Mazes Galore! Not all have hedges!
Did you honestly think I would stop with hedge mazes? Of course not! MAZE MONTH would not be complete without shining a wee bit of history and light on the plethora of mazes and labyrinths that are not made of foliage. This will be the finale to what has been an absolute delightful topic. I sure hope y’all have enjoyed it as much as I have.
MAZE MONTH FINALE!
MAZES IN SCIENCE
In 1882, scientist and polymath John Lubbock, 1st Baron Avebury, started designing mazes to study the navigational skills of insects. He built impromptu mazes and navigational puzzles out of household items, and observed the way ants made their way around them. He published the results in his book Ants, Bees, and Wasps.
Rats made their way into research labs at Clark University in Massachusetts with Dr. Edmund Sanford in the 1890s. Two of Dr. Sanford’s graduate students, Linus Kline first and then later Willard Small pioneered the field of zoological psychology by studying animal behavior in assorted ways. Eventually mazes entered the study, Small suggesting using the pattern of the Hampton Court maze in England. The first findings were published in 1901 and from there, mazes of all sizes and types, even 3D, with rats, mice, and some non-rodents (like Rhesus monkeys) became a standard.
THE MAZE WORTH $10,000
In 1985, illustrator and children’s book author Christopher Manson published a 45-page puzzle book titled MAZE: Solve the World’s Most Challenging Puzzle. Unlike any other puzzle book written before or since, it included a contest with a prize of $10,000 to the first winner!
The book itself was unique, and as it turned out incredibly challenging. Each page represented a room in a house with a riddle that needed to be solved before moving onto the next room. If wrong, one would be led astray, not find the correct clues, and thus be unable to solve the main riddle. Though the task seemed relatively simple, the puzzles—of which there were more than 116—were wickedly tough.
The contest deadline was extended to September 1, 1987, two years after the book’s release, when no one had successfully completed the maze or solved the riddle. In the end, twelve people discovered the correct path, but never solved the riddle. The prize money was split between them.
The book can still be purchased on Amazon and elsewhere, if you want to give it a go! To read more about this fascinating book and contest, GO HERE.
MIRROR MAZE CRAZE
Mirror mazes go by many names — Hall of Mirrors, Mirror House, Maze of Mirrors, Crystal Maze — and can take on various forms, but the essence is the same.
The roots trace to the Palace of Versailles in France, where a “Galerie des Glaces” or Hall of Mirrors was created by Louis XIV in 1689. It was not a maze in the truest sense of the word as the mirrors were placed to create an illusion of pathways. A man named Peter Stuyvesant was so inspired by the Versailles Hall of Mirrors that upon his return to the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam (now known as that tiny town New York City) he constructed a mirror maze and charged one Dutch gulden to enter.
The first formal attempt to create a specific maze arrangement with mirrors is attributed to Gustav Castan in Berlin, Germany. He, with his brother, opened the Panopticum in 1873. He patented his invention, first in France in 1888 followed by patents in Belgium, England, Germany, and finally the USA in 1985. In the words of Castan’s patent—
“The primary object of my invention is to provide such an arrangement of mirrors in a room or inclosure as shall cause them, by their reflection of objects suitably located with relation to the mirrors, to present to the vision of a person in the apartment the illusion of a labyrinthian device composed of seemingly endless passages, which appear to him to be freely traversable until he is stopped in his course by an obstructing mirror, from which long passages seem to extend to the right and to the left.”
The oldest surviving mirror maze was originally created in 1891 for the Prague Jubilee Exhibition in the Czech Republic. It was moved to Petrin Hill in 1893, where it survives to this day.
Other patents were granted for unique designs, and mirror mazes rapidly became a stable of traveling fairs and carnivals. By the early 1900s there were many permanent mirror mazes, particularly in the United States. The mirror maze entered pop culture, first in The Phantom of the Opera, the 1911 novel by Gaston Leroux, and then in the film The Circus in 1928.
While there are rumors of mazes cut into a field of corn as far back as the 1980s, the first full-sized corn maze created for the public was in 1993. Located in Annville, Pennsylvania at Lebanon Valley College on 3-acres, the 1.92 miles of pathway was designed by Don Frantz and Adrian Fisher. Although others have long since surpassed this original corn maze, the cleverly named “The Amazing Maize Maze” was officially certified as the Guinness World Records holder for largest corn maze. To this day, the team that created The Amazing Maize Maze continue to build fabulous corn mazes all over the US.
Corn mazes, or “maize mazes” as they are often so referred, must be carefully planned well in advance. Certain varieties of corn provide the best stocks, for one, and the planting must be timed precisely in order to last longest. Typically, corn mazes are cut into a particular shape, as was the Frantz and Fisher formed in the shape of “Cornelius, the Cobasaurus.” Another standard of a corn maze are puzzles and brainteasers to solve along the way, and as a short-term attraction they are often combined with popular autumn features such as hay rides, a petting zoo, pumpkin patch, haunted zones, and so on.
The current Guinness World Record holder for largest corn maze is “Cool Patch Pumpkins” from 2014, located at Dixon, California. It covered an astounding 60-acres! It was so big that several visitors called 911 after getting hopelessly lost.
ICE & SNOW MAZES
Summer too short to grow a corn field? Weather too cold to keep a hedge alive? No worries! Clever folks in areas of the world steeped in winter climates a good portion of the year have not been deterred from embracing the love of mazes and labyrinths. In fact, a number of countries compete every year for the coveted “largest” ice or snow maze title.
The Giant Maze in Zakopane, Poland has been a Guinness World Record setting ice maze structure since the first one built for the 2015-2016 winter. Each year the designers and builders create a maze bigger than the year prior. For winter 2021-2022 the ice maze beside the Great Krokiew ski jump covers more than 27,000 square feet. Over 60,000 ice blocks were cut and installed manually by some 40 mountaineers, the process taking a month to complete. The Giant Maze is part of Snowlandia, a winter wonderland that also features a castle with hidden tunnels and a watchtower.
The largest ice maze in the U.S. opened in January of this year in Stillwater, Minnesota. Ice Palace Maze is located at the Zephyr Theatre Parking Lot in Stillwater and has a half-mile of passageways built of 2900 blocks of ice and surrounded by an 8-foot high perimeter wall to keep the maze a secret. For those who conquer the maze, a 36-foot ice slide awaits. There’s also hot chocolate and s’mores for the kids and an ice bar with drinks for the adults.
Not to be outdone, a Canadian couple built the largest snow maze (as opposed to ice) for several years running. In 2019, the Manitoba Snow Maze located near St. Adolphe broke the Guinness World Record. Designed and built by Clint Masse, the 30,021-square-foot maze required 300 truck loads of snow and nearly seven weeks to complete. Ice and snow statues are scattered throughout the maze, which takes about 30 minutes to navigate.
This is my last stop on the maze-a-thon for March.
I hope y’all have enjoyed this a-MAZE-ing topic!
Share your thoughts below.