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


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.

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