photo by Dina Eric / Flickr

In September, the bizarre story of the Georgia Guidestones got a little stranger, with the secret addition and public removal of a new stone cube fitted into a notch at the top of one granite slab. The cube bore several inscriptions including the numbers 20 and 14, setting conspiracy theorists abuzz trying to decipher the meaning of it all. As conspiracy author Mark Dice put it, ”People feared it was a clue that the Illuminati were about to greenlight their population-reduction plan.”

Often called the “American Stonehenge,” the 20-foot-tall Guidestones were built in 1980 by the Elberton Granite Association (proprietors of the Elberton Granite Museum), financed by a mystery man who went by the pseudonym R.C. Christian. He required all the workers on the project to sign non-disclosure agreements and to never reveal his identity or that of the group he represented, which they seem determined to honor. Octogenarian Wyatt Martin, the last man alive to have met R.C. in person, told Discover Magazine last year, “They could put a gun to my head and kill me, I will never reveal his real name.”

The monoliths lay out 10 “guiding thoughts” in eight languages, and the capstone reads, “Let these be Guidestones to an Age of Reason” in Sanskrit, Babylonian cuneiform, classical Greek, and Egyptian hieroglyphics. The tenets include calls for a world court and a new language for all humanity, as well as an extreme population reduction across the world to less than 500 million, a decrease that would be impossible without some kind of apocalyptic catastrophe. There are myriad theories attempting to decode the stones, most of which feature subtle or overt links to favorite conspiracist bogeymen like the Illuminati and the New World Order. The monument is often defaced by people on all sides — from Christians to conspiracy theorists to satanists to plain ol’ vandals.

photo by S A Rogers / Flickr

But conspiracy theories aside, there are genuine mysteries involving the Guidestones. The most recent saga began back in 2009, when a 6 x 6 x 6 cube of granite was stolen from the top corner of one of the stones. Four years later, in 2013, a man named William Jeremy Ellis was apprehended in the middle of the night while attempting to put the cube back onto the monument. He later explained that he had removed the stone for “personal esoteric and numerological reasons,” and that he’d decided to return it because he ”didn’t want that weight anymore.” The original cube was recovered and when we spoke by phone to Christopher Kubas, executive vice president of Elberton Granite, which is still in charge of maintaining the monument, he confirmed that he is in possession of the original cube but that the company has not yet decided what to do with it.

So since 2009, there has been a small notch at the top of one of the Guidestone monoliths. This summer a new cube suddenly appeared in the hole, featuring numbers and letters carved into its faces: MM, JAM, 16, 8, 20, and 14. Many new theories sprang up, using numerology and other esoteric disciplines to draw links between the Guidestones and all sorts of things; the most extreme involves The Simpsons, the children’s book Curious George, the September 11th attacks, and the current outbreak of Ebola. However last week a man named Michael Massanelli made a video explaining that he was the one responsible: he placed the cube there to commemorate his marriage to Jennifer Anne Masanelli on August 16, 2014. Michael Masanelli happens to be a numerologist and conspiracy buff; he’s also been friendly with William Ellis since they met — where else? — at the Guidestones. 

 photo by ajmexico / Flickr

So it comes as no surprise that the new cube placed by Massanelli was removed from the monument in September by local businessman Mart Clamp of Clamp Sandblasting, who took the stone down and then destroyed it with a hammer and chisel, handing out pieces to onlookers. Mart’s father was one of the stonemasons who engraved the monument all those years ago, and he has been cleaning graffiti off of them for years. He explains that his interest in the Guidestones is “purely economical” — he wants to get folks interested in the Guidestones in a positive way, perhaps even starting an annual festival in the hopes of increasing tourism to Elberton.

And so the draw of the Guidestones continues. The theft, addition of the new stone, and public destruction of said stone, all feeding into the detail-obsessed logic of numerologists and conspiracy theorists. There are certainly unanswered questions about the monument’s past, present, and presumably future, and each time something bizarre happens, the mystery and obsession deepens a bit more. It’s a mixed blessing for Elberton, attracting fringe elements and vandals but also a steady stream of tourists to this economically depressed area. The question for Elberton citizens will be if becoming the Illuminati version of Roswell is worth it.