The Mysterious Florida Castle Built By One Man Over 20 Years

Mention "acoustic levitation" to stern-faced Egyptologists and you're likely to get yelled at or bashed in the face. The idea is simple, if wacky: ancient Egyptians used sound to levitate the stones of the Pyramids at Giza into place. In a display of vocal virtuosity and real-life anti-gravity tech, they stood around in a choir singing multi-ton stones into place. Egypt Forward has covered this topic, as has Alien Media NewsJoe Rogan on his podcast, the journal Archaeological Discovery on the dubiously-named Scientific Research, Ancient Origins, and more. It's a fun enough topic to make the rounds in conversation. And in the case of Florida man Ed Leedskalnin, it's also how some suggest he built his improbably-designed castle-and-rock garden.

Leedskalnin, an immigrant to the U.S. from Latvia who died in 1951, opened Coral Castle and its surrounding park in 1923 as a tourist attraction. As Live Science says, he was a recluse and worked with no one. He was also a "self-styled philosopher" and "bit of a crank" who said things like, "It is not sound to allow the weaklings to vote." He built Coral Castle in secret and at night, and in the process single-handedly moved 1,100 tons of stone, per The Travel. That number becomes extra impressive considering that Leedskalnin was only 5 feet tall and weighed 100 pounds. So how did he do it? As the Coral Castle Museum site quotes, Leedskalnin said that he'd discovered "the secret of the pyramids."

[Featured image by J. Miers via Wikimedia Commons | Cropped and scaled | CC BY-SA 4.0]

Knowledge of the stars

Readers who envision a gorgeous, resplendent, fairytale-like setting when hearing the word "castle" are likely to be disappointed when they see Coral Castle. Yes, it's cool. Yes, it's impressive that one guy built it. But it's not the most aesthetically captivating piece of architecture, at least not in comparison to other single-handedly built castles like Bishop Castle in Colorado. In fact, it looks more like the ruins of a millennia-old castle dug out of the dirt than anything.

And yet, there's something odd and even a bit mystical about Coral Castle, a sense no doubt fed by its clandestine construction and hermetic maker. A top-down map of the castle on Crystalinks shows a bunch of stony structures arranged across Coral Castle's grounds with names much more fanciful than their rough, blocky appearances imply: Repentance Corner, Feast of Love Table, Moon Fountain, Sun Couch, Grotto of Three Bears, and more. 

Rather than simply being random or eccentric designs, these structures hold astronomical meaning or even stargazing functions. The Rocking Chair and Sundial are situated to align with the summer and winter solstices. The Moon Pond represents the first quarter, last quarter, and full moons. There's even a 25-foot-tall obelisk with a hole at the top that lines up with Polaris, the North Star. All of these structures are ancillary buildings and not even the main castle proper, which looks like a two-story box. Everything is also built from the same, oolite limestone.

[Featured image by Ebyabe via Wikimedia Commons | Cropped and scaled | GNU Free Documentation License, version 1.2]

A revolving door of facts

No one really knows much about Coral Castle's builder Ed Leedskalnin, or why he took 28 years to build his unusual little theme park in Homestead, Florida southwest of Miami. Rumors abound, as Live Science explains. One legend says that he was rejected by his would-be bride on his wedding day and set out to prove himself. If true, then he succeeded. Leedskalnin came from poverty, had a fourth-grade education, and not only built Coral Castle by himself, but only used rudimentary tools like picks, wedges, rope and pulleys. He even started the castle in Florida City and moved it all to Homestead mid-construction because of some zoning conflict. 

Even though the entirety of Coral Castle and its grounds could be feasibly built by one person with the tools that Leedskalnin had available, lots of folks still want alternative, even out-of-this-world explanations, like magnetism and the aforementioned acoustic levitation, per The Travel. But in reality, the site's oolite limestone is porous and easier to move than expected, especially with Leedskalnin's mechanical expertise. Case in point, per Live Science: Coral Castle's giant stone door rotates on a metal shaft and can be pushed opened with a finger (pictured above).

At present, Coral Castle is a registered historical location featured on Trip Advisor, Viator, Roadtrippers, and more. It costs $18 to get in. For those who like mysteries and strange history it just might be worth the trip.

[Featured image by Ebyabe via Wikimedia Commons | Cropped and scaled | GNU Free Documentation License, version 1.2]