ST. LOUIS (AP) - Unless you're hunting forthem, the weird markers embedded in downtown streets in St. Louis don't drawmuch attention.
For those who do notice,the words make little sense.
The shoe box-sized markerread: "TOyNBEE IDEA IN KUbricK's 2001 RESURRECT DEAD ON PLANET JUPiTER.''
The plaques, numbering morethan 100 and found on dozens of city streets across the United States and inthree South American countries, present a riddle that may never be solved: Whatin the world - or on Jupiter, for that matter - does English historian ArnoldJ. Toynbee have to do with filmmaker Stanley Kubrick and with raising the dead?
St. Louis has three of the "Toynbeeplaques,'' or "tiles,'' as they are often called. Kansas City has one.
Some have called themarkers the urban equivalent of crop circles. Others say they're just quirkyunderground graffiti, some done by copycats.
No one has ever been caughtor taken credit for this caper that dates back to at least the 1980s.
A Web site,www.toynbee.net, one of the best sources of information on the tiles, isdedicated to mapping and discussing the phenomenon.
Chris Clark went to thesite after she stumbled across the plaques in the 1990s in St. Louis.
"The pleasure of theseplaques is not so much in the solution and 'whodunit,''' Clark said. "It'shearing the wild theories and stories that surround them.''
Somehave tried to make the connection to Kubrick and his sci-fi classic "2001: A SpaceOdyssey.'' Internet searches return a load of theories, but the connection withthe late filmmaker is vague, at best.
"The meaning of the messageon the tiles is pretty open-ended,'' said Justin Duerr, a Toynbee tile fanatic."You can draw a lot of connections between the two, depending on how far outyou want to stretch it.''
Another variation reads: "TOyNBEEIDEA IN MOViE 2001 RESURRECT DEAD ON PLANET JUPiTER.'' Sometimes, there areother cryptic messages as well.
Duerr lives in Philadelphia, the place where many people believe the strange practice of stamping themessage on city streets began. A plaque in Santiago, Chile, lists an "A.Toynbee'' and a Philadelphia address, but the address - while real - providedno solution.
In 1983, an article in ThePhiladelphia Inquirer told of a man named James Morasco who said Toynbee'stheory of bringing dead molecules back to life on Jupiter appeared in Kubrick's1968 film. Many have argued that no such reference exists, but Jupiter is partof the movie.
Toynbee was best known forhis writings on the rise and fall of civilizations.
In the late 1990s, Duerrbecame obsessed with the idea and the plaques that appear to be melted into thestreets like crayons on a hot day.
Last year he developed theWeb site www.resurrectdead.com to document the tiles, and he says he plans tomake a movie on the subject.
Duerr said even afterMorasco's death in 2003, new plaques appeared in Philadelphia and elsewhere.
At one time, Duerr said,the tiles could be found every other block. Many have since been paved over orworn down to nothing by traffic.
Many of the plaques lookidentical, as if made with a cookie cutter. Others change the wording slightlyand take on a colorful style of their own. Some include political messages.
One Web site reported aToynbee tile in Pittsburgh that offered instructions on how to make the plaquesusing several layers of linoleum and glue. Another tile reads, "You must makeand glue tiles!''
That was enough to persuadeDuerr to make a tile of his own and slap it to a street in Philadelphia. Hesaid his version looks almost like the others.
His actions present themost obvious explanation: Other people were intrigued enough by their encounterwith the tiles to make their own in various cities.
Duerr said there's even aname for such behavior: A meme, pronounced "meem,'' meaning a cultural actionthat is transmitted and repeated over and over.
"I don't believe there's alone gunman,'' Duerr said. "I like to look at it as art that exists for areason other than being in an art gallery.''