Stone head mystery leaves north England vexed

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LONDON, Oct 2 (Reuters) They've been left on doorsteps and outside post offices in the dead of night, but no one knows what to make of the mystery of the stone heads.

As many as 20 artfully carved faces, miniature versions of the Easter Island sculptures, have been deposited in sleepy villages across northern England in recent weeks, leaving the recipients intrigued and confused.

Each of the stone heads, some measuring up to 45 cm high, is slightly different, but all of them have the same riddle attached, written on a thin blue card.

''Twinkle twinkle like a star, does love blaze less from afar?'' it reads, with the word ''paradox'' written around the points of a star.

While a publicity stunt of some sort is suspected, not unlike the crop circle mysteries that obsessed Britain a decade ago, there are no clues as to who may be leaving the heads. Police, residents and recipients are all non-plussed.

''It appeared last Monday in the early hours of the morning,'' said Fiona Gould, the owner of the Forresters Arms Hotel in the village of Kilburn, North Yorkshire.

''I love it. We've nicknamed it Forest Lump. We've put him on the end of the bar and he gets a pat on the head before everyone goes to the races.'' Valerie Hoyes, who runs the post office in the village of Braithwell, about 65 km south of Kilburn, discovered hers back in August, but thought nothing of it. She didn't tell anyone until others came forward.

After the discovery, her husband reviewed security camera footage and caught a glimpse of a man getting out of a car, but his face was indistinguishable and the mystery remained.

''This chappie just drove up at 4.15 in the morning, parked his car and dropped off these three stone heads on the doorstep,'' Valerie Hoyes told Reuters.

''They're a bit like gargoyles. They're very bizarre.

''We've been living in Braithwell for 26 years and we've never known anything like this at all. Never. People wonder if it's part of the occult.'' Stonemasons say the sculpting is good, and the stone of high quality. It would have taken hours of careful work to make them.

Since her discovery, Gould has received emails from all over with suggestions of who might be responsible. One pointed to a local sculptor called Billy Johnson, but he's not been found.

Either way, she's not worried. ''Forest Lump'' has brought her luck, she says.

''It put the wind up everyone for the first week or so, but now I like it. Friends who I haven't heard from or seen in years are getting in touch, so I'm very happy.'' Reuters ARB GC1900

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