SALT LAKE CITY — A message that has been showing up on city streets around the world recently popped up in Salt Lake City. It’s a mysterious image known as a Toynbee Tile, a small square containing a cryptic message for the public.
The image has been painted onto roadways for decades, but to date, no one has been able to figure out who is behind it all.
Recently, one appeared at the intersection of State Street and 200 South, conveying a message that read, “House of Hades. Tiles made from the ground bones of dead journalists.”
The quote has been appearing on painted tiles for years, but is actually a copycat of the original tile, which is believed to have first been painted on the streets of Philadelphia in the ‘80s.
“The mystery of it all, that’s the hook,” said Aaron Ballard, who was passing by the intersection in downtown Salt Lake.
In 2011, a documentary titled “Resurrect Dead” followed the efforts of a group from Philadelphia who attempted to uncover the mystery surrounding the tiles. According to their research, the original Toynbee Tile may have come from a man who believed in the theories of a historian named Arthur Toynbee, who wrote that life could be resurrected.
The first tile that appeared carried a message reading, “Toynbee Idea Movie 2001 Resurrect Dead Plan Jupiter.” The image then began to spread to other states and countries, including Brazil, Argentina and Chile. In many instances, it took on different slogans, as copycat artists began to emerge, much like the one in Salt Lake City.
“Maybe it’s a commentary on journalists and how they’re ruining the world,” Ballard said.
His theory was reiterated by others who passed by the tile, Wednesday.
“Someone is probably mad at the media, trying to take a stab at them,” Kendall Bitton said.
Whatever the motivation, the public can only speculate about the state of mind of the person behind it all and their message that has spread all over the world.