Latisha Owen thought that the amber drops on her car’s windshield were just flecks of resin from a pine tree. There weren’t any pines near her apartment, nor could she recall driving under any, but when the spots proved resistant to her wipers and fluid, she ignored them and commuted to her job as a secretary at Garnier Tool & Die.

When she left for lunch, though, the small flecks had grown into cloudy amber crystals that were nearly half an inch long and took up a half-dollar-sized spot on the glass. The wipers were worthless against an obstruction of that size, and Ms. Owen gave up trying to pull the crystals off with a gloved hand (it was nippy out) when the windshield cracked. Resolving to call her cousin, an auto detailer, after work, Ms. Owens caught a ride to her usual lunch spot with a friend.

She returned late, having lost half-an-hour to futile attempts to dislodge the crystals, and went straight back to work without stopping to check on her car. Ms. Owens subsequently stayed late, calling her sister to pick up her children from school; she emerged from Garnier Tool & Die at nearly 7 o’clock that night. To her astonishment, by then the crystals were nearly four inches long and had spread across the driver’s side of the windshield, making driving impossible. Stymied, Ms. Owens called her cousin to meet her in the Garnier lot the next morning and took a city bus home.

Darrell Owen stopped by the Garnier lot the next morning before opening his auto detailing and body shop. Arriving at approximately 7:30 AM, he found that the mysterious amber crystals had grown considerably–they now covered half of his cousin’s Celica and had jumped the gap to a Garnier company car left parked nearby, fusing the two together. None of Mr. Owen’s power tools made any impression on the crystals, and he broke two saw blades and three drill bits in the process. Worried, he called the police.

At the same time, Latisha Owen noticed that the gloves she had used to try removing the crystals had begun to show flecks of the same amber spots that had first appeared on her windshield. Hysterical, she wrapped them in paper towels and returned them to the Garnier parking lot, dumping them under the crystal mass that had all but consumed her car. Her cousin discovered similar crystals on his own gloves and power tools, and did the same.

Local police proved unable to respond effectively to the crystals’ aggressive growth, easy contamination, and seeming indestructibility. University researchers and the government were similarly incapable of doing anything as the crystals grew larger and overtook the entire Garnier parking lot and the building itself. Finally, in desperation, a detachment of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built an airtight containment dome over the site to limit the spread of the crystallization. For the time being, that seems to have worked; no further crystals have been detected outside the site, and every object known or suspected to be contaminated with them.

But the cloudy amber crystals remain an enduring mystery. Aside from their color and their unusual 7-sided columnar shape, absolutely nothing is known about their origins, their method of propagation, and their physical properties. The danger inherent in working with them is simply too great.

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!