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Alexandria museum welcomes new research on historic monument

Is the Kensington Runestone an authentic artifact carved by explorers from Norway more than 650 years ago or a much more recent hoax? The mystery and theories linger. Pictured is Olaf Ohman, a Swedish farmer living near Alexandria, Minn., who found the stone while grubbing an aspen tree in 1898. This photo was taken circa 1927. SUBMITTED PHOTO

After a steady stream of recent books and documentaries supporting the authenticity of the Kensington Runestone, a new book calls the famous stone a fake.

Paul Stewart, an independent researcher from Stafford, Va., claims the Runestone, which some believe was carved by explorers from Norway in 1362, was fabricated by Minnesota state engineer and Hennepin County surveyor George W. Cooley. He did it to celebrate the establishment of the “General Grand Council of Cryptic Rite Masonry” in Detroit in 1880, Stewart says.

The council became the national governing body for a little-known, once-independent brand of Freemasonry for which Cooley was Minnesota’s grand master and general grand master for the entire country for two terms, Stewart writes in his new book, “The Enigmatist.”

Instead of leaning heavily on runology, linguistics, archaeology or scientific weathering as past books on the Runestone have done, Stewart relies on numerology.

According to Stewart, Cooley used his surveying skills to locate the stone north of Kensington on purpose because it was “666” miles from Detroit and “1,362” miles from the eastern-, western- and southernmost points in the continental United States.

Stewart says 1362 is significant because it is also the year on the side of the Runestone – a number he believes is really a distance masqueraded as a date.

Jim Bergquist, manager of Alexandria’s Runestone Museum, which houses the stone, said the book is the latest in a renewed interest in the stone sparked by new research since 2000.

“We welcome new theories or evidence that people have about the Runestone,” said Bergquist, who talked with Stewart over the phone about the book. “It always creates more interest in the stone, and when people become more interested, we have more visitors at the museum.”

Bergquist added that the museum has several books in its gift shop regarding Runestone research. He said that if enough people ask the museum to add Stewart’s book to the collection, the museum would gladly do so.

The Kensington Runestone remains the most popular exhibit at the museum, Bergquist said. Stewart’s full theory can be found in “The Enigmatist,” which was released this month on

According to information in the book: Stewart worked as an art director for Walt Disney Imagineering in California, Japan and France as well as a special effects artist for Landmark Entertainment. He has contributed to numerous movies and television shows and provided artwork for high-profile publications and private corporations. For the last decade he has worked exclusively in the museum industry, providing his expertise on four presidential libraries and more than 50 nature centers, state and national parks, and private organizations throughout the U.S. He holds a degree in art design.

“The Enigmatist” is his first book.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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