Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Ohman Stone Musical: Art Imitates Life

Yesterday, Janet and I attended the Minneapolis Fringe Festival play, “The Ohman Stone” written by Sheridan (Tom) O’Keefe.  Darwin Ohman, his wife Ginny, and his son Brian, saw the play and afterward we all met for a beer with the cast to congratulate them on a moving and thoroughly entertaining performance.  Darwin and I will both admit the play struck nerves particularly close and along with much laughter also brought a tear to our eyes more than once.  Many months ago, Tom Contacted Darwin and I after reading my book, The Kensington Rune Stone: Compelling New Evidence, to discuss certain aspects of the book and how it could be made into a play.  It was clear Tom was very passionate about getting two important aspects to the KRS saga across in his play; first was the obvious authenticity of the artifact, and second, the devastating toll the often maniacal detractors had on the lives of the Ohman family.  Tom and his cast succeeded on both accounts.

The play includes real-life deceased characters who were on both sides of the authenticity debate that appear as ghosts.  On the pro-authenticity side were Sven Folgelbald, the scholar-preacher who taught the local schoolchildren, including the Ohman children at one point, who died a year before the KRS was discovered and was played by Jim Christensen; Hjalmar Holand, who championed the authenticity of over fifty years and was played by Mark Olson, Newton Winchell, the First Minnesota State geologist whose 1909-10 investigation concluded the KRS was genuine was played by Daniel Wolfe, and of course, the discoverer of the artifact, Olof Ohman, played with a convincing Scandinavian accent by Tom O’Keefe.  The three skeptics were Erik Walgren, the Professor of Scandinavian Languages at USC , Theodore Blegen, former director of the Minnesota Historical Society and author of the 1968 book, Kensington Rune Stone: New Light on an Old Riddle, played by Ron Giroux, and the real-life villain obsessed with proving the stone a fake, Johan Holvik.  The Wahlgren and Holvik characters were played by women, Holly O’Keefe, and the Hitler-like persona many who knew Holvik said he reminded them of was humorously played by Jenni Charrier.  The entire cast did a great job of distilling a lot of KRS evidence and finformation into a concise and entertaining presentation.

The other main ghost character was Amanda Ohman, played by Emily Stephenson, who brought the torment and tragedy of Amanda’s finals days to heart with her beautiful singing.  The only living character was a scientist named Brian Storm, played by Andy Rakerd, and was based loosely on, well, me.  It was really strange to watch the play unveil much of my own research in such a different venue.  We all laughed, sang along, and fought back tears as the debate, and romance, unfolded.  Anyone who sees the play will be struck by the clear and obvious conclusion reached on the authenticity of the artifact.  Attendees will also be moved and disturbed by the passionate portrayal of the abuse suffered by the Ohman family as a whole and by Amanda Ohman from a maniacally obsessed Johan Holvik.  

The play prompted me to go back and read the chapters in ‘Compelling New Evidence’ (pages 133-186) I’d written about the scandals perpetrated by not just Holvik, but of the conspiracy of lies, deception, and incompetence in the so-called scholarship of the likes of Wahlgren, Erik Moltke, Einar Haugen, Birgitta Wallace, and sadly, my former co-author Richard Nielsen.   The play told the story of the human tragedy that results when, scholars in this case, are more concerned with being “right” than getting the “right answer.”  The cast did a beautiful job of demonstrating how facts trump the beliefs of so many scholars who abused (and continue to abuse) their positions of perceived authority and credibility.  In an age where science and technology rules, I’m often dumbfounded how so many intelligent people still don’t understand the basic principles of evidence and logic.  It just goes to show how far we as humans have not progressed.

As I sipped my beer at the Bulldog Bar, I watched as Darwin laughed with the cast after their stirring performance.  It was nice to see his generation enjoy the positive attention his father and grandfather rarely saw.  Darwin knows the truth as does his son Brian and daughter Kari.  They, and other Ohman descendants will pass on the great family legacy that will be enhanced as more and more of the public, and eventually academia, come to realize the truth behind this amazing discovery.   One hopes that Olof, Amanda, and the rest of the Olof and Karin Ohman Family have found peace in “Valhalla” already knowing what the world is only now beginning to truly understand.

