Have you ever heard of the Lake Winnipesaukee Mystery Stone? Learn more about this historic object, one of a handful of mysterious stone eggs found throughout the world.
Where Was the Lake Winnipesaukee Mystery Stone Found?
In 1872, in the town of Meredith, New Hampshire, on Lake Winnipesaukee, construction workers hired by Seneca A. Ladd, a local businessman, unearthed a mysterious, egg-shaped stone. What could it possibly be? The stone stumped everyone. Seneca Ladd believed it to be an “Indian relic.” He kept it in his possession for many years. After his death, his daughter donated it to the New Hampshire Historical Society in 1927. Due to its discovery near the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee, the Ladd family dubbed it the “Mystery Stone of Lake Winnipesaukee.”
What is the Lake Winnipesaukee Mystery Stone?
The stone measures four inches in length and two and a half inches at the widest part of its base. The creator of the stone used quartzite, a smooth rock that was formed by shifting rock layers. This type of rock is not native to New Hampshire. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it wasn’t made in the state. The sculptor of the black stone covered its surface in pictographs. The symbols include carvings of arrows, a moon, spirals, an ear of corn, a face, and a tepee. These symbols have led many to believe it is in fact a Native American artifact. However, other researchers claim it may be of Celtic or Inuit origins. In other parts of the world, people have found stones of a similar shape (often referred to as “stone eggs”), but the Lake Winnipesaukee Mystery Stone is the first of its kind in the United States.
What is perhaps most baffling about the stone are the holes that are bored into both sides and ends of the it. The holes vary in size and are not tapered. They are very smooth, suggesting that someone with modern tools drilled them. Perhaps someone with power tools from the 19th or 20th centuries is responsible. Possibly a Native American was the original creator, and, at a later date, a modern workman discovered it and defaced it. However, the etchings around the holes suggest that they were probably part of the original design.
How Did the Lake Winnipesaukee Mystery Stone Come to Be?
So what was the purpose of the Lake Winnipesaukee Mystery Stone? As with many artifacts, it is sometimes impossible to know exactly what something is or what purpose it once served. In the case of the Lake Winnipesaukee Mystery Stone, there are many theories. Wesley G. Balla, Director of Collections and Exhibitions at the New Hampshire Historical Society, received a letter claiming that the stone was in all likelihood a thunder-stone. Thunder-stones exist in mythology and folklore. Hundreds of years ago, oddly shaped “stones” often turned up in fields. Farmers and peasants thought that thunderbolts fell from the sky and were buried in the earth. Later, more scientifically-inclined thinkers theorized that these “stones” were the tools of early man.
Possibly the Lake Winnipesaukee Mystery Stone was some kind of ancient tool. Perhaps the holes were used to situate the stone on a strong stick that allowed the carrier to hit things. If it wasn’t a tool, some claim that it could have been a storytelling device or a way to keep record of a tribe’s history. Some have posited that the ear of corn, plus the crossed arrows, along with the tepee mean it was a treaty between two tribes. This theory is supported by the idea that the holes let it rest on a stake in the ground to mark a line between territories. It is one of the more popular theories.
The last theory that seems to have any substantial proof is that the whole Lake Winnipesaukee Mystery Stone is a hoax. If someone with modern tools created the holes, perhaps an artist carved the whole stone back in the 1800s for a laugh.
Where Is the Lake Winnipesaukee Mystery Stone Today?
After a brief period of time in storage, the Lake Winnipesaukee Mystery Stone is back on long-term display at the New Hampshire Historical Society in Concord.
What theory do you like best? Do you have your own theory? Let us know in the comments below.
This post was first published in 2016 and has been updated.