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Strange “Toynbee tiles” appear embedded in streets and sidewalks around the world

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The mysterious Toynbee Tiles

Since the 1980’s, hundreds of mysterious “Toynbee tiles” have been found as far west as Kansas City, Missouri and as far east as Boston, Massachusetts.  Verified reports of the Toynbee tiles have come from at least twenty-five cities around the world.  Intricately patterned, they’ve been found laid in the sidewalks, in the middle of highways, and on highway on and off ramps.  The tiles, about the size of a license plate, and their disturbing messages have proven to have a powerful allure, with several theories developed about their origin and meaning. The tiles all bear the following mysterious message (or some minor variant thereof):

TOYNBEE IDEA
IN MOVIE 2001
RESURRECT DEAD
ON PLANET JUPITER

The Toynbee Tile history

Toynbee tile at the intersection of Broad Street and Chestnut Street in Philadelphia

Solid proof of the first Toynbee Tile goes back to the late 1980’s when the first photographic evidence of a Toynbee tile was discovered but earlier, in 1983, the Philadelphia Inquirer published a story that referenced a Philadelphia-based campaign to “resurrect the dead on the planet Jupiter”.  Although the story did not specifically mention the mysterious tiles, the premise of the story bears a striking similarity to the message on the enigmatic tiles.

Prior to 2001, the tiles were intricately patterned, colorful, and often contain ancillary (but still cryptic) messages.  From a period spanning 2001 through 2007, the tiles design changed and became less colorful and “simpler”, typically with no other message other than the “resurrection” plea.  After 2007, the tiles returned to their original “look and feel” and complex structure.

The Toynbee tiles have been found embedded in streets and sidewalks all over the world including one found embedded in the street only a block from the Whitehouse.  There are 150 documented “old-style” tiles (early tiles whose appearance was more artistic) dating from 1985-2001 that have appeared in 25 cities in the United States and South America and more than 300 documented “new-style” tiles that have appeared in or near Philadelphia as well as other places around the nearby area (since 2002, only one verified Toynbee tile has appeared more than about two hours outside of Philly).  There are estimated to be thousands of “copycat” tiles located around the world.

How it is believed the Toynbee tiles are created

Closeup of new Toynbee tile before letters are exposed

As with the Toynbee message itself, how the tiles are created is a bit of a mystery.  The tiles seem to be made of a clay-like substance, but it is believed that they are constructed from linoleum.

A man who claimed to have found a recently deployed tile, noted that it was wrapped in tar paper and placed on a busy street in the morning, before the pavement had warmed up. A 2011 documentary about the strange tiles, Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles, explained one theory of how the tiles are installed:

“It is believed that first, a message is carved on a piece of flexible linoleum. Two pieces of tar paper are used to cover the linoleum, like bread covering the filling of a sandwich. The linoleum is smothered with Elmer’s glue and asphalt crack filler. The whole concoction is then laid down in the asphalt of an intersection while concealed by the tar paper. The tile is then “baked” into the ground by the sun’s heat, which liquefies the asphalt ever so slightly. Pressure from car and foot traffic further impress the tile into the ground. By the time the top layer of tar paper is worn off, the tile will have become deeply embedded and will be impossible to remove without fully repaving the street.”

If you think of a Toynbee Tile as a layered sandwich, the layers would be:

  1. Road surface
  2. Dried liquid asphalt crack filler
  3. Tar paper
  4. Asphalt crack filler
  5. The tile proper (linoleum or vinyl composition tile) glued with waterproof wood glue and/or asphalt filler
  6. Tarpaper (Sometimes another layer of glue and tar paper)

It is theorized that a floorboard-less car is used to lay the tiles that are found in the middle of busy highways and city streets.

The Toynbee Tile message

Philly 16th. Chestnut 1997 The maifesto tile. Paved over in 1998.

The tiles typically contain the message “Toynbee idea in movie 2001 Resurrect dead on planet Jupiter” but many contain slight variants of the message, such as the word “resurrect’ replaced with the word “raise”.  Many of the tiles contain smaller, more detailed messages located at the top or bottom of the tile.  For instance, one Toynbee tile found in New York City contains this message at the bottom: “Every concept of past 500 years doesn’t exist in Christian heaven. They only exist in Christian hell”.

