But William Gazecki, award-winning director of a new documentary, "Crop Circles: Quest for Truth," due out Aug. 23, pooh-poohs hoaxes. "I don't even like to talk about hoaxing because it's such bullshit," Gazecki says, on his website. "One, it has to be done at night, because you're fooling people. And you can't leave one half-finished or people will see it the next day and know somebody's making it. And it has to be finished early, because in the summer the croppers are out there at 4 in the morning." Gazecki also questions the motive."When people fake things there's a payoff. There's recognition, there's profit. Faking crop circles offers none of those. Sure, maybe do it once. But 200, every year?"

Crop circle enthusiasts like Mo mix freely with UFO believers, but there's a difference. "With UFOs," Gazecki says, "an observer sees something fleeting. It comes and goes. It's a light in the sky, it's an unusual experience that can't be explained. The difference with crop circles is that they're there for two, three, four weeks until the wheat is harvested by the farmer." Hundreds of believers have moved to southwest England specifically to seek and study these markings. Glastonbury, the site of a druid college some 2,000 years ago, now hosts an annual symposium, "the leading conference on crop formations and associated subjects," held each July, at the height of the crop circle season.

What "croppers" and UFO enthusiasts have in common, though, is a religious intensity shared by all believers--a yearning stemming from our need to know that we're not alone in this dark, cold universe, and that something greater than us is out there watching over us. They both believe that whoever is visiting our planet is a keeper of answers to all our questions, a benevolent force that may oversee our fate.

You might agree with the drunken salesman from Los Angeles who interrupted my chat with Mo and Mary Ann to curse them for "believing in a bunch of stupid crap." But the next day I ran into Mary Ann and Mo at the International UFO Museum and Research Center, in downtown Roswell, at a lecture entitled, "Critiquing the Roswell Critics," delivered by "ufologist" Stanton Friedman.

The women, they said, had been looking for me. Mo dug into her pocket book and produced a big plastic bag filled with what I first thought was marijuana. "Look," she said. "Wheat that I pulled from a crop circle outside Glastonbury four years ago!" She was right-it was wheat.

She shook several heads into my hand, and told me they were all mine. I thanked her, and started to put them in my wallet. "Oh no," Mary Ann said, "you're supposed to eat them."

I stared at the bristly heads of wheat in my hand. "Can't I save them for later?" I asked. They nodded yes.

I never ate them. I carry in them in my wallet to this day. If aliens do come, perhaps they'll recognize the source and take them as a sign of peace.