Someone equipped with Ouija boards, wooden crosses and a sense of humor played a practical joke on a team of investigators trying to determine the cause of mysterious circles that appear suddenly in farm fields.
Initially, excited scientists announced they had filmed the formation of mysterious circles of flattened wheat similar to ones that have appeared in England for centuries.
A team had kept a night vigil in a field in Wiltshire recorded flashing lights and at dawn discovered more of the circles, variously claimed to be the work of visitors from outer space, the devil or whirlwinds.
The experts taking part in "Operation Blackbird" proudly announced their find to reporters as a major scientific event.
"Everyone is extremely excited. This is the breakthrough we have been waiting for," said team spokeswoman Petta Simmons. "The circles formed by this phenomenon are the most beautiful and spectacular we have ever seen."
Then the scientists from Britain, Japan, West Germany and the United States, who are equipped with sophisticated monitoring equipment and helicopters, took a closer look.
Inside the flattened circles they found Ouija boards--commonly used in occult rituals--and crosses, apparently deliberately left behind not by little green men but by very human hoaxers.
A few hours after their first announcement, the crestfallen scientists appeared on BBC television, which coordinated the research project, to admit the down-to-earth truth and denounce the anonymous pranksters.
"Somebody's had a laugh, had a joke, they've actually done none of us any good, they've only set the research back," said one furious team member.
He admitted the new circles were crudely trampled and obviously different from hundreds of others discovered with increasing frequency across southern England in recent months.
"There are none of the features which we recognize in the genuine thing," he said. "We have a serious job to be doing here, it's taken us completely off the project. Frankly it's funny for about 60 seconds and then I find it very, very sad."
And the strange orange lights captured on the scientists' thermal film during the night? The BBC report said it was expected they would turn out to be only the heat images of the human beings carrying out their prank.