By John Lundberg
Hungary's not renound for it's crop circles... but during 1992 crop circle fever gripped the nation.
On the night of June 8th 1992 a 36 meter diameter crop circle appeared in a wheat field near Szekesfehervar, 43 miles southwest of Budapest. The circle was spotted by sea rescue helicopter pilot Laszlo Otvos on June 26th who reported his sighting to the press. Soon afterwards UFO 'experts' from all over the country were flocking to Szekesfehervar to investigate the circle. One claimed to have measured 'abnormal' levels of radiation in the circle, but despite this warning thousands of people visited the site... many camped out, waiting for UFOs to appear, some even placed their children in the circle, hoping for them to be infused with whatever 'magical energy' the circle possessed. Others believed they were in contact with the 'crew' of the UFO that made the circle. But the owners of the field, Aranykalasz Co. - a collective farm - weren't so enthusiastic... the shear volume of visitors had caused extensive damage to their crops.
In time, several 'witnesses' came foward claiming to have seen UFOs hovering over the field prior to the appearance of the crop circle... a young boy explained how he saw a yellow dome-shaped object fringed with red light and his father claimed to have seen a clearly-outlined rectangular mass of light. Ufologist Laszlo Marnitz, spoke to the daily newspaper 'Kurir' about the alleged extra-terrestrial visit, he explained how the crop circle could only have been made by a UFO because the crop was not broken, just bent down.
The 36 meter circle near Szekesfehervar, Hungary.
On September 3rd 1992 Hungarian TV's Channel One broadcast a show hosted by Sandor Friderikusz that exposed the circle as a hoax. Two local students Gabor Takacs and Robert Dallos, both 17 and from the St. Stephen Agricultural Technicum - a high school specializing in agriculture - explained how they had made the circle with a stick! They said it took them about three hours (!) to make and proved their case by showing photos of the field before and after the circle was made. The TV show was hugely successful. Unfortunately for the boys, a bit too successful... Aranykalasz Co. sued the youngsters for Fts.630,000 (approx £5,000) in damages. But the court eventually ruled that the boys were only responsible for the damage caused in the 36 meters diameter circle, amounting to about Fts.6,000 (£47). They concluded that 99% of the damage to the crops was caused by the thousands of visitors that flocked to Szekesfehervar following the media's promotion of the circle. The fine was eventually paid for by the TV show, as were the boys legal fees.
Famed US skeptic James Randi visited Budapest in January 1992. Whilst there he was asked to address the winners of a science essay competition for high-school students. Touched by their eagerness and fresh enthusiasm for the subject he founded a $300 prize for the best investigation of paranormal phenomena by students using scientific methods, irrespective of its conclusion. Applications were invited and the best contribution was selected by a committee consisting of scientists. The "crop circle kids" - as they were dubbed - were awarded the first James Randi Prize on February 7, 1993 by Gyula Bencze a physicist with the Central Research Institute for Physics, in Hungary.
So... a legal precedent has been set. In this case the circlemakers were only asked to recompense the farmers for the loss of crop 'within' the circle. Hungary is not yet in the European Community but this ruling could be quoted if any British farmers decide to take legal action against circlemakers. It's interesting to see that this ruling also implied that 99 per cent of the damage caused in this particular case was due to the mass trespass that followed the media's promotion of the event. Again this seems like an important legal precedent...