So who was Ed Leedskalnin anyway?

The famed builder of the mysterious Coral Castle in Homestead, Florida, Evards Liedskalniņš, a.k.a. Ed Leedskalnin, reportedly hailed from Latvia and subsequently landed in the US in 1919, aged 26.

His ability to quarry, cut and move heavy monolith blocks of stone (weighing all the way up to 30 tons in at least one case), has been the stuff of legend ever since the public at large found out about it.

castle_magnets1Leedskalnin himself has claimed that he figured out the secret of how the pyramids have been built and simply applied the same methods to the Coral Castle, which he, ostensibly, built as a monument to his love, “The Sweet Sixteen”, a.k.a. Agnes Scufft.

No one knows how exactly Leedskalnin managed to accomplish his extraordinary feat – a tiny man who only ever worked alone.

I’m not going to speculate in this article about his methods. Instead I’ll speculate a little bit about his identity.

I have at least some speculative reason to believe that Ed Leedskalnin – or Evards Liedskalniņš for that matter – was not his real name. And if it was, then it would be one of those curious eponymous coincidences. Something not unlike the postman named John Mailman or an accountant named John Bookkeeper.

But in this case, however, Ed’s name just might be a little deliberate hint.

When I look at Leedskalnin’s surname, I can see two parts: “leed” and “skalnin”.

Given that he hailed from Latvia which shares historical and cultural ties with Lithuania and Poland, one only needs to look at the possible meanings of these two root words and see if something adds up. And add up it does!

“Leed” or “lit” (pronounced “leet” in some of the above-named Slavic languages) means “solid” or “stone”. Very much like the root “lith” in English which, in turn, derives from Greek, meaning “stone” – as in “monolith” (“single stone”). It is also, interestingly, the root word of lithium – the light metal so named after the earth from which it was first extracted by J.J. Berzelius in the 19th century.

So we already have two interesting coincidences in just the first part of his name – stone and lithium.

The second part, “skalnin”, sounds an awful lot like the Polish “skalny” (pronounced in almost the same way) and means “rocky” or “made of stone”.

Hey, that’s a double emphasis on rocks in just one name! Or, if we do for a minute assume that the name was indeed made up, then we might give Ed credit for not wanting to be redundant and rather than calling himself Ed “Rocky-rock” (erm… Flintstone), he might have opted for “Lithium-rock”.

This, to me, makes more sense, especially given the obvious connotation of the lithium battery and Ed’s known – as well as suspected – mastery of electricity and magnetism.

A long shot?

Perhaps. But I remember reading an obscure book whose author or title I can no longer recall in the 60’s or 70’s by a Polish writer who reminisced about his meeting with Ed who, according to him, spoke pretty good Polish and had a wicked sense of humor.

Perhaps that throws yet another light on his alleged Sweet Sixteen whose surname “Scufft” could just as easily be a little wordplay on “scuffed”, quite apart from any possible hidden significance of the number 16.

Incidentally, “scuff” of course also means to scrape or roughen a surface – yet another curious connection with stoneworking! (I’m not even going to mention that “Agnes” sounds an awful lot like “mAgnes” = “magnet”, in Polish ;).

Ed Leedskalnin was a man of mystery, and it’s clear that it was deliberately so. He didn’t reveal his anti-gravity (?) technique – so why then would he give his real name?

So… who the heck was he?

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