Coral Castle: The Mystery of Ed Leedskalnin and his American Stonehenge by Rusty McClure and Jack Heffron is part biography, part history lesson, and part guide to the present day tourist attraction.
The book opens with a small biography of the life of Edward Leedskalnin, covering his origins in Latvia and his eventual immigration to America. We learn that he traveled the North American continent, holding various jobs before making his way to Florida, where he would dedicate the remainder of his life to building his masterpiece. From the point of Ed’s arrival in Florida City, the text changes focus to the construction of the Castle.
The story continues after Ed’s passing, with the authors tracing the ownership of the property up to the present day. We discover that, pursuant to Leedskalnin’s death in 1951, the subsequent owners saw fit to collect affidavits from surviving guests and acquaintances regarding the unusual nature of the Castle’s construction. These same statements now provide valuable insights into both the man and his creation.
The text concludes with a guide to the features of present day Coral Castle.
The authors incorporated a variety of color and black and white photographs throughout the book. On the whole they serve to enhance the text, although there are some stock images mixed in among the more interesting and relevant shots of Ed and the Castle.
While I found the majority of Coral Castle enjoyable and informative, I was disappointed with the manner in which the authors covered the possible methods of construction. One of the biggest draws of Leedskalnin’s work tends to be the mystery of how one small, frail man managed to build the entire complex unaided and in secret. There are several popular theories, ranging from basic mechanical physics to alien intervention. The authors only dedicate a single chapter to this topic, touching on every possibility in quick succession, and with minimal critical analysis. The coverage seems insufficient considering that the construction mystery is probably the foundation of most people’s interest. Given the length at which others have speculated on the topic, and that the authors seem to have so much insight into the rest of Ed’s life, it felt as though there should have been more to say here.
All in all, Coral Castle is an approachable and enjoyable treatment of Ed Leedskalnin’s life and most famous creation. Its strengths lie more in presenting the man than the mystery, but in that regard it’s worthy of the attention of those wanting to learn more about the history of this Florida landmark.