The Knights Templar In Duluth
If you talk with Scott Wolter for just a few minutes about an ancient chunk of rock that has taken over his life for the past decade, you’ll start to suspect that this Minnesota geologist, who also happens to be a University of Minnesota-Duluth graduate and former Bulldog linebacker, could probably give Indiana Jones a run for his money.
Spend a few hours with him, as I did over breakfast at the Chester Creek Café one morning recently, and you will believe, with complete certainty, that this ancient chunk of rock — the infamous Kensington Rune Stone, long branded a hoax — is actually authentic, and the runes on the stone were indeed carved in 1362 by ancient Nordic explorers. It gets even more interesting when he tells you that their traveling companions were the shadowy and mysterious Knights Templar, and that it’s all tied to the other discoverer of the new world, Christopher Columbus. And it doesn’t stop there.
The Rune Stone first beckoned Scott Wolter to a tiny Minnesota town and then sent him all over the world on a quest to discover the truth about its writings. He has traveled to Nova Scotia, Sweden, Scotland and more places than that, following clues that have revealed the Rune Stone to be just one piece of a much larger puzzle which includes other ancient stones and structures, Columbus, Scottish royal bloodlines, and of course, the mysterious Knights.
And if that’s not enough to get your juices flowing, Scott will tell you that those ancient Nordic explorers and their companions, the Templars, moored their ships on the shores of Lake Superior right here in Duluth en route to the Mississippi and finally to Kensington, where they carved runes on a stone.
“This story,” smiles Scott Wolter, “is going to blow your mind.”
He’s not kidding. The story of the Rune Stone is one of adventure, lies, betrayals, greed, bitter disappointments, ancient mysteries, cover ups, secrets and more than a century of scorn by the academic establishment, which deemed the stone a fake early on and has stuck to that position despite conclusive evidence to the contrary.
And it all began on a Minnesota farm field more than a century ago.
Eight Götalanders and 22 Northmen on this acquisition journey from Vinland far to the west.
Many Minnesotans are familiar with the Kensington Rune Stone, but in case you’re not, here’s a short history. One otherwise normal day in 1898, on a Minnesota farm field, Scandinavian immigrant farmer Olof Ohman made a seemingly simple decision that would change his life — and if Scott Wolter is correct, world history — forever. Olof decided to take down an old tree on his property. He and two of his sons pulled the tree out of the ground, and there, entwined in the roots, was a very large stone. Olof turned the stone over (with great effort, it weighs some 200 pounds), and later found it was covered with ancient-looking runes.
Being a Swede, Olof was no stranger to runes. They’re chiseled on rocks all over the Scandinavian landscape, so he knew what they were when he saw them. Still — here? In the New World? Olof was puzzled — the writings certainly looked authentic to him, but he wanted to find out for sure. So he decided to consult some experts.
Olof copied the runes onto a piece of paper, and sent it first to the editor of a Swedish-language newspaper in Minneapolis, who sent it to Olaus Breda, a professor of Scandinavian Language and Literature at the University of Minnesota. The runes on the stone were not authentic, Breda proclaimed, because a word on the stone was a modern Swedish word that couldn’t possibly have been written in 1362.
Except it wasn’t.
People seemed to be mesmerized by this thing. Some unscrupulous types tried to profit from the stone, and others from academia — historians, linguists and archaeologists, mostly — wanted their voices heard in connection with it. Experts have written book after book, proving or disproving the stone’s authenticity for decades.
One of them was geologist Newton Winchell, who, in 1907, headed up a study of the stone commissioned by the Minnesota Historical Society. Using the most advanced techniques available at that time, Winchell (who happens to have the geology building at the University of Minnesota named after him) deemed the runes authentic, based on the stone’s age.
“I wasn’t the first geologist to authenticate it,” Scott Wolter says. “He was. He’s the guy who deserves all the credit.”
Winchell’s findings were at odds with what some linguists — experts in ancient Swedish runes — believed. In addition to the “modern” Swedish word on the stone, there were modern scratchings on it as well. So clearly, these academics stated, pitting their expertise against Winchell’s scientific findings, the Rune Stone was a fake. Olof Ohman was perpetrating a hoax. Case closed, again.
Except it wasn’t.
Despite many people trying to brand him a fraud, Olof knew he had found that stone buried in the ground. And his friends and neighbors knew it, too.
“None of the local folks doubted him,” says Darwin Ohman, Olof’s grandson. “They all knew it was genuine.”
Olof wasn’t the kind of man to waste precious time carving runes on a stone and then trying to pass it off as legitimate. He was a no-nonsense Swede who was more concerned with running his farm and feeding his family than concocting a fantasy about some runes. His mistake was cleaning out the centuries of dirt from the runes with a nail — hence the modern scratches.
Olof Ohman went to his grave insisting that the stone was genuine. It’s a pity he didn’t live to see the Scott Wolter firestorm blow into Kensington and blow away the academic establishment’s conclusions about the Rune Stone, one by one.
We had a camp by two (shelters?) one day’s journey north from this stone.
In 2000, Scott Wolter was a geologist with American Petrographic Services, Inc., based out of the Twin Cities. What exactly are petrographic services? Scott answers that with his characteristic directness.
“You know the TV show CSI? I do that. Except with concrete and rocks.”
Despite growing up in Minnesota, he had never heard of the Kensington Rune Stone. So when he was contacted to participate in yet another new study aimed at authenticating the stone’s age, he was initially skeptical.
“I told them: ‘I’ll do it. But you need to know from the get-go, I work with facts. That means, I’m going to tell you exactly what I find, even if you might not like it.’ They agreed.”
