Amazing Places

Coral Castle Is the Stonehenge of Florida, and It Was Built by One Guy

The next time you're in Homestead, Florida, you might want to check on their bonafide miracle. Seriously. Get yourself to the Coral Castle. Stand in front of the enormous gate. Look through the stone telescope. Gaze up, up, up at the tower of solid stone. Then wrap your mind around the fact that it was all built through the efforts of one person. You'll even hear whispers that his secret weapons were mystical magnets, Earth energies, and good old-fashioned telekinesis.

Built on a Broken Heart

To be perfectly frank, Edward Leedskalnin, the king of the Coral Castle, wasn't the most emotionally stable of men. The story of the castle starts long before any stones were pulled out of the ground in a place an entire ocean away from Florida. In 1913, five years before he started his castle, Leedskalnin was just your average 26-year-old Latvian guy, looking forward to marrying his sweetheart Agnes Scuffs. There were just two problems. The first was that Agnes was all of 16 years old — which probably was not a problem for Ed, although it would be to modern-day authorities — and the second was that she called off the wedding the day before it was scheduled to take place.

You won't find a lot of information about Scuffs these days, and even less that isn't filtered through the story that Leedskalnin told again and again over the years. In most versions of the story, Agnes called off the engagement precisely because she felt Ed was too old for her, not to mention the fact that some of his behavior bordered on grandiose and obsessive. For example, after being dumped by a teenager, he decided to spend the rest of his life in a hand-built castle dedicated to her. To be perfectly honest, we see where she was coming from.

A Love That Moves Boulders

Leedskalnin sounds like he was more than a little creepy. But at least he was the type of creep who was willing to buckle down and get some work done. Between 1923 and 1950, he carved more than 1,100 tons of oolitic limestone by hand, then transported it piece by piece and erected it without using any more complex machinery than his pickup truck and without any hired help at all. That's a big part of the mythos, and the legends of how he managed this incredible feat have begun to overshadow the reality of his truly impressive accomplishment.

Because he worked alone, and usually at night, Leedskalnin's castle seemed to spring up by magic. And the way that he talked about it drove that point home. He claimed that he had discovered many things that made the task supernaturally easy — how the Egyptians moved massive blocks of stone using magnetic energy, how to build a device he called a "perpetual motion holder," and according to many versions of the story, how to skip all that and go straight for levitating rocks with his mind.

A Rock-Solid Explanation

You may not be surprised to learn that we aren't especially convinced by the ESP/magnetic-energy story. That's not the only thing that's fishy about the whole thing. There's also the name. Coral Castle isn't really a castle; it's more of a courtyard and statuary with a tower towards the center. More significantly, it's not made of coral at all. As we mentioned before, it was made from oolitic limestone, which has two notable features: First, it's full of fossils, including coral fossils that gave the castle its name, and second — and most important — it's full of holes, making it a lot lighter than denser stones.

That's not to say that moving all that stone was easy — just that 1,100 tons of oolitic limestone is a lot more stone than 1,100 tons of regular limestone. But Leedskalnin almost definitely didn't use telekinesis. According to Orval Irwin, a building contractor and one of Leedskalnin's few close friends, the Latvian immigrant really did it all using the principles of simple machines and his own tireless work ethic. That's backed up by the museum at the site of the castle today — sure, they may play coy with the exact methods that Leedskalnin employed, but the tools that they display are all of the rope-and-pulley variety. So did Leedskalnin unlock the ancient Egyptian art of hovering stones? There's no way to answer that for certain, but we're banking on probably not.

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Edward Leedskalnin's Coral Castle

Written by Reuben Westmaas July 26, 2018

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