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Mysterious monolith found in remote Utah desert is removed

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 11/29/2020 Emily Webber For Mailonline
a sign on a rock: MailOnline logo © Provided by Daily Mail MailOnline logo

A mysterious monolith that was found in the remote Utah desert has been removed by an 'unknown party' after its sudden arrival sparked theories it was left by aliens. 

The shiny triangular pillar, which protruded approximately 12 feet from the red rocks in southern Utah, was spotted last Wednesday by baffled local officials counting bighorn sheep from the air.

However the three-sided structure was removed by 'an unknown party' on Friday evening, the Bureau of Land Management Utah said in a statement. 

a close up of a rock: A mysterious monolith that was found in the remote Utah desert has been removed by an 'unknown party', according to officials © Provided by Daily Mail A mysterious monolith that was found in the remote Utah desert has been removed by an 'unknown party', according to officials

Tourists have headed to the site following the news of its removal and revealed how the triangular top has been left at the site alongside rocks piled in a stack. 

However the BLM said it had not removed the structure 'which is considered private property' and would not be investigating because 'crimes involving private property' are managed by the local sheriff's office. 

The BLM said in a Facebook post on Saturday: 'We have received credible reports that the illegally installed structure, referred to as the 'monolith' has been removed from Bureau of Land Management (BLM) public lands by an unknown party. 

'The BLM did not remove the structure which is considered private property. We do not investigate crimes involving private property which are handled by the local sheriff's office. 

a close up of a rock: However the three-sided structure was removed (pictured) by 'an unknown party' on Friday evening, the Bureau of Land Management Utah said in a statement © Provided by Daily Mail However the three-sided structure was removed (pictured) by 'an unknown party' on Friday evening, the Bureau of Land Management Utah said in a statement a canyon with a mountain in the background: The shiny, triangular pillar, which protruded approximately 12 feet from the red rocks of southern Utah, was spotted last Wednesday by baffled local officials counting bighorn sheep from the air © Provided by Daily Mail The shiny, triangular pillar, which protruded approximately 12 feet from the red rocks of southern Utah, was spotted last Wednesday by baffled local officials counting bighorn sheep from the air

Utah Department of Public Safety said on Monday that crew members found 'a metal monolith installed in the ground' but 'no obvious indication of who might have put the monolith there.' 

'It is illegal to install structures or art without authorization on federally managed public lands, no matter what planet you're from,' warned the agency in a tongue-in-cheek press release Monday.

a close up of a canyon: A tourist stands with the triangular top of the monolith and posted their finding to Instagram © Provided by Daily Mail A tourist stands with the triangular top of the monolith and posted their finding to Instagram a man walking down a dirt road: A man holds the triangular top that has been left of the monolith which remains in the desert © Provided by Daily Mail A man holds the triangular top that has been left of the monolith which remains in the desert

News of the discovery quickly went viral online, with many noting the object's similarity to the strange alien monoliths that trigger huge leaps in human progress in Kubrick's classic sci-fi film '2001: A Space Odyssey.'  

Meanwhile arguments broke out among residents in the U.S. South-West State after tourists were accused of trashing the location, which authorities had tried to keep secret to avoid people getting lost.

But many tracked down the co-ordinates and published them - leading people to drive many hours through the night to reach the 12ft aluminium structure. 

a person standing in front of a large rock: One explorer crouches beside the triangular top which has been left next to a stack of rocks © Provided by Daily Mail One explorer crouches beside the triangular top which has been left next to a stack of rocks

And it was revealed that a similar version appeared nearly 20 years ago on New Years Day in Seattle.

However access to the site involved a 45-minute off-road drive on a dirt track many miles from any major town at 10mph - and then a 15-minute hike up a dry stream bed. 

Across the globe UFO spotters and conspiracy theorists became obsessed with the shiny, triangular pillar. 

a person sitting on a rock: A stack of rocks has been left next to the triangular top of the monolith which has been removed by an 'unknown party'

A stack of rocks has been left next to the triangular top of the monolith which has been removed by an 'unknown party'
© Provided by Daily Mail

Reddit user said they had managed to geo-locate the obelisk using surrounding rock formations.

Sharing the Google Earth location - where a small structure can be seen, roughly six miles from the nearest road - the user said the structure was first photographed by Google in 2016. 

Some satellite images of the monolith date back to a year earlier in 2015.  

Several adventurous hikers successfully located the monolith on Tuesday and gleefully climbed the mystifying object and snapped photos with it, even though officials didn't disclose its exact location for fear people would get lost searching for it. 

