As the circle phenomenon raises its profile ever-higher in the USA, MICHAEL MILEY reports on the resulting increase in local arguments, claims and counter-claims, already so familiar in the UK, focusing on the Northern Californian towns of Rockville and Vacaville…
Wherever a crop circle appears - as in the three formations that recently showed up in my neck of the woods - a line is immediately drawn in the downed crop between those who are prone to think it’s hoaxed and those who’d like to think it’s real. And the pressure is on to declare your position. “What do you think? Is it real, or hoaxed?” These are the first questions most people ask if they see you taking samples in a circle. It makes it tricky for field investigators who want to decide each case based on the empirical evidence. Investigations take time and effort and are not amenable to a priori conclusions.
THE ROCKVILLE FORMATIONS
And so it was on July 1, around 2pm in the 95-degree heat, as my family and I scoured a crop circle for bent or ‘blown’ nodes. We were in a formation discovered in a field of wheat on Saturday June 28, near the corner of Suisun Valley and Rockville roads in Rockville, California. I wasn’t in the circle more than a few minutes when I was being pressed for answers by visitors to the formation. The field is owned by a local farmer, Larry Balestra, who discovered the crop circle that Saturday morning. As reported by Tim Fields in “Mystery in the Wheat Field,” appearing June 30 in the ‘Daily Republic’ (Fairfield-Suisun City, California), Balestra was nonplussed. He’d never seen anything like it.
The formation was comprised of fourteen circles, two rings, and a long connecting path and was over a football field in length, with its largest circle approximately 140 feet in diameter. Its overall length is 450 feet. (See Figure 1: The Rockville Formation, and Figure 2: In the Largest Circle.) When my family and I went into the three-day-old circle (which was extremely dry in the summer heat and had already been visited by many people), my first impression was that it was a hoax. It seemed a bit misshapen and the lay was very flat - often a sign it’s been pressed down by boards - with overlays of wheat present only where the paths met the circles. Weaves and S-shaped overlays are often found in genuine circles. (See Figure 3: Where Stem Meets Circle.) But then my nephew’s wife, Jovana Maniaci, found approximately a dozen stalks with severely bent nodes hiding under the top layer of downed stalks - so I had to retreat from my first impressions. The bent (but not broken) stalks could only have been caused by one of two things: either they’d been physically pressed down much earlier than when the formation appeared and were recovering by a process known as geo/phototropism; or they were bent by the unknown force that had laid the crop down.
Such subtleties, however, seemed superfluous after Catherine Moy, a correspondent for ‘The Reporter’ (Vacaville, CA), reported on July 11 in the article “It’s a Hoax!” that four boys had come forward and claimed they’d made it. ”We just did it for fun - to see if we could do it,” said one of the boys in Moy’s article. The teens - three 17-year-olds and an 18-year-old - came forward anonymously, ostensibly to protect themselves from charges of vandalism (though Balestra said he wouldn’t press charges). According to Moy, three of the boys are on probation for crimes related to theft - an unfortunate pedigree when you want people to believe what you say. Nonetheless, Moy writes that “to prove their role, the teens took a reporter to a set of circles that they say they created in a wheat field off Cordelia Road.” They also showed ‘The Reporter’ the drawings, ropes, boards, and blue tape they say they used to hoax the crop circle. In support of their claims - again according to Moy - Lisa Balestra, Larry’s wife, said she indeed found pieces of blue tape in the circle.
Not everyone believed the boys’ story, however. In the July 12 article in the ‘San Francisco Chronicle’ entitled ‘Bored Teens Try to Claim Crop Circles’ - They say they’re behind hoax, but some have doubts,” authors Steve Rubenstein and Erin Hallissy wrote that District Attorney David Paulson said “I think their story is as big a hoax as the crop circles. The law enforcement community has been waiting for someone to take responsibility.” Others noted discrepancies in the boys’ claims, as reported in Moy’s original and follow-up stories:
1) The 30-foot ski rope Moy mentioned was too short to act as a radius line for the largest circle, which was 140 feet across.
2) Moy reported “the moon was bright that night, providing plenty of light.” Actually, there was NO MOON that night, June 28 being nearly a New Moon.
