In an idle moment, I typed my author name into Google (who doesn’t?) to see what matched up – and my screen was suddenly filled with images that seemingly had nothing to do with my efforts as an writer.

I discovered a whole collection of images that described something called Toynbee Tiles – and even a movie that had been made about them.

The picture above was a particular head-scratcher and I was compelled to follow the thread in order to fully satisfy my curiosity.

The thread led to a post on Cranesareflying, a blog that devotes a whole page to the making of the movie.


Both Cranes and Newsworks, describe how Jon Foy, an ex-punk band member (Red Devils), was inspired enough by the mystery to make his budget movie about the Toynbee tiles – and won an award as a consequence (The Sundance Film Festival).


Thom Powers and Jon Foy;

Thom Powers & Jon Foy

The same story turned up on Philadelphia Weekly and then on Red Dirt Report, an Oklahoma news page.

toynbee tile2


Wired Magazine provides a concise explanation for this phenomenon, suggesting a quasi-religious campaign stated by Philidelphia’s James Morasco, who died in 2003. However, the tiles still continued to appear until around 2010, as far apart as NYC and St. Louis.


There are numerous comments (some banal and pointless, but many refer to tiles seen on city streets, one as far back as 1992) at Metafilter.

Flickriver has posted a whole collection of these from various cities.


And if all that wasn’t enough for you, you can now buy the tee-shirt. 😀

toynbee tee shirt

I wonder if Fox Mulder has one of these? 😀

Has anyone else out there seen or heard about these before now?

I’d be interested to hear.

This was not at all what I’d expected to find when I Googled my name. Have any of you done that  – and been very, very surprised by what turned up?


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