Amanda & Ida Ohman Circa 1915

Amanda 1920

Darwin Ohman, Sheridan O'Keefe (Olof Ohman) and Scott

Hjalmar Holand Circa 1900

Ida & Amanda Circa 1912

Johan Holvik Circa 1950

Newton H. Winchell 1901

Scott and Emily Stephenson (Amanda OHman)

Theodore Blegen


  1. Thanks you for sharing this wonderful story with us! It's sad that the Ohman families were treated so badly by scholars, who were either charlatans or had their own agendas.It's so good to have a real truth seeker out there like you, Scott!

  2. It's stories like these that skeptics fail to realize can happen when they put their personal beliefs ahead of science and common sense. Amanda's life had other challenges for sure, but it was the maniacal behavior of Johan Holvik that put her over the edge.

    It's a story that I'm glad is being told and one we can all learn from; hopefully...

  3. Dear Scott, I am an italian man, 66 years hold, I know the island were William Kidd
    buried his treasure.
    This island is not in USA.
    Have you a interest?
    My e mail address is

  4. http: //www. 269128531.html

    Real or ruse, the Kensington Runestone is historic
    Article by: TIM GIHRING Updated: July 29, 2014 - 6:05 PM
    Minnesota’s “Shakespearean” drama will be explored in a Fringe Festival production.

    ‘The Ohman Stone,” a new musical premiering Saturday in the Minnesota Fringe Festival, does the one thing you wouldn’t expect from a story about the Kensington Runestone. It takes it seriously.

    The Minnesota icon, housed in an Alexandria museum, is a fake. Probably. Well, who knows? The notion of knights gallivanting about the Minnesota prairie 130 years before Columbus landed in the Bahamas, as the runes carved into the stone suggest, is a Monty Python movie — not plausible history. Right?

    It doesn’t matter. The real story of the runestone is not about the stone. It’s about people. The musical’s creators understand this, marketing their play as “Swedes vs. Norwegians, farmers vs. academia.” For legislators and petitioners pushing to turn the farm where the runestone was discovered into a state historic site, the story of the stone goes even deeper, to the heart of what it means to be a Minnesotan.

    In the fall of 2011, I wrote about the runestone for Minnesota Monthly magazine. I traveled with Darwin Ohman to the farmstead of his grandfather, Olof Ohman, who discovered the runestone on his land near Alexandria.

    Now part of a city park, the land is marginal, mucky where it isn’t steep. The kind of place only a stubborn Swede would have tried to farm. Olof was an ingenious engineer: Near the house is a cistern he built with a homemade charcoal filter. But when he unearthed the runestone, in 1898, he claimed he couldn’t possibly have carved it.

    In a letter to an acquaintance, Ohman wrote: “The strangest rumors are circulating about this stone. The most recent is that I have brought forth the runes with black magic. I could not make the stone, nor could any other emigrant have had enough knowledge to do it.”

    Perhaps that’s true. Ohman swore to his grave that he had no part in the stone’s manufacture. But after his death, a skeptic found a runic alphabet in his house. The stone’s reputation, much less Ohman’s, never quite recovered.

    The timing always seemed suspicious. Five years before the runestone surfaced, in 1893, the World’s Fair held in Chicago celebrated Columbus discovering America, so irking Scandinavian immigrants — rightly certain that Leif Ericson had beaten Columbus to the New World — that they sailed a replica longboat from the motherland to Lake Michigan.

    That same year, a Swedish-American wrote a book called “The Norsemen in America, or America’s Discovery,” in which he posited that artifacts may yet be found in the United States proving that Scandinavians were here first. And then the runestone turned up like, well, magic.

    A Norwegian-American, Johan Holvik, spent much of his life trying to discredit Ohman — even as he praised him for pulling off such a clever prank. “I am working for you and the Ohman name,” he told the family, years after Olof’s death. But the family didn’t see it that way: Upset by Holvik’s allegations, Olof’s daughter committed suicide in the family farmhouse.

    “Shakespearean,” the musical’s creators have dubbed this history. And the drama continues. In my research for Minnesota Monthly, I uncovered a serious feud between the stone’s current researchers, who had once been friends, each accusing the other of fraud. The stone, one of them told me, “makes people do strange things.”

