Coral Castle is located south of Miami, Florida, apparently near where U.S. 1 and the Florida Turnpike meet. Look for S.W. 288th Street, or better yet, just ask for directions. I'm sure the locals know where it is.

Coral Castle is just that - a castle built entirely from coral rock. Ever messed with coral rock? Well, if you haven't, let me break it down for you, just one time. It's heavy. Dense. Ageless. It has been known to break jeweler's tools on occasion. I read that it's a nine on the Mohs hardness scale, but I couldn't corroborate that.

And some 100-pound shrimp from Latvia (named Edward Leedskalnin), throughout his life, carted over 1200 tons of coral rock to his home, carved and chiseled it, shaped it, and created yet another oddity dotting the American landscape.

It seems that Leedskalnin was jilted as a young lad in Latvia, and never recovered; he moved to the then remote lands of Florida to get away from it all and build a monument to his true love, the mythical 'one that got away', whom he often refers to as 'Sweet Sixteen'. After skimming through his pamphlet-sized offering, A Book In Every Home, I'm guessing that the girl fell in love with someone else and eloped; that's why Leedskalnin's topics tend to focus on how a girl of sixteen should be sheltered from other men except for their betrothed, and how the first touch of a man will deaden her to those who follow. But that book deserves a node to its own; onward with the castle proper.

I've never been there, but many articles rave about what you'll find inside the bluish walls of the compound. Such as the nine-ton front gate that is so perfectly balanced that it is said to open "with the push of a finger". Or how about the multiton rocking chair inside of the two-story tower? Or maybe the heart-shaped picnic table outside (28 tons, sans chairs). A crescent moon of 30 tons, flanked by Stonehenge-sized obelisks representing Mars and Saturn, 25 tons each. The air there must be thick with wonder and humidity.

No one knows how it was constructed, or if they do, they ain't letting on. Legend has it that Leedskalnin used no tools or machinery to carry the massive rocks to and fro. No cranes to set the one-ton blocks on top of one another. Nothing but a pulley system to raise the great stones on end. But that's legend; automotive parts are used throughout the compound, which does make me wonder. But more to the point, Leedskalnin did write some interesting treatises on magnetism, which are available on the Keelynet, for those who are curious. But be warned; the Keelynet is the last bastion of great pseudoscience.

It may not be the most aesthetic work in existence. In fact, it's probably more amazing to those of a decidedly mechanical bent. But, on the basis of sheer mindblowing effort, I believe I'll proclaim it to be one of the strangest artistic masterworks known to man.

I've been there. It's truly astounding. There is even a sundial that is carved from coral, which always keeps perfect time. I was also impressed with sheer mass of it all, but find it hard to believe he didn't use any powered machinery at all to do it.

Some words of wisdom, though. Do not visit Coral Castle in the middle of the Summer. You will turn into fried bacon.

I went to Coral Castle as well. The tour guide mentioned that Mr. Leedskalnin had tuberculosis and left colder northern climates in the hope that warm Florida sun would cure his TB. Apparently it worked, and it went into remission.

Part of the mystery of the construction was that he did it all at night, and stopped if he caught neighbors watching. As a budding engineer, the construction methods of Coral Castle didn't look all that mysterious to me (although no less awesome--not doable by conventional means). I believe he used pulleys and giant a-frames to lift the blocks of stone he chiseled out. He could have used car motors or something to do the lifting, but with enough pulleys, he could have done it only by muscle power.

As to the hardness of the coral, I can't attest to that. A lot of it looked like coral in sandstone to me, which while still being quite hard, it can be chipped away slowly with enough persistence. At the location of the castle, coral rock is prevalent, and there are several large pits around the castle where he lifted the walls out of the ground.

What is amazing to me is the time it must have taken and the artistry of the results. He had chairs carved out of the stone walls (unpadded) that were more comfortable than some of the modern padded chairs sold today. He had a several ton block of stone for a door that was balanced on a pivot so that you could move it with a finger, but is so heavy that they had trouble reseating it with a modern crane after a hurricane threw it off.

Overall, I'd say it's a very beautiful, although lonely and haunted, place.

I saw a documentary about Coral Castle where they tried to recreate his methods, but no dice. They even tried bringing in huge machines to cut and lift the same type of coral, but the blocks were still too large for the machines to handle. Apparently all Ed would tell people was the he was building it the same way the Egyptians built the pyramids.

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