In the dead of night on Sept. 28, 2019, Mark Russo snuck into a wooded area in Salem, N.H., armed with a power tool, police said. His destination was “America’s Stonehenge,” a grouping of man-made rock formations that some say may date back thousands of years.
His intent, police said, was to vandalize the stones with an acronym associated with QAnon, an extremist ideology that the FBI has deemed a domestic terrorism threat.
“The stone table was carved with ‘WWG1WGA’ and ‘IAMMARK,'” an officer wrote in a vandalism report reviewed by Patch. The former stands for “Where We Go One, We Go All,” a slogan often used by QAnon followers. The latter, police later learned, referred to his name and Twitter handle.
On Monday, Russo, 50, of Swedesboro, N.J., was arrested in his home state and charged with one count of felony criminal mischief, Salem police said Wednesday in a news release. It is unclear who is representing Russo. According to The Associated Press, his lawyer entered a not guilty plea on Tuesday.
The true history of America’s Stonehenge is unknown and vehemently debated. The site has 22 stone chambers, stone walls, a sacrificial tablet and drains. There is also an astronomical complex where standing monoliths appear to align with celestial posts and sunrise and sunset during the summer and winter solstices, according to book “The Archaeology of New Hampshire” by David R. Starbuck, a professor of anthropology at Plymouth State University.
The property was purchased by insurance executive William B. Goodwin in the 1930s and for decades it was called “Mystery Hill Caves.” Goodwin believed the structures were built by Irish monks who somehow made their way to North America in the 10th century, according to Starbuck. Others suggest it was more likely erected by Native Americans and then taken over by colonial settlers.
Starbuck, however, suspects Goodwin may have built the site himself. In the 1950s, the structure was rebranded as America’s Stonehenge and transformed into a tourist destination with guided tours and a gift shop.
In September 2019, the current owners of America’s Stonehenge posted on Facebook that a vandal had carved into a 9,000-pound grooved table, which the site’s owners say was likely used for sacrifices. Someone had also suspended an 18-inch tall wooden cross between two trees. Attached to the cross were “several photographs and hand drawn images,” police later said.
“The first picture was of a young male,” court documents say, according to The Eagle-Tribune. “The second picture was of two adult males. The third smaller picture was of an adult male. Additionally, there were two sketched drawings attached to the cross, appeared to depict the Crucifixion.”
The Salem police began investigating, and eventually got a tip about Russo’s social media accounts. They reviewed Twitter posts from a user named “iammark” with images and videos of the vandalized site and a social media post from Russo that said, “Oh made a few improvements at American Stonehenge. Sorry … my bad,” according to court documents.
The FBI helped local Salem police connect Russo to the Twitter account. Police have not said if Russo had a motive for specifically targeting America’s Stonehenge.
Russo was arraigned at Rockingham Superior Court on Tuesday. According to court filings, his bail was set at $3,000 and he is scheduled to return to court on April 21.