    Strange, but telling. The act of discovery has always shaped this country’s pride and prejudices. To understand Ohman’s stone is to understand immigration, with its slights and conflicted loyalties. It’s a defining phenomenon of the state — and a current preoccupation of the nation — that is not directly examined in any of the 26 historic sites in Minnesota...


  5. Hi Scott, just wondering why on the serpent mound episode nobody made the connection that the mound in Ohio is clearly a cobra? Ask any reptile professional and they will all tell you the same...cobra. These snakes are not native to the Americas.

  6. Jeff,

    That's an interesting thought that had never occurred to me. I don't know for sure what type of serpent it is, but it certainly could be a cobra and that would beg the question, how could that be?

  7. I found your article looking for information about Hjalmar Holand, my great uncle. I'm blown away by this resurgence of interest in the Rune Stone. Growing up in the 1960's, I was sent to school every Columbus Day with a copy of Uncle Hjalmar's "Explorations in American before Columbus," with instructions to inform my teacher and classmates that Columbus did not discover America, and that my Uncle Hjalmar had written a book that proved it. You can imagine how well that went over! You probably know that Hjalmar Holand was an avid historian and a prolific writer, that he settled in Ephraim in Door County, Wisconsin, where he was a founding member of the Door County Historical Society and its long-time president. I'd heard the Rune Stone was his primary passion and that, sadly, much of his research was destroyed in a house fire in the 1940's. I'd love to see that play! Any chance it will make its way to Wisconsin?

  8. Melinda,

    I don't know if the paly will get to Wisconsin, but there is talk of a couple performances in Alexandria, Minnesota, where the Kensington Rune Stone is currently housed at the Runestone Museum.

    As a descendant of Hjalmar Holand, I know you'll enjoy the play immensely. If I hear anything I'll be sure to pass it along here.

  9. Dear Mr. Wolter:

    I just saw the Great Lakes Copper episode of America Unearthed a couple of days ago. I was extremely excited because Isle Royale is an amazing place with a fascinating Native American history, but.....I have to say I was quite disappointed.

    You make a pretty unbelievable and uniformed assertion as to how much copper was mined in the area during ancient times. I have heard this figure batted around by others who have been labeled as "fringe historians". Did you come up with this estimate yourself, or were you quoting/acknowledging someone else's work? I have to assume you were simply referencing the ideas of others. If not, I think it's worrisome that a licensed geologist wouldn't be able to see how very few of the variables and figures used to make the 1.5 billion ton estimate can be supported.

    Further, what we really KNOW about prehistoric Native American mining in the area and what is supported by undeniable concrete evidence is vastly more interesting than the unsupportable conjecture you raise about Minoans. It seemed to me the only two pieces of "evidence" that supports the Minoan theory are the Newberry Tablet and the ship petroglyph near Copper Harbor. And, when you weigh these lonely two pieces of evidence against the mountain of Native American evidence then the Minoan theory falls very flat pretty quickly.

    The ship petroglyph is at the very least 3000 years more recent than the collapse of the Minoan culture, and the Newberry tablet to my understanding was made of unfired clay. Is it your opinion as a licensed geologist that a tablet made of unfired clay (basically firm mud) could survive fully intact for 3000-4000 years being exposed to the elements?

    Also, I take issue with your claim about the Minong Mine at Isle Royale. You clearly state in the show that there are "miles" worth of underground mines at Minong. This simply is not true, and anyone visiting the area would be able to tell this for themselves almost immediately. There are several pits and a couple of adits, but there are absolutely no tunnel mines that descend and weave miles into the rock.

    I don't necessarily agree, but I do understand how some believe that drama should be added to shows like yours to captivate the audience. However, if the decision is made to do this then it should be applied more responsibly than it was in this episode.

    You seem like a great guy, and I suspect your charisma alone will attract an audience. You don't need to resort to tricks like this. Often, people in your position push aside the opportunity to teach, and instead favor the almost political approach of persuading the uninformed to their "side". You're not the first arm-chair historian and hobbyist to make this mistake, but I suspect you have the ability to be better than this.

    Good luck in the future.

