Thursday, October 04, 2007

Stone Heads

One of the "joke" heads of Harby.

The Great Stone Head Mystery

It's got the whole of Yorkshire talking (quite a feat in itself): just who is leaving the stone heads?

For a fortnight now, an artistic prankster has been depositing finely carved stone heads in various moorland villages in North Yorks - like Kilburn, Goathland and Selby. The stone heads have been dropped overnight in patios, phone boxes, and gardens. Occasionally they are retrieved - with equal invisibility.

Who is to blame? Locals talk of guerilla sculptors, others accuse diabolists. Some think it is all a joke.

But there is one aspect to this bizarre incident that is going unnoticed. The prankster seems to have a historical bent. Because the north of England has been associated with mysterious stone heads for two thousand years.

The ancient Celts who once lived around Lancashire and Yorkshire had a cult of heads: they would cut off the heads of their vanquished enemies and display them as bloody trophies. Eventually they began carving stone heads as a magical emblem of their victories. Modern archealogists working in the North regularly dig up these sinister items. Some of them are said to be cursed. They bear an uncanny resemblance to the "joke" stone heads of Selby and Kilburn.

The northern head motif has continued into this century. In the 1970s two small weird stone heads were dug up in a garden in Hexham, Northumberland. They were taken to the home of Anne Ross, an expert in Celtic history - and Celtic stone heads. Immediately her family was visited by hideous apparitions; her children reported seeing a wolfman in the bedroom. The Hexham heads disappeared soon afterwards.

Of course it is possible the head-carving riddler knows nothing of these historical echoes. Latest rumours claim the heads might belong to a hoaxing local sculptor, Billy Johnson, who is merely seeking publicity. If so, that only makes the synchronicity more intriguing.

A Celtic stone head.


Roy Adams said...

Not much of a mystery:,,2182719,00.html

Roy Adams said...

Sorry the link was broken in my last post, this should work better guardian link

sean said...

That was actually implied in the last para of the post; now I've made it explicit.