- Axiom Images
- The new charges against Jeffrey Epstein have renewed questions about his private Caribbean island, which features a building that resembles a religious temple.
- The structure was built sometime between 2009 and 2013, but it’s unclear what it’s used for.
- The building’s strange appearance has piqued the interest of online conspiracy theorists.
- A contractor and engineer who spoke with INSIDER highlighted an odd architectural detail: The medieval-era lock on the front door appears designed to keep people inside.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.
The federal charges against Jeffrey Epstein, unsealed on Monday morning in New York City, open the latest chapter in the very public campaign to bring the financier to justice. They also underscore how little is known about his life, including the source of his wealth, and how what is known doesn’t quite add up. For instance: Is that really a temple on his private island? And to what?
Epstein’s island, officially known as Little Saint James, is situated between St. Thomas and St. John, two of the largest islands of the US Virgin Islands in the Caribbean. Its 78 acres resemble a bird in flight, with its head, tail, and two wings corresponding to the intercardinal directions:
- Apple Maps
The main residence and compound occupies the northeast point, and a pair of guest houses occupy the northwest and southeast points. The southwest point, however, features a very different kind of building:
But seriously, what's up with this weird temple thing on Jeffrey Epstein's private island? pic.twitter.com/njxfg2HahN
— jon gabriel (@exjon) July 9, 2019
There’s a lot going on here. The base is painted with broad, vivid blue horizontal stripes, and supports a large, golden dome. The entrance consists of an arched, seemingly wooden door equipped with black metal hardware. The sides appear to be cut with large windows, including a full-length one in the rear. You can see the back of the structure in a high-definition video captured in 2015 by Axiom, which produces and sells aerial photography:
The front is flanked by statues painted in gold; one of them appears to be the trident-wielding Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea, while two others look like birds perched on the corners of the roof. It is surrounded by a line of palm trees and a terrace with a labyrinth motif. Finally, the exterior seems to incorporate an optical illusion, to create the impression that the exterior windows and door are set within carved flanges.
It strongly resembles a temple, though of which sort remains elusive. Epstein is Jewish, and it is possible that he wanted his own private synagogue. But the statuary would be out of place at such a temple, given the Old Testament’s prohibition on graven images. Though the cubic base and dome call to mind Islamic architecture, Poseidon would likewise be an odd choice for a mosque. Churches, of course, tend to feature crosses.
Locals have suggested the building houses a “music room”
One clue appeared in an Associated Press story, published earlier today, about Epstein’s life on and around the island. Here’s the relevant passage:
Epstein built a stone mansion with cream-colored walls and a bright turquoise roof surrounded by several other structures including the maids’ quarters and a massive, square-shaped white building on one end of the island. Workers told each other it was a music room fitted with a grand piano and acoustic walls. Its gold dome flew off during the deadly 2017 hurricane season.
While this explanation is somewhat believable – Epstein is a classically-trained pianist – the wording suggests it is more of a rumor than a commonly-known fact. Either way, it’s not exactly clear why Epstein would position a “music room” so far away from every other structure on the island.
The second claim – “its gold dome flew off during the deadly 2017 hurricane season” – is more supported. Google Earth satellites clearly captured the dome on August 10, 2017, but it’s not seen at all in photographs taken on September 7, 2017, or in any subsequent image. A pair of substantial hurricanes, Irma and Maria, struck the U.S. Virgin Islands between those two dates.
The “temple” has several strange features, including a door designed to prevent people from leaving
Certain features of the “temple” raise even more questions. When INSIDER consulted James Both, a contractor and engineer based in Chicago, he first pointed to the wooden door. “It’s styled like what you might see on a castle, with what appears to be a reinforcing lock bar across the face,” he said. “What makes it peculiar is that if you wanted to keep people out, the bar would be placed inside the building, [but the] locking bar appears to be placed on the outside … as if it were intended to lock people in.”
Downhill from the structure, at the end of a service path that branches from the main road leading to the building, lies what appears to be a smaller structure or entrance. Here’s what it currently looks like on Apple Maps (notice the lack of a dome):
- Apple Maps
The smaller structure is significant if only because it could theoretically offer a second method of accessing or leaving the larger building, which in turn would suggest the presence of a hidden structure underneath it.
This possibility has gained some currency among online conspiracy theorists, some of whom believe Epstein erected the building to serve as a secluded facility for abusing children. Others have floated the hypothesis that it conceals an elevator shaft, which in turn accesses a subterranean lair where the same abuse occurred. Both groups have referred to the building as a “temple.”
There is some evidence that the larger building and the smaller structure are related to one another. According to historical satellite imagery made available by Google Earth, both were constructed sometime between 2009 and 2013.
In August 2009, nothing existed on the southwest corner of the island:
- Google Earth Pro
By February 2013, however, both structures (and newly widened paths leading to them) were clearly visible from above:
- Google Earth
But Both, the Chicago contractor and engineer, said the smaller structure looked less like a secret entrance and more like a cistern for storing or treating water, a necessity for bringing plumbing to the more remote parts of the island. Another possibility, he added, was “a small caretaker’s shack which might include equipment for maintaining the property.”
As for a secret elevator and lair: “It is absolutely possible to install a dwelling and elevator underneath the structure.” The main caveat, however, was privacy: “If an elevator was built there, [there] would most likely be a record with the vendor who installed the elevator, as they typically require yearly maintenance and inspection. … A simple stairwell would be a better option if someone wanted to conceal their activities at the location.”
All of the attention hasn’t been uniformly conspiratorial. In 2017, the Twitter user The War Economy assembled what is likely the most comprehensive resource about Little St. James, including the identities of several architects who helped design the island’s buildings. However, those architects provided their services long before the temple-like building first appeared.
INSIDER contacted Epstein’s personal attorney as well as the Department of Public Works for the U.S. Virgin Islands to glean more information about the building’s purpose, but neither responded by presstime.
If you know anything about this building – or want to share your personal theory about its purpose – please get in touch.