Mystery on South Street
If this image looks familiar to you, then you may know of the history of the mysterious Toynbee Tiles. I'd heard about them some time ago thanks to a story on NPR, but I had never actually seen one. Today though as my girlfriend and I were out and about on South Street in Philly before the Camera Obscura concert, I happened to look down and saw one as we were crossing the street.
These tiles started appearing nearly thirty years ago in Philadelphia, but have since been reported all over the world. Initially the tile was about the size of a license plate, but the one we saw today for example was only maybe two inches in height by four inches in length. But as intriguing as the geographical placements and differences in size and materials may be, the real mystery lies in the basic inscription that has been a part of each tile since their first appearance in Philadelphia all those years ago.
The tile's meaning has been theorized by connecting the references made in the tile. It is believed "Toynbee" refers to Arnold J. Toynbee, a famous 19th century English religious historian and of course "Kubrick's 2001" refers to 2001: A Space Odyssey, co-written and directed by the late great filmmaker Stanley Kubrick. Wondering what's the intersection though between the works of Toynbee and Kubrick? Toynbee's writings spoke of a man named Zoroaster who conceived the idea of monotheism. Looking at the musical score to 2001: A Space Odyssey its theme song is curiously entitled "Thus Spoke Zoroaster." But what of the "Resurrect dead on planet Jupiter" business? Well, around the time the tiles first showed up writer David Mamet published the one-act play 4 AM, which depicted an odd interaction between a radio host and a strange caller who wants to talk about a plan to resurrect the dead on Jupiter.
While Mamet has always claimed he invented this caller, in 1983, a real caller identifying himself as James Morasco, a Philadelphia city social worker, rang Clark DeLeon at The Philadelphia Inquirer. DeLeon then published his remarks of that exchange.
Wanna run that one by me again?
By Clark DeLeon
Call me skeptical, but I had a hard time buying James Morasco's concept that the planet Jupiter would be colonized by bringing all the people of Earth who had ever died back to life and then changing Jupiter's atmosphere to allow them to live. Is this just me, or does that strike you as hard to swallow too? Morasco says he is a social worker in Philadelphia and came across this idea while reading a book by historian Arnold Toynbee, who's theory on bringing dead molecules back to life was depicted in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.
"There are no scientific principles I've found that can make this possible," Morasco said, "especially colonizing the planet Jupiter, which has a very poisonous atmosphere. The possibility of giving that planet an oxygen atmosphere is beyond even science fiction writers' imaginations."
Now that quote may sound as if Morasco doesn't believe it can be done, but that's not true. He thinks that between Toynbee and Stanley Kubrick there is a way to pull it off. That's why he's contacting talk shows and newspapers to spread the message. He's even founded a Jupiter colonization organization called the Minority Association, which he says consists of "Me, Eric, Eric's sister who does the typing, Frank. . ."
You may be hearing more from Morasco. And then again, you may not.
Weird, huh? But trust me, this mystery only gets weirder the more you read on the topic. So if I have piqued your curiosity and you'd like to read more on this, there's a great write up here. I know I've enjoyed mulling it all over in my brain since seeing it earlier today. This concludes my odd little side note of a very entertaining and fun day!