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At the 2003 Glastonbury Symposium, researchers Robert Hulse and David Cayton put forward a controversial new theory as to how to tell man-made circles from ‘genuine’. Now, after a year’s fine-tuning, ROBERT HULSE has submitted his theory to Swirled News and we decided to put it to peer review by canvassing the opinions of BARRY REYNOLDS and ALLAN BROWN. Read on and decide for yourselves…

On hearing Robert Hulse’s proposed theory for how to tell, well, the wheat from the chaff, we decided the fairest thing to do was to share it with Barry Reynolds and Allan Brown, two of our most diligent circle researchers, for their opinions. We then showed their views to Robert, who in turn commented on those… Here we share with you the thoughts, controversies and disagreements of a work in progress.



Robert wrote:

“It has long been the desire of crop circle researchers to have the ability to decide with certainty whether or not a particular formation is a hoax or the genuine article. After much consideration, I have decided that it is possible to offer this certainty in at least one area of crop circle study. The theory applies to any wheat formation where the laid crop is flattened to the ground.

The rule is simple and is as follows:


The reasoning for this is that the energy which the extra-terrestrial visitors use to lay the crop acts on the full length of the stem and the seed head, thus aligning previously unaligned seed heads. Fortunately, the hoaxers with their boards, ropes and rollers have not, and almost certainly never will be, been able to copy this aspect of the genuine formation. This is because the ripe wheat seed heads cannot be manually combed into a stem aligned position.

Please be aware that this rule will only tell you when a formation is a hoax. One cannot say that the formation is definitely genuine just because the laid seed heads are aligned.

I feel sure that many Swirled News readers who have been lucky enough to visit the crop circles will have taken close-up photographs of the ground lay within the formations. I strongly suggest that if your formations were in wheat, that you take a close look at your photos. I know for sure that some old favourite formations will have to be tossed into the rubbish bin of history, which is where they belong.

All is not doom and gloom however, because the fact that fully ripe wheat seed heads cannot be manually combed into a stem-aligned position means that where a formation occurs in fully ripe wheat, we can easily judge its veracity. For instance, careful study of the laid crop in the massive Milk Hill formation of 2001 proves without question that it was genuine. I am also fairly certain that my photos of laid crop in the 2001 Face and Binary Code formations at Chilbolton prove that they are both genuine. The 2002 Crabwood Alien and Disk appears to be a hoax.

I make a special plea to all those, especially Crop Circle Connector, who diligently bring the formation images to our computer screens, please show us close-up laid crop images from ripe wheat formations. By that action, we may at least rid the farmers and ourselves of the late season hoaxing.

Finally, I must confess that this process by which we may root out the hoax was not originally discovered by me, although I did arrive at it through my own reasoning and research in the fields. The praise should rightly go to Ilyes, who wrote about this aspect of laid wheat several years ago in her excellent booklet entitled ‘The Transmission Of A Crop Circle’.”



Barry wrote:

“Having read Robert's letter it is obvious that, like many of us, Robert would like to have his own 'litmus test' and is working towards this. However, unfortunately, like many others, Robert is trying to make too much of one thing and missing the 'big picture'.

First of all, why does his litmus test only work for wheat? Barley and oats are also monocotyledons - surely it should work for them as well? I would certainly want any test of genuineness to work across a whole family of crop.

He then goes on to say that "IF THE SEED HEADS ON THE LAID CROP ARE NOT ALIGNED WITH THE DIRECTION OF THE STEMS, THEN THE FORMATION IS A HOAX." This is all well and good on, for instance, a pathway, but what about corners and the centres of circles? What about nests? Anyone that has spent time in formations knows only too well that at changes of direction of flow, the crop is often bent in two or more places. At these points it is impossible for the heads to be aligned with the direction of flow. And as for ‘nests’..!

Then there's "thus aligning previously unaligned seed heads". Wow, that's a corker. So if the field has previously suffered from lodging [wind damage] and the crop is already bent at the nodes due to phototropism, then the formation will magically align these as well? I'm not so sure myself as this is the reason that rough patches can often be found within a genuine formation.

So now that Robert has defined his theory he then goes on to say (my emphasis): "the hoaxers… have not, and ALMOST CERTAINLY NEVER WILL be able to copy this aspect of the genuine formations". Always best to leave a little doubt in your own theory!

Now it gets a little confusing: "be aware that this rule will only tell you when a formation is a hoax. One cannot say that the formation is definitely genuine just because the laid seed heads are aligned." So it is not possible for hoaxers to create this aspect of a formation, but if this aspect is present then it does not mean that it is genuine! Ahh! So who or what did create it then?!!

And just to make sure that you are really confused, he continues: "because the fact that fully ripe wheat seed heads cannot be manually combed into a stem-aligned position, means that where a formation occurs in fully ripe wheat, we can easily judge its veracity." But he just said "One cannot say that the formation is definitely genuine just because the laid seed heads are aligned". Hmm, a little more work to do here, I think.

The only other comment I have to make is that by this judgement, every formation turns into a hoax about 24 hours after it has been laid. By that time it's so well-trampled that the seed heads are in all directions. Apply Robert's theory and - Hey Presto - it's man-made!

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that seed heads aren't aligned in genuine formations, I'm just saying that it's incredibly dangerous to declare hoax by one test alone. Those of us that have been around for a few years and visited more formations than we care to remember know only too well that we NEVER, EVER look for a single feature alone that tells us hoax or not. Sometimes it can require several people over a period of an hour or so to build the case for genuine or not, and if you want to be really picky then it cannot be finally confirmed until biological anomaly lab results are back, as they CANNOT be hoaxed.

So, caveat emptor. One visual test alone is not enough…”



Allan wrote:

“The main observation that springs to mind is from Barry himself. Barry noted that at a certain point in their maturity the seed heads of the wheat plant go from pointing straight up to drooping down. This can happen quite quickly, ie. a period of a few days. If a formation goes down whilst the seed heads are all pointing up, then clearly they will be laid with the predicted correctly-aligned seed head pattern. This will look anomalous if the remaining crop subsequently droops its seed heads, giving the impression that the energy involved in laying the crop has physically straightened out the seed heads. In this scenario, the seed head direction theory is misleading.

From my own personal philosophical standpoint, I suspect that almost all litmus tests are inconclusive. I just don't feel that the phenomenon can be objectively quantified as either ultimately 'genuine' or 'hoaxed'. Sure, we look for obvious damage, suspicious underpaths, telling eyewitness reports, etc., but all these factors only keep the door open to the notion that something peculiar is going on; they don't actually prove whether a particular formation is genuine or not. After all, some of the most seasoned researchers believe that all formations are man-made, straight seed heads or not.

I personally feel that to even approach something like a litmus test, one must utilise a range of indicators. The most important, to my mind, is the lack of damage to the crop. For example in the Hollingbury 'Flower of Life' Sussex formation of last year, the lack of damage to the crop and the fluidity of the lay was, to my mind, truly breathtaking. However, the seed heads were not all pointing straight ahead. I certainly would not count this formation as having been hoaxed from this indicator alone. The other factors that contribute to a clearer understanding of a formation’s origins are the causal traces they drag behind them, the local weather conditions on the night in question, the location of the formation, the presence of mud on the stems and the level of complexity/artistry that is built into the design. None of these things in themselves prove that a formation is genuine, but to my mind there is a point at which it becomes more problematic to explain the formation's existence in terms of human manual construction than it does to
accept that some other, unknown, process is responsible. I think the danger with litmus tests, bent nodes, aligned seed heads, lack of damage, etc., is that they are so open to error and misjudgement. I have, on several occasions, had to measure up a formation on my own, and as a result have had to peg one end of the tape measure into the ground. A subsequent visitor may discover this post-hole and leap to the conclusion that this is evidence of hoaxing. I often lose a pencil, sharpener, rubber or the like whilst surveying a formation. These too could be heralded as signs of hoaxing. It's the same with damage to the crop. You really have to be sure that you are the first into a formation to even have half a chance of making a valid assessment of the state of the crop, as every pair of feet that walks around a formation creates more and more damage. Bent nodes and phototropism are probably the source of more confusion then any other factor in crop circle research.

I do, however, concur that if a formation were to occur in the late summer, when the seed heads had already dropped, and they were all found beautifully straightened out, then this would be very difficult to explain. I simply do not have enough experience to judge the validity of this particular litmus test, so clearly this is a feature we should collectively spend some time looking at. However, I maintain that the most reliable litmus test is your own imagination and intuition. To my mind, the phenomenon is doing its utmost to remain enigmatic and non-objective. Not that there's any shame in trying to develop such tests, I just raise the point that one must be careful not to end up throwing the baby out with the bath water by becoming over zealous about any one particular litmus test.

I explore a lot of the points raised in my reply above in my article ‘The East Field/South Field Duality', which can be found on my website at:



Robert wrote:

“Thank you for the opportunity to respond to the comments of Allan and Barry. It is clear from their remarks that, in my attempt to propose a simple rule, I have not emphasised certain points clearly enough, which may have led to confusion. I apologise for that and will attempt to
clarify. However, I am convinced that the rule is correct.

The rule is based firmly on the proposal that the energy which lays the crop acts upon each individual stem and seed head, as opposed to groups of stems and seed heads, which is the case when the crop is manually depressed. By this process, the stems and seed heads become aligned. This seed head straightening cannot be duplicated by mechanical means where the formation occurs in fully ripe wheat, and where the seed heads in the standing crop are fixed at around ninety degrees to the stem.

