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Episode 12 Coral Castle The Taj Mahal of the South

Imagine a 5 foot tall, 100 pound heartbroken man excavating, shaping and hoisting massive coral blocks into a structure all by himself. Literally building walls to try to deal with a broken heart. This is the story of Edward Leedskalnin and Florida’s Coral Castle.

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Thanks to Allison from Not Your Little Lady for suggesting Coral Castle be featured in Southern Mysteries

Coral Castle is not a castle. It’s often Referred to as a Modern Megalith. As the Coral Castle website points out, it is an architectural feat. Since it opened in 1923, scientists, engineers, scholars and tourists have been in awe of Coral Castle and questioned how all this work could be done by one man. Coral Castle’s creator, Ed Leedskalnin, was a 5 foot, 100 pound man.

By the time Ed completed his masterpiece in 1940, he had excavated, carved, and moved 1,100 Tons of coral rock. As you walk through this incredible memorial you see many coral walls that weigh 125 pounds per cubic foot. Each section of wall was 8 feet tall, 4 feet wide, 3 feet thick, and weighed more than 58 tons!  Those are just the walls. Inside the walls there were massive limestone structures including rocking chairs, a sundial, a telescope and some of these weighed more than 57,000 pounds. For decades there have been theories and legends surrounding coral castle. One even suggests that Ed used reverse magnetism and supernatural abilities to move and carve all of these stones. 

Who was Ed Leedskalnin and why did he dedicate a majority of his life to creating this architectural mystery of the South?

Edward Leedskalnin was born in Latvia in the late 1880s.  When Ed was 26 he became engaged to marry Agnes Scuffs. He called her his “Sweet Sixteen” because she was 16 years. The difference in age didn’t matter to Ed. He loved his “Sweet Sixteen” and called her the love of his life.

In Rusty McClure’s book, Coral Castle: The Mystery of Ed Leedskalnin and His American Stonehenge, he recounts what happened on the day Ed and his Agnes were to be married. It’s said that the two were at the altar and the priest walked up to them and asked if they were ready to be committed to one another for the rest of their lives and Agnes looked up and said she was not ready and could not marry Ed. She walked away, leaving Ed alone at the altar. He chased after her but we’ll never know if he even spoke to her again. His family said the disappointment and embarrassment were too much for Ed. He emigrated to America in 1912 and never returned to Latvia. 

The next few years of Ed’s life were spent moving from job to job. He spent time working in the logging industry in Oregon. By the 1920s he was in his early 30s and was said to have tuberculosis. A doctor advised Ed to move to a warmer climate. By 1923, Ed moved to Florida City, Florida, in Miami Dade County. With time, Ed’s health improved. Some say it was supernatural powers. Some say it was the Florida sun. All that mattered to Ed was that he was better and ready to move forward with his life and a plan he’d had for some time.

By 1936, Ed was able to purchase land in Homestead, Florida and set about creating not only a home but also finishing his monument to his lost love. Ed had already spent years building some of the structures that would become part of the Coral Castle in Homestead. For the next three years Ed moved those heavy structures from Florida City to Homestead, a distance of 10 miles Down the Dixie Highway, with the help of a friend who had a large truck and trailer that Ed was able to use.  Ed was extremely private so he did most of the work at night to avoid having to explain what he was doing and why he was doing it. 

The Coral Castle carvings were in place by 1940. Ed finished erecting the walls and curious people would show up at the gate and be greeted by this man who asked for 10 cents to allow visitors to walk through the memorial 

When asked how he moved the blocks of coral, Ed would only reply that he understood the laws of weight and leverage and left it at that. 

How did Ed build Coral Castle? Time has left us with questions and theories including that Ed possessing supernatural powers. Thankfully there are some simple and down to earth explanations. The one that makes the most sense is that Ed used the Tripod and hoist method, known as a lifting tripod.

Chris White is the director of Ancient Aliens Debunked, a 3 hour response of the theories proposed on the History Channel series Ancient Aliens. It is essentially a point by point critique of all of those theories. He shared a video of how he believes Ed was able to lift, move, and carve all of the stones for Coral Castle.  You can view it below.

The folks who operate Coral Castle tell you today that Ed Leedskalnin’s life achievement, The Coral Castle, is an undying testimony of his great love for Agnes Scuffs. He never married and dedicated a large portion of life, from 1923-1951 to building Coral Castle for a woman who was the love of his life, even if she did break his heart. I guess you could call Coral Castle, the Taj Mahal of the South

Only a few months after he completed Coral Castle, In December of 1951, Ed became ill. He put a sign on the door of his Castle saying “going to the hospital,” took a bus to Jackson Memorial in Miami and died three days later in his sleep at the age of 64. 

Ed’s undying love has inspired many people including Billy Idol who recorded the song “Sweet Sixteen” for his Whiplash Smile album. Billy Idol even recorded the video for the song at Coral Castle in 1986 because It was based on the love story of Leedskalnin and Agnes. 

As the lyrics go…

Well, memories may burn you,
Memories grow older as people can
They just get colder
Like sweet sixteen….

Episode Sources
Coral Castle Website with Photo Gallery of Castle
Who’s Ed Coral Castle Website
Photos of Edward Leedskalnin
Chris White Video Explanation of Coral Castle
Footage of Ed Leedskalnin at work on Coral Castle
Billy Idol Sweet Sixteen
Coral Castle: The Mystery of Ed Leedskalnin and His American Stonehenge By Rusty McClure

Music Credits:
Theme Song: “Dark & Troubled” by Panthernburn. Special thanks to Phillip St Ours for permission for use
Southern Man “Southern Man”, Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution

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