For the mystery lovers: Who put a star medallion outside the Cullman Library?

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This brass medallion mysteriously appeared on a sidewalk outside the Cullman Public Library in 2011, and staffers have been puzzled by it ever since. (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – For over 10 years, staffers at the Cullman County Public Library main branch in Cullman have wondered about a small brass medallion affixed to a sidewalk on the east side of the building. No one knows who placed it or its exact purpose. Library Director Sharon Townson has begun looking for answers since finding that similar medallions have been popping up all over the country.

Towson told The Tribune that former director Max Hand discovered the medallion in January 2011, saying, “We just came out one morning and it was here . . . He contemplated removing it, but he was like, ‘Well, I don’t guess it’s hurting anything,’ so we just left it.”

It bears a stamp of a nine-pointed star with the presumed year reference 2010 and web address ninepointedstar.com. The obvious starting place for more information was a visit to that site.

San Francisco artist fond of nine-pointed stars, denies placing medallions

Kelly Booth, a San Francisco-based mixed media artist, purchased the ninepointedstar.com domain name in 2002, following a tour she made through Latin America. During that trip, she placed nine-pointed stars made from natural native materials in various places. 

On her website, Booth explained the idea behind the symbol:

“Over the years, I’ve developed an iconography of symbols to connote my own artistic quest. Chief among these figures is a star with nine points. The idea of the star alludes to the celestial bodies that have marked the passing of time and guided sailors and traders across vast distances. The symbol itself is reminiscent of the compass rose drawn on paper maps. And yet, the addition of a ninth point suggests a different kind of journey—one in search of an internal destination that cannot be triangulated through cardinal directions alone.”

Booth’s website was inactive from the domain purchase until she activated it in 2012, roughly two years after the first medallion marked with the name was discovered.

Despite the seemingly obvious connection between an artist and an “artsy” project bearing her web address and favorite symbol, Booth emphatically denied any involvement with the medallions.

On the website, she wrote, “You see, whatever’s going on here, it’s not my project. I swear. Nor have I heard from anyone claiming it’s theirs. In fact, I never even imagined such things existed until you guys started emailing.

“Truth be told though, I like them, whatever they’re for. After all, I’m an artist who’s inspired both by notions of place and by the fantastical things that can happen in real life. To unwittingly find myself playing a central role in a map-sized mystery is—let’s face it—pretty fantastical.”

Where are the medallions?

So far, 131 medallions have been reported, according to Booth. Every state other than Alaska and Hawaii has one. Cullman’s is the only one in Alabama. 

They have been found outside courthouses and small businesses, along public sidewalks and on the walkway in front of a park bench. Several have been reported in the vicinity of masonic lodges. The most common reported locations, though, have been around libraries.

What is their purpose?

Many assume that the medallions are a publicity stunt meant to draw attention to Booth and her art. The artist denies the claim, just as she denies any other connection to the objects. On the website, she offered suggestions that she said came from medallion fans:

  • Aliens placed them to mark places they would preserve during their coming invasion of the planet.
  • Booth came back from the future to place them and advise others to time travel back to 2010 to head off some great catastrophe.
  • Someone placed them as part of an interactive role-playing or treasure hunt game.
  • They are tributes to the band Slipknot, which used a nine-pointed star logo.
  • They represent the Enneagram of Personality that points to nine interconnected personality types.
  • They are a giant art project, maybe a connect-the-dots piece that will reveal a picture when all of them are located.
  • They are benchmarks that mark specific geographic locations for an unknown purpose.
  • They are part of an advertising campaign, though Booth insisted that neither she nor anyone she knew had anything to do with them.
  • They are spiritual or philosophical symbols of the Bahai World Faith, Christianity’s fruits of the Spirit, Native American religion or Freemasons. 

Townson jokingly hopes that the medallions might indicate entry into a secret contest.  

“Maybe we’re going to win a new library building,” Towson said with a smile.

Map of currently known medallion locations. (Courtesy of ninepointedstar.com)

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W.C. Mann

craig@cullmantribune.com