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Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News
A big circle surrounded by three smaller ones turned up in a wheat field between Salem and Spanish Fork.

SPANISH FORK — Maybe it's a sign.

Just one day after Gene Bradford watched a documentary on crop circles, he noticed a strange symbol made in a wheat field between Salem and Spanish Fork.

The mysterious circle, which is surrounded by three smaller symbols of the same pattern, surfaced Sunday morning and has startled passers-by traveling U-189 in the south part of Spanish Fork, just before Salem.

"You come down a hill and see it," Bradford said. "It's kind of one of those phenomenons that everyone knows about. It's just one of those cultural things that people are fascinated by."

Thanks to the 2002 blockbuster "Signs" — in the movie, crop circles were said to be a mapping system used by aliens prior to an invasion — many have grown interested in the designs, which have appeared in fields across the world for years.

Bradford saw the Mel Gibson movie. Then, he watched a documentary on the crop circle phenomenon. Intrigued, Bradford took his brother and children for a closer look at the strange design.

What he found was either the work of professional pranksters or a paranormal occurrence, though Bradford doubts the latter.

"It look like it is well done," Bradford said. "It's not one of the most elaborate crop circles that you've seen. It's fairly simple."

Nate Gunderson, whose father owns the neighboring Spanish Fork Motors, also doubts that extraterrestrial visitors created the crop circle, though he was impressed by its appearance.

"It's all completely laid flat," Gunderson said after investigating the matted wheat.

"And it's completely even across the whole thing."

Gunderson noted that several walking paths are evident around the circle, though an influx of public visitors could have created them.

Spanish-speaking employees at Spanish Fork Motors, however, expressed skepticism that humans could have created the perfect circles.

One even mentioned that a dog cried for hours near the field on Sunday.

In Utah, nine other crop circles have surfaced over the years. The largest showed up in College Ward on July 21, 1998 — the same day that similar circles appeared in Oregon, Idaho and Belgium.

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While no one has confessed to making those designs, other crop circles have been claimed by pranksters who use a stake, a rope and a board to flatten cereal crops into geometric designs.

However, "cereologists" — those who study crop circles — say that most circles are not man-made but formed by unusual weather patterns that cause crops to bend.

And others, of course, say the strange circles are created by UFOs.

Utah County police are investigating the circle but haven't determined who or what might have created the unusual markings.

The landowner couldn't be reached for comment.

As for Bradford, he's convinced this latest crop circle is a hoax.

"I don't really believe that aliens did this," Bradford said. "This is something somebody could have very easily done with two or three guys in an evening. It's not like pushing over big stalks of corn. It's a wheat field."

E-mail: lwarner@desnews.com