Allan refers to the seed heads drooping down. In fully ripe wheat, this is absolutely not the case. The seed heads do not droop, but are firmly fixed in position. If one tries to straighten such a seed head, it is more likely to break than to allow itself to become straightened. I cannot envisage any method of mechanical combing of this type of crop which would effect a permanent straightening of the seed heads. This fixed aspect of the fully ripe seed head is vital to the understanding of the proposal. Drooping, half-drooped, or malleable through extreme and prolonged wetness of the crop will not do. If they are mechanically laid, they may flop into an aligned position. They simply must be fixed, fully ripe, and with little moisture in the seed head. This condition is commonplace amongst the ripe wheat crop, and can therefore be used as a test of many late season formations.

Allan raises the point that if the crop is laid when the seed heads in the standing crop are straight, the seed heads in the laid crop will therefore be straight. His concern is that the standing crop may then ripen and the seed heads go to an unaligned position, thus creating confusion. He suggests that this process may be possible within a few days. I would suggest that the process of going from straight seed heads to fully ripe and fixed at ninety degrees to the stem will take rather more than a few days. I do agree that it is important to examine the laid crop as soon as possible, but as most formations are examined within an hour or two of being discovered, I do not believe that this constitutes a serious problem.

Allan feels that the phenomenon cannot be objectively quantified as genuine or hoaxed. I disagree entirely, and suggest that in order to give true validity to the genuine formations, it is vital to be able to recognise the hoax. He goes on to say that some of the most seasoned researchers believe that all formations are man-made. Surely, the tremendous work carried out by Professor Levengood and the BLT team has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that the changes to the soil and plants, taken from certain formations, could not be caused by human hand. I would strongly suggest that the time is well past when we should take notice of those so-called researchers, who claim all circles to be man-made. They are simply debunkers and should be ignored entirely.

Barry suggests that this litmus test, as he puts it, is blinding me to other aspects of crop circle research, and that I am missing "the big picture". Let me assure Barry that I am fully cognisant of all aspects of crop circle research, and utilise as many of them as possible in order to determine crop circle authenticity. I am more than happy to admit that there are many occasions when the evidence presenting itself in the formation is too meagre to make a judgement of any kind, and I am happy to leave it at that.

Barry asserts that any test of genuineness must work across a whole family of crop. Why on earth should that be? While I admit there are similarities between the structure of wheat and barley seed heads, they are not identical. Oats have nothing like the same structure as wheat. I am certain that seed head straightening does occur in barley, but I chose not to include it because it is not as visibly obvious as when it occurs in wheat.

I concede that there may be a very slight unevenness in seed head straightening where very sharp angular changes of direction occur within the formation. Even in these places, in the genuine formations, it is often obvious that the energy has attempted to straighten the seed heads. I feel confident that even the flattened nests should have mainly straightened seed heads. I would make an exception for the extremely complex corn dolly-type nests, which we saw at the end of the 2003 season. In any event, where the wheat is ripe enough, close examination of the seed head alignment in the larger areas of laid crop will suffice.

I am disappointed that Barry is confused by my statement; "one cannot say that the formation is definitely genuine just because the seed heads are aligned". I am sure that Barry has examined a huge number of early season wheat formations, and in every case the laid crop will have had aligned seed heads, whether the formation was genuine or not. Therefore, I contend that my earlier statement makes perfect sense and feel that Barry is a trifle condescending when he goes on to suggest; "Hmm, a little more work to do here I think". I would suggest that he reads my original letter again. Perhaps then he will understand that his reasoning has not included
all the aspects of the scenario as proposed in my letter.

Barry's assertion that by my reasoning every formation turns into a hoax about twenty four hours after it has been laid, is also incorrect. While I admit that some disturbance to the laid crop will occur due to visitors, I contend that most crop circle devotees treat the formations with care and even a certain reverence. A few unaligned seed heads moved out of position by the feet of visitors will make little difference to the overall appearance of the laid crop.

Barry's final remark is that "one visual test alone is not enough". I contend that where the conditions that I have outlined are fulfilled, then one visual test alone is enough.

In the final analysis, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating, so let us all pay close attention to this aspect of the late season wheat formations. Perhaps the hoaxers will steer clear of wheat and use a different crop.

Finally, could I make a plea to all those researchers who are lucky enough to visit very fresh formations. Please take good close-up ground lay photographs, which include both the laid and the standing crop, and please do not see my proposal as a negative one. To my mind, hoaxed formations have no merit whatsoever, whereas the genuine formations are of the utmost importance to mankind.”


So there you have it. A valid theory or a load of old crop? What do YOU think? Any responses can be sent to our Feedback pages at:


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