12 Craziest Unsolved Mysteries

10. Toynbee Tiles

Right, so after that creepiness, here's something that's genuinely unexplainable. Since the eighties, hundreds of plaques have appeared overnight, embedded into the asphalt of dozens of major US cities and a handful of South American capitals. They tend to be around the size and shape of a licence plate, although some are bigger, and all feature a variation on the message "TOYNBEE IDEA IN MOViE `2001 RESURRECT DEAD ON PLANET JUPITER". The so-called Toynbee Tiles have become a sort of legend since then, a modern urban myth that has been widely reported on in regional, national and even international press. The first documented sighting of a tile was in Baltimore in 1984, but since then they've been found everywhere from Kansas to Washington to Boston to Roswell, supposed home to alien-friendly army base Area 51. So far as anybody knows, the creator of the tiles has never come forward, and the meaning of their message is still up for interpretation. The "MOVIE '2001" is sometimes accompanied by the name "KUBRICK", so that's easy to figure out. "TOYNBEE" could refer to a Ray Bradbury short story or historian Arnold Toynbee, the latter of whom's work is cited as featuring references to resurrection (but not the planet Jupiter). Another reading is that they're loosely quoting a scene from a David Mamet play where a caller to a radio show claims that 2001 is based on the writings of Arnold Toynbee, and suggests a plan to reconstitute life on Jupiter. That's all well and good, but it doesn't explain where the heck these tiles come from in the first place. At this point, with the plaques becoming a sort of cult item, it could be that there are copycats installing them in further-flung locales. Even so, they manage to do it without anyone noticing either, and we're still no closer to finding out who started it all off in the first place.
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Tom Baker is the Comics Editor at WhatCulture! He's heard all the Doctor Who jokes, but not many about Randall and Hopkirk. He also blogs at http://communibearsilostate.wordpress.com/