Erected in 1980 in the US state of Georgia, the Georgia Guidestones stand 90 miles to the east of Atlanta and are a modern megalithic mystery. Made from granite, they stand 16 feet tall and consist of five stones arranged in an “x” shape, with four wings surrounding a central stone. The structure is topped by a 25,000-pound capstone. While who physically made the stones is public knowledge, there are only scant details on what their purpose is or who is truly behind the construction of what many believe might be a guide for surviving the apocalypse.
It was in June of 1979 that the Elberton Granite Finishing Company was approached to create the monument by “a small group of loyal Americans”. The alleged spokesman of this group, the elegantly presented Robert C. Christian, walked into their offices on the Tate Street Extension in Elberton and made President Joe H. Fendley a seemingly outrageous proposal. Christian stated that he wished for a megalithic structure comprising of 16-foot stones to function as a compass, clock and calendar. He specified that the creation should be able to defy manmade and natural disaster.
The enigmatic man admitted his name was a pseudonym and that he had chosen it simply because he was a Christian. He added that he represented a party from outside the state who wished to remain anonymous in perpetuity. He had come to Elberton because the city’s granite was the finest in the world. Believing the man to be “a nut”, the company attempted to run him off without trouble by giving an astronomical quote, many times the highest ever sale by the company. He accepted.
“I was thinking, ‘I got a nut in here now. How am I going get him out?”
Joe H. Fendley Sr of Elberton Granite, Wired
Asking if there was a banker locally that he trusted, Fendley passed RC Christian over to Wyatt C. Martin, president of the Granite City Bank. Meeting at the bank, Christian was again quite open about his name being a pseudonym and revealed that the planning for the Georgia Guidestones had been underway for twenty years. He stated that he hoped other conservation-minded groups would add to the stones in the future and these communal stones would carry the message he intended to have carved on them in even more languages.
“Fendley called me and said, ‘A kook over here wants some kind of crazy monument, but when this fella showed up he was wearing a very nice, expensive suit, which made me take him a little more seriously. And he was well-spoken, obviously an educated person… When he told me what it was he and this group wanted to do, I just about fell over. I told him, ‘I believe you’d be just as well off to take the money and throw it out in the street into the gutters.”
Wyatt C. Martin, president of the Granite City Bank, Wired
The incredulous Martin showed Christian the Bicentennial Memorial Fountain, its massive 13 stone frame being a tribute to the original American colonies. Martin intended to prove to Christian that his plan was unfeasible, yet the mysterious customer was nonplussed and promised to return after the weekend. He exited the city by charter plane and was seemingly scouting for locations.
When he did return on Monday, Martin insisted on going by the book, requiring a name and evidence that RC Christian had the financial means to pay for the proposed Georgia Guidestones. Christian agreed on condition of life-long non-disclosure on Martin’s part and the destruction of all documentation after the project had concluded.
“He said he was going to send the money from different banks across the country because he wanted to make sure it couldn’t be traced. He made it clear that he was very serious about secrecy.”
Wyatt C. Martin, president of the Granite City Bank, Wired
Leaving the bank, Christian returned to the Elberton Granite Finishing Company and gave Fendley a box containing a model of the guidestones as envisioned alongside a detailed 10-page document on requirements. The following Friday, Martin telephoned to say that a deposit of $10,000 had been paid. Fendley got to work.
The stones were quarried at the Pyramid Quarry and cleaned and sized in Elberton. Master stonecutters were utilised to smooth the finish, and a location for the structure was found, with Fendley and Martin assisting Christian in selecting the site. Then owner Wayne Mullinex was paid $5,000 for the site and granted lifetime cattle rights on the land and the contract to lay the foundation. With the location set and work well underway, Robert Christian would now exit the story, never being seen in person again. While he would communicate with Martin by post, it was noted that he never mailed from the same location twice. Neither Martin nor Fendley ever knew who he was.
The instructions for the creation of the momument were complicated, and Findley was forced to employ an astronomer, ensuring the correct construction. The centre stone has an eye-level, oblique hole drilled so that the North Star is always visible alongside a slot which is always aligned with the Sun’s solstices and equinoxes. Meanwhile, the four large upright wing slabs are oriented to the limits of moon migration during the year.
