Thursday, August 1, 2013

Coral Castle

It's one of Florida's most famous so-called "paranormal" sites: Coral Castle is a park consisting of various stone structure, created by Edward Leedskalnin in Homestead, Florida. The megalithic stones (limestone formed from coral) employed by Leedskalnin each weigh several tons, yet he somehow managed to build this elaborate place single-handedly.

How did he do it? Leedskalnin claimed to have discovered the secrets the Egyptians used to build the pyramids, hinting at times that that involved magnetism, and at other times simply stating he "understood the laws of weight and leverage well." There's an old story that teenagers claim to have seen Leedskalnin make the giant stones float in the air with his supernatural abilities, and a cult following similar to Nikola Tesla's has gradually built up among people convinced Leedskalnin somehow defied the laws of physics by building this place. Honestly, though, for a man reputed to have magical powers and/or super-scientific knowledge, his walled-off rock garden is really rather unambitious. If he had the same technology as the people who built the pyramids, why the heck didn't he build a pyramid? And a man named Wally Wallington has demonstrated how it's possible to move and raise huge stones in the manner of Coral Castle and Stonehenge with a little clever application of levers and fulcrums - no complicated secret theory of reverse magnetism needed.

But why did he do it? Well, he was a stonemason back in the old country (Latvia, if you want to go all the way back, which we won't) so he already had some engineering skills and may well just have been bored after finding himself stuck in Florida with the Baltic blues again. Like fellow Euro transplant Count Carl Von Cosel, Leedskalnin was obsessed with a woman - allegedly her name was Agnes Scuffs, but a Latvian chronicler says her name was actually Hermine Lusis. Whatever her name, Leedskalnin himself simply called her "Sweet Sixteen" most of the time and often told the story of how his sixteen-year-old fiancee jilted him the day before their wedding and that he built Coral Castle (Rock Gate Park, he actually called it) in her honor.

Leedskalnin died in 1951 but his park is still a popular tourist attraction today. One of my favorite Billy Idol songs, "Sweet Sixteen", was recorded about Leedskalnin, his lost love, and his wacky accomplishments.

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