Jury still out on origin of farmer's crop circles

By Amy Kimmes
08/29/04 - Wausau Daily Herald

TOWN OF WAUSAU - Scott Worden won't say for sure whether he believes in the paranormal, but he doesn't dismiss the idea either.

That's why Worden, a longtime dairy farmer, agreed to have two paranormal investigators inspect six crop circles Saturday that were found by a farmhand Monday in Worden's barley field.

"Everybody thinks I'm nuts, but I just want to know what caused it. I know cows more than I know circles," said Worden, 37, through a sheepish grin. Worden runs the farm with his brother, Tim, and father, Darrell.

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Paranormal investigator Terry Fisk of Eau Claire said he would first and foremost be looking for evidence that showed the formations were a hoax.

"You usually can tell how the crops have been laid down and if there is damage to the crops," said Fisk, 49, who in July investigated crop circles found in Chippewa Falls. Usually, plants are bent, not broken in crop circles whose causes are difficult to explain. In obviously hoaxed circles, the grains are broken.

The two arrived at the site around 9 a.m. Saturday morning with cameras and tape measures. They also brought a Geiger counter, which measures radioactivity, and a TriField meter, an instrument that measures magnetic, electrical and radio waves, as well as microwaves.

They were disappointed to find that the field had been harvested with a combine after the circles were created. It also appeared that many people had walked through the field.

"We like to compare the crop inside the circles to the crop outside the circles," said paranormal investigator Chad Lewis of Eau Claire, who has been investigating crop circles for 10 years. "Obviously, since this has been cut, we can't do that."

The circles' proximity to the road - about 50 feet - could indicate a hoax.

"Maybe someone wants it to be noticed, plus, it's easy access," said Fisk, who, along with Lewis, hosts a radio program called "The Unexplained" that airs weekly in the Eau Claire area.

Even the lack of activity found on the investigators' TriField meter could indicate a sham. But the duo won't dismiss the phenomenon as such at this point.

The waves the meter detects could have dissipated between the time the crop circles formed and today, Lewis said.

Town chairman Jim Riehle, who was looking at the crop circles Saturday morning, is convinced the crop circles are the real deal.

"I used to listen to Art Bell on the radio all the time," Riehle said. "I don't think this is a hoax. I'm a grain farmer. When you walk through a field like this, you leave footprints, and you can still see them three days later.

There aren't any footprints around here, no tracks to show where people would have come in."

Bell hosted a nationally syndicated all-night radio show called "Coast to Coast AM" in the 1990s and from time to time from 2001 to 2003. The show, which is still on the air with a different host, deals with tales of the supernatural, the paranormal and weird.

Crop circles, most of which are found to be easily explainable hoaxes, can be formed with a rope, a board and a couple of people.

You attach the rope to the board, step on the board and move in a circle, Fisk said. It usually takes two people, with one person standing on the end of the board at the center of the circle.

The crop circle investigation won't stop with Saturday's probe, which is considered preliminary work by the paranormal investigators.

They say they'll also check with Wisconsin Public Service for reports of power outages in the area around the same time the crop circles were formed. They'll also ask airport officials whether pilots have reported other circles in the area and find out if police received word of any UFO sightings.

Later, they'll send in soil and crop samples to BLT Crop Circle Investigations in Cambridge, Mass., for testing. Results from the lab work will not be available until spring 2005.

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