3) The blue tape Lisa found in the circle had been mentioned on TV several times BEFORE the boys made their confession. It’s therefore possible they just incorporated this information into their claims.
4) According to video testimony given to Psi Applications president Steve Moreno and independent journalist Leslie Kean, a light was seen around 11.30pm that Friday night (June 27), stationed a few inches above the wheat in the field, by Charles William Moreno and his girlfriend (no relation to Steve Moreno). C. Moreno lives across the street from Balestra’s field and says he heard nothing in the field, even as late as 2.00am. He described the light as being “about the size of a volley ball” or slightly bigger, “the size of a Harley Davidson headlight,” though not as bright. Moreover, it did not shine laterally like a projecting beam. However, also according to Moy’s story, the boys claim that any lights seen in the circle that night came from their cell phones as they tried to phone their friends to come and see what they’d done. In other words, in their “confession,” the boys did NOT state they used a volleyball-sized light.
5) According to Tim Fields, writing in his July 5 article in the ‘Daily Republic’ entitled ‘Copycats or Aliens Return: New Crop Circle Found,’ unusual airborne objects were also seen that night. “On Saturday morning at 4.00am, Lacilia Langlais, 18, and three of her friends stood in a driveway on East Tennessee Court in Fairfield. They saw three oval shapes in the direction of Rockville Road and when the red and orange shapes descended toward the road, they ran inside, a bit freaked out, she said.”
Steve Moreno, Founder and President of Psi Applications, as well as Ruben Uriarte, State MUFON Director, Northern California, have conducted a field investigation into the main Rockville formation, as well as into a smaller circle mentioned that was found in a field off Suisun Valley Road, behind Solano Community College’s rear parking area. This circle is 28 feet in diameter, with a 58-foot tail, and was NOT part of the boys hoaxing claim. Moreno and Uriarte gathered extensive samples from both formations, adding to my own more meager samples. Initial analyses of my sampled stalks have been done by MUFON’s Charles Lietzau, indicating a possible real event, as well as by Nancy Talbott of BLT Research Team, which she describes as inconclusive. Analysis of Moreno and Uriarte’s samples is forthcoming.
As of this writing, Balestra, Moreno, Uriarte, and myself have issued a challenge to the boys to reproduce the circle under similar moonlit conditions. Balestra has reserved a space in his field for this purpose. According to Moy (the only access we have to the boys), they’ve agreed to do it. However, as I write these words, our first deadline of July 28-August 4 has passed. The next time there’s no moon is at the end of August, giving several weeks practice time for the boys, should they take up the challenge. However, it remains to be seen if the challenge will be met.
THE VACAVILLE FORMATION
In the meantime, on July 6 around 6.45pm, a new Bay Area crop formation was discovered in a cornfield by Blue Ridge Aeronautics pilot Lou Tobin at the northeast corner of Alamo Drive and Leisure Town Road in Vacaville, California. Tobin and his wife were flying up from Southern California when they spotted the formation in the field, which is owned by Batch, Inc. It’s a 570-foot-long, six-circle “insectoid” figure with a connecting spine, with antennae sprouting from the southernmost circle. (See Figure 4: The Vacaville Formation, Video Capture.) As of this date, no one (including the four boys) has claimed responsibility for manually making the Vacaville circle.
I entered the Vacaville formation around 6.30pm on July 9 with the help of two visitors. (See Figure 5: Miley and Visitor in Vacaville Formation.) Because the formation is not visible from the street, we fanned out on the edge of the field, with approximately 30 rows between us, and entered in the middle, going down the corn rows. I was the first of our group to enter the formation, but by the time I’d found it I was covered with green pollen. Nevertheless, I took over 60 photos as I examined the formation. About forty-five minutes later, Steve Moreno and his assistant Alan Weiblen also showed up and we compared notes. By approximately 8.00pm, I began to react severely to the pollen deposited on my face, arms, and clothing and had to leave.
Nonetheless, I made some observations, which I posted the following day on Crop Circle News (www.cropcirclenews.com). Here’s a version of what I said there. I don’t consider any of it to be written in stone.
