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THE MAN WHO DEFIED GRAVITY

by Fabian Ellis about a year ago in success
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EDWARD LEEDSKALNIN

THE MAN WHO DEFIED GRAVITY

EDWARD LEEDSKALNIN

Let's face it, the spectacle we see today of the great pyramids built by the Egyptians is definitely a freak of nature that defies gravity. To think, these large stones could be cut with precision and move for miles to construct these marvelous structures that still exist to this day. All three of Giza's famed pyramids were built during a frenetic period of construction, from roughly 2550 to 2490 B.C. There is only one other event that could match such a gravity-defying construction and that is the building of the Coral Castle in Homestead, Florida by a man named Edward Leedskalnin.

First, let's get a sense of what is gravity. Gravity is a force of attraction that exists between any two masses, any two bodies, any two particles. Gravity is not just the attraction between objects and the Earth. It is an attraction that exists between all objects, everywhere in the universe.

Next, let's get a firm understanding of "defying gravity". There is a definition of defying gravity that tends to be more of a cultural expression than one of physics, any act that appears to defy what we understand about gravity such as: Defying gravity means to defy what is expected of you. Doing what you want, what you dream of, and ignoring everyone who says you can't. However, there are others that give the impression of defying gravity, but is it really. High wire trapeze artists who appear to defy gravity or magicians who appear to defy gravity by floating someone in mid-air unsupported. In all of these cases, there is no gravity-defying, but a reasonable explanation that is consistent with what we know about gravity. For example, magicians will always use some form of wires or supports to create the illusion of the person floating, but they aren't.

There is currently no actual way to defy gravity literally, however you can do effectively the same thing by going in an airplane/helicopter/hot air balloon. You could also reduce your density to less than the air around you, which is 1kg per cubic meter.

Helium balloons are pulled by gravity, as are all objects with mass. The reason they don't fall is that there is another force acting on them, a buoyant force from air pressure that is equal to the weight of the air displaced by the balloon. The analogy you want is an object, floating or suspended in water.

Planes do not actually defy gravity, though. Instead, the tilt and area of a plane's wings manipulate the air particles around the plane, creating a strong enough lift that the force of gravity is overcome by the force of the air beneath the wings.

The Earth appears to defy the gravitational attraction of the sun but again, this is not true as the reason the Earth does this is that, for some complex physics reasons, our initial momentum given to the Earth when the solar system formed, is enough to keep us in orbit around the sun, appearing to defy gravity!

The actual scientific concept of gravity is the force that causes all things to fall toward the center of the earth magnetism: a force caused by a magnet; Gravity and magnetism are both strong forces; therefore, magnetism can pull things against gravity.

So, can people really defy the law of gravity by means of levitation, balance, or magnetize devices? Near Earth, we cannot ever escape the pull of gravity. However, small objects can be levitated by using an effect called diamagnetism.

Yes, it can. The Egyptians must have known how to defy gravity to move the large stones to build the pyramids. Today with all of our advanced science, advanced mathematics to include physics, advanced technology, and advanced machinery, we still can't build a pyramid on the scale of the three in Egypt. The only other person that could defy gravity was Edward Leedkalinin. Who is Edward Leedskalnin "the man who defied gravity"?

Edward Leedskalnin was born on January 12, 1887, in Stāmeriena Parish, Latvia, and died in the United States on December 7, 1951. He was a Russian emigrant who moves to the United States and single-handedly built the Coral Castle in Florida, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. He was a self-taught engineer who was also known for developing theories of magnetism.

There is little is known about his childhood, aside from the fact that his parents were not wealthy and he received only a fourth-grade formal education. Edward was a sickly boy who often spent time reading books, helping him to develop an inquisitive mind and a life-long yearning for knowledge. It was suggested that he learned stonemasonry from his father and practiced this craft in Latvia after coming of age.

At the age of 26, he was engaged to marry Agnes Skuvst who was ten years younger. However, his 16-year-old fiancée who Ed later referred to as his "Sweet Sixteen" broke their engagement, just one day before the wedding. He then decided to emigrate to the United States.

On April 7, 1912, Ed arrived in New York City. Ed had lived in Canada, California, and Texas. After looking for suitable work around the East Coast until August, he relocated to the Pacific Northwest, which was experiencing a logging boom. On June 5, 1917 while in Oregon he filled in his draft registration stating that he was self-employed and engaged in ax-handle manufacturing. The 1920 census data reveal that he resided in Reedsport, Oregon.