The slabs were to be etched on both sides with a message, each side containing a different language. Interestingly, these carvings included dead languages that few could be expected to understand. The United Nations provided the translations for the stones. Starting due north and moving clockwise, the languages included on the rocks are English, Spanish, Swahili, Hindi, Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese, and Russian. A few feet to the west lays another stone, an explanatory tablet. On this tablet, engraved with information on the construction, the phrase “Let these be guidestones to an Age of Reason” is boxed and surrounded by translations in Babylonian cuneiform, Classical Greek, Sanskrit and Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs.
The primary inscriptions on the slabs seem to be a modern ten commandments, a list of advice for humanity following a worldwide disaster. They appeal to environmentalism, spirituality, peace and reason.
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 purpose of the Georgia Guidestones and who was behind them was already controversial before the structure had even been erected, with locals believing that Martin and Fendley themselves were the masterminds and the work was against Christian scripture. Many thought the above tenets were objectionable for not placing faith as a primary objective. Perhaps, this claim only proved the point of the stones of the need for reason. Such was the furore, however, that both men decided to take lie detector tests at the Elberton Civic Center to publicly prove they were not involved and they did not know who RC Christian was. The tests were witnessed by reporters from the Elberton Star. They passed convincingly.
“I witnessed a lie-detector test between Fendley and Martin saying they didn’t know who he was”
Carolyn Cann, Editor of the Elberton Star
A local firebrand minister, James Travenstead, raged that the stones were for “for sun worshipers, cult worship and devil worship”, adding that “occult” groups would flock to the city and “someday a sacrifice will take place here.” The sensational claims were only heightened when one of the men working on the stones, Charlie Clamp, claimed to have heard “strange music and disjointed voices” while sandblasting the rocks. Undoubtedly, he was paid well for his story.
The Georgia Guidestones were eventually unveiled on March 22, 1980, with accounts differing as to the number of people in attendance. Some say it was as little as 100, others as many as 400. In any case, the news of the unveiling was soon broadcast across Atlanta, and the local area and curious tourists soon came flocking. Visitors from “Japan and China and India and everywhere” would quickly be filling Elberton alongside more local travellers. To the undoubted horror of James Travenstead, witches, druids and ceremonial magicians have all utilised the site alongside Native American, Christian, and pagan groups.
This utilisation, alongside the apparent symbolism linked with pagan megaliths such as Stonehenge, have led to hostility amongst American evangelical Christians in particular, seeing the structure as an affront to their religion. Some claim “RC Christian” is a reference to Roman Catholicism, seeing the stones as a statement against Protestantism. Others highlight the use of the phrase “age of reason”, linking them to the Thomas Paine book of the same name that attacked the Christian establishment. Over time, this almost militant form of Christianity has become entwined with all manner of far-right conspiracy theories proclaiming that the faith is under attack. Ultimately, those blamed for these “attacks” on Christianity boil down to age-old tropes surrounding Jews, Muslims and others who are either non-white or non-protestant.
“And authority was given [to The Beast] over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.”
Revelation 13:7–8, The Bible
These “New World Order” conspiracies, deriving from perceived Biblical “warnings” of a single united government and common language were populated by the debunked Protocols of the Elders of Zion. This fraudulent 1903 antisemitic text proclaims that Jews were conspiring to enact this one-world government. In recent years these attacks have come from the likes of Alex Jones and Mark Dice who make careers from selling such paranoia to the American public, convincing swathes of citizens that fascism is at their door and only Donald Trump can save them. The dangers of these messages have become all too apparent with the rise of the online QAnon cult and it is easy to see why a message “worded as a moralistic appeal to all peoples of nationality, religion, or politics” is objectionable in these times of hyper-nationalism.
“This is not a ‘normal’ monument to promote environmentalism or an ‘Age of Reason’ as the stones suggest… The Guidestones have a deep Satanic origin and message… through a little research a few things become apparent, and the New World Order is written all over them.”
Mark Dice, as quoted in the Elberton Star
Taken out of context, the first suggested commandment of “maintain[ing] humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature” can seem threatening, the number being far lower than the current population of the world. However, constructed in 1980 as the Cold War was heating up again following détente, the message stands as advice for a post-apocalyptic world where nuclear winter has decimated the population of the planet, not a call for mass extermination. Likewise, the demand for wise reproduction to improve “fitness and diversity” could be seen in our current times as a call for eugenics, yet in a world that requires rebuilding, could also be seen as common sense.
Some have suggested that the group involved in the Georgia Guidestones has power, influence and money, even being a still existing Rosicrucian order. One argument against the claim is the fact that the Georgia Guidestones are not complete as to the original idea. Initially, there were to have been eight other stones as per the plan dictated to Wyatt. While Christian seemingly hoped the public might become involved, when they didn’t, no further funding from RC Christian or his alleged group ever materialised.
