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.