Stonehenge mystery
by Dennis Wilkins

  Webmaster's note. My friends run the gamut from wildly metaphysical to solidly scientific. Although Dennis is a photographic artist and a musician, his long career as Hewlett-Packard reliability scientist  places him firmly on the scientific side of the spectrum. That makes this incident all the more fascinating.  --NLK

Southwest England is full of beautiful and mysterious features- the famed stone circle of Stonehenge, the lesser known but equally fascinating Woodhenge, the largest stone “avenue” on earth at Avebury, and the amazing Silbury Hill, a manmade “pyramid” built around 2,600 BC.

My first visit to Stonehenge was one of the strangest experiences of my life. I was traveling with a business associate, another American, between London and Bristol with a free day between business meetings. After staying at the Antrobus Arms in Amesbury, itself a link to the old traditions of England, we drove west along the A303. As we crested a hill the famed circle stood below. It looked small from the high point of the road, but it was definitely Stonehenge. It was a typical Salisbury Plain winter morning, overcast and hazy. We drove down to the car park (love those English names- yes, that's where you park your car), paid the cashier, and walked down under the road through the tunnel to view the stones.

We had already been told that because of preservation efforts the stone circle was roped off; we couldn't enter it, but we could walk around the perimeter. But when we emerged from the tunnel, we had two surprises.

The first was the sun. It was shining through some widely scattered clouds that seemed to be dissipating. A good sign. The second was an old man wearing a uniform, like a porter at a train station, standing near the middle of the stone circle, beckoning to us to come in. I walked closer and said, “I heard that we can't enter the circle, are you sure it’s OK?” And he replied, “But of course. It’s Tuesday.” So in we went. The guide told us about the history, the methods used to construct the circle, and thoughts on why it was built. I took several pictures, including one with the sun peaking through an opening in one of the “Trilithon”stones. The clouds had pretty much cleared.

Since we had to continue to nearby Woodhenge and Avebury, we thanked the old man and headed back through the tunnel, emerging to a typical overcast day on the Salisbury Plain. My traveling partner looked at me and asked, “What’s going on?” I had no answer.

The next day we met with our English business associate, whose hobby happened to be the study of stone circles. When we mentioned how lucky we were to visit Stonehenge on a Tuesday, when we could walk around inside the circle, he gave us a look of utter astonishment. He had never heard of such a thing, and he later contacted me to confirm there was no such “day of grace” for walking among the stones. He suggested we had experienced something unique and mystical.

Back in the States I had the film processed, anxious to see the Stonehenge images. When I returned to get them, the owner of the camera store, whom I knew well, came out and said, “I’m very sorry about one of your rolls. The cutter got out of sequence and sliced several images in half.” Of course it was the roll from Stonehenge.
I wasn't very upset – the cuts were clean and precisely square; I figured I that one day I would “splice” the images, perhaps with digital techniques. I had a few years to wait. It was 1984.

I scanned some of the split images with my first film scanner (an HP Photosmart) in 1997, but it was difficult to get the densities and colors to match (the scanning software didn't enable “fixing” the settings). I recently scanned the film with a Minolta DiMAGE III and edited the images with Picture Window Pro.

I have visited Stonehenge many times since that first visit, but it is always roped off with bright yellow fences. People walk all around the perimeter marveling at the sight. But I will always cherish that first visit and the wonder of being at the center of Stonehenge, a place of ancient mystery and power.

Norman Koren home  |  E-mail Dennis at
You are visitor number since January 9, 2004