“No money has ever come forth from Mr Christian or any others. There’s been talk about it, but nothing has ever happened.”
Carolyn Cann, Editor of the Elberton Star.
The only man who ever truly knew the truth behind RC Christian and the stones was Wyatt C. Martin. Following their construction, he maintained contact with Christian and the two men became friends. Sharing letters and, when in Atlanta, Martin would meet Christian for dinner in Athens. Wyatt last heard from his friend in 2001 around the time of the September 11 attacks and, as he was in his 80s then, presumes he has passed away. Despite his promise, Wyatt never destroyed all the documentation relating to the Georgia Guidestones and instead kept it in his garage. While he wouldn’t speak a word, planning to take the secret to the grave, he was indignant at talk of the New World Order and secret societies in a 2009 interview with Randall Sullivan.
“All along, [Christian] said that who he was and where he came from had to be kept a secret. He said mysteries work that way. If you want to keep people interested, you can let them know only so much.”
Wyatt C. Martin, president of the Granite City Bank, Wired
In 2010, the makers of the documentary Dark Clouds over Elberton claimed to have obtained the address of RC Christian. The makers were said to have exploited the trust of Martin who had recently suffered a stroke. They acquired one of the letters sent to him and noted the return address. The documentary concluded that Christian was, in fact, a doctor by the name of Herbert Hinie Kersten, a man who had publicly praised David Duke, the former Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Furthermore, William Sayles Doan, an author and Fort Dodge historian, claims that Kersten was an open racist and had stated his intention to create a monument to prove the “superiority” of the white race.
Kersten was friends with William Shockley, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist who became known for his views on scientific racism and promotion of the belief that whites were genetically superior. Another friend of Kersten was said to be Robert Merryman, publisher of the Ft. Dodge Messenger. Merryman arranged for the publication of Common Sense Renewed, a book written by “Robert Christian”.
Common Sense Renewed is named after Thomas Paine’s book Common Sense and calls for a resumption of Paine’s ideals, a common thread in libertarian politics. However, alongside more mainstream libertarianism and conservatism, the book seems to stand alone as a personal manifesto, including new age thinking into providing a solution to world problems. The book includes “solutions” to issues such as overpopulation and education reform, which the author believes can be solved through reason, many of the themes echoing Rosicrucianism. The book was allegedly sent to “friends” in government. While this is frequently taken as a truth, there is no evidence and, written in 1986, there is a possibility that the book was a hoax, written to create mystery surrounding the guidestones. Printings of the book featuring the Georgia Guidestones on the cover are reprints, the original was limited to 100 copies. However, taken at face value, it seems possible that Kersten, perhaps alongside noted friends such as Merryman and Shockley, might very well be behind the Georgia Guidestones and be lobbying for the views contained in the book.
Yet, this is all contradicted by the claims that Wyatt never knew Christian’s real name, nor where he was truly located, with letters sent from various locations. As ascertained, he even passed a lie detector to prove the fact in 1980. Equally, even the most basic knowledge of white supremacist ideology leads to a conclusion that the guidestones are unlikely to be the work of a racist. As a monument to racial superiority, it seems doubtful that Hebrew, Arabic and Swahili would feature on three of the faces, nor that the stones would make a plea for the commitment to nature, a united humanity and international cooperation. With the monument becoming a pilgrimage for “witches, druids and ceremonial magicians” alongside new-age and pagan movements, it seems astonishing that the forces of white supremacy would have maintained their silence for long.
The prevalence of Christian conspiracy theories since the rise of the internet has given new life to the Georgia Guidestones, yet brought with it new dangers, the monument being graffitied and attacked at least twice. Threatened by a call for unity, reason and a new age of enlightenment, they have bogged the real purpose of the stones down in allegations of Satanism and the age-old threats of one-world government. Perhaps the entire affair is an elaborate hoax, one that generates revenue and income for many involved. Maybe there is some truth to the claim that the articulate RC Christian may have been versed in the ideas of Rosicrucianism, or that local Freemasons were involved. Perhaps, the stones do indeed stand as a secret racist polemic, one unidentified for 40 years. Or, maybe an independently wealthy Christian merely wanted to promote his message and decided to create a mystery to do so, there being no shadowy group of patriots at all. No matter the truth, the mystery of the Georgia Guidestones, like the slabs themselves, looks set to stand for a very long time to come.
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