    1. Hi Lottie,

      First, I have to confess to not having watched the copper episode since it aired a year and a half ago and a lot has passed by me since. My recollection is the estimate was one billion pounds (not tons) of copper extracted from literally tens of thousands of open pit and shaft copper mines in Northern Minnesota, Isle Royale and Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

      Second, you throw out opinions pretty flippantly which is your choice, but you might want to be a little careful about your own assertions if you're not going to provide backup data.

      Third, I don't recall saying anything about "miles" of underground tunnels at the Minong mine. It may have been my guest who said that, but I'll have to go back and watch the episode again to be for sure. That being said, if you assume we "make stuff up" for the sake of drama you are mistaken. We fact check everything we present to ensure the information is correct. However, while there may be occasional mistakes, I don't believe this is one of them.

      I don't really appreciate being called an arm-chair historian or hobbyist as I have spent years researching and have published several books on some of the topics we present on the show. I also don't resort to "tricks" and absolutely cherish the opportunity to teach people about the profession of geology that I love. Our show is about investigating historical mysteries on this continent that have been ignored, dismissed, bungled by academia, and in some cases deliberately covered up. If you believe there is deception going on with topics like this I suggest you start by looking at our 'Nation's Museum' in Washington D.C. The Bat Creek Stone is great place to start.

      Thanks for taking the time to contact me and I hope you enjoy the new season set to air in early October.

    2. Hi Scott:

      I went back and watched the Great Lakes copper episode again. You, without a doubt, make the assertion that 1.5 BILLION TONS (not 1 billion pounds) of copper is missing from Isle Royale. This is an unsupportable claim. You also clearly make the claim that there are "miles" of underground tunnels at Minong Mine, although admittedly you may have been speaking about the island in general and not just the Minong Mine. However, miles of underground mines do not exist anywhere on the island.


    3. Lottie,

      If that is the case, then I stand corrected on my previous comment. However, if that is what was said then there was a basis for it. That does seem like an awesome lot of copper, but if ancient miners were active in the Great Lakes region for thousands of years, then the tonnage could add up quickly.

      How are you so certain that extensive underground mines don't exist on the island?

    4. Scott,

      With respect.....the 1.5 billion tons figure does not add up, and it is in no way supportable by known fact. Minong Mine, the largest and most productive modern mine on the island, only yielded 249 tons of copper using modern mining techniques. This means that there would have to have been 6 MILLION Minong Mine's worth of copper taken from the surface of a 200 square mile island (roughly 30,000 Minong Mines per mile) It has never been demonstrated that the ancients (whether Native American, Minoan, or other) ever mined in any way other that surface and pit mines. If true, the 1.5 billion ton figure would mean that an inches/feet thick layer of pure copper covered the entire island at one time in human history. The 1.5 billion ton figure doesn't make even common sense, and it would have been nice to hear you explore this further on your show instead of just letting this impossible figure dangle there for all time.

      I hope you're pulling my leg about the "miles" of underground mines comment above. To my knowledge nobody has ever made this assertion before you did on your television show. There are hundreds of pit mines, but only a few adits on the island. What few adits there are don't go very far. You know this. Like I said in an earlier comment, anyone spending 5 minutes near any of these mines could readily see this for themselves.

      And, by the way, it is not up to me to prove miles of underground mines don't exist on the island. You made the assertion that they do exist, so it is up to you to provide the evidence. Or you could simply admit to your viewers that you made a mistake. Otherwise, anyone could make any kind of far-out claim and others would have to disprove the nonsense or we would be forced to treat all such claims as fact.

      I have to admit, Scott, I was swiftly becoming a fan, but the claims you made on this episode and the cavalier attitude you display when someone asks you intelligent questions about apparent mistakes you make is kind of disappointing.

    5. Here's what I will do; I need to go back and watch the episode to confirm what was actually said. Not that I don't believe you; I just don't remember what was said and want to confirm. Then I will check with the researchers to find out where they got the information. This was not my research so what you perceive as a cavalier attitude is simply ignorance of where the facts came from at the moment.

      I'll get back to you with comments, and maybe a mea culpa if warranted. Give me a couple weeks as I'll be traveling, again, until mid-October. After that, I'll be around for while.

    6. Fair enough, Scott. I can't ask for more than that. Please respond after you've had a chance to review the episode.


    7. Lottie,

      I finally had a chance to review the Great Lakes Copper Heist episode; sorry for the delay in getting back to you.

