Posted on November 4, 2014
By DONATELA VACCA
HOMESTEAD, Fla. — As if the story of a tiny 5-foot Latvian man who somehow single-handedly lifted huge stone blocks to create a coral fort isn’t weird enough already, his castle also reveals an uncanny collection of strange inexplicable sculptures that give life to one of Florida’s strangest mysteries.
Coral Castle, located just north of Homestead, offers a twisted glimpse into the bizarre and lonesome life of Edward Leedskalnin, a solitary and strange man who emigrated to America after his 16-year-old fiancé refused his love.
Surrounded by bushes, flowers and a terracotta floor, this castle looks like a painting taken from Salvador Dali’s world. Full of psychedelic figures like crescent moons, obelisks, telescopes, sundials, bathtubs, tables and even a well, this marvel fits what seems to be normal floor plans of a regular house.
However, it is far from ordinary since the only comprehensible objects are the entrance gates, the bathtubs and the dining tables. The rest is surreal.
From the outside, it looks like a typical Floridian coral rock garden, but once the three-ton main gate is crossed the scene is unreal. His mind-blowing creations and figures feed the human imagination and question all rationality in the blink of an eye.
Leedskalnin and his castle are great enigmas, since nobody really knows how this fragile man was able to build this monolithic shrine all on his own, or even how his deadly tuberculosis disappeared a few months after he moved to Florida. According to him, his illness was partly cured due to the effects of the magnetic energy the Coral Castle area had.
Some believe it was magic, some say it was the force of magnetic fields and some say it is plain physics. Still, it is precisely this eerie and bizarre factor that draws most visitors into this dreamlike fortress.
Juliana Moncada, a 30-year-old tourist who considers herself a queer traveler, said she didn’t just stumble upon the castle. Instead, before venturing into Miami’s best, she decided to look up the strangest things to do when this came up.
“I didn’t really know this existed, but I came looking for it. The fact that this spindly man was able to put all this together with his bare hands is definitely see-to-believe material. It’s very alluring to wonder how on earth he was able to transport these rocks from his other property miles away,” she said.
“I’m attracted to all things eerie and it is obvious the place itself already carries a certain unearthly hunch, so it’s a must see,” she added.
Moncada explained that she thinks bizarre things are always attractive to the human brain. She said we are always looking for answers and explanations and, whenever we can’t get them, we become fascinated. This is the reason why she likes visiting places as weird and unfathomable as this one.
“There’s a certain charm and uniqueness to the whole bizarre thing, not to mention how intriguing it is that this man recreated the solar system out of coral rocks inside the grounds of his own house,” Moncada said.
Matthew Potts, a junior majoring in marketing at the University of Miami, visited the castle in search of spontaneous, fun and new things to experience. He explained that weird is sometimes cool.
“My first impression of Coral Castle was that it was extremely weird but in a cool way. I was mostly surprised that it was located in the middle of a residential neighborhood,” he said.
Just like Moncada, Potts was drawn in by the enigma that Coral Castle has become.
“I really enjoyed learning about the history of the castle and about the mystery behind how he moved such big pieces of rock all by himself. It was definitely a unique experience because it’s a one of a kind structure,” Potts said.
Some people wonder how Leedskalnin accomplished this or for what purpose he did it, but most just wonder what is the meaning behind all the strange sculptures inside the castle grounds. Some visitors are even taken aback by the fact that such a strange and peculiar place is located in the middle of a dull suburban neighborhood.
“I really enjoyed the story behind Coral Castle as well as the structures and plants that make it up. I think the castle is a mildly psychedelic place. The nature and the textures of the castle itself are probably its most psychedelic qualities. Also, the mere fact that such a strange place exists is pretty trippy,” said Potts.
Originally called the Rock Gate Park, this place has been luring people in since the 1940s for what used to be just 10 cents. Up to this day Leedskalnin’s creation has succeeded in maintaining its popularity thanks to its odd architecture and characteristics, but some visitors explain that this place is certainly not for everyone.
“I’m not sure if other people would enjoy Coral Castle as much as I did. I feel like most people don’t enjoy bizarre stories about lonely heartbroken old people and weird sculptures,” said Potts.
Moncada explained that although this place is amazingly interesting, not everyone enjoys such bizarreness and thus the essence of the castle is lost.
“I know this place has become super popular, so I am sure most guests enjoy it. However, like every other place I have visited, not everyone seems to understand it. Some people are just in plain awe and confusion, and you can see it in their faces,” she said.
The castle grounds are not very large, however they have indeed become a striking figure in the middle of the plain neighborhood of Leisure City near Homestead.
Coral Castle has become really popular and it is open for visitors, guided tours and even weddings, receptions and parties. It is open Sunday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The entrance fees range from $7 to $15 depending on the age of each visitor, but for less than $20 curious tourists can immerse themselves in a world of wonder, awe and fascination a few hours away from modern civilization.
There is a rumor that some travelers have felt the presence of a certain magnetic field inside the castle grounds, especially around the big gates. However, there is no other way of proving this rather than venturing out and visiting this shrine.
“You can’t really explain what you feel. It’s like a ghostly presence or a cold rush of air even though no one’s there. It is a visually dynamic place that will most certainly spark imagination and amusement during the perfect getaway day trip for any South Floridian,” Moncada concluded.
If You Go
Coral Castle Museum
- 28655 S. Dixie Hwy., Homestead, Fla. 33033.
- Hours of Operation: Sundays through Thursdays, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
- Cost of Admission: seniors of age 65 and up pay $12, adults between the ages of 13 and 64 pay $15, children between 7 and 12 years old pay $7 and those under 6 years enter for free.
- For more information visit the Coral Castle’s website: http://coralcastle.com