There are tons of totally strange unsolved mysteries out, but one of the most intriguing has to be America's bizarre Toynbee Tiles. If you're from Philadelphia, you've definitely seen a few in your life. The mysterious inscriptions appear in the middle of streets in Eastern and Midwestern cities across the country. They're all slightly different, but contain variations on this general message:
IN MOViE 2001
ON PLANET JUPITER
Totally weird, right? It's hard to figure out what it means... although it seems like the person behind the tiles literally wants to bring the dead back to life on the planet Jupiter. The content of the message isn't the only mystery to be solved, either. No one is totally sure who is doing it, or if it's one person, or how they're doing it all without ever being seen.
Most of the tiles appear in the Philadelphia area and in surrounding cities. Boston is the city furthest east with authentic Toynbee tiles, and Kansas City is the furthest west, although copycats can be found across the West Coast. Several authentic ones also appear in South America.
Speculation holds that the tiler drops a tar-covered package containing the tiled message through a hole in a car floorboard and drives off, allowing the tires of other cars to push the tile into the pavement and wear off some of the tar. They've been around since the 1980s, and people generally accept finding authentic new Toynbee tiles through 2007 or so.
Here's a guide to finding Toynbee tiles across a few major American cities, in case you want to investigate the utterly strange mystery for yourself.
As stated above, the heaviest concentration of Toynbee Tiles is in Philadelphia and the surrounding region. If you start at Dilworth Park near City Hall and work your way south, you should run into one at pretty much every intersection. Chestnut Street is especially notable for its numerous tiles... just stroll up the street and spot them as you go.
Boston is the furthest east the tiler ever got, and if you want to spot some of the mysterious messages he left, take a walk around the perimeter of Boston Common. There's one at Temple Place and Tremont Street, one at Charles Street and Beacon Street, and one at Arlington Street and Commonwealth Ave.
If you're not convinced that the tiler is a mad genius, then seeing the number of tiles he's planted across NYC without getting caught will probably convince you. There are dozens up and down 5th Avenue alone! Walk north or south from the Empire State Building and you'll see what I mean. They're mostly found around Midtown Manhattan... the guy even has one or two in Times Square!
Indianapolis boasts two Toynbees, both on Meridian Street. One can be found at the intersection with Maryland across from the Hard Rock Cafe, and the other at the street's crossing with Georgia. The first is a more simple design, containing the classic message, while the other is more intricate, with a set of ladies' legs outlining the corners and a little add-on with instructions on making and glueing the tile and a weird message about the media in the USSR.
The Toynbee Tiles in Chicago line the city's busiest street: Michigan Ave. There's one at Congress Plaza, one at the corner where the Chicago Architecture Foundation resides (this one even has a lady dropping a coffee cup and a lot of text) and one at Michigan and Madison across from Millennium Park, among others.
The sheer number of tiles is pretty incredible, but the distance the tiler covered is just as mind-boggling. Other than the American Mid-Atlantic and Midwest, tiles appear the three South American cities: Santiago in Chile, Rio de Janiero in Brazil, and Buenos Aires in Argentina. Honestly, this just deepens the mystery... why these cities? And how?
The "House of Hades" tile pictured above is from a Toynbee copycat, one who has maybe even been more prolific than the original tiler. Many of his tiles reference the original tiles, using the phrase "Toynbee Idea". The one above is from São Paulo, Brazil.
Alright, so visiting as many Toynbee Tiles as possible will probably leave you with more questions than answers. If you're looking for more information, the documentary "Resurrect Dead" is a great place to start. They have theories on who is behind it, and why. You can also go to toynbeeidea.com to see a map that lists the exact location of just about every Toynbee Tile. We'll probably never know the full story behind the tiles at this point... but let's be real, the speculation is way more fun than the truth.