'Mystery maker' who delivered paper figures to library to feature in museum exhibit

John Wheeler's paper figures

John's collection has grown over the months that he has been leaving his figures at the Little Free Library on Mile House Lane, St Albans - Credit: Esther Wragg

A once mysterious 95-year-old resident will have his much-adored paper creations displayed at St Albans Museum + Gallery, after capturing the hearts of visitors to a free outdoor library. 

John Wheeler's paper figures

John has made more than 20 figures, each commemorating a person, festival or significant date - Credit: Esther Wragg

The first figure - a Father Christmas - popped up in the Little Free Library back in December 2019, with subsequent figures arriving to mark special days in the year.

But the people of St Albans had no idea where they were coming from, or who created them!

Fascinated by the figures and their 'mystery maker', Esther Wragg of Wragg Art House - which the Little Free Library sits outside - shared them on social media.

But the mystery only grew as more and more intricately hand-made characters appeared.

After capturing people's hearts and attention, the mystery maker's cover was finally blown back in November, and his true identity was revealed.

John Wheeler, 95, was spotted as he was delivering a figurine to the library ahead of St Andrew's Day.

John Wheeler with paper figurine outside the Mile House Lane library, St Albans

John Wheeler has been leaving paper figures at the Mile House Lane library since December 2019. He is pictured here with his St Andrew figurine, when his true identity was revealed - Credit: Esther Wragg

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John, who has been 'crafty' his whole life, handmakes each figurine from scrap and recycled paper and safely deposits them in the library - located at 5 Mile House Lane - for safekeeping, where they are fondly admired by passers by.

Becoming something of a local celeb in the months he's been leaving paper figures at the library, news of the St Albans 'Mystery Maker' caused a huge buzz on social media, with over 1,400 reactions and 123 comments in All things St Albans on Facebook.

John Wheeler's paper figures

John's intricate hand-crafted figures are extremely detailed - Credit: Esther Wragg

"His figures in the library have certainly boosted and brightened all our spirits during this difficult lockdown time," Esther said. "John has given so many people such joy and pleasure, we’re just so pleased that he will get the recognition he deserves."

She added: "I think he quite liked being this mystery man!

"He's a really, really sweet man."

As their designated guardian, Esther now has more than 20 figures in her collection, though a few have admittedly gone walkabout. 

John's creations are set to join the likes of St Albans Rocks, St Albans Rainbow Trail, Herts Young Homeless and many more for St Albans Museum + Gallery's 'Lockdown Life' exhibition, showing the creative ways local community groups have responded to lockdown.