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Movie Draws Attention to Crop Circles

By Catherine Lucey (Associated Press)

Charles R. Mallet has spent nights camped out in fields of grain in England, trying to see what makes the big, elaborate patterns known as "crop circles" which he believes are messages from some unearthly place.

Now, he and others who investigate crop circles worry about Signs, the latest movie by The Sixth Sense creator M. Night Shyamalan, in which crop circles are an ominous element.

"Knowing this guy's movies, it's going to be a little more thoughtful than Independence Day, but it's not going to have much to do with the real crop circles," said Mallet, 32, of Cherhill, in England's Wiltshire County.

Crop circles first drew widespread attention in the 1980s, when they appeared in fields around the world, especially in England. Their allegedly supernatural origins were quickly thrown into doubt when people began admitting to creating them; in 1991, two men said they made circles in southern England at night using boards.

But true believers, who number in the thousands, say people could not have made most of the circles.

Signs, which opens Friday and stars Mel Gibson as a Pennsylvania farmer who finds the circles on his land, is a thriller. Circle followers, however, say the circles aren't about fear.

Linda Howe, 58, a former documentary filmmaker, has written several books on circles. Asked if one could be used in the film, she said no.

"It would have been a reference book that Mel Gibson would have been going through," she said. "They wanted to put an image there with murder or death or danger, something to do with dark fear. I could not have my book tied in with any wrong information with crop formations."

Signs producer Frank Marshall said the circles are merely a hook for Shyamalan to tell a story of a man struggling with his beliefs.

"The movie isn't really about crop circles. It's just one of the stories that exist within the movie," he said.

But he added that the crop circles in the movie, filmed in Bucks County, Pa., are "totally based on the research. The cornstalks are not broken, they're bent. They're very geometric. They're very realistic. Our crop circles are as authentic as the ones that are found around the world."

Dutch researcher Eltjo Hasselhoff, 39, said he is happy to see crop circles used as a theme.

"But I do believe there is a mystery about the crop circle phenomenon. The information you find about crop circles is often completely wrong," he said.

"The crop circle phenomenon is felt as a kind and gentle phenomenon."

August 1, 2002

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