The same symbol (represented here by "(l)") appears in the KRS word sk(l)ar, shown above. The runic scholars who originally examined the KRS were unfamiliar with this uncommon symbol. The context called for some kind of landmark. Early on, someone suggested that it represented a Germanic j-sound (English consonantal y) so that the word could be read skjar, "skerries" or "rocky islets," and this became the generally accepted interpretation of the KRS letter.
In 1951, Erik Moltke, the official Runologist of the Danish National Museum, cited this "invented" letter as the conclusive proof of the KRS's inauthenticity: "The patient reader interested in the Kensington Stone will have already noticed that it is now in rather a precarious position. But it has not received the coup de grâce. Here it comes. In his eagerness to have as complete an alphabet as possible the engraver has invented a j-rune. He ought not to have gone as far as that. The fact is that the letter 'j' is a development within the Latin alphabet (like v). Both these letters were invented by the French philosopher Petrus Ramus in the 16th century." (Antiquity, 1951, p. 91)
In 1987, however, Richard Nielsen, writing in vol. 16 of Epigraphic Society Occasional Papers, pointed out no less than 8 uses of this admittedly rare symbol in the Codex Runicus, counting the two specimens in the above song. It was therefore, unbeknownst to Moltke, an authentic 14th century nordic rune, and not a newly invented J-rune at all.
Nielsen's discovery is enough to put the KRS back in the running -- how could the minimally educated Minnesota farmer who is generally believed to have forged it have known more about 14th century runes than someone with Moltke's credentials? Moltke's "coup de grâce" thus backfired, and this KRS symbol, far from being "imaginary," in fact provides a strong indication of authenticity.
Apparently this symbol represents a soft (one might even say silky) L-sound, and not a Germanic J-sound (English Y-sound), as had been assumed by Moltke and most prior writers. According to Einar Haugen (The Scandinavian Languages, Harvard 1976, section 10.3.1), it was also used in medieval inscriptions on the Baltic island of Gotland, to mark an L with "a special dental quality." Nielsen suggests that this word should be read skylar, or "shelters," rather than "skerries."
The Echo Press of Alexandria Minn. reported that Janey Westin, the finder of the stone who had spent weeks and hundreds of dollars investigating and transporting the 2200-pound stone to safe storage, was not amused by the prank.
Furthermore, Larsson lists the pentadic numerals from 1 to 9 plus 0, and dates his chart 1885 using these numerals in Arabic placement, just as on the KRS. Richard Nielsen has abundantly documented the use of these pentadic numerals plus knowledge of Arabic placement in Scandinavia in the 14th century, but this is the first example that I am aware of (outside of KRS) of actually using pentadic numerals in Arabic placement. The symbol Larsson identifies as 0 is used twice on the KRS as 10, without Arabic placment.
Larsson's chart demonstrates that most, if not all, of the controversial letters and numbers on the KRS are authentic runic conventions. The only issue is how far back before 1885, if at all, these conventions go. Larsson indicates that the runerow containing the contested KRS letters is more recent than a shorter FUTHORK he also gives, but he doesn't say how recent it is, or where he got it.
The Wikipedia article indicates that knowledge of these runes was widespread among late 19th century guilds, with the tacit implication that the KRS forger must have shared this knowledge, but does not indicate how this knowledge eluded the many runic scholars who have criticized the KRS for using these symbols. Even without the unusual symbols, the article concludes that the inscription is a hoax on linguistic grounds, in particular because "It also contains the word 'ded,' which is actually the English word "dead," and not Scandinavian at all." As Hjalmar Holland pointed out long ago, this word was in fact used in a 14th century letter by the famous Queen Margarete, who ruled Sweden, Norway and Denmark, and therefore is at least as Scandinavian as she was.
It should be noted that the Kongelige Bibliotek (Royal Library) in Copenhagen has photos of the KRS that it received from Ludwig F.A. Wimmer of Chicago, accompanied by a letter dated Oct. 15, 1899. These photos would show the stone in its early condition, before any scrubbing or enhancing of the letters that might have taken place after 1899. I have photocopies of the Wimmer photos, and can see no evidence of any alterations, but a comparison to good glossy copies of these photos would be in order. The Wimmer photos are shown in Wm. W. Fitzhugh and Elisabeth I. Ward, Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga (Smithsonian Inst., 2000), p. 380, though with insufficient enlargement to be very useful for study.
If anyone has some good color photos of the front and side or glossies of the Wimmer photos, I would like to put them up.