One tile, dubbed the “Manifesto Tile”, even contained about a page’s worth of text.  Located in Philadelphia on 16th and Chestnut, this tile was discovered in 1997, was about 2 1/2 to 3 feet tall, and contained an unusually long message but no less bizarre.  Tragically it was paved over in 2001.  The message on the Toynbee Manifesto Tile read as follows:

JOHN KNIGHT, OWNER OF “THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER” – HELLION JEW – WHOSE HATED THIS MOVEMENTS GUTS – FOR YEARS – TAKES MONEY FROM THE MAFIA TO MAKE THE MAFIA LOOK GOOD IN HIS NEWSPAPERS SO HE HAS THE MAFIA IN HIS BACK POCKET.

JOHN KNIGHT SENT THE MAFIA TO MURDER ME IN MAY 1991. (unreadable…..) JOURNALIST ALL OF THEM GLOATED TO MY FACE ABOUT MY DEATH AND KNIGHT-RIDDERS GREAT POWER TO DESTROY. IN FACT JOHN KNIGHT WENT INTO HELLION BINGE OF JOY OVER KNIGHT-RIDDERS GREAT POWER TO DESTROY. I SECURED HOUSE WITH BLAST DOORS AND FLED THE COUNTRY IN JUNE 1991. N.B.C. ATTORNEYS, JOURNALISTS AND SECURITY OFFICIALS AT ROCKERFELLER CENTER FRADULAENTLY …..(unreadable)….. UNDER THE “FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT” ALL…. ORDERS OF N.B.C. EXECUTIVES GOT THE U.S. FEDERAL DISTRICT ATTORNEYS OFFICE AND GOT THE F.B.I. TO GET INTERPOL TO ESTABLISH TASK FORCE THAT LOCATED ME IN DOVER ENGLAND.

WHEN BACK HOME INQUIRER GOT UNION GOONS FROM THEIR OWN EMPLOYEES UNION TO SEND DOWN A “SPORTS JOURNALIST” -WHO – WITH BASEBALL BAT BASHED IN LIGHTS AND WINDOWS OF NEIGHBORHOOD CARS – AS WELL AS MEN OUTSIDE MY HOUSE. THEY ARE STATIONED THERE STILL. WAITING FOR ME. N.B.C., C.B.S., GROUP “W” WESTINGHOUSE. TIME. TIME-WARNER. FOX. UNIVERSAL – ALL OF THE “CULT OF THE HELLION” EACH WERE MUCH WORSE THAN KNIGHT RIDDER EVER WAS. (MOSTLY HELLION JEWS). WHEN K.Y.W. AND N.B.C. EXECUTIVES TOLD JOHN KNIGHT THE WHOLE COVEN GLOATED ON HOW THEIR SOVIET PALS HAD FOUND A WAY TO TURN IT INTO A…..

Arnold J. Toynbee and Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey

The enigmatic messages and their bizarre, sometimes seemingly impossible placement, make the true meaning of the tiles elusive but we can at least decipher some of their gist.  “Toynbee” likely refers to Arnold J. Toynbee, a 20th century British historian and philosopher. Toynbee wrote extensively on numerous subjects but was most interested in the philosophies of culture and history, and particularly questions surrounding the success and failure of individual human civilizations.

The phrase “movie 2001” certainly refers to Stanley Kubrick’s classic 2001: A Space Odyssey movie which was based on a short story, The Sentinel, written by sci-fi guru Arthur C. Clarke (1917–2008). In the movie, Kubrick and Clarke crafted a dense, ambiguous, and metaphor-laden screenplay that gave rise to a host of interpretations. The first and last half-hours of the film are practically devoid of dialog and confused audiences and critics at first.  Still, the film has remained a cult favorite with fans.  But how Toynbee, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the colonization of the dead on the planet Jupiter relate to each other is up to anyone’s interpretation.

Who’s laying the Toynbee Tiles?

When news of the Toynbee Tiles began to spread, Philadelphians recalled a man identifying himself as James Morasco contacting radio talk shows and newspapers with his theory of colonizing Jupiter with the dead inhabitants of Earth, claiming to have come across the idea while reading a book by historian Arnold Toynbee. In one conversation with The Philadelphia Inquirer, Morasco discussed how Toynbee’s book contained a theory on bringing dead molecules back to life and that this was later depicted in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. Morasco’s thoughts seemed eerily aligned with the messages revealed in the Toynbee Tiles.

In 1996, Kansas City Star editor Doug Worgul attempted to track down the creator of the Toynbee Tiles. He contacted the only “James Morasco” listed in the phone book. A woman answered the phone and told him her husband had died in March 2003 at the age of 88. An old man creating ornate tiles and laying them in the middle of a street did not ring true. Someone was masquerading as “James Morasco”.

