TNB Night Owl–Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles

Toynbee tile at Market Street in Philadelphia, photo by Zuzu

Sometime in the 1980s a person–or people–integrated handmade tiles into the pavement throughtout Philadelphia, New York, and various other cities. They stretched from Boston to Kansas City, with a handful appearing in South America. While many had a side text, they all had a basic text:

Toynbee Idea/In Movie 2001/Resurrect Dead/On Planet Jupiter

Hundreds appeared in what should have been places impossible to access without detection–the middle of highways, the entryway to the Holland Tunnel, the middle of I-95.

Private investigators have tried to identify who set the tiles and why. Twice, professional documentarians tried. Websites were devoted to seeking answers.

None were found.

Enter freshman filmmaker Jon Foy. He chronicled a search conducted by three amateurs: Justin Duerr, Steve Weinik, and Colin Smith in a fascinating documentary, RESURRECT DEAD: THE MYSTERY OF THE TOYNBEE TILES (2011).

While the three lacked in investigative experience and education, they made up for in access to the previous research and unabashed enthusiasm. As unlikely as it is they will be the ones to come up with answers, the movie is so well put together you can’t help but root for these guys (as well as want to know the answer yourself). We follow them through various leads, a mysterious David Mamet play, a short-wave radio convention, and down the streets of Philly, as they search any lead they can find.

One thing they–and the audience–learn is to expect the unexpected. To say any more would ruin it, but trust me, it’s worth the hour and a half watch.

Once you’ve watched it, you can visit the website of the film to get insight into why they made the decisions they did.

Question of the night–what is your favorite documentary?

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