Atlas Obscura on Slate is a blog about the world’s hidden wonders. Like us on Facebook and Tumblr, or follow us on Twitter.
When in need of life guidance, some turn to a higher power. Others turn to Oprah. Still others look to four granite slabs in rural Nuberg, Georgia.
In 1979 a man using the name “R.C. Christian” approached Georgia’s Elberton Granite Finishing Co. with plans to build a monument. He stressed that money was no object and discretion was paramount. The design of the monument incorporated four granite slabs, each almost 20 feet tall, arranged in a cluster and topped with a smaller, horizontal slab. Each of the four vertical stones was to be inscribed with the same 10 precepts for humanity, carved in eight languages.
These guidelines for living ranged from common-sense advice (“Balance personal rights with social duties”) to New Agey maxims (“Prize truth — beauty — love — seeking harmony with the infinite”) to downright impractical instructions, served up with a hint of genocide (“Maintain humanity under 500,000,000”). The placement of the stones was carefully configured to align with solar solstices and equinoxes.
Armed with the detailed blueprints, the Elberton Granite Finishing Co. duly created this mysterious monument and installed it in a field off Highway 77. A granite tablet was placed a few feet from the monument to provide some context for the “Georgia Guidestones,” as they have come to be known. It reads, in part, “Let these be guidestones to an Age of Reason.”
The guidestones opened to the public in March 1980 and immediately became a magnet for conspiracy theorists, particularly those fond of using the phrase “blueprint for a New World Order.” Over the years, visitors to the guidestones have scrawled symbols and commentary on the monument, and, on rare occasions, even made alterations to the design.
In 2009, a 6-inch cube of granite was removed from the top of one of the guidestones. Four years later, police arrested William Jeremy Ellis, having caught him trying to replace that same cube in the middle of the night. He confessed he was the original thief, and explained he stole the chunk of granite for “personal esoteric and numerological reasons.” When apprehended, he was in the process of returning it because he “didn’t want that weight anymore.”
The notch from which the cube was filched remained empty until just this summer, when a new cube marked with letters and numbers appeared in the hole. Speculation over the addition ran rampant, as did numerological analysis of the 8, 16, 20, and 14 that had been carved into the cube’s faces. One online theory name-checked The Simpsons, Ebola, and 9/11 in its analysis of the cube’s meaning.
An anticlimactic explanation came in November, when Michael Massanelli posted an hour-long YouTube video explaining, among various other conspiracy-fueled ramblings, that he had created and installed the new cube to commemorate his wedding date: 8/16/2014.
There is still no definitive explanation for what the Georgia Guidestones mean, who they are meant to instruct, and when the Age of Reason is due to be ushered in.
Visit Atlas Obscura for more on the Georgia Guidestones.
More stones with fascinating backstories:
- On the island of Yap, purchases are made with giant rocks
- Hundreds of prehistoric stones are arranged in perfect lines in a French field
- These mysterious stone formations resemble a petrified forest