Beautiful Mary

Beginning as early as 1980 and ending about a decade later, wheatpaste fliers were glued to bus stations, Communist Workers Party and USA Today newspaper boxes, lampposts, signs and other public surfaces across center city Philadelphia. No photos are known to exist, but one witness remembered,

To my continual regret, I never copied down or photographed any of the
handbills. I recall them starting out with a preamble that pretty
much said the same thing as the street plates (“Toynbee’s Ideas in
Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001…”), and that there was definitely a shortwave
radio frequency mentioned, but beyond that… it was 1989 and I was 17
years old.

Based off of this shred of then 17-year-old information, the Ressurrect Dead documentary team was able to find out what those handbills actually said. Uncovering the content of a wheatpaste flier more than 15 years after it appeared based solely off of the information in the quote above was a fucking miracle.

Today, photographs are cheap and information is easy to find. Because information is now free and widespread, scores of people are out there documenting everything and providing it free of charge to anyone on the planet.

A couple months ago, I noticed some bizarre wheatpaste fliers in center city Philadelphia. All of them had lots of text and all of them were almost completely destroyed. I assumed they were just another example of ‘regular’ street art and didn’t pay them much mind.

A couple weeks ago Justin Duerr started photographing these “Beautiful Mary” posters. It turns out that of all the things they are, regular isn’t one of them. The intact messages are… interesting. Here are photos from 5th and Girard, Broad and Spring Garden and Broad near Snyder. Thank you Justin for taking them:









And in case you’re curious what the Toynbee wheatpaste fliers said:

Arnold Toynbee’s conception of the colonization of
outer space as depicted in the movie “2001: A SPACE
ODYSSEY” on the ability of science to bring every dead
molecule of every human body of history back to life
on the gigantic planet of JUPITER.

We beg the people of this community to accept us
as we have been denied acceptance by the media and

Please write us at P.O. Box xxxxx Phila. 19xxx
(U.S.A) and TUNE x.xx Megacycles (xx meters) short
wave (Saturday nights, midnights ).”

5 Comments on “Beautiful Mary

  1. They’ve been popping up all over the place. I’ve gotten a number of pictures of these as well and was asking around about them.

  2. I just posted some more photos on the Resurrect Dead messageboard. I found a really good one where the demons are described as vampires, and also mentions them administering beatings! Also, strangely, I for some reason suspect the perpetrator behind these posters to be female. I don’t know why. Anyways, thanks for posting my photos, Steve!

  3. I checked back at a couple of my own pictures of these and found a comment that someone left saying these fliers, these specific ones, are all over New Orleans as well.

    I asked for a photo of some but never heard back. Be interesting to get confirmation, I suppose. Perhaps I’ll send out another email to the person.

  4. I live in south philly and I got one of these in a smaller size put in my mail slot the other day. I wish I had been downstairs when it happened because I would have heard the mail slot and opened the door and ran after the perpetrator. I had mixed emotions about receiving one of them in my mail slot as I have always been one that stops and reads the flyers. They can be amusing and offensive and definitely make you stop and wonder about who this person is. If anyone has anymore information please share.

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