• Image about Elberton
It seems simplistic in design until you realize that the Guidestones can also serve as a compass and as a way to measure time as a clock or a calendar.

A hole drilled through the capstone, for example, shines light onto the center slab daily at noon. Another hole, this one drilled through the center slab at roughly eye level, goes upward at an angle so that the North Star is always visible. And a “mail slot” cut into that same slab is located exactly where the sunrise hits during the twice-yearly solstice (when the earth’s axis tilts the most toward and away from the sun) and twice-yearly equinox (when the earth does not tilt and the sun crosses the equator).

If you haven’t heard of the Guidestones, which were unveiled in 1980, you are not alone. Their notoriety ebbs and flows. In 1993, interest was rekindled when Yoko Ono praised them in a song titled “Georgia Stone.” In 2005, National Geographic Traveler included them on its Geotourism MapGuide to Appalachia. Most recently, in late 2008, the Guidestones were seriously vandalized for the first time, with various slogans spray-painted in red across all the slabs. (The county in which the Guidestones sit paid for the cleanup, which is still in progress.) The Guidestones are also dutifully listed on the city, county, and state websites as a tourist stop, as well as included in the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

But it’s in the online netherworld where the Guidestones really thrive. Some 85,000 often-repetitive Google hits and myriad YouTube homages and snippets from early documentaries abound (many concerned with end-time predictions), and various websites call for the destruction of the Guidestones for reasons that are usually religious in nature.

“It’s a curiosity, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing,” says Gary Jones, publisher of the weekly Elberton Star. “It’s there, and people are drawn by it and can’t help but be impressed by it, but it doesn’t take our breath away anymore.”

Echoes Phyllis Brooks, president of the Elberton Chamber of Commerce: “Some people are for it, some are against it, and some [just] appreciate the craftsmanship.”

It was June 1979 when a well-dressed and somewhat elderly man entered the offices of Elberton Granite Finishing. (It would be worth noting here that Elbert County is home to one of the richest deposits of granite in the world, of which the newcomer was undoubtedly aware, and this alone could answer the question of “Why Elberton?”)

When the man spoke to the proprietors about his project, he was met with skepticism, told his ambitious project could not be considered without a surety of payment, and shooed over to the local bank.

Upon arrival, the gentleman, using the pseudonym Robert C. Christian, met with Granite City Bank president Wyatt Martin and presented a $10,000 deposit and a wooden scale model of the Guidestones. Christian purchased the five-acre plot of land for the Guidestones from a local rancher for $5,000, granted lifetime grazing rights to the seller and his children, and deeded the plot over to the county.

Officials at Elberton Granite Finishing then decided they were up for the challenge, though along the way they sought the aid of professors at the University of Georgia to help position the astronomical elements.

Throughout the construction process — and long after the Guidestones were finished — Christian called and corresponded with Martin. Now 79, Martin’s last contact with Christian was in September 2001, and Martin has since moved to a neighboring county — but he has kept his oath to Christian to keep his identity, affiliations, and motivations a secret.

When the Guidestones were finally unveiled in March 1980, elected officials, Atlanta media, and a crowd of several hundred attended. The first notion of conspiracy soon followed in 1981 with an article in UFO Report conjecturing that the X design of the Guidestones was meant as a landing site for aliens; it also quoted a psychic who predicted that an apocalypse would occur within 30 years.