After allegedly contracting terminal tuberculosis, Ed moved to the warmer climate of Florida in 1923. He purchased an undeveloped parcel of land in Florida City, which at the time was lightly inhabited. His tuberculosis spontaneously healed, stating that magnets had some effect on his disease.

On February 27, 1923, The Homestead Enterprise newspaper published a notice that "E. Leedskalnin a Californian has purchased an acre of the R. L. Moser homestead and is planning to erect a home soon."

Over the next 28 years, Ed constructed a massive structure with an assortment of sculpted stones. Ed originally built a castle, which he named "Ed's Place", in Florida City, Florida, around 1923. He purchased the land from Ruben Moser whose wife had assisted him when he had another very bad case of tuberculosis. Florida City, which borders the Everglades, is the southernmost city in the United States that is not on an island. At the time, it was an extremely remote location with very little development. In Florida City, Ed charged visitors ten cents apiece to tour the castle grounds. The castle remained in Florida City until about 1936 when Ed decided to move and take Ed's Place with him. He was a very private person and when he heard about a planned subdivision being built near him he decided to move to Homestead, which was 10 miles away from Florida City.

In 1936, Ed began his move to Homestead, after he bought 10 acres of land. How did Ed move all these carvings a distance of 10 miles? Ed had the chassis of an old Republic truck on which he laid two rails. He had a friend with a tractor move the loaded trailer from Florida City to Homestead. Ed lived a very simple life; he did not own a car. Instead, Ed would ride his bicycle 3.5 miles into town for food and supplies regularly.

Many people saw the coral carvings being moved along the Dixie Highway, but no one actually ever saw Ed loading or unloading the trailer. Ed did much of his work at night by lantern light and to help protect his privacy, he built numerous “lookouts” along the Castle walls. Ed's Place was being moved to its second and final location that has the mailing address of 28655 South Dixie Highway, Miami, FL 33033, which now appears within the census-generated overlay of Leisure City but which is actually unincorporated county territory of Miami-Dade County, Florida, between the cities of Homestead and Leisure City. He reportedly chose relocation as a means to protect his privacy when discussion about developing land in the original area of the castle started. He spent three years moving the component structures he had already begun to build 10 miles (16 km) north from Florida City to its current location outside Homestead, Florida.

The coral pieces that are part of the newer castle, not among those transported from the original location, were quarried on the property only a few feet away from the castle's walls. The pool and the pit beside the southern wall are quarries. The east and west quarries have been filled in. He refused to allow anyone to view him while he worked on the structure. A few teenagers claimed to have witnessed his work, reporting that he had caused the blocks of coral to move like hydrogen balloons. He used various basic tools available under his modest means including salvaged timber and old automobile parts. The only advanced tool that Ed spoke of using was a "perpetual motion holder".

How did a man of his small stature transport tons of coral? Ed was 5 feet tall and weighed only 100 pounds. Leedskalnin is said to have been a self-taught student of physics and was fascinated by ancient structures such as the pyramids, whose pieces were transported and constructed without modern methods.

As one story goes, Leedskalnin pulled into a local quarry one night to buy several tons of coral. When the foreman asked how he planned to load the coral into his old truck, Leedskalnin asked the man to turn his back. A few minutes later, the foreman turned around and was astonished to see Ed sitting in the truck with the coral fully loaded.

First, he built a house out of limestone blocks and wood, to live in as he worked on the sculptures and the two-story castle tower that served as his final living quarters. He gradually built the stone structures for which he constructed into an architectural and engineering landmark. The sculptures Leedskalin crafted are no less impressive than the stories behind them. At the entrance, an inscription greets visitors: “You will be seeing unusual accomplishment.” And as promised, the site is full of magnificent sculptures.

The completed landmark has a castle that sits on three acres, and the 8-foot wall takes up less than an acre. The landmark is divided into several sections, including a two-story stone tower where Leedskalnin lived (without running water or electricity). The cramped top floor was his living quarters. The bottom floor was a storage area for his cutting and shaping tools (blocks, tackles, crude winches, and wedges – most of which he made himself), along with equipment for radio waves, physics, and astronomy experiments.

