“Rock star” (Coral Castle)

CORALCASTLE

In southern Florida sits the Coral Castle, although it’s neither of those things. It is, however, a supremely impressive sprawling compound that serves as a testament either to one man’s ingenuity or his channeling of secret knowledge.

Whatever the inspiration, the result is a remarkable engineering feat. More than 1,000 tons of sedimentary rock had to be quarried and sculpted into items as diverse as slab walls, tables, chairs, telescopes, barbeques, water fountains, wells, sun dials, bathtubs, beds, obelisks, and simulated planets, stars, and crescent moons.

The coral pieces from which the structure takes its name are relatively recent additions to the property. Most of the items are instead made from oolitic limestone and are set on top of each other so that their weight fuses the pieces. They were crafted with such precision and attention to detail that light is incapable of passing through them.

The park originally featured a perfectly-balanced stone gate that, despite its massive weight, would swing open with the push of a youngster’s finger. When it stopped working in 1986, workers removed the gate and realized it had rotated on a metal shaft and rested on a truck bearing. With this singular exception, the mechanics behind the castle’s construction and mechanics remain a mystery.

The structure is even more impressive when one learns it was built by one man, Edward Leedskalnin, who labored for 28 years on its construction. Each piece was quarried, cut, moved, and positioned by Leedskalnin, who continued to expand it until his death in 1951. He never revealed his methods. As to the why, he only hinted that it was spurred by his being lovelorn.

Some enthusiasts contend Leedskalnin accomplished this through means more sci-fi than scientific. Candidates include perpetual motion, vortex energy, harnessing the full power of the atom, or advanced magnetism and electricity that allowed him to levitate the blocks.

Leedskalnin never allowed persons watch his construction, though a few furtive photographs were taken. Some suspect he worked in private to protect his secrets related to telekinesis or other supernatural abilities. It is essentially saying, “I don’t know, therefore a magical technology did it.”

Among those with this mindset, some suggest Leedskalnin tapped into the cutting edge, while others think he uncovered a lost knowledge of the ancients. Let’s squeeze in a critical thinking lesson here. The cutting-edge idea is the logical fallacy of Appealing to Novelty, where a product or idea is deemed better because it is modern, even seemingly futuristic; the long-lost knowledge idea is its twin fallacy, the Appeal to Antiquity. Here, the idea that something has been around for so long is touted as evidence it works. Both notions are mistaken. How long something has existed as no bearing on its efficiency.

And the ideas that led to the Coral Castle are probably capable of being understood and known.  Skeptoid’s Brian Dunning profiled Wally Wallington, a retired construction worker whose backyard manufacturing of Stonehenge replicas provided a possible window to some of Leedskalnin’s techniques. Wallington’s equipment consisted of sticks and stones and he employed no wheels, cranes, pulleys, metals, or machinery. Through his ingenuity and erudite use of gravity, he could move multi-ton blocks with seemingly little effort

Therefore, impressive structures can be done solo and without magic. As to the Coral Castle, one clue offered on its website is that Leedskalnin could move the blocks since he “understood the laws of weight and leverage well,” a method that would be similar to Wallington’s.

Photos of Leedskalnin at work show blocks being moved by a series of chains, tripods made from telephone poles, and a block-and-tackle system. According to skeptic leader Benjamin Radford, this system “allowed Archimedes to lift an entire warship full of men using only a block and tackle and his strength.”

Meanwhile, Dunning wrote that creating a structure like the Coral Castle today could probably be accomplished in a few months with a construction crew and modern machinery. Leedskalnin took much longer, but he was toiling alone using picks, winches, ropes, tripods, pulleys, and leverage principles.

Leedskalnin’s background prepared him for this Herculean effort. He grew up in a family of stone masons and worked as a lumberjack, so his interest in and knowledge of quarrying, cutting, carving, and moving large stones and trees would render unnecessary any mystical powers.

Those who prefer narratives centering on aliens, vortex energy, reverse magnetism, and levitation argue maybe he used the laws and physics AND accessed an unknown superpower. And I might be typing this with mind power, but until I show that ability under controlled conditions, it is not a claim to be seriously entertained.

  

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