Though the structure was only discovered by authorities this month, Google Earth images show it had been standing since at least 2015 or 2016.  

Lieutenant Nick Street, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, said it's possible the structure had been there for '40, 50 years, maybe more.' 

a person standing in front of a large rock: Officials suggest it could be have been constructed by an artist or a huge fan of 2001: Space Odyssey - the structure resembles the machines found in Arthur C. Clarke's story (pictured) © Provided by Daily Mail Officials suggest it could be have been constructed by an artist or a huge fan of 2001: Space Odyssey - the structure resembles the machines found in Arthur C. Clarke's story (pictured)

'It's the type of material that doesn't degrade with the elements. It may only be a few years old, who knows. There's no real way based on the material it's made out of how long it's actually been there,' he said on Tuesday.

Some pointed out the object's resemblance to the avant-garde work of John McCracken, an American artist who lived for a time in nearby New Mexico, and died in 2011.


Gallery: A timeline of all of the monolith appearances and disappearances in Utah, Romania, and California (INSIDER)

McCracken was known for his freestanding sculptures in the shape of pyramids, cubes, or sleek slabs.

a person standing posing for the camera: Some observers also pointed out the object's resemblance to the avant-garde work of John McCracken (pictured) an American artist who lived for a time in nearby New Mexico, and died in 2011. © Provided by Daily Mail Some observers also pointed out the object's resemblance to the avant-garde work of John McCracken (pictured) an American artist who lived for a time in nearby New Mexico, and died in 2011. a close up of a screen: He was known for his freestanding sculptures in the shape of pyramids, cubes, or sleek slabs © Provided by Daily Mail He was known for his freestanding sculptures in the shape of pyramids, cubes, or sleek slabs

The monolith most closely resembles McCracken's plank-like sculptures featured at his exhibit at the David Zwirner art gallery in New York. 

On Tuesday a spokeswoman for David Zwirner said it was not one of McCracken's works, but possibly by a fellow artist paying homage.

However later in the day Zwirner gave another statement which suggested the piece was indeed by McCracken, meaning it had lain undiscovered in the desert for nearly a decade.

The monolith was located inside a red rock cove but workers have withheld details about its exact location to prevent others from endangering themselves trying to get a closer look © Provided by Daily Mail The monolith was located inside a red rock cove but workers have withheld details about its exact location to prevent others from endangering themselves trying to get a closer look

'The gallery is divided on this,' Zwirner said. 'I believe this is definitely by John.'

They added: 'Who would have known that 2020 had yet another surprise for us. Just when we thought we had seen it all. Let's go see it.' 

Explorer David Surber visited the monolith last week and posted the co-ordinates to Instagram and revealed that it was located near Lockhart Basin Road, near Moab. 

He has since posted about its disappearance to his Instagram Story on Saturday night: 'Apparently the monolith is gone. 

'Nature returned back to her natural state I suppose. Something positive for people to rally behind in 2020.' 

On social media, others remarked on its discovery during a turbulent year that has seen the world gripped by the Covid-19 pandemic, and optimistically speculated it could have a different function entirely.

a close up of a rock: Utah: Officials have refused to disclose the metal obelisk's location out of fear that curious sightseers would flock to the remote wilderness, but internet sleuths managed to pinpoint its position nonetheless. Google Earth images show it has been there since 2016 or 2015 © Provided by Daily Mail Utah: Officials have refused to disclose the metal obelisk's location out of fear that curious sightseers would flock to the remote wilderness, but internet sleuths managed to pinpoint its position nonetheless. Google Earth images show it has been there since 2016 or 2015

'This is the 'reset' button for 2020. Can someone please press it quickly?' joked one Instagram user.

'Up close it reads: "Covid vaccine inside"' wrote another.

Bret Hutchings, the pilot who happened to fly over the obelisk, speculated that it had been planted by 'some new wave artist.'  

Either way, Hutchings admitted it was 'about the strangest thing I've come across out there, in all my years of flying.'

'We were kind of joking around that if one of us suddenly disappears, then the rest of us make a run for it,' he told local news channel KSLTV.

a man standing on top of a grass covered field: A view of the mystery monolith in Magnuson Park in Seattle pictured on January 2, 2001 © Provided by Daily Mail A view of the mystery monolith in Magnuson Park in Seattle pictured on January 2, 2001

Utah has a history of 'land art,' unusual installations that cropped up far from population centers in the 1960s and '70s.

The most famous, Spiral Jetty, a 1,500-foot-long coil by artist Robert Smithson in 1970 that's composed entirely of mud, salt crystals and basalt. 