On the grounds, there is a 13-ton, 20-foot-long table, surrounded by 10 chairs, that Leedskalnin carved into the shape of Florida. Fascinated by astronomy and engrossed by the celestial, Leedskalnin also built a 30-ton telescope, which stands 25 feet tall, and focused it on the North Star. He built an accurate stone sundial he used to tell time, an obelisk, a barbecue, a water well, a moon fountain and celestial stars and planets, a Grotto of Three Bears, a children's play area, the stone well from which Leedskalnin drew his water, including the steps he used to check his water supply and numerous pieces of furniture. The furniture pieces include a heart-shaped table, a table in the shape of Florida, twenty-five rocking chairs, chairs resembling crescent moons, a sun couch, a bathtub, beds, and a throne. In a throne room sits his 5-ton rocking chair. And next to it are smaller thrones for Agnes, a child, and a mother-in-law. He also carved a 2.5-ton heart-shaped table for them to sit at.

In 1940, after the sculptures were in place, Ed finished erecting the walls. The coral walls weigh 125 pounds per cubic foot that once moved with just the touch of a finger. Each section of the wall is 8 feet tall, 4 feet wide, 3 feet thick, and weighs more than 5.8 tons! Ed named his new 10-acre site "Rock Gate" after the huge rear swinging gate he built into the back wall. He dedicated "Rock Gate ", in his own words, to the girl who had left him years before 'Agnes Skuvst' The 9-short-ton (8.2 t) revolving 8-foot tall gate is a famous structure of the castle, documented on the television programs" In Search of" and "That's Incredible!". The gate is carved so that it fits within a quarter of an inch of the walls. It was well-balanced, reportedly so that a child could open it with the push of a finger. The mystery of the gate's perfectly balanced axis and the ease with which it revolved lasted for decades until it stopped working in 1986. To remove it, six men and a 50-short-ton (45 t) crane were used. Once the gate was removed, the engineers discovered how Ed had centered and balanced it. He had drilled a hole from top to bottom and inserted a metal shaft. The rock rested on an old truck bearing. It was the rusting out of this bearing that resulted in the gate's failure to revolve. Complete with new bearings and shaft, it was set back into place on July 23, 1986. It failed in 2005 and was again repaired; however, it does not rotate with the same ease it once did.

Again, what makes Ed’s work remarkable is the fact that he was just over 5 feet tall and weighed only 100 pounds. In this part of Florida, the coral in some areas can be up to 4,000 feet thick. Working alone and mostly at night, Ed eventually quarried and sculpted more than 1,100 short tons (1,000 t or 997,903 kg) of numerous megalithic stones in the form of walls, carvings, furniture, and a castle tower. Incredibly, he cut and moved huge coral blocks using only hand tools. He had acquired some skills working in lumber camps and came from a family of stonemasons in Latvia. He drew on this knowledge and strength to cut and move these blocks.

Commonly mistakenly believed to be made of coral, it is actually made of oolite, also known as oolitic limestone. Oolite is a sedimentary rock composed of small spherical grains of concentrically layered carbonate that may include localized concentrations of fossil shells and coral beneath only several inches of topsoil. Oolite limestone is found throughout southeastern Florida from Palm Beach County to the Florida Keys.

The stones are fastened together without mortar. They are set on top of each other using their weight to keep them together. The craftsmanship detail is so fine and the stones are connected with such precision that no light passes through the joints. The 8-foot (2.4 m) tall vertical stones that make up the perimeter wall have a uniform height. Even with the passage of decades the stones have not shifted.

With few exceptions, the objects are made from single pieces of stone that weigh on average 15 short tons (14 t) each. The largest stone weighs 30 short tons (27 t) and the tallest are two monoliths standing 25 ft (7.6 m) each. Ed had to know the secret of how to defy gravity to build this megalithic stone structure that is now known as the Coral Castle, for which he is now famous.

Ed never gave up hope that he and Agnes would reunite. He invited her several times to see the castle, but she never came.

The Coral Castle is currently a privately operated tourist attraction. Coral Castle is noted for legends surrounding its creation that claim it was built single-handedly by Ed using reverse magnetism or supernatural abilities to move and carve numerous stones, each weighing many tons. With a reserved personality, he eventually opened the Coral Castle to the public, after moving to Homestead, he offered tours for twenty-five cents, but let visitors enter free if they had no money. There are signs carved into rocks at the front gate to "Ring Bell Twice". He would come down from his living quarters in the second story of the castle tower close to the gate and conduct the tour. People would ask him how he had moved all of the heavy stone on his own. He never told anyone who asked him how he made the castle, he usually replied, "I understand the laws of weight and leverage and I know the secrets of the people who built the pyramids", referring to the Great Pyramid at Giza, Egypt, or he would simply answer "It's not difficult if you know how." This man with only a fourth-grade education even built an AC current generator, the remains of which are on display today. Because there are no records from witnesses his methods continue to baffle engineers and scientists, and Ed’s secrets of construction have often been compared to Stonehenge and the great pyramids.

