I’m not even sure how I stumbled upon the mystery of the Toynbee Tiles. I’m fairly certain I’ve never seen one myself. I had never heard of them until the day before this writing.
These tiles can be found embedded in the asphalt of cities from Boston to Kanas City, but the majority of them are clustered in Philadelphia. There’s one right outside the White House. One is in Times Square. And then, oddly enough, you can also find them in Rio de Janiero, Brazil; Santiago, Chile; and Buenos Aires, Argentina. The main message on all of the tiles is the same. “Toynbee Idea. In Kubrick’s 2001. Resurrect Dead. On Planet Jupiter.
Many of the tiles have side texts that vary widely. Some attack American media. Some say the media and the Soviet Union are out to get the tiler. Some are long, paranoid rants that clearly come from someone who is very scared. Some make mention of “Hellion Jews”. One very disturbing one says, “Murder every journalist. I beg you.”
People have been fascinated with this mystery for decades. There was even an award winning documentary made about it in 2011 entitled, Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles, which I watched on Youtube. It was very well done, and unlike most documentaries about mysteries, it actually solves it to my satisfaction. Check it out. You’ll be amazed.
And then, too, you can check out the website, www.toynbeeidea.com and learn about all things Toynbee tile, including how to make them yourself. It’s brilliantly simple. And there’s a map that shows you where all the tiles can be found. It’s really rather fascinating.
I thought this mystery might become one of my many obsessions, but after watching the documentary, I view it in a much different light. I think this is a very artistic, mentally disturbed, reclusive individual who really believes that the dead can be resurrected on Jupiter. He desperately wants to let people know this, but he also desperately wants to be left alone.
Out of respect for him, I won’t even mention his name in this blog post, although it is mentioned in the documentary. I hope he’ll be allowed to tile in peace. At the very least, I find the tiles beautiful in a public art kind of way, and they certainly make you think.
Tile on, man. Tile on.
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