      At the very beginning, both in my voiceover and when I asked my guest, George Twardzik, about how much copper had been mined in the distant past we both said 1-1.5 billion "pounds."

      Further, George said there were between 5-10 thousand copper mines and pits on the island which sounds about right. As far as the mention of miles of tunnels related to the Minong Mine, I didn't hear either of us say anything about that.

  10. Scott,
    I have to say I love your show and your work. I love the idea that someone as come in and said there is proof that others have been in the US long before. But I must admit that I always thought when you would say that the Smithsonian would either not display an artifact that was pre Columbus or that they would deny such an artifact would just strike me worried some and not true. But Scott I do now believe you! I say this due to two weekends ago my husband and I took our two children to luray caverns for the first time. As we were going through it the guide told us a story about the founders of the cavern and that they found bones of a Native American female. He went on to say that the Smithsonian has them but does not display the bones nor do they at all what so ever talk about her in any of their museums.
    I am so glad that you put a brighter light on for me to now know that even some place so great to go and see history at will still hide things that seem important to the public and just as said before hide them, which is very sad to me. As I am a lover of history and that's all I watch and read
    Please keep up the great work!
    Sarah Kelley
    Fredericksburg, VA

  11. Scott,
    I know you are busy and I know I posted yesterday but I got to thinking about my home state of Utah. I was wondering if you ever thought about exploring Arches National Park? The reason I ask is because there are markings of a mammoth with the natives. There are stories that maybe per preblo Indians lived there around 1000AD. But all we ever learned about was the utes and the Navajo Indians. But there are evidence that others like the Fremont and others were long there before. Just a thought. Thanks

    1. Hi Sarah,

      It is very disappointing when the realization hits you that some people, or in this case, the Smithsonian Institution, is not what you wanted to believe it was. The Smithsonian isn't an evil institution and certainly does many things well with vast majority of the people working there trying to do the right thing.

      However, in the case of the pre-Columbian history of North America they have failed miserably and I believe have for over a century intentionally deceived the American public and indeed the world. In my view, it's time the American public demanded full disclosure of ALL the artifacts and remains in their archives. There should also be a congressional investigation into their handling of obvious legitimate, history-changing artifacts such as the Kensington Rune Stone, the Tucson Lead Artifacts and the Bat Creek Stone. There are many others of course, but let's get things started with the obvious ones.

      OK; let me get off my soapbox for a second... As far as Utah goes, we filmed the bulk of one episode in the upcoming season there and I think you'll enjoy it. Can't tip you off to the topic yet, but it was a fun episode to make.

      Thanks for taking the time to write in.

  12. Scott,
    Thank you for your response and I will be glued to my tv on that upcoming episode. Can't wait to watch it!
    Also I like to thank you and others that are coming to should I say test the boundaries of America history. I have always been a fan of all types of history and I have researched many things and have found so much that is never truly considered as facts just simply because it seems no one wants to take the time to rewrite history and or admit we got it wrong for all this time. When it comes to history I am one to not take what I was tought in school and/or read at face value. I think if others could just see that we have been given as facts are not always the true facts. Your work on the KRS and knights temp is great work. It's funny that my kids are now coming home stating that Columbus wasn't the first it was another explorer who came to America but we still give Columbus praise for him "finding" America. I laugh as this is what my children will grow up learning and unless you and others can get it through the "history" writers that things are not as they seem to be it will never change. I will end this with a BIG thank you for what you are doing and please showing us all the new findings and new facts on subjects we may know about already but a more depth of the history surrounding them.

  13. Hey Scott I've been a big fan of the show for a long time now, and I just want to know if you will ever go over your theories research in your book on Akhenaten in any future shows or blog posts? A friend of my cousins told me that it had come out and heard good things about it and that I should get it. Unfortunately I have been having financial problems so I can't get it at this point in time. I hope it's not too much to ask since I know this is your career and you have to make a living on it, but I really love your work and want to know what you went into in it. :) Cant wait to see season 3! And keep up the good work!

  14. Ed,

    You will see quite a bit of the research presented in my Akhenaten book in the new season of shows. Exactly what and when I can't say for obvious reasons. However, call me bias, but I think you'll enjoy what we have in store for everybody.