For as long as we have been building, we have constructed enigmas.
Built between 3000 BC and 2000 BC, Stonehenge has perplexed archaeologists and scientists for years. Believed to be anything from a tranquil place of healing to a monument for the unification of the peoples of the British island to the landing site of ancient aliens, the mysterious landmark attracts nearly a million tourists every year. Each visitor brings with them their own interpretations, their own theories and, with the passing of time, these theories latch onto one another and produce a secondary structure, a conceptual structure erected in the name of understanding.
Viewed on the other end of history, these ancient sites take on new meaning. We project our modern conceptions onto their weathered surfaces and infuse them with accidental definitions. Our contemporary perspective — wholly foreign to their creators — yearns to make sense of the nonsensical, to put order to a chaos that we cannot possibly organize.
Yet, there exists in this world an overabundance of mysteries. Of these, there are countless whose secrets can be unraveled by modern hands. Only recently, science put to bed the mystery of the “Face on Mars” by creating a three-dimensional composite image from high resolution cameras. Prior to the composite, images of the “face” were interpreted by those who sought to understand it with human faculties and, unsurprisingly, they saw in the images a representation of those faculties: themselves.
On this list, we examine perplexing structures built in modern times. These strange edifices, erected for unknown purposes, offer us a solvable riddle presented to us by contemporaries who thought, felt and acted in a way that we can relate to. While we cannot hope to fully understand their motivations, we can — at least — aim to catch a fleeting glimpse of their reasoning. So, from magnetically levitated boulders to three-story fiberglass horses, we look at five mysterious modern structures.
Edward Leedskalnin was a productive man. By all definitions of the word, he was also an eccentric. A proponent of several fringe theories on magnetism, Leedskalnin produced four pamphlets that explained his theories. In, “Magnetic Current,” he described the formation of matter, “To begin, a meteor rock falls in the sun, the sun dissolves the rock to the final division of matter, the North and South pole individual magnets, and the sunlight then sends them out here.”
It should come as no surprise, then, that Edward Leedskalnin practiced what he preached. Spending 28 years building Coral Castle, he worked in absolute secrecy. Refusing to allow anyone to watch him work, Leedskalnin spoke only of his most important tool, a “perpetual motion holder.” On a number of occasions, local children reported that they had spied on Leedskalnin and witnessed him levitating stones into place.
The castle itself is built out of massive stone blocks, each weighing several tons. With only simple mechanical tools available, nobody is certain how the monument was assembled. Theories abound on how Leedskalnin — a simple, frail man — could position the stones with such precision that the castle’s 9-ton gate could be opened with the slightest push of a finger.
Perched outside CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia is a peculiar monument of copper and stone. Crafted by noted sculptor Jim Sanborn, the sculpture — called Kryptos — is an enigma in four parts. Derived from the Greek word for “hidden,” Kryptos features four similar copper plates etched with four unique cryptograms.
Of the four puzzles, three have been solved. The first reads, in full, “BETWEEN SUBTLE SHADING AND THE ABSENCE OF LIGHT LIES THE NUANCE OF IQLUSION.” The second speaks of “magnetic fields” and a mysterious “it” before providing latitude and longitude coordinates that point 150 feet from the sculpture. The third is a comparatively banal quotation from Howard Carter discussing the opening of King Tut’s tomb.
Amateur cryptologists around the world have struggled in vain for 25 years trying to solve the fourth cipher. Even with hints from Sanborn, little progress has been made. So tempting is the allure of Kryptos that even the NSA and the CIA have — at times — found themselves engaged in lighthearted competitions over its messages, though both agencies are quick to admit that the statue “continue[s] to elude solution.”
The Nazi Bell
Purportedly the derelict remains of one of Nazi Germany’s Wunderwaffen — “miracle weapons” — the legend of Die Glocke has its genesis in the works of Igor Witkowski. According to Witkowski, after World War II, while he was working as the editor of a Polish magazine he was approached by an anonymous intelligence agent. This agent, for undisclosed reasons, allowed him access to interviews with a former high-ranking SS officer.
Though he was forbidden from making copies, Witkowski remembered vividly the officer’s description of Die Glocke. Dubbing it “The Nazi Bell,” Witkowski described Die Glocke as an experimental device fueled by a mysterious fluid referred to as “Xerum 525” which was capable of “vortex compression” and “magnetic field separation.”
By Witkowski’s calculations, Die Glocke is located near the Wenceslas mine. Internet sleuths have gone so far as to point out a structure visible on Google Earth that they claim to be the remnants of the Nazi Bell, though cynics point out that it more closely resembles the framework of an industrial cooling tower.
The Georgia Guidestones
In 1979, a customer using the pseudonym “R. C. Christian” hired Elberton Granite Finishing Company to build a mystery. Following the customer’s exacting guidelines, the company erected the Georgia Guidestones.
Measuring 19 feet tall and weighing in at nearly 120 tons, the Georgia Guidestones are comprised of a central column surrounded by four granite slabs. On each of the slabs — in nine languages — is inscribed an array of instructions that are intended to guide man towards the “Age of Reason.” The Guidestones offer humans advice such as, “Guide reproduction wisely — improving fitness and diversity” and “Prize truth — beauty — love — seeking harmony with the infinite.”
Further confounding the structure’s intended purpose is a collection of seemingly tangential minutiae etched onto a nearby tablet. Explaining the Guidestones’ “Astronomic Features” and “Sponsors,” the tablet mentions a time capsule supposedly buried beneath the monument. With no date listed to indicate when the capsule should be unearthed, speculation amongst conspiracy theorists falls all along the spectrum of sanity from the diabolical seeds of the New World Order to the meddling mathematics of modern Masons.
Denver International Airport
As far as airports go, Denver International Airport is unique. Playing host to a collection of enigmatic paintings, terrifying sculptures and idiosyncratic architectural features, the airport seems utterly unconcerned with providing a soothing environment where weary travelers can unwind after a long flight.
Among the strange decorative decisions is a 32-foot-high fiberglass horse. Reared back on its hindquarters, the horse’s body — blue in color — is mottled with distended, vascular black veins. It is said that the sculpture’s creator, Luis Jiminez, died during its creation and theories have long circulated citing parallels between Denver’s blue horse and the pale horse of the apocalypse.
More nightmarish, though, are the airport’s bizarre murals. Painted by Leo Tanguma, the unifying theme of the murals seems to be unadulterated terror. Depicting children in various states of fear, misery and distress the murals present — in garish, gaudy colors — an almost inverted vision of Frank Baum’s Oz, where fires rage, caged animals cry and a row of mothers — spiraling off into some ghastly infinity — swaddle their lifeless infants.