Some local residents later remembered that as school children they had field trips to the construction site of the future Coral Castle, and Ed personally explained manual methods of his work. When asked why he had built the castle, Ed would vaguely answer it was for his "Sweet Sixteen". This is widely believed to be a reference to Agnes Skuvst (often misspelled as "Scuffs"). However, Ed wrote a record of his thoughts in five pamphlets, which he arranged into a 3 subject publication – Sweet Sixteen, Domestic and Political Views titled "A Book in Every Home", he implies his "Sweet Sixteen" was more an ideal than a reality. According to a Latvian account, the girl existed, but her name was actually Hermīne Lūsis. Ed also wrote 3 pamphlets on “Magnetic Current” and his “Mineral, Vegetable and Animal Life” containing his beliefs on life’s cycle.

His first and longest booklet, a treatise on moral education, is printed on only the left-hand pages, and begins with the following preface:

"Reader, if for any reason you do not like the things I say in the little book, I left just as much space as I used, so you can write your own opinion opposite it and see if you can do better."

In the first section "Sweet Sixteen" of the book "A Book in Every Home", Ed argues that girls should be kept pure and that boys are primarily a soiling influence upon them. On page 4 of A Book in Every Home, He wrote:

"Everything we do should be for some good purpose but as everybody knows there is nothing good that can come to a girl from a fresh boy. When a girl is sixteen or seventeen years old, she is as good as she ever will be, but when a boy is sixteen years old, he is then fresher than in all his stages of development. He is then not big enough to work but he is too big to be kept in a nursery and then to allow such a fresh thing to soil a girl. It could not work on my girl. Now I will tell you about soiling. Anything that is done, if it is done with the right party it is all right, but when it is done with the wrong party, it is soiling, and concerning those fresh boys with the girls, it is wrong every time."

In the second section "Domestics", he continues along the theme of moral education, with several aphorisms aimed at parents regarding the proper way to raise children. In the last section, "Political", despite being reclusive, he revealed that he had strong political views. He advocates voting for property owners only (and in proportion to their holdings), and argues that "Anyone who is too weak to make his own living is not strong enough to vote."

Some suggested that Ed's booklet contains further information on his electromagnetic research and philosophies encoded in its pages, and the blank pages are provided for the reader to fill in their decrypted solutions. It has also been suggested that Ed's frequent referral to his "Sweet Sixteen" may in fact refer to the numerological and/or scientific relevance of the number sixteen to his research and theories.

He wrote that a mother's most important task is to ensure that her daughter remains "chaste and faithful":

"In case a girl's mamma thinks that there is a boy somewhere who needs experience then she, herself, could pose as an experimental station for that fresh boy to practice on and so save the girl. Nothing can hurt her anymore. She has already gone through all the experience that can be gone through and so in her case it would be all right."

Ed was definitely interested in the general theory of magnetism. His four pamphlets addressed the interaction of electricity, magnetism, and the body; he also included several simple experiments to validate his theories.

Contradicting the standard model of electromagnetism, but remarkably in line with the concept of 'magnetic moment' / 'electron spin theory', his thesis is based upon the theory that the metal itself is not the magnet and that the real magnets are circulating in the metal. These individual north and south pole magnets are particles smaller than atoms or photons and each particle in the substance was an individual magnet by itself.

Ed claimed that all matter was being acted upon by what he called "individual magnets". He also claimed that scientists of his time were looking in the wrong place for their understanding of electricity and that they were observing only "one half of the whole concept" with "one-sided tools of measurement".

Magnets in general are indestructible. For instance, you can burn wood and flesh. You can destroy the body, but you cannot destroy the magnets that hold together the body. They go somewhere else. Iron has more magnets than wood, and every different substance has a different number of magnets that hold the substance together. If I make a battery with copper for the positive terminal and beef for the negative terminal I get more magnets out of it than when I used copper for the positive terminal and sweet potato for the negative terminal. From this, you can see that no two things are alike.

