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Toynbee Tiles Mystery

In December of 2006, Jodi and I went to St. Louis to see her sister graduate college. While we were there we decided to walk to the mall to get something to eat. It turned out to be miles away, but since I already blogged about that arduous journey I'll refrain from any further description.

However, during the trek we came across an awesome discovery. Okay, it wasn't awesome to anyone but me, but I was definitely in awe. The discovery was a pair of tiles embedded in the asphalt on opposite sides of a busy downtown intersection. To most people the tiles are nothing more than some sort of strange graffiti. But, to me and thousands of other PBS watchers it was a captivating sight.

There is a lot of theories surrounding the mysterious tiles. They all show up overnight. No one has ever witnessed the tiles being made and no one has ever taken credit for them and yet there are over 130 documented sightings all found in major cities in the United States and several in South American countries. They vary in size and are all clearly handmade, but the material used and the style of the main message is always the same. Some of these tiles have more to the message located just around the main tile just as the pictures I took show. Some however don't have any more to say than the main message.

Of the main message it is said that Toynbee is referring to the Universal Historian Arnold J. Toynbee who had some unpopular views of the rise and fall of civilizations. The "movie 2001" is referring to Stanley Kubrick's movie 2001: A Space Odyssey which was a science fiction movie based on a civilization in trouble and time travel. Some tiles substitute Kubrick for movie. Others have suggested (and I agree) that the Toynbee mentioned is less about the actual person Toynbee and more about the Ray Bradbury science fiction novel The Toynbee Convection.

Bradbury's story was about a man who claimed to have gone to the future in a time traveling machine that he created. The man brought back a video and some other materials about the future that depicted a Utopian lifestyle. He finally convinced everyone that it was true and people began taking action striving to obtain this promised future. Years later society had successfully created this lifestyle and the man on his death bed explains that he had made it all up and faked the video and that he knew that society had it in them to create the new world but only needed a push and the lofty vision to achieve it. It was explained in the book that when given a lofty, almost impossible goal society will find a way to achieve it as long as they believe that it can be done.

This would explain the last part of these tiles. "Resurrect dead on Planet Jupiter" is an impossible goal especially since Jupiter is only gas and has no ground to stand on much less resurrect dead on. So, the term "on" Planet Jupiter makes no sense in itself.

The extra messages added to the main message always rant about the media, the mafia, the USSR, and various United States government agencies. I can make out some of what the one we found says: "Under F.O.I.A.(Freedom of Information Act), NBC journalists funneled information on me to Soviets...". Whoever made these tiles was pretty out there, but the creativity required and obvious dedication to the legacy is very intriguing despite the paranoid theme. There are several articles and YouTube videos as well as a few websites dedicated to the tracking of these tiles. You should check them out.


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