investigators Chad Lewis and Terry
Fisk gather data from a series of
three crop circles in Tilden on
Photos by Candice Novitzke
circles appear in 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
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
"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
that Lewis and Fisk were both from Eau
Claire and investigated such phenomena. He
e-mailed them to let them know the
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.
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
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
Lewis said there have been six reported
crop circles in the past few years in
Wisconsin, but none in the Chippewa County
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.
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
"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
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.
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
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.
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.
County spirals lead examiners in
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
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
“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
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
“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
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
Giffey, a Leader-Telegram staff
reporter, can be reached at
833-9205, (800) 236-7077 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ring Circuits At Tilden Farm Field
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
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
"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
The Swoboda's, for their part, will just be
happy when the whole thing blows over.
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
mysterious crop circles are under
investigation in the Chippewa Falls area
by Nancy Jappe
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
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
Fisk was true to his word. He stopped
in at the Leader office Thursday, July
29, with information for us to tell
(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.
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.
went there and could see (the circles)
in the field," Fisk continued.
"We asked to find out who owned
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
things indicate this could be a
hoax," Fisk said, "but then,
it could be legitimate."
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
this point, it is an unsolved
mystery," Fisk said.
more information from Lewis and Fisk,
the Web site to access on the Internet
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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