1) The formation appeared much older than its July 6 discovery. There was much recovery of the downed plants in the main circles, many showing phototropism, ie. curving stalks going upward toward the light. There was also “grapeshot” on the edge of the main formation.
2) A good many of the stalks that described the formation seemed simply sheared off at the first or second node above ground. The shearing at first didn’t seem to be caused by a knife, but something more “sharp” - I’m tempted to say “cauterized” - because of the whitish, dry, and very precise appearance of the cuts. On the other hand, the cuts could indeed be construed as cuts from some sharp implement. We noticed a slight variation in the cuts on one side in certain stems. This would indicate something slicing from one side to the other. There were also abrasions on the side of certain stalks. These could be construed as impacts from something used to push the stalks down.
3) The “lay,” such as it was, was extremely messy. My impression was one of total chaos. Perhaps this was indeed an “older” formation, in which case it would be hard to say how many people had already been inside. There was a good deal of dried corn stalk leaves everywhere on the ground, possibly indicating drying over a period of many days, perhaps weeks. (See Figure 6: Dried Leaves.)
4) On the edge of the big circles I found stalks leaning away from the formation, creating a “bowing” effect. That is, at ground level the stalks leant away from the center of the circle, as if affected by whatever caused the circle, but then they begin to “recover” toward the middle and top, as if by phototropism. Many of these stalks that are bent on the edge have a reddish, burnt appearance near the ground. This might be caused by steady sunlight “baking” the stems - or the unknown force that laid the cornstalks down.
5) Some stalks laid down had already begun to show new root formations, indicating another aspect of the “recovery” of the stalks. These roots were like wormy fingers sprouting at various sections in the downed stalks.
6) Curious holes showed up in some of the leaves within and around the formation. Upon further research and the assistance of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, these turned out to be evidence of the European Corn Borer, the first infestation recorded in California. However, according to Moreno and Uriarte, the larva showed up primarily INSIDE the formation, dropping off markedly outside it.
Evidently, corn circles sharing some of the above features have been found before in Holland and Canada. In the ensuing week, Moreno and Uriarte, with assistance from others, sampled the Vacaville corn circle extensively (in 100-degree heat!) for the BLT Research Team. The analysis is forthcoming.
On July 18, Moreno, Uriarte, and Weiblen also conducted the first live international televideo investigation of any crop formation, using a video camera, a portable computer, a cell phone, and Yahoo! Messenger, enabling people who were not present to see images from inside the Vacaville corn circle via live video broadcast. Remote participants included Michigan crop circle researcher Jeffrey Wilson; MUFON consultant Dr. Charles Leitzau; Todd Lemire, Chief Investigator for Michigan MUFON; and Mike Bird, MUFON Ontario Provincial Director and a member of the Canadian Crop Circle Research Network (CCCRN). (See “World’s first International Tele/Video Investigation at http://www.cropcirclenews.com/)
As of this writing, the Vacaville investigation is ongoing. “I didn’t have to go to England this year to research the crop circles, as I have done in the past,” says Uriarte. “Instead they showed up in the Bay Area - practically in our back yard!” He looks forward to further developments.
“Here’s one. Since Ruben and I did the sampling, I’ve discovered that three pilots from the nearby Nut Tree Airport passed over this field around 2.00pm that day, July 6, on their way back from LA, and they didn’t see anything in the field below,” says Moreno. “Nut Tree Airport sits about one mile northwest of the formation. One of these pilots was Tami Martin, the Administrative Secretary for Nut Tree, who told me they always fly over that field on their way back from LA and always take notice because they live directly across the street. Even her daughter who was there when I interviewed her exclaimed there was nothing there at that time. That means - just possibly - that the Vacaville formation occurred in the middle of the day, within approximately a four-and-a-half-hour timeframe.”
If this is true, it would contradict my observations about the age of the formation - and would tend to support an anomalous source for it. All the more reason to be cautious about initial impressions and judgments pro or con toward any crop circle and all the more reason to carefully examine the criteria by which we make those judgments.
More photos of the Rockville and Vacaville, California crop circles in the US can be seen at:
Michael Miley is a contributing editor to ‘UFO Magazine’ (US).