Located on the northeastern edge of the Great Salt Lake near Rozel Point, the jetty appears and disappears depending on water levels.

So far, no one has stepped forward to claim responsibility for the monolith, though.  

a man wearing a hat: The BLM said in a Facebook post on Saturday: 'We have received credible reports that the illegally installed structure, referred to as the 'monolith' has been removed from Bureau of Land Management (BLM) public lands by an unknown party'

The BLM said in a Facebook post on Saturday: 'We have received credible reports that the illegally installed structure, referred to as the 'monolith' has been removed from Bureau of Land Management (BLM) public lands by an unknown party'
© Provided by Daily Mail

And it hasn't disturbed the bighorn sheep that live in the southern half of Utah. Their population was once down to under a thousand in the 1970s, but conservation efforts have seen them make a big comeback in recent decades. 

Colter Hoyt, from Boulder Town, Utah, drove nine hours to visit it before posing in a collection of fancy dress outfits for a series of selfies and pictures which he posted to Facebook on Saturday.

He captioned the pictures: 'The Obelisk! I know it will be photographed heavily in the near future until its demise, but I don’t think too many people will do it quite as much justice as me. 

'(I took a lot more pictures in a variety of outfits and places nearby, these are just a few. Was so fun!)' 

a close up of a rock: Colter captioned the pictures: 'The Obelisk! I know it will be photographed heavily in the near future until its demise but I don’t think too many people will do it quite as much justice as me'

Colter captioned the pictures: 'The Obelisk! I know it will be photographed heavily in the near future until its demise but I don’t think too many people will do it quite as much justice as me'
© Provided by Daily Mail

Colter appeared in a silver skin-tight suit with an aluminium mask before appearing on stilts in the pictures. 

However some users were concerned about people descending on the site.   

Martin Hudson commented on the Facebook pos: 'I hope this doesn't start a fad...people going out in the desert and trashing it out.' 

Colter dressed in a silver suit alongside the monolith

Colter dressed in a silver suit alongside the monolith
© Provided by Daily Mail

But Colter hit back in defence: 'Accessing it won't damage the desert any worse than is already happening. 

'But I hear you. Let's pray for the best. This isn't as bad as carving your name on one of the arches. And it certainly is a fantastic piece of graffiti.'

However many people praised Colter for making them laugh. 

Olga Sacasa wrote: 'Priceless! Did you do some in an ape suit with a club in your hand throwing it up in the air; an homage to 2001 Space Odyssey. What are those stilts you are wearing in one of the pictures? Love the costumes!'

a close up of a stone wall: Colter hit back to comments on Facebook in defence of visiting the monolith adding: 'Accessing it won't damage the desert any worse than is already happening' © Provided by Daily Mail Colter hit back to comments on Facebook in defence of visiting the monolith adding: 'Accessing it won't damage the desert any worse than is already happening' a person standing in front of a large rock: Colter appeared in a silver skin-tight suit with an aluminium mask before appearing on stilts in the pictures © Provided by Daily Mail Colter appeared in a silver skin-tight suit with an aluminium mask before appearing on stilts in the pictures

Aliens or avant-garde art installation? Theories surrounding the mystery of the Utah desert monolith 

ALIEN INVASION 

Social media users were quick to note the object's similarity to the strange alien monoliths in Stanley Kubrick's classic sci-fi film '2001: A Space Odyssey.' 

In the film, the monolith was a tool created by an alien race that trigger huge leaps in human progress. 

LATE ARTIST'S SECRET INSTALLATION 

The structure has also drawn comparisons to the work of minimalist artist John McCracken. 

McCracken, who died in 2011, was known for his freestanding sculptures in the shape of pyramids, cubes, or sleek slabs. 

The monolith closely resembles McCracken's pieces, leading some to speculate this could be one of his own works of art. 

Adding to the theory is that McCracken had lived and worked in nearby New Mexico and California.   

A spokeswoman for his representative David Zwirner said it was not one of McCracken's works.

Zwirner later gave another statement in which he suggested the piece was indeed by McCracken.

'The gallery is divided on this,' Zwirner said. 'I believe this is definitely by John.'

NEW WAVE ARTIST OR SCI-FI FAN 

Many have speculated the structure could just be the work of a new wave artist or sci-fi fan.

Pilot Bret Hutchings, who discovered the monolith, suggested it was placed by 'a big 2001: A Space Odyssey' fan.' 

A David Zwirner rep said it was possibly by a fellow artist paying homage to McCracken. 

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