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Kensington Runestone still lures people in

The fascination with the Kensington Runestone is, well, fascinating.

The famous piece of greywacke, unearthed by Swedish immigrant Olof Ohman at his farm near Kensington in 1898, has been the topic of a seemingly endless variety of books, scholarly essays, documentaries, presentations, research and debate.

And now, as reported in the Alexandria Echo Press, it will hit the stage as a musical as part of the Minnesota Fringe Festival of Performing Arts.

The story of the Runestone isn’t an amusing little “Ole and Lena” tall-tale to brush off lightly. It’s a powerful, compelling story that has a way of drawing people in to consider a tantalizing historical question: Is the stone an authentic artifact left by Norse explorers to America in the 14th century or is it an elaborate hoax that Ohman perpetrated? The latest research on the stone makes a very convincing argument that it’s the real deal.

No matter what “side” of the stone you’re on, there’s no denying the incredible lure the stone has had on people over the 116 years since its discovery. Historians, researchers, authors and everyday people have given up a good chunk of their lives delving into the controversy.

The musical, The Ohman Stone, is written and directed by Sheridan O’Keefe of Apple Valley. He, too, was swept up in the mystery of the stone. As a child, he’d heard about the Runestone but didn’t know a lot about it until he heard a presentation from a Runestone “believer,” geologist and author Scott Wolter, about a decade ago. Like so many others, O’Keefe became so intrigued with the stone, he started reading more and more about it and a couple of years ago he decided the stone’s story needed to be told in music and through acting.

We haven’t seen the play (it debuts on August 2) but O’Keefe’s focus is interesting. He said he wanted to tell the story of the Ohman family as people and how they had to endure the barrage of attacks from scholarly critics of the stone’s authenticity. The stone’s impact on the lives of a local family, which has spanned generations, is easy to get lost in the loud debate over the stone.

We encourage readers to explore more about this facet of the Runestone by reading Darwin Ohman’s perspective on the website, He’s the grandson of Olof Ohman and writes passionately about the “human side” of the stone, how Olof was unfairly accused of fraud and the stone’s lingering impact on his family. He also answers an intriguing question: Because of the Runestone’s negative impact on his family, does he wish that it had never been found? In turns out, he’s happy that is was discovered and considers himself a lucky person to be involved in the effort to prove the stone is genuine.

We also encourage readers to spend some time at the Runestone Museum in Alexandria to explore the stone, to take a fresh look at the research and to see it with your own eyes. Take heed, though: Like so many others, you may soon find yourself swept up in the mystery of the Runestone and its unique place in history. — Alexandria Echo Press