Ed was an eccentric and lived on an exclusive diet of only crackers and sardines. In his later years, he starved himself. He continued to work on the castle until he suffered an illness. When Ed became ill in November 1951, a month or two after he finished the castle, he woke up one morning feeling ill. Ed, who rarely visited the doctor, put a sign on the door of the front gate "Going to the Hospital" and took the bus up U.S. 1 to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. On November 9, 1951, he checked himself into the Miami hospital. He suffered a stroke at one point, either before he left for the hospital or at the hospital. He died in his sleep twenty-eight days later of pyelonephritis (a kidney infection) and stomach cancer at the age of 64. His death certificate noted that his death was a result of "uremia; failure of kidneys, as a result of the infection and abscess".

While the property was being investigated, a box of Ed’s personal effects was found containing a set of instructions that led to the discovery of thirty-five $100 bills, $3,500 (equivalent to $34,475 in 2019), his life savings. He had made his income from conducting tours for ten and twenty-five cents, selling pamphlets about various subjects (including magnetic currents), and the sale of a portion of his 10-acre property for the construction of U.S. Route 1. As he had no will, the castle became the property of his closest living relative in America, a nephew from Michigan named Harry.

Coral Castle's website reports that the nephew was in poor health and he sold the castle to an Illinois family in 1953. However, this story differs from the obituary of a former Coral Castle owner, Julius Levin, a retired jeweler from Chicago, Illinois. The obituary states Levin had purchased the land from the state of Florida in 1952 and may not have been aware there was even a castle on the land.

The new owners turned it into a tourist attraction and changed the name of Rock Gate to Rock Gate Park, and later to Coral Castle.

In January 1981, Levin sold the castle to Coral Castle, Inc., for$175,000 (equivalent to $492,139 in 2019). The company retains ownership today.

In 1984 the property was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was added under the name of "Rock Gate", but the name on the list was changed to "Coral Castle" in 2011.

The stone sign just inside the property that says "Adm. 10c Drop Below" is not original to Coral Castle. Ed made this sign and placed it in front of his earlier location at Florida City when he was tired of giving a "free show" to visitors who were careless and trampled his shrubbery. This sign was donated by the owners of Ed's Place and placed here in subsequent years.

In popular culture, Ed and his megalithic creation of Coral Castle became a part of the American popular culture due to the magnitude of a single man's effort and ingenuity. Many have analyzed his seemingly superhuman ability based on esoteric ancient knowledge, to levitate blocks of stone and move them with the aid of the Earth's magnetic energy. 213 other explanations center on Ed's stonemasonry and logging experiences that presumably allowed him to apply his work skills creatively to a tedious process of moving large blocks of stone using levers, wheels, axles, pulleys, ramps, and wedges without any electrical equipment

The emotional side of Ed's life story drew the attention of songwriters and performers, including:

Billy Idol recorded the song "Sweet Sixteen" for his Whiplash Smile album. It was based on the love story of Ed and his runaway girl. The music video was recorded at Coral Castle in 1986. The Brooklyn-based band Piñataland recorded a song about Ed, titled "Latvian Bride", for their 2003 album Songs for the Forgotten Future Vol. 1. Douglas Stone, band's musician, said: Andrew Peterson recorded a song, "The Coral Castle", in his Carried Along (2002) studio album that evoked Ed's broken heart story.

Edward Leedskalnin’s life achievement, The Coral Castle, an undying testimony of his great love for Agnes Scuffs took him from 1923-1951 to complete. The only other tribute that can compare to the Coral Castle is the Taj Mahal, built over twenty years and by several thousand slaves, as a monument to the King’s wife.

In Ed’s case, he labored intensely for twenty-eight years working on this astonishing masterpiece. Ed was a common man who touched the lives of all who met him in an uncommon way. Forever carved in stone, the Coral Castle is a timeless beauty that defines Ed’s undying love for his “Sweet Sixteen” and will continue to astonish Coral Castle visitors.

Coral Castle remains a popular tourist attraction. Books, magazines, and television programs speculate about how Ed was able to construct the structure and move stones that weigh many tons. As stated earlier, "If anyone ever questioned Ed about how he moved the blocks of coral, Ed would only reply that he understood the laws of weight and leverage well." He also stated that he had "discovered the secrets of the pyramids", referring to the Great Pyramid of Giza.

The castle was created and lives on as America's greatest monument to lost love by "The Man Who Defied Gravity".

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About the author

Fabian Ellis

I have a Master’s Degree in Business and Bachelor in Art and Mathematics. I've proudly served in two branches of the armed forces, the Navy (Enlisted) and the Marines (Officer). I'm a writer and an inventor who enjoys creating new ideas.

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