Destruction of the Georgia Guidestones, a monument puzzling from the start, only has heightened the mystery

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Atop a windswept hill in rural Georgia stood a 19-foot, 3-inch-high granite monument with a series of instructions for living in a future “age of reason.”

Unveiled in 1980 near Elberton, about 100 miles northeast of Atlanta, the Georgia Guidestones have been shrouded in mystery and the center of controversy for decades. The true identity of the man who commissioned the monoliths and the meaning behind its cryptic 10-part message inscribed in eight languages remain unknown.

The mystery of the Guidestones' destruction now adds to that lore. The monument, dubbed "America’s Stonehenge" by some and “satanic” by others, was blown up last month by an unidentified person.

But the Guidestones – or pieces of them, anyway – have found a new home.

This month, the Elbert County Board of Commissioners voted to give the remains of the monument to the Elberton Granite Association. The group, which runs the Elberton Granite Museum, agreed to take the stones, but they've yet to determine a new home, said Elbert Granite Association Executive Vice President Christopher Kubas.

“The only options (the Elbert County Board of Commissioners) had were to basically destroy them completely and be done with them or they could donate them,” Kubas said. “We agreed to take the stones in an effort to preserve them, mostly because the monument was really a testament to the type of work that we do here in Elberton in manufacturing granite monuments and memorials.”

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A mysterious sponsor

It was Elberton’s granite industry that drew a well-dressed man under the pseudonym R.C. Christian to the town east of Atlanta in 1979.

He contacted Elberton Granite Finishing Corp. President Joe H. Fendley Sr. to inquire about the cost of building a large monument and identified himself as the representative of “a small group of loyal Americans living outside of Georgia who wished to remain anonymous forever,” according to the Elbert Granite Association.

Fendley put the man in touch with his banker, Wyatt C. Martin, who became the intermediary for the project. Martin vowed to take Christian’s true identity to his grave, CNN and Wired reported.

Christian chose an isolated, 5-acre cow pasture as the site for the monument. Craftsmen and special crews were brought in to help with its construction, which took more than nine months, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

On March 22, 1980, the Georgia Guidestones were unveiled before a crowd of about 400 people. By the late 1980s, the Guidestones were drawing thousands of visitors a year, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported.

The site began to attract even more people with the rise of the internet in the mid-1990s, Kubas said.

“The Guidestones kind of took on a life of their own,” Kubas said. “From that point, they became more popular as more people saw them on the internet.”

The 19-foot tall Georgia Guidestones, shown  Aug. 8, 1998, have been drawing curious visitors to Elberton, Ga., since 1979. In a former cow pasture on a hilltop in east Georgia, four towering granite stones offer advice in eight languages on how to conserve mankind and the earth. A handful of people know who put them there.
The 19-foot tall Georgia Guidestones, shown Aug. 8, 1998, have been drawing curious visitors to Elberton, Ga., since 1979. In a former cow pasture on a hilltop in east Georgia, four towering granite stones offer advice in eight languages on how to conserve mankind and the earth. A handful of people know who put them there.

The stones, placed at the highest point in Elberton County, consisted of four large vertical blocks surrounding a center stone with a 25,000-pound capstone and served as a sundial and astronomical calendar.

The huge panels contained a cryptic message for humanity engraved in English, Russian, Spanish, Hebrew, Chinese, Arabic, Hindi and Swahili that many have interpreted as a post-apocalyptic guide for rebuilding humanity:

  • Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.

  • Guide reproduction wisely – improving fitness and diversity.

  • Unite humanity with a living new language.

  • Rule passion – faith – tradition – and all things with tempered reason.

  • Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts.

  • Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court.

  • Avoid petty laws and useless officials.

  • Balance personal rights with social duties.

  • Prize truth – beauty – love – seeking harmony with the infinite.

  • Be not a cancer on the Earth – Leave room for nature – Leave room for nature.

The slabs’ first two instructions mentioning population control and eugenics drew criticism and helped fuel conspiracy theories surrounding the monument.

Claims of Satanism around the monument

Over the decades, some have claimed the stones are satanic or connected to the right-wing conspiracy theory with antisemitic origins known as “New World Order,” which centers on the belief that a small group of elites is secretly working to establish all-powerful control.

In 2009, the stones were splattered with polyurethane and defaced with graffiti reading: "Death to the new world order," Wired reported.

Because of acts of vandalism, surveillance cameras connected to the county’s dispatch center were installed at the site, Kubas said.

The stones recently drew attention during the Georgia’s gubernatorial primary. In May, failed Republican gubernatorial candidate Kandiss Taylor publicly pledged to demolish the Guidestones, claiming they were satanic.

"God is God all by Himself. He can do ANYTHING He wants to do. That includes striking down Satanic Guidestones," Taylor tweeted the day the monument was bombed.

The fall of the Georgia Guidestones

At about 4 a.m. July 6, an explosive device went off at the site of the Georgia Guidestones, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation  said.

The explosion shattered one of the four giant vertical slabs, and authorities later demolished the entire monument over safety concerns.

Surveillance video released by law enforcement shows the explosion and a car leaving the scene shortly after.

Authorities are still on the hunt for the bomber.

Beyond the mystery and the conspiracy theories that surrounded the stones, Kubas said, the monument was a feat of craftsmanship.

“It's not so much what was written on them, because that was not anything we came up with – that was something that was originated by Mr. Christian – but the fact that we were able to produce those and had made this very large monument was really a testament to what we do here in Elberton,” Kubas said. “There's really not too many places where that could have been manufactured.”

He said discussions on the future of the remains of the Guidestones and how they could be displayed have yet to begin.

“It's unfortunate,” Kubas said. “There are people that think that just because they don't like it, that nobody should have that opportunity to see it or experience it, and so they're going to destroy it for everybody else.”

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: What happened to the Georgia guidestones? A southern mystery