So he set about the process of dating the inscriptions on the stone. Long story short, he found they were carved at least — at least — 200 years before Olof pulled that stone out of the ground. This led him to the conclusion that the stone was authentic, and he was excited to say so, in public, at a 2000 conference of archaeologists and anthropologists in Minneapolis. To put it mildly, he was not well received.
“One of the guys running the conference warned me that if I turned it into a circus, he’d shut me down,” Scott says. One of the state’s leading archaeologists literally turned his back to Wolter, refusing to even shake his hand.
Scott was initially confused by the reaction of his scientific peers. After all, he knew his science was sound, so he knew without a doubt that the stone was genuine. It nagged at him. And the more he thought about it, the angrier he got.
After we came home, found 10 men red from blood and death. Ave Maria save from evil.
“I knew that the runes were authentic because I had proven the age of the stone. Period. It was a fact.” So what was up with the academic and scientific backlash?
“It was like these people had an agenda, and were invested in the stone being a fake,” he says. “It was unbelievable.”
He’s not the only one who sees it that way. Darwin Ohman, Olof’s grandson, agrees.
“Some of these people truly have an agenda,” he says. “They want to be the person who solves this puzzle. That’s what’s so refreshing about Scott. He is a scientist. He looks at evidence for what it is.”
About that time, Scott decided he’d look into authenticating the runes themselves. He wasn’t a linguist, he wasn’t a runologist, but he was a scientist. If nobody was going to get on his bandwagon to prove the rune stone linguistically, he was going to prove it himself.
And what he found? Nothing short of a bombshell.
“Olof had copied the runes on a piece of paper and sent that to be authenticated,” Scott Wolter says. “But he didn’t copy them correctly. These linguists didn’t even look at the stone! They were working from the paper copies.”
One of the words in question, the supposed “smoking gun” that proves the stone is a fake because it’s actually a modern Swedish word, contained a runic A. But when Olof copied it onto the paper he sent to the experts, he omitted two dots that sit directly above that A.
Apparently, he didn’t see them. But Scott Wolter did. The two dots confirmed it was an ancient Swedish word, not a modern one.
More significant than that, another rune on the stone, a so-called “Dotted R,” wasn’t even discovered until 1935, further proving that Olof Ohman could not possibly have fabricated the carvings. As far as all the linguistic experts knew, that rune didn’t exist in 1898. So how could a Minnesota farmer have written it?
There are 10 men by the inland sea to look after our ships fourteen days journey from this peninsula (or island). Year 1362.
The Dotted R wasn’t the only mysterious rune on the stone. There was another. The “Hooked X”.
Wolter and his then-partner Dick Nielson (who has since distanced himself from Wolter’s findings in a rather dramatic rift) took the stone to Sweden in 2003 for authentication from Swedish linguists, where they were very well received.
The next year, Scott went back with Darwin Ohman, who was grateful for their acceptance of what his family has known was fact for more than one hundred years.
“These Swedish professors apologized to me on behalf of what my family had been through,” he says.
The runes say men from Gotland — an island in Sweden — were in the exploring party, so that’s where Wolter went next. He found the “Dotted R” there, and the mysterious “Hooked X” in documents, and carved in stones and churches in many other locations.
“I started seeing it everywhere,” he says. “Once you see it, you can’t un-see it. It’s there.”
Most notably, the Hooked X can be found at the infamous Rosslyn Chapel, the ancient church in Scotland featured in Dan Brown’s novel, The Da Vinci Code. This chapel is known to be affiliated with the Knights Templar, and upon further investigation Wolter found that the Hooked X rune was specifically tied to the Templars.
There’s another interesting thing about the Rosslyn Chapel that Dan Brown didn’t put into in his famous novel, but it leads straight to the fields of Minnesota. The chapel was built in the mid-1400s, and is covered with symbols and carvings. One of those carvings? A depiction of sweet corn. Now, where might a mason building a church in Scotland in 1450 have heard about corn? It doesn’t grow in Europe. Only in the New World.
Scott Wolter thinks he knows. Another Templar exploring party, which came a few years after the Rune Stone’s carvings, perhaps following up on their predecessor’s land claim, included Prince Henry Sinclair of Scotland. Of Rosslyn, to be exact.
And how does Christopher Columbus play into all of this? More than 100 years after our Knights Templar and Gotlanders carved that stone in Minnesota, Señor Columbus sailed the ocean blue in the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. Imagine every drawing you’ve ever seen about the ships. Does a white sail emblazoned with a red cross come to mind? Of course it does. Every schoolchild, when drawing those ships for a class project, draws them that way. I know I did. Now picture every image you’ve ever seen about the Knights Templar in the Crusades. Their uniform was the same, white, emblazoned with a red cross. It’s their symbol.
Columbus’s father-in-law was known to be a Grand Master of the Knights Templar. Columbus’s ships sailed under the Knights’ symbol of the red cross on a white field. And the kicker? After his voyage to the New World, Columbus started signing his name on documents with our friend the Hooked X. Might Columbus have been given a map drawn initially by our Rune Stone carvers?
It’s a dizzying barrage of information, to be sure. What does it all mean? Scott Wolter believes it proves that the Knights Templar visited this land on many occasions, not just when they carved the runes on the stone in Minnesota.
And the Hooked X? That single rune has led Scott further than even the mysterious Knights Templar. Suffice it to say that if his findings are true, they will change world history.
But for Darwin Ohman, Scott’s findings have hit a bit closer to home than that. They’ve changed his family history. No longer is his grandfather branded the perpertrator of a hoax. He’s the man who found the stone that is poised to change world history.
“It’s really exciting,” says Ohman. “Now we know that the Kensington Rune Stone is a piece of a larger puzzle. Much more is to come.”
He’s not kidding about that. Stay tuned.