Florida's Haunted History
Secret Energy Haunts Coral Castle By Michelle Delio Dec. 02, 2003
HOMESTEAD, Florida -- This morning I shoved a nine-ton block of coral out of my way with just the slightest push of my pinky. As much as I'd like to think my recent visit to the Fountain of Youth had some wonderful superhero-style effect, the credit actually has to go to eccentric genius Edward Leedskalnin, builder of the mysterious Coral Castle. The massive coral slab door at the entrance to the castle is so perfectly engineered that it can be swung open with just a light, one-finger push. The entire castle complex, which looks like a combination fortress and ancient temple, was constructed of huge coral blocks, many of which exceed five tons. Leedskalnin built the castle and everything in it by himself over 26 years -- using tools he made from scavenged junkyard parts.
Leedskalnin was no burly giant of a man. He stood 5 feet tall and weighed around 100 pounds, according to Coral Castle guide Ray Ramirez, who has spent the past two decades trying to figure out just how Leedskalnin managed to pull off this engineering feat. "Ed is a marvel and a mystery to me," said Ramirez. "But piece by piece I am putting together his puzzle. Someday I will know all his secrets." There are many rumors but no concrete details on how Leedskalnin managed to build his bizarre and beautiful masterpiece. He worked only after the sun had gone down, refusing to allow anyone to ever see how he shaped, moved and placed the enormous blocks. Not only do we not know how Leedskalnin managed to build the castle, but we aren't even sure why he did it.
The official story, as told by Leedskalnin, is that he was rebuffed by his young sweetheart. When his beloved, Agnes Scuffs, refused to marry him, Leedskalnin salved his wounds by building the castle as a tribute to her and the life they might have had together. The unofficial story, as also told by Leedskalnin (though not at all as widely as his tale of unrequited love), is that the castle was built as a temple to the Egyptian gods, constructed using the same techniques the ancient Egyptians used to build pyramids.
Visitors to the castle are left to decide for themselves what motivated Leedskalnin. But it's easy to see that the items he created as a tribute to his "lost love" -- the beds, the heart-shaped table and the rocking chairs -- are far less carefully and lovingly crafted than the castle's shrines, occult and planetary symbols, and astronomical observatory. Pride of place in the castle complex is given to a wonderful 30-ton lensless "telescope" that soars 25 feet above the castle walls. The telescope is perfectly aligned to the North Star, and on the first day of winter, sunlight pours directly through the scope's aperture, according to Ramirez. Leedskalnin also crafted a sundial that tells the time within two minutes of accuracy. This solar clock stands directly across from a water pool carved from a huge slab of coral, with coral crescent moons on each side of the basin. The crescents represent the waxing and waning lunar cycles; the circular pool represents the full moon. Leedskalnin opened the castle to visitors after he completed it, charging a quarter for a tour if and when he was in the mood to socialize. Ramirez said that Leedskalnin, who lived on the grounds of the castle, was a very friendly man who just preferred to be left alone most of the time. "People around here called him the 'little guy,'" recalled Ramirez. "The only time he ever asked for help was when he hauled the whole castle 10 miles up the road from Florida City in 1936." Moving the nearly completed castle, after Leedskalnin had heard rumors that developers planned to build a subdivision close to the castle's original site, should have been a hellish job. Instead, Leedskalnin evidently simply dismantled his castle and placed the blocks on a makeshift flatbed truck chassis, which then was pulled to the new site by a tractor he'd hired. The tractor's driver was not allowed to help or even watch Leedskalnin move the blocks, but instead showed up for work every morning to find the truck already loaded with several tons of coral.
Ramirez, who is a skilled dowser -- that is, someone who uses wooden and metal rods and pendulums to locate sources of water, oil and lost objects -- has his own ideas about how Leedskalnin managed to move the huge blocks. Dowsers also can detect unusual energy flows, explained Ramirez. Using metal dowsing rods made of bent coat hangers and PVC tubing, Ramirez said he has located some very odd energy "vortexes" within the boundaries of the castle. "I believe Ed discovered a way to move massive blocks of coral by taking advantage of the magnetic powers of the Earth," said Ramirez. "The Earth is surrounded by an invisible web of energy that is concentrated at certain spots. At these spots energy flows freely and people are much stronger than they would be elsewhere." I'll reserve judgment on the efficacy of energy forces as an engineering tool pending more research, but I have to admit that all the little creaky aches and pains I'd developed from long hours of sitting in the car didn't bother me at all inside the castle walls and returned as soon as I left the grounds. Ramirez, 67, also said he feels energized when he's inside the castle. But while the rejuvenating effects of the castle interest him, he's focused on discovering how Leedskalnin used energy to move those multi-ton coral slabs. Leedskalnin left behind little in the way of documentation when he died in 1951 of stomach cancer. He did write a series of pamphlets on his experiments in magnetic forces and electricity, which can be obtained from the castle's gift shop. Much mysterious activity is suggested in the pamphlets, but little is detailed. But there's no question that Leedskalnin, who had only a fourth-grade education, was an outstanding engineer. Hurricane Andrew devastated much of the surrounding area in 1992, but the castle wasn't affected by the fierce storm at all. And recently, when the huge back gate became stuck in an open position, a crew of six workers struggled for almost two days to remove and reseat the gate using a mechanized winch and crane, Ramirez said. Leedskalnin managed to do that on his own 60 years ago, using only handmade tools.
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