Mysterious Stone?

I remember reading a while back about a stone that was unearthed with mysterious writings on it. Supposedly many experts analyzed it and came up with all sorts of explanations as to what the writings were, what language they were in, etc. Finally, the story goes, one person turned the rock on its side and lo, it was revealed that the writing was perfectly decipherable english, and the text was something like, “This is John Smith’s rock,” something like that.

Has anyone else heard this story? I’ve always been curious how, if the story is true, anyone could have missed the writing. Are there any photos or even drawings of this rock? Does the story even exist? Have I lost my mind?

Any help is appreciated.

I think you’re referring to “Bill Stump’s Stone”. I know that this is treated in Paradox Press’ “Big Book of Hoaxes”. For “graphic novels”, the “Big Book” series has very good bibliographies, so look in the back of the book for the info (I don’t have my copy here).

I think you may be right, though a google search didn’t bring up much at all. Are there any photos of this stone? I have the Big Book of Hoaxes and perhaps that’s where I read about it, but I recall the article I was reading not having a photo.

I’d guess it was one of those word puzzles that an old elementary school teacher of mine was so fond of. It sounds like the kind of question he’d pose, usually by explaining the situation as you did then saying, “After examining it for a long while, one of the experts said, ‘This is John Smith’s rock.’ How did he know?”

To illustrate the kind of word puzzles that can sound like true stories, here’s a famous old one in a similar vein: in a small English village stands a stone post. The post is quite old and has been there for as long as anybody can remember. An iron ring is attached to the top of the post, and the post has the following inscription carved into the stone:


The villagers and the experts were puzzled, but when the purpose was revealed, many people were shocked that they couldn’t figure it out sooner.

So, what is the purpose of the post?

(I’ll leave you with that for a while.)

“To tie mules to.”

Correct, Pipeliner.

See how it worked, Legomancer? Run the three “words” on the post together instead of stacked on top of each other:


The add some spaces and you can recognize the phrase that explains the purpose of the post:


The same principle applies to your John Smith’s Rock question–if you look at the inscription in a slightly different way, the meaning becomes clear.

This is why my guess is that your situation is more of a puzzle that teaches you to be open to other ways of looking at things than it is an actual occurrence.

Actually, what I have seen is just references to a supposed real event. But only stories, nothing pointing to any source material for the stories, which is why I find it doubtful that it happened. If this thing supposedly intrigued people and there were all of these theories, surely there would be a photo or drawing of it?

Perhaps the biggest mystery is why I even care.

Is it possible you’re thinking of Joseph Smith and his amazing ability to translate the gold plates given him by the angel Moroni?

According to this, the story of Bill Stump’s stone is from Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers.

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veever tak enpsy
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hat muc hof ourun
itt enlan guag
eisbase don cont
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uenceof lett ersin
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perspac andfor
mat, tingcan
becon fusin
gas hell

I can’t believe no one has looked at the reference I gave yet. The story is told on page 83 of The Big Book of Hoaxes (cited in my post above), and also on page 31 of Carl Sifakis’ book “Hoaxes and Scams: A Compendium of Deceptions, Ruses, and Swindles”. Th stone was found while workers were disecting one of the earth mounds in (where else?) Moundsville, Virginia (now West Virginia). It was marked with mysterios markings that were “interpreted” by a host of experts – over fifty of them – that gave competing and very detailed translations of the inscription (not unlike Barry Fell and his palelinguists). Sample: “The Chief of Emigrationwho reached these places as fixed these statutes forever.” All of the inscription weree from European or Middle Eastern cvlizations. No one seemed to think Orientals or American Indians capable, I guess.

Then i 1938 Andrew Price, president f the West Virginia Historical Society looked at the stone sideways and was able to make out the REAL inscription, in English. It read “Bill Stump’s Stone, October 14, 1838”.

There IS a conection with Charles Dickens’ 1837 novel “The Pickwick Papers”. In that book an ancient Roman nscription is discovered, an ne of the characters declares it ought to be translated “Bill Stump His Mark” (deflating the high-flown expectations for the classical inscription.) The American Mounds were thought to be the remains of some ancient civilization (pre-Indian, a lot of folks liked to think), so it was appropriate to “plant” the stone in the mound, and it was as topical as a gag about “Survivor” would be today. Except nobody got the gag for a hundred years.

I lived in Moundsville WV for 2 years having moved from there just 16 months ago. I visited the mound and the museum at its base.

Of course the museum mentions the stone and gives pictures of it and admits the possibility/probability of it being a hoax, but NOWHERE EVER, to the best of my recollection anyway, did it mention that it said something mundane when viewed from the side. In fact it was just X’s and O’s and modified letter/glyphs. I think I would remember that, and if it was something that obvious they wouldn’t overlook it.