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Gnome taken from home

Near, far, wherever you are, family wants statue back

Near, far, wherever you are, family wants statue back

March 26, 2006|By CANDICE BOSELY

SMITHSBURG

For a gnome, he's tall and heavy, standing about 2 feet tall and weighing around 70 pounds. His dark attire includes a clerical collar and a pointy hat.

He's been missing for more than a year, but Sari and Kenneth Kilheffer of Smithsburg are certain he's not off visiting his cousins the Tomkas or the Snotgurgles.

He was gnomenapped and the Kilheffers want him back.

Stolen a little more than a year ago from their backyard, the gnome statue was a nostalgic reminder of the 38 years the couple spent in Minnesota.

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When the couple was living near Dawson, Minn., Sari Kilheffer commissioned a local artist to craft a gnome statue resembling her husband.

Since Kenneth Kilheffer was a minister, the artist included a white cleric's collar on the statue. On the gnome's left arm is the artist's signature ? a small red heart.

Kenneth Kilheffer, 67, was not the only subject for one of the artist's gnomes.

In a letter to the editor sent to The Herald-Mail pleading for the gnome's return, Sari Kilheffer said that along with everyday people, the artist "gnomed" Citizens of the Year and the statues were put on display. The official Web site for the town of Dawson is filled with photographs of gnome statues.

"He made little gnomes out of wood of people in the town," Kilheffer said.

Eventually, the artist switched his preferred media from wood to cement. The statue of Kilheffer consists of sculpted cement over a chicken wire frame.

In Minnesota, the gnome sat on the couple's patio. After they moved about three years ago to Sari Kilheffer's hometown of Smithsburg, they set the gnome outside near a backyard shed.

The gnome disappeared late Sunday or early Monday in the first weekend of March 2005.

After realizing the gnome was gone, the couple notified the Smithsburg Police Department.

"They shrugged," Kenneth Kilheffer said. "The police said they would look for him, that's all they said."

Smithsburg Police Department Chief Michael Potter confirmed that a police report had been filed and

speculated the gnome was taken and quickly placed in a car.

The Kilheffers' home is near an alley and a parking lot.

"We have no leads at this point," Potter said.

'The roaming gnome'

The Kilheffers' gnome is not the first gnome to disappear, and it won't be the last.

But first, a brief history of the mythical creatures.

Originating in Scandinavia, gnomes are said to be around 6 inches tall and weigh about half a pound. They're vegetarians and are known to care for sick or injured animals.

That's according to the 1977 book "Gnomes" by Wil Huygen and Rien Poortvliet.

While the book is whimsical, gnomes really are just statues commonly used to adorn yards, mantles and gardens.

Anyone who places a gnome outside must understand there's an inherent risk the gnome one day will turn up missing. Some owners receive letters or postcards from their roaming gnomes. Lucky owners find that one day their gnome reappears as stealthily as it disappeared.

Stealing gnomes is not a new trend created by today's unruly teenagers; it has been going on for years.

The travel company Travelocity built an ad campaign around a "Roaming Gnome," while a stolen traveling gnome was a subplot in the popular French film "Amélie."

In the United States, "Nigel the Gnome" has his own Web site, having been taken around the world after meeting up with a "friend" on spring break in Destin, Fla. (In other words, the gnome was stolen, likely from a yard.)

Photographs on the Web site show Nigel in Washington, D.C., at Fenway Park in Boston, under a Christmas tree, on skis at Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia and abroad in London, Paris, Berlin and other cities.

If Nigel's former owners were devastated by his theft, it's to be hoped they haven't seen the Web site.

The most recent photographs are of Nigel on the Appalachian Trail, and it's obvious some sort of tragedy befell him. His legs are broken off and his head appears to have been glued back together.

Another Web site, FreeTheGnomes.com, seeks to provide "Garden Gnome Liberation information and calls to action. We advocate an end to oppressive gardening and freedom for garden gnomes everywhere."

The detailed Web site includes a form letter that can be sent to people who have "enslaved" a gnome.

The letter reads in part: "It has come to our attention that a Gnome is being held captive in your garden. We do not, as a rule, negotiate with terrorists, however, we request that he be released immediately. Already your actions have prompted copycat offenses, which we have witnessed, including the deplorable use of a Gnome as a hood ornament.

"We understand that you probably were not responsible for the innocent Gnome's original capture but rather purchased him ..."

The letter also states that "specially trained caseworkers" will work to free the gnome and return it to the northern woodlands.

A watery grave?

Kenneth Kilheffer said he hasn't speculated too much on what might have happened to his gnome.

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