This week’s sex trafficking charges against Jeffrey Epstein have renewed longstanding questions about the billionaire financier’s private Caribbean island, and particularly about the strange religious-type temple he erected there.
Conspiracy theorists have latched onto the odd building that was constructed sometime between 2009 and 2013 at the southwest edge of Little St James Island, just off the coast of the US territory of St Thomas.
Amateur sleuths are particularly intrigued by the medieval-style lock on the front of the temple, which appears to be designed to keep people in.
Everything known publicly about the building has been gleaned from aerial photographs, as the entire island is kept under tight security.
It’s painted with bright blue and white stripes and topped with a large gold dome.
On the roof at either side of the arched wooden door are two gold statues, one which appears to be Poseidon, Greek god of the sea, and another that looks like a pair of birds.
Each face of the building has a large window looking out at palm trees lining the perimeter and a geometric stone terrace.
The gold dome is believed to have been ripped off by a hurricane sometime before 2017.
Chicago-based contractor James Both shared his professional thoughts on the building with Insider, first drawing attention to the 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.’
Both also pointed out a small structure downhill from the building that some conspiracy theorists believe could serve as a second entrance, suggesting that the space extends underground.
Those theorists have speculated that the child sex abuse Epstein has been accused of may have occurred in that secluded space.
‘It is absolutely possible to install a dwelling and elevator underneath the structure,’ he said.
‘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.’
However, Both said he thinks the smaller structure looks more like a water storage or treatment facility or a shed.
While the main building closely resembles a religious temple, it doesn’t seem to fit any specific sect.
Epstein is Jewish, but synagogues aren’t adorned with statues because the Old Testament prohibits idol images.
The dome is reminiscent of an Islamic temple, but a Greek god would be out of place there as well.
There aren’t any crosses visible, meaning it’s unlikely that it’s a Christian church.
People living on St Thomas, who have harbored curiosity about Epstein’s island since he purchased it more than two decades ago, have speculated that he used the space as a music room, as workers who built the structure claimed it featured a grand piano and acoustic walls.
While Epstein is a classically-trained pianist, it’s odd that he would position the music room so far from other structures on the island.
Mystery surrounds the building but as about Epstein on St Thomas and rooms go quiet. Some people leave. Those who share stories speak in barely audible tones.
The 66-year-old billionaire began transforming the 78-acre island soon after he bought it, clearing the native vegetation, ringing the property with towering palm trees and planting two massive US flags on either end.
When guides took scuba divers to spots near the island, security guards would walk to the water’s edge.
It was off-putting to residents of St Thomas – a lush tropical island east of Puerto Rico with winding roads through mountains dotted with dainty Danish colonial-era homes.
Then, when Epstein pleaded guilty in a 2008 to soliciting and procuring a minor for prostitution, his need for privacy began to appear more sinister.
‘Everybody called it “Pedophile Island”,’ said Kevin Goodrich, who is from St. Thomas and operates boat charters. ‘It’s our dark corner.’
Many people who worked for Epstein told The Associated Press this week that they had signed long non-disclosure agreements and refused to talk.
One former employee who declined to be identified said Epstein once had five boats, including a large ferry in which he transported up to 200 workers from St. Thomas to his island every day for construction work.
The man said he saw a handful of young women when he was on Epstein’s property but he believed they were older than 18.
‘When he was there, it was keep to yourself and do your thing,’ the man recalled, adding that Epstein paid well and would give away older machinery and surplus including lumber to his employees.
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 temple on one end of the island.
Locals recalled seeing Epstein’s black helicopter flying back and forth from the tiny international airport in St Thomas to his helipad on Little St James Island, a roughly 78-acre retreat a little over a mile southeast of St Thomas.
Epstein later bought neighboring Great St James Island, which once was popular with locals and tourists for its main attraction, Christmas Cove, a place where you could hang out and order pizza and have it delivered via boat.
‘He wasn’t well received,’ recalled Spencer Consolvo, a St. Thomas native who runs a tourist shop near a large marina. ‘People think he’s too rich to be policed properly.’
Federal authorities consider the smaller of the two islands to be Epstein’s primary residence in the United States, a place where at least one alleged victim said in a court affidavit that she participated in an orgy, as well as had sex with Epstein and other people.
She said she saw former US President Bill Clinton on the island, but that she never saw him having sex with anyone. A Clinton spokesman issued a statement saying he never visited there.
A day after he pleaded not guilty in a New York courtroom to charges of sexually abusing dozens of underage girls, there was scant movement on the Caribbean island.
Hurricane shutters covered the windows, locals hadn’t seen any lights at night and a lone worker drove a bright blue golf cart around the property.
At a nearby office that locals say Epstein owns in a seaside strip mall, a man in a T-shirt and sunglasses on his head opened the door a crack, shook his head vehemently when asked about Epstein and locked the door.
The firm, Southern Trust Company Inc, hired Cecile de Jongh, wife of former Gov John de Jongh, as its office manager, according to records with the US Virgin Islands Economic Development Authority.
Meanwhile, Epstein’s arrest also prompted the US Virgin Islands representative in Congress, Stacey Plaskett, to announce she would give the money Epstein had donated to her campaigns to charitable groups.
Now that Epstein has been arrested a second time, locals say tourists are increasingly asking about his islands when they visit St Thomas.
A woman who did not want to be identified for fear of losing her job running a charter company said she was elated when Epstein got arrested but is now vexed at tourists’ curiosity, saying she reluctantly shares whispered details of his case to prying adults if children are around.
Some of that fascination aggravates Vernon Morgan, a taxi driver and St Thomas native.
‘It brought some kind of notoriety to the Virgin Islands,’ he said. ‘We would much rather that the Virgin Islands be seen in a different light.’