The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is investigating an explosion that destroyed much of the Georgia Guidestones, a quirky granite monument in Elberton near the South Carolina border.
Sometimes called “America’s Stonehenge,” the guidestones consisted of several large, upright stone blocks built in alignment with stars and constellations and weighing in at 119 tons and containing over 4,000 sandblasted letters spelling out what appear to be lessons for rebuilding humanity in 12 languages. Some of the advice is controversial, including the tip “maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.”
The world’s population is more than 15 times higher than that.
The stones were built in 1980, commissioned by a mysterious man who used the pseudonym R.C. Christian.
The GBI believes unknown suspects detonated an explosive device at about 4 a.m., reducing several of the upright stones to rubble. By 5 p.m., the remaining stones had been knocked down.
The stones were a popular stop for fans of strange roadside attractions like Laura Jones and her father, Robert Jones of Atlanta, who were puzzled by the police presence Wednesday.
“We literally were like, ‘OK, the GPS says turn here. Wow, that’s a lot of cars parked by the side.’ And then I saw it was closed. We just pulled up over there,” Laura Jones said. “We just saw the GBI guys and were like, ‘Hey, what’s up?’ He said ‘Watch the news, that’s about all I can tell you.’”
The two planned to stop by the stones after watching a segment about them on comedian John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight.”
“If you watch that John Oliver thing, one of the kookier Republican primary people had some vendetta against it, Kandiss something, but I don’t think anyone seriously does,” Laura Jones said. “I think it probably was just like some bored kids.”
Jones was referring to Kandiss Taylor, third place finisher in May’s Republican gubernatorial primary, who listed destroying the guidestones as one of her top 10 priorities during the campaign, describing them as evil and satanic.
In an emailed statement, Taylor seemed to express glee at the monument’s destruction:
“Since my election, the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of THREE of my main platform issues and executive orders (Jesus, Guns, and Babies), and Just like Religious persecution, Gun Control, and abortion, the Georgia Guidestones, a demonic monument that calls for the depopulation of the earth, as well as for the extermination of 7.5 Billion people, has no place in the Christian state of Georgia, or in America for that matter! This looks like another Act of God to me. Today, it is another defeat of the devil. Never underestimate the power of Prayer!”
Taylor was not the only one who found fault with the rocks.
A Franklin County pastor, Clint Harper, pressed Elbert County commissioners at their June meeting to dismantle the monument, which he says advocates for genocide and abortion.
“To maintain humanity under 500 million people, that means that this monument that is in Elbert County advocates the killing of 6.5 billion people,” Harper told the commissioners last month.
Harper argued the county was essentially endorsing the cryptic message by letting it stay on county property and tending to the site. When his request went nowhere, he asked commissioners to let him install a giant cross and a copy of the 10 Commandments alongside the Georgia Guidestones.
The county’s attorney, Bill Daughtry, said Harper was reading too much into the monument’s inscriptions, which Daughtry described as “nonsense” paid for by an eccentric millionaire.
“It’s simply a tourist attraction. We don’t have to disagree with it or understand it,” Daughtry said. “You looked at it and saw ‘abortion’ in big letters, which I looked at it and I did not see that. It’s simply a tourist attraction. It’s been there for years, and people pull off the interstate and come spend their money at local businesses after they look at the funny monument.”
Daughtry said no one objected to the Georgia Guidestones as a religious monument until Taylor ran for governor. Daughtry encouraged Harper to buy land and erect a Christian monument there.
“I’ve never known anybody other than Kandiss Taylor to consider this a statement of faith. It’s just a bunch of nonsense chiseled on stone,” he said.
Residents said they viewed the stones as a fun piece of local lore.
“We came out here as kids,” said George Bond, an Elberton resident and restaurant operator. “We would sneak a beer and hang out at the weird, Southern Gothic architecture, and that’s it. There’s been nothing out here as long as I can remember bad or satanic or evil. It’s just a hokey little gimmick out in a little town. It was terrible that somebody blew it up, a little town don’t need to spend any money fixing it.”
Jack Patel, who works at the nearby Quik Mart and Cafe, estimated about a third of his customers are tourists visiting the monument. He said he’s never heard of anyone expressing a problem with the stones.
“You’d just go take a walk, read the blocks, take a picture,” he said with a shrug. “A lot of people come in on the weekends to see the Guidestones.”
Elberton sits on top of a large bed of granite and has become known for its numerous granite companies and skilled stoneworkers, which are likely the reason the mysterious Mr. Christian chose the town as the spot for his monument.
There were security cameras present on the site, said Christopher Kubas, executive vice president of the Elberton Granite Association, but details of the investigation have not yet been released.
“I really hate that this happened. I do think it’s an attack on free speech, and I hate that we’ve gotten to this point in our country where nothing can be out there for people to read without somebody trying to destroy it.”
Speaking outside the Elberton Granite Museum and Exhibit, Elberton Mayor Daniel Graves said the attack feels like a strike at his city’s history.
“It’s not part of a vast conspiracy theory. It’s not intended to spread hate or anything evil. This is a celebration of the men and women that work so hard in our stone industry and what it means to this community. It’s the lifeblood. We’re the granite capital of the world, and it’s something we’re extremely proud of.”
“We’re heartbroken, but still so grateful,” he added. “There’s so many communities that have experienced such serious loss in the last several weeks. We’re grateful that we’re only mourning the loss of stone and some of the others have lost so much more.”
As Graves spoke with the Recorder, city officials had yet to determine the extent of the damage to the monument, but the mayor said he hoped to see it restored.
“We’re not running out of stone anytime soon,” he said. “So I’m confident that one thing we can do is fix a monument.”
Georgia Recorder Deputy Editor Jill Nolin contributed to this report.
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