Eventually, the name Severino Sevy Verna came up. Verna’s Philadelphia neighbors say he was reclusive and drove about in a car without a passenger seat. Ham radio enthusiasts recall Verna broadcasting a similar Toynbee message vis short wave radio (under an organization named Minotiry Association). In fact, one listener had written to their PO box requesting more information. Here is what he received:

When the documentary makers of Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles investigated Verna, they found the streets surrounding his home were littrered with small “prototype” tiles that the filmers believe were test runs. Indeed, the placement of Toynbee Tiles does seem to center around Philadelphia.

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Most people believe that the tiles are likely being laid by someone with mental problems or social issues.  It is unlikely that anyone would spend so much time and effort laying the tiles around the world as a “hoax” or to confuse the public.  It’s obvious that whoever is laying the mysterious tiles is attempting to warn the world of something.  We just don’t know what.

Additional information

Message posted on an online forum about a weird radio caller

I’m afraid I can’t offer any proof for what I am about to write. All I can say is this is my first hand account of how and when I first heard the “resurrect the dead on Jupiter” theory. I heard a man call in to Larry King’s radio program advocating the theory at least twice back in the early 1980’s.

My hitch in the military ended in 1980, and I started college at the start of 1981. In July of 1981 I moved into a ratbag duplex just off campus. During my stay there, from July 81 to January 85, I was in the habit of listening to King’s radio show nightly as a way to fall asleep. King usually had an hour or so of open line calls after his guest interview segment concluded. On at least two separate occasions, possibly three, I heard a caller get through to discuss the Toynbee theory, although I can’t recall if the name “Toynbee” was specifically mentioned. I do specifically recall Kubric (sic) being mentioned and the need to resurrect the dead on Jupiter.

I remember these calls after all these years for two reasons. First, I’m a fan of this sort of stuff, and the Toynbee theory was so uniquely bizarre as to get my attention. Second, Larry King is infuriatingly incurious, and rather than let the caller expound on Toynfbee (sic) King wasted little time moving on to the next caller, leaving me cursing King in the darkness of my room. I can’t recall the approximate dates of the calls but I can say with certainty they occurred during the time I lived in that duplex, between 7/81 and 1/85, and that more than one call took place. However, my recollection is that at least one of the calls was placed prior to 4/83.

I did not hear of Toynbee again until running across an Internet article about the tiles sometime in the 90’s. That was the first I had heard about the tiles but I instantly recognized the theory they propounded as the same I had heard on King’s show. I have been totally unaware of Mamet’s play or this movie until this morning when I ran across an online review. That review led me to Google, and hence my joining this message board.

So that is my story, as unsubstantiated as it is. I hope that if you are still searching for tapes of those calls that you don’t focus exclusively on 1980. I am disinclined to believe Mamet is the origin of this phenomena based upon my personal recollections, finding it more likely he, too, either heard the King calls directly or heard of them second hand.

I don’t want to give the impression that I heard a call around March/April of 1983. I reference that time because it marked a transition in my personal circumstances, particularly going from night shift to day shift work, that affected the frequency with which I was able to listen to the late night open line segment of King’s show. So I have a high degree of confidence of having heard one of the calls in the 7/81 – 4/83 window. Beyond that I’m pretty useless.

Philadelphia Inquirer short article recounting Clark DeLeon’s interview with “James Morasco”.

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 on Earth who had ever died back to life and then changing Jupiter’s atmosphere to allow them to live. Is it 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, whose 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 said 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.

Documentary Resurrect Dead The mystery of the Toynbee Tiles (2011)

Toynbee Tile picture gallery – a collection of Toynbee Tiles from around the country

Below is a pictorial gallery of some of the more interesting Toynbee tiles.

  • Closeup of new Toynbee tile before letters are exposed
  • Fresh new Toynbee Tile
  • Toynbee Tile intersection of Duane and Greenwich Streets, Manhattan
  • Toynbee tile at 2nd St and 2nd Ave in New York City
  • Toynbee tile - One Man Versus American Media In Society 2017 - Time's Up
  • House of Hades Toynbee tile at 12th and 4th Ave in New York City
  • House of Hades Toynbee tile at 20th and 6th Ave in New York City
  • House of Hades Toynbee tile at 24th and 4th Ave in New York City
  • House of Hades Toynbee tile at 26th and 6th Ave in New York City
  • Toynbee tile at the intersection of H and 4th Streets NW in Washington, D.C.
  • House of Hades Toynbee tile at Bond and Bowery in New York City
  • House of Hades Toynbee tile at Bond and Broadway in New York City
  • Toynbee tile found in St. Louis, MO
  • Toynbee tile at 24th and 3rd Ave in New York City
  • A fresh, authentic Toynbee tile located at 38th and 5th Ave in New York City
  • Toynbee Tile near corner of W 43 and Fifth Ave February 24 2019 at 12:44 PM after a light rain
  •  Toynbee tile located in the crosswalk at the intersection of 13th and Market Street in Philadelphia
  • Toynbee Tile in the middle of the crosswalk of West 26th Street and 10th Avenue in Manhattan, New York
  • 1024px Toynbee StLouis2 1
  • Toynbee tile found in St. Louis, MO
  •  A Toynbee tile in New York city, 2013
  • Toynbee tile at the intersection of Broad Street and Chestnut Street in Philadelphia
  • Toynbee tile at the intersection of Broad Street and Chestnut Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Toynbee tile at the intersection of Broad Street and Walnut Street in en:Philadelphia

