whole plant samples from both inside and outside the circles and sent them to Cambridge, Mass., for independent study," added Lewis. "Especially important is measuring and comparing the nodes of the plant," he added, noting that the nodules of those plants found inside the circles seem to be elongated. Tests on comparative heat, radiation and magnetics were also part of the site investigation.

"We've investigated other crop circles in Wisconsin, but these are the first in Chippewa County," said Lewis.

The Swoboda's have faced the uproar with equanimity although Fran-cis Swoboda would have preferred the creators of the circles, whether extraterrestrial or not, to have put their time to better use. "We had plenty of hay to be unloaded, it certainly would have been something better for them to do."

Meanwhile, some of the curious, stymied by the little able to be viewed from the highway, have begun buzzing the field in small aircraft.

The Swoboda's, for their part, will just be happy when the whole thing blows over.

These pictures were submitted to the Leader by Terry Fisk, a paranormal investigator and former Webster resident who has lived in Eau Claire for the past 10 years. Fisk and his partner, paranormal investigator Chad Lewis, were clued into the appearance of these circles on the Francis and Shelley Swoboda field near Chippewa Falls. As yet, no explanation for the circles has come forward, but several possibilities have been presented. - Photo submitted

Three mysterious crop circles are under investigation in the Chippewa Falls area 

08/05/04 - Inter-county Leader 

by Nancy Jappe

TILDEN - The message in an e-mail received at the Leader office in Frederic Monday, July 19 said, "Chad and I have been investigating the recent appearances of crop circles in the Midwest. Yesterday we investigated one in Litchfield, Minn. Last week, we were in Eagle Grove, Iowa. Next week we'll be investigating one in Rockford, Ill.

"Today we discovered one as close to home as Chippewa Falls,"  the writer, Terry Fisk, a former Webster resident, continued. "We haven't officially announced it to the media, as we are still in the process of investigating it, but we would be happy to provide photos and an interview later if you're interested."

Terry Fisk was true to his word. He stopped in at the Leader office Thursday, July 29, with information for us to tell our readers.

"Chad (Lewis, Fisk's partner in investigating paranormal happenings) got an e-mail from 18-year-old Adam Prince, a relative of Nancy Kouba, Webster, telling us about crop circles he had seen in a field near Tilden," Fisk started out.

Prince had been driving by the field when he saw three unusual circles of flattened oats in a farmer's field. He searched the Internet to find someone local with whom he could share this information. He found Lewis' Web site, and e-mailed him.

"We went there and could see (the circles) in the field," Fisk continued. "We asked to find out who owned the field."

The field of oats is owned by Francis and Shelley Swoboda of Chippewa Falls. The Swobodas had no idea the circles were there. "We brought it to his attention, and took him out. He was irate, assuming that teen-agers had vandalized his field, causing $500 damage to the field," Fisk said.

Lewis and Fisk looked around for any signs that people had been there. They looked for footprints or a path though the oats. There was no indication how somebody got out to the circles.

It had rained that morning, and the paranormal investigators were wondering if weather might have washed away any footprints. They tried to walk through the grain without knocking anything down. They could see where they had walked, even two days later. "If someone snuck through the field, they were pretty good at it," Fisk commented.

The center of the three circles was 65' in diameter. Of the two smaller ones, one was approximately 53' in diameter, the other approximately 55'. The passageways between the three were 5' wide with a connection that was 30' long. Fisk and Lewis put equipment out there to get these measurements.

In all of the three circles, the oat crop was laid down in a clockwise swirl in a pattern that went from west to east. Usually, crop circles are straight. The investigators had never seen the circles in any other form, nor had the staff at BLT Crop Circle Investigators, the firm Lewis and Fisk deal with in Cambridge, Mass. Samples from the Tilden crop circles were sent to BLT for analysis.

According to Fisk, all three circles began in the center, with the grain laid down from the center to the edge. Usually in crop circles, the grains are bent, not broken. In hoaxed circles, the grain would be broken, not bent. In some cases, the grain is randomly downed by the wind. In the Tilden circles, no evidence of wind damage was found.

In looking for a pilot to get an aerial view of the circles, Lewis and Fisk found a pilot who said he sees these kind of circles often, indicating that there may be more in the area.

Lewis and Fisk are waiting to see the results of the crop and soil analysis. They will be interested in the comparison of the nodes on the plants within the circles with controlled samples of the grain outside the circles. If they find node elongation, this could indicate expulsion cavities where the grain has exploded. The only thing they could compare that to would be exposure to microwave radiation and the possibility of something coming in from above.

"Some things indicate this could be a hoax," Fisk said, "but then, it could be legitimate."

Theories of what could have caused the circles to form range from: 1) extraterrestrial beings using the circles as symbols of a message for humans. 2) the military using technology (a military helicopter with a man in military fatigues and binoculars was hovering over crop circles in Mayville while Lewis and Fisk were investigating circles there). 3) some strange weather phenomenon. 4) plasma vortex. 5) angels or Mother Earth herself trying to communicate using symbols in nature.

"At this point, it is an unsolved mystery," Fisk said.

For more information from Lewis and Fisk, the Web site to access on the Internet is http://www.chadlewis.com/. The two also have a radio talk show, "The Unexplained," which can be heard on WOLF 108 FM (WLFK 107.9) Mondays from 10 p.m. to midnight. WOLF 108 FM broadcasts from Eau Claire.

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