Book of Mysteries #1: Four Dooms Today

Book of Mysteries is the story of a world much like our own Earth, where Wild Talents, Forteana and various hidden races- including those postulated by Charles Fort, “X” and “Y”- are active and where superheroes and supervillains exist more prominently than on our own world.

The Book of Mysteries is an ongoing series, 42 pages of real content per issue, sold at the minimum price possible on Amazon to guarantee the best value I can manage.

It is collecting a lot of prose, gamebook, art, poetry and miscellany from both my serious studies and my creative hobbies over the last 30 years.


Origin of The Minority Society

The Toynbee Tiles are an extensive subject – a subject with a history and with implications too broad and varied to be explained in a 6-minute speech (especially one which relates the Toynbee Tiles to larger idea instead of objectively focusing on the tiles themselves.) I’d be remiss if I didn’t give the tiles their due – or work towards giving them their due, perhaps, as the mystery is much bigger than a single blog post.

The mystery of the Toynbee tiles began in the early-to-mid-80s. It was around this time that the first tiles were reported to have been seen, beginning in the city of Philadelphia.

The message of the tiles perplexed pedestrians thoroughly – what could the creator possibly mean with these four seemingly nonsensical lines?

It was around this same time – 1983 in fact – that the Philadelphia Inquirer ran a story from journalist Clark DeLeon. The story  an interview with one James Morasco – a Philadelphia resident who headed a group calling itself the Minority Association. Morasco spoke of the goals of the Association in plain terms – to advance the belief that our solar system is full of “dead molecules” which could be rearranged onto the surface of Jupiter. In other words, James Morasco and the Minority Association believed all dead humans could be resurrected and used to colonize the gas giant.

People recognized the similarities between Morasco’s beliefs and the messages of the Toynbee tiles, yet the only James Morasco to be found in Philadelphia denied any connection with the tiles or the Minority Association.

For a while the trail was cold, until the tiles began to cross boarders, making appearances in four separate South American cities. One of these tiles, in addition to the usual message, included an address – an address in Philadelphia. The address led investigators and enthusiasts to the home of Julius “Railroad Joe” Piroli – who, like Morasco, denied any relation to the tiles. Another cold trail.

Years went by, and the tiles continued to appear. They became more varied, such as the tile below – often called “the Manifesto” – a four-tile history of the tiler and his struggles in maintaining the “movement” against the wishes of his enemies (who included the USSR – long defunct at the time the tile was found.)

“The Manifesto” – a much longer tile.

In 1987, Railroad Joe died. A decade and a half later, in 2003, James Morasco died. Yet the tiles continued to appear, not slowing down but instead appearing more and more frequently. To this day, tiles still crop up – many of which created by copycat movements inspired by the tiler’s three decades of work.

Movements were started – people were inspired – all from those original four lines of text. “TOYNBEE IDEA/ IN MOVIE 2001/ RESURRECT DEAD/ ON PLANET JUPITER”. So what does it mean, then? Perhaps that should have been the first question asked, yet that would’ve been impractical, for its answer is seemingly endless.

The message of the Toynbee Tile has been related to numerous people and movements (and adopted by a couple movements, too!) The most obvious connection is to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, which deals with (in a very abridged sense) a mission to Jupiter. However, the parallels seemingly end there, even though the tiler went through pains to specify Kubrick’s 2001 specifically.

If Kubrick didn’t jump right out at you, then perhaps your first question would have been, “Who is Toynbee?” The answer is (probably) Arnold J Toynbee, 20th century historian, whose ideas relate to the rise and fall of civilizations. The first line could also refer to “The Toynbee Convector” – a Ray Bradbury story which deals with humans’ potential to create utopias.

As you can see, the Toynbee Tile is a veritable Pandora’s Box of loose connections and vague similarities – an endless puzzle, without a solution. Yet, even without solution, the message, the idea, it draws people. Justin Duerr – one of the world’s foremost Toynbee enthusiasts, recalls a scene, early one winter morning in Philadelphia. On his return home from a convenience store, he found in the middle of the street a rectangular tar patch which hadn’t been there on his way to the store. Peeling at the corner of the tar patch revealed a Toynbee Tile underneath. The tar adhesive was still drying; it was almost completely untouched.

Realizing that the creator of the tiles, for whom he had already been searching for years, was within walking distance of where he stood, Justin began running up and down the adjacent blocks in the 4 A.M. winter’s darkness, shouting, “I believe! I believe in the Toynbee Idea!” 

And so, the allure of the Toynbee Tiles lives on.