Image Credits

Closeup of new Toynbee tile before letters are exposed via Reddit with usage type - Fair use with modification
Fresh new Toynbee Tile via Reddit with usage type - Fair use (low res)
Toynbee Tile intersection of Duane and Greenwich Streets, Manhattan via Wikimedia Commons by Paul Sablema with usage type - Creative Commons License. August 21, 2016
Toynbee tile at 2nd St and 2nd Ave in New York City via Wikimedia Commons by MusikAnimal with usage type - Creative Commons License. September 2, 2012
Toynbee tile - One Man Versus American Media In Society 2017 - Time's Up via Wikimedia Commons by Paul Sableman with usage type - Creative Commons License. October 8, 2017
House of Hades Toynbee tile at 12th and 4th Ave in New York City via Wikimedia Commons by MusikAnimal with usage type - Creative Commons License. December 25, 2013
House of Hades Toynbee tile at 20th and 6th Ave in New York City via Wikimedia Commons by MusikAnimal with usage type - Creative Commons License. November 16, 2013
House of Hades Toynbee tile at 24th and 4th Ave in New York City via Wikimedia Commons by MusikAnimal with usage type - Creative Commons License. September 2, 2012
House of Hades Toynbee tile at 26th and 6th Ave in New York City via Wikimedia Commons by MusikAnimal with usage type - Creative Commons License. September 2, 2012
Toynbee tile at the intersection of H and 4th Streets NW in Washington, D.C. via Wikimedia Commons by evrik with usage type - Creative Commons License. December 10, 2014
House of Hades Toynbee tile at Bond and Bowery in New York City via Wikimedia Commons by MusikAnimal with usage type - Creative Commons License. December 25, 2013
House of Hades Toynbee tile at Bond and Broadway in New York City via Wikimedia Commons by MusikAnimal with usage type - Creative Commons License. December 25, 2013
Toynbee tile found in St. Louis, MO via Wikimedia Commons with usage type - GNU Free. April 8, 2008
Toynbee tile at 24th and 3rd Ave in New York City via Wikimedia Commons by MusikAnimal with usage type - Creative Commons License. September 2, 2012
A fresh, authentic Toynbee tile located at 38th and 5th Ave in New York City via Wikimedia Commons by MusikAnimal with usage type - Creative Commons License. December 27, 2013
Toynbee Tile near corner of W 43 and Fifth Ave February 24 2019 at 12:44 PM after a light rain via Wikimedia Commons with usage type - Creative Commons License. February 24, 2019
Toynbee tile located in the crosswalk at the intersection of 13th and Market Street in Philadelphia via Wikimedia Commons by Zuzu with usage type - Creative Commons License. July 1, 2008
Toynbee Tile in the middle of the crosswalk of West 26th Street and 10th Avenue in Manhattan, New York via Wikimedia Commons by Qtaa with usage type - Creative Commons License. November 14, 2020
Toynbee tile found in St. Louis, MO via Wikimedia Commons with usage type - GNU Free. April 8, 2008
A Toynbee tile in New York city, 2013 via Wikimedia Commons with usage type - Creative Commons License. November 22, 2013
Toynbee tile at the intersection of Broad Street and Chestnut Street in Philadelphia via Wikimedia Commons by Spikebrennan with usage type - Creative Commons License. July 22, 2007
Toynbee tile at the intersection of Broad Street and Chestnut Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania via Wikimedia Commons by Spikebrennan with usage type - Creative Commons License. July 22, 2007
Toynbee tile at the intersection of Broad Street and Walnut Street in en:Philadelphia via Wikimedia Commons by Spikebrennan with usage type - Creative Commons License. July 22, 2007

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