Nancy Talbott
BLT Research Team Inc.

Small circle in grass in Hardy, Virginia (USA), reported to BLT by
local reporter. Photo: Tom Howell

On May 16th a BLT "Report a Crop Circle" form arrived with this photo of a small (10 ft. +/- diameter) circle in grass, apparently discovered by Hardy resident Tom Howell. Upon receipt of the email I called Mr. Howell to get some additional details and to ask about the recent weather conditions in the area.

Mr. Howell told me the circle was 10-12 ft. in diameter (I estimate that it is more in the range of 6-8 ft. in diameter), that it was the only one he saw in the field, and added that he saw no trail into the field or footsteps in the circle itself. He also told me that there had been a lot of bad weather, with rain and lightning, in the area the previous week. He agreed to send me a few close-up photos so I could see the "lay" inside the circle to compare it with other grass circles I have seen.

I happened to be writing to Robbert van den Broeke (a Dutch "medium" I have known for many years now, around whom crop circles occur regularly) when Mr. Howell's photos arrived and thought Robbert might like to see a grass circle here in the U.S., since so many crop formations in grass have been occurring in Holland this spring ( and].

To my surprise the phone rang only minutes after I had sent the VA circle photo to Robbert -- the surprise being that it was Robbert on the line telling me this circle was man-made.

Mechanicallly-flattened circle in grass in Hardy, Virginia.
Photo: Tom Howell

Robbert described to me that he "saw" a teenage boy with brownish hair down the back of his neck, wearing a black baseball cap, making the circle. He went on to say this boy was the local "boy who delivers the paper" and that his name was "Mike." He also said he thought this boy might be part of a group which likes to make fun of anomalous phenomena.

Robbert, of course, lives in Holland and has never been to the States. I had no prevous knowledge of Tom Howell (the man who reported the circle to BLT) and had never been to Hardy, VA (I live in Massachusetts). It is also important to know that Robbert cannot read or write English (in the event that some sort of info might be available on the internet about Hardy, Virginia and/or this boy) how did he "see" who had made this circle?

I made notes as Robbert described this paper-boy to me and, when we had finished our phone conversation, I immediately wrote to Mr. Howell telling him most of the information Robbert had provided, and asked if in fact there WAS a local teenage boy who delivers the paper in the Hardy area named Mike? And, if so, was it possible that he had made the circle?

Mr. Howell wrote back saying:

"That is amazing information. Our Roanoke Times newspaper is delivered early in the morning by a teenager named Michael Collins. I spoke with him once when I was up early one morning about my interest in UFOs and crop circles. Should I press him for a possible confession of hoaxing?"

Mr. Howell further told me that this boy lived nearby and he knew both Mike and his family. I suggested that he not make a big deal out of it, but see what Mike would tell him if asked about the circle.

Michael Collins, Hardy paperboy demonstrating how he made
the grass circle. Photo: Tom Howell

As Mr. Howell's photo shows, Michael Collins admitted to making the circle and was willing to show Mr. Howell how he had done it. Note that Mike, who looks like he IS a teenager does ALSO have brownish hair down the back of his neck (as reported by Robbert). Further, Mr. Howell told me that Mike usually wears a black baseball hat (as also reported by Robbert).

Although I have known for years that Robbert can usually tell whether a circle is genuine or man-made simply by looking at a photo, it had never occurred to me to ask him for an opinion about this circle (or any other, as a matter of fact). It seems that I, like so many people, have allowed my personal bias (which is to depend upon the scientific evaluation of crop circle plants and soils to provide this information) had caused me to entirely overlook another well-demonstrated but not as widely respected resource which is -- and has been for years -- readily available to me. Another lesson regarding the seduction of the "herd mentality" has now been made embarrassingly clear to me.

Robbert van den Broeke.

A final note. I now know that Tom Howell (the man who reported this circle) has a longstanding interest in anomalous phenomena and writes articles regularly for the Roanoke "Psychic Examiner." I wonder if it is his locally well-known interest in such things which prompted this particular incident? Whether this is so or not, here is Mr. Howell's personal report on the incident:

For readers interested in additional information about Robbert v/d Broeke, please visit:

For details of the scientific study results regarding crop circle plants and soils see other pages on this site: