All the dirt, news, culture and commentary for Oklahoma's second century.

'Toynbee Tile' mystery endures

Jon Foy
Toynbee Tile obsessive Justin Duerr is perplexed about the origins of these mysterious tiles.
Fertile Ground Compost Service
Help support Red Dirt Report

OKLAHOMA CITY – In 2004, while walking down a busy sidewalk
in downtown Chicago, I reached a crosswalk and began walking across the street.
It was then that I glanced down and saw it – a Toynbee Tile. I had read a
little bit about these Toynbee Tiles, the strange markers mysteriously stuck in
the asphalt of streets around urban America.They usually said something along
the lines of: “Toynbee Idea: In Kubrick’s
2001 Resurrect Dead on Planet Jupiter

Resurrect dead? Bizarre, but interesting.

As a fan of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, as well as being a bit of sci-fi geek with
an interest in the parapolitical and conspiracies of all kinds, these strange
tiles captured my attention. And then, that hot summer day in downtown Chicago,
I actually find one. It was a very exciting moment. And while I took a picture
of it, I can’t seem to find it. And anyway, the City of Chicago considers the
Toynbee Tiles to be vandalism and many are paved over anyway.

But this phenomenon, regardless of the efforts of street
maintenance crews in cities around the nation, has continued. And one man, Justin
Duerr, was so captivated by the Toynbee Tile mystery that he made an 85-minute
documentary about this urban mystery titled Resurrect
Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles
directed by Jon Foy (click here to
view the trailer).

Most of the tiles seem centered in Philadelphia, Pa. and
then further out into other American cities. Amazingly, Toynbee Tiles have even
been found in South American cities like Buenos Aires, Argentina.

And the name Toynbee? It is named after British historian and thinker Arnold J. Toynbee who wrote the 12-volume A Study of History, reportedly the largest English-language work ever published. Some think the tile-maker is referencing a Ray Bradbury story called "The Toynbee Convector." It's a bit of a mystery.

Anyway, people are talking about the Toynbee Tile mystery now more than ever. In late December, the Oklahoma
noted that Foy’s documentary would be aired at the Oklahoma City
Museum of Art. I missed it and will have to wait for another opportunity to see
it. Oh, and are any tiles in Oklahoma City? Not that I've seen. They are seen in St. Louis, however.

As for Duerr and Foy, well, I came across a decent interview with director Jon
Foy, linked at

As for the information in the Toynbee Tiles (and the copycat House of Hades tiles), well, it's interesting. While the documentary speculates who is (was) behind the tiles and what the messages possibly mean, I have wondered about it myself. In the sequel to Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, 1984's 2010: The Year We Make Contact (the film that inspired me to seek out Arthur C. Clarke's work and ultimately turn to writing as an expression of creativity) Jupiter is seen imploding and being "reborn" as a star, called Lucifer.

And then there is another idea ... that the writings of John Jacob Astor IV, the wealthy American capitalist who died in the sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912, is somehow connected. Astor wrote a book in 1894 titled A Journey In Other Worlds: A Romance of the Future, a science-fiction adventure about travelers going to Jupiter and Saturn. Jupiter, according to Astor's imagination, is a "lost world" of amazing animal life and more. As for Saturn, it sounds more like what the tile-makers are talking about - it is where Astor's explorers encounter "disembodied spirits, who reveal secrets of nature and the afterlife," according to a write-up on the novella by the Skulls in the Stars blog. Resurrection on Jupiter? Spirits on Saturn? Similar ideas and philosophies?

Interestingly, while researching John Jacob Astor and the Astor family this past weekend, in connection to the Titanic disaster and this Astor-penned sci-fi story, I watched a great English costume drama, currently airing on PBS called Downton Abbey. Incredibly, right after studying the Astor family, the first episode of Downton Abbey addresses the Titanic disaster and the loss of John Jacob Astor IV. Coincidence? Synchronicity? Regardless, everything is seeming to be more and more connected with each passing day.

Copyright 2012 West
Marie Media

Enjoy this? Please share it!

About the Author

Andrew W. Griffin

Editor & Owner.

Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

read more

Enjoy this? Please share it!

About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

Member of the Oklahoma Press Association
Member of Investigative Reporters & Editors
Member of Diversity Business Association
Member of Uptown 23rd
Rotary Club of Bricktown OKC
Keep it Local OK