Are the crop circles in ''Signs'' for real? They are the subject of M. Night Shyamalan's new movie -- but are they messages from aliens or just a big hoax?

In a scene in M. Night Shyamalan’s ”Signs,” a newscaster asserts: ”Crop circles were a phenomenon of the early ’80s. After being dismissed as hoaxes, they disappeared.” But with the eerie thriller’s plot centering on an alien invasion preceded by the global appearance of said circles, we wondered: Did the crop graffiti really just vanish?

Turns out they’re still trendy. In the U.K. — particularly in the crop-circle heartland of Wiltshire, England — at least 80 designs still pop up (pop down?) each year. Some are notably man-made, like the electric-plug-shaped promo for Weetabix cereal done by professional crop busters the Circlemakers. But for every man-made formation, ”there’s one that can’t be explained so easily,” says Andy Thomas, author of the book ”Vital Signs,” which claims to explain why the whole phenomenon ”is not a hoax.” Some are maps of astral alignments, says Thomas: ”Those were not knocked up by [Average] Joe with his garden roller.” Many crop-circle researchers (curiously called cerealogists) agree, believing that the circles could be the work of natural forces we don’t yet understand.

As for the movie, ”Signs” ”does not represent the phenomenon in a proper way,” says Stuart Dike, coeditor of the Crop Circle Connector (cropcircleconnec But thanks to the film, Dike expects a real invasion — of his in box: He sighs, ”I feel plenty of e-mails coming on the theme of malevolent aliens.”

  • Movie
  • 107 minutes