Thriller revives interest in crop-circle phenomenon

July 30, 2002|By Warren Epstein | Warren Epstein,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

Is it a sign of extraterrestrial visitation?

Or is it a bunch of corn?

The new thriller from M. Night Shyamalan, Signs, which opens Friday, has revived questions about the worldwide crop-circle phenomenon.

Ron Russell, an artist in Aurora, Colo., wouldn't put his money on aliens. But he would bank on the endurance of the crop-circle mystery.

That's why Russell gives annual tours of crop circles and other sacred spots in Europe and elsewhere.

Russell has heard that Signs is more about scaring viewers than presenting a well-rounded view of crop circles. But he's glad it will bring more attention to the phenomenon.

"Any publicity for the mystery of crop circles is good publicity," he says.

For most of us, the greatest mystery about the crop circles is their origin.

For decades (and some say, centuries) large geometric designs have been discovered in the middle of fields throughout the world. Many have been proven to be hoaxes. Others remain unexplained.

UFO buffs see evidence of flying saucers. Some scientists have suggested natural weather-related explanations.

Russell isn't as interested in the origins of the crop circles, most of which he believes are man-made, as he is in the unusual properties within them.

"I and thousands of other people have felt some kind of energy, something that's not just your mind making it up," he says.

"There's an external field of energy. The hair on your arms stands up."

He says that during previous trips inside crop circles, his batteries have drained, his equipment has lost its power, and his compasses have spun around.

"It causes some people to get sick, other people get healed and some people feel this contact with spirit," he says.

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