Sunday, December 17, 2017

Thieves targeting 'Toynbee Tiles'

ST. LOUIS — For decades, a bizarre linoleum mosaic embedded in the asphalt at Sixth and Olive streets in downtown St. Louis had people wondering: "What is it?"

The question now: Where is it?

This summer, someone pried up and make off with one of the city's two remaining "Toynbee Tiles."

The tiles, with their cryptic message "Toynbee Idea In Kubrick's 2001 Resurrect Dead On Planet Jupiter," were placed here about 25 years ago.

They first appeared in Philadelphia in the early 1980s. They became an international phenomenon and are now found on the streets of more than two dozen cities in North and South America.

The tiles, about the size of a license plate, have proven to have a powerful allure, generating websites devoted to theories about their origin and meaning.

Last year, the documentary Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles won the directing award at the Sundance Film Festival. It helped popularize the artwork but also may have made them the target of thieves, as Kelley Huonker, of south St. Louis, learned this summer.

Huonker, 30, became fascinated with the tiles after seeing the film. In August, Huonker and a couple of friends came downtown to see the tile at Sixth and Olive. But where the artwork had been, they found only a blank, black square.

A security guard working nearby broke the news: A man had taken the tile a few days earlier.

"(The guard) said he asked the guy what he was doing, and the guy said that a documentary had been made about these things and they're going to be worth a lot of money someday," Huonker said.

"I almost cried. It's terrible that someone would take it away for monetary value and rob the city of something so unique and intriguing."

The creations also were placed in New York, Boston, Washington, Baltimore, Cleveland, Indianapolis and Kansas City. And in Brazil, Argentina and Chile.

They appear to be made of asphalt crack filler, glue and linoleum and covered with tar paper. Heat and pressure from vehicle tires melds the tiles into the asphalt. The message appears as the paper cover disintegrates.

Most of them include references to English historian Arnold J. Toynbee, whose theory on regenerating dead molecules surfaced in Kubrick's film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Some of them contain political rants and demands that others "must make and glue tiles!!"

In recent years, copycats have heeded the call to make more tiles. Several examples placed in St. Louis and other cities bear the ominous message: "House of Hades Tiles Made From the Ground Bones of Dead Journalists."

The largest stock of original Toynbee Tiles, about 100, is in Philadelphia, according to Steve Weinik, one of the researchers and subjects of the Resurrect Dead.

The film details the sleuthing that led to the identity of the recluse, Sevy Verna, who created the tiles and how he managed to safely place them in such dangerous locations as freeways and the entrance to the Holland Tunnel in New York City.

Comments
Prosecutors oppose ex-congresswoman’s fraud sentence appeal

Prosecutors oppose ex-congresswoman’s fraud sentence appeal

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Federal prosecutors are opposing ex-U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown's request to remain free on bond while she appeals her fraud sentence.Acting U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow filed the motion Sunday in U.S. District Court.Sevent...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Why Jon Gruden was the best mistake the Bucs ever made

Why Jon Gruden was the best mistake the Bucs ever made

Warren Sapp pointed to the sky. And then he dropped Kurt Warner to the ground.The Bucs had just intercepted Warner for the fourth time. Sapp’s block cleared the way for Derrick Brooks to cross the goal line and clinch the win.Before Tampa Bay p...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Broadway poised to go ‘Head Over Heels’ for Go-Go’s musical

Broadway poised to go ‘Head Over Heels’ for Go-Go’s musical

Which seems more unlikely: That the Go-Go's have a touring stage musical? That it's produced by Gwyneth Paltrow? Or that it will finally land on Broadway in the 2018-2019 season?Their lips are sealed no longer: All three of those are true. Variety re...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Billy Bragg kept it simple with ‘Levi Stubbs Tears’

Billy Bragg kept it simple with ‘Levi Stubbs Tears’

One last history lesson this week from columnist Kevin Wuench: Next week, English troubadour Billy Bragg turns 60 years old. While we pay tribute to Billy Bragg, he in turn will pay tribute to a great Motown singer with Levi Stubbs Tears.Billy Bragg ...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Israel to probe fatal shooting of Palestinian paraplegic

The Israeli military says it has opened an investigation into the fatal shooting of a paraplegic Palestinian man who was shot in the head during a violent demonstration in the Gaza Strip last week
Updated: 4 minutes ago

Massachusetts marijuana aficionados roll 100-foot-long joint

Massachusetts marijuana aficionados have rolled a 100-foot-long joint.
Updated: 5 minutes ago

Villarreal wins at Celta as Fornals scores his 1st goal

Pablo Fornals scored his first goal for Villarreal which broke a three-game losing streak with a 1-0 victory at Celta Vigo in the Spanish league
Updated: 6 minutes ago
'Celebration of Life' for San Francisco mayor who died at 65

'Celebration of Life' for San Francisco mayor who died at 65

Prominent US Democrats are expected to speak at a public celebration of the life of San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee
Updated: 8 minutes ago
South Africa's ruling ANC party to vote for new leader

South Africa's ruling ANC party to vote for new leader

The vote to choose the next president of South Africa's ruling African National Congress party was set to get underway Sunday evening, after the party officially nominated 2 candidates to lead Nelson Mandela's historic liberation movement
Updated: 11 minutes ago

British woman found dead by side of the road in Lebanon

A Lebanese security official says the body of a woman found on the side of a road east of Beirut has been identified as a British staffer of the embassy here
Updated: 12 minutes ago