Milky Way Galaxy, Sol System, Planet Earth, Utah, [Redacted]”N [Redacted]”W: On a bright November day, the Department of Wildlife Resources dispatched a helicopter crew to assess wild sheep populations in a remote part of the Utah desert. What they found instead was something inexplicable: a 12 foot tall, featureless steel monolith tucked inside an isolated canyon, nearly impossible to find except from the air. The government refused to disclose the object’s exact location, but to no avail as it’s existence soon became public knowledge. Internet enthusiasts quickly used Google Maps satellite imagery to pinpoint the site’s coordinates and tourists flocked to the scene. Nine days later, the monolith vanished as inexplicably as it appeared.
This is both an amazing opening scene for a science fiction story – see my esteemed colleague Kumar’s fictional take – and something that actually happened last week. Seriously 2020, can’t we just have a week off school without you adding a (probably cursed) desert obelisk to this crazy year?
In all seriousness though, the Utah monolith is real and likely not as ominous (or cursed) as it seems. The object is twelve feet tall and triangular, with three sides and a flat top. It appeared to be made of normal human stainless steel, although the people of Earth didn’t get much of a chance to examine it before it disappeared.
As for the location, I’m going to follow in the footsteps of most professional newspapers and refrain from printing the exact coordinates, as the object is very remote and somebody could indeed get stranded trying to reach it, but suffice it to say that the evidence put forward by Reddit users who found the object is pretty strong so it’s location isn’t really in question.
Monolith hunter Tim Slane appears to have been the one to find the final spot. He used the geographic features visible in the photos posted alongside the helicopter’s public flight path to isolate a few possible locations and then check them by hand. I navigated to the proposed coordinates on Google Maps myself and it’s pretty clear that’s the monolith we are looking for, what else casts a shadow that shape?
Satellite view of the monolith’s suspected location (screenshot)
The question of who (or what) built the monolith remains a mystery. Early theorists suggested that it was an abstract art project, possibly crafted by minimalist artist John McCracken. This at first seemed a watertight explanation, McCracken’s known art is remarkably similar in style. However, McCracken passed away in 2011 and, according to The Verge, a watch through of satellite passes over this spot in the last few years shows the canyon empty until 2016, when the monolith seems to have first appeared five years after McCracken’s death. Is the object a work that McCracken never disclosed? Another artist paying homage? Something else entirely? We simply don’t know.
Left the Utah monolith, right sculptures by John McCracken
And now for the monolith’s final mystery: what happened to it, and where is it now? To this, at least, I do have a partial answer. The object was first reported missing on the evening of November 27th, when the latest batch of tourists traveling to the site found only a triangular plate from its top and a hole in the ground where it used to be. The Bureau of Land Management denies removing the monolith, as it is “considered private property”.
So what happened to it? In an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune, Coloradoan monolith seeker Riccardo Marino reported he was driving toward the site on November 27 at 10:40 PM when he passed a flatbed truck with a “large, rectangular object” in the back going the other way. When he arrived at the site half an hour later the monolith was gone. There’s no way to say for sure if the driver of that truck simply drove away with the monolith, but it seems likely. A photographer on Instagram named Ross Bernard is claiming to have witnessed the removal of the monolith, although his story notably fails to line up with Marino’s by about two hours.
Either way we may never hear from that particular monolith again, but it does seem an oddly fitting ending to a very surreal story. After all, this is humanity we’re talking about. As The Expanse once noted, “It was astounding … how quickly humanity could go from ‘What unimaginable intelligence fashioned these soul-wrenching wonders?’ to ‘Well, since they’re not here, can I have their stuff?’”
Milky Way Galaxy, Sol System, Planet Earth, Romania, December 1st 2020: Well folks, I really thought that was the end of the article but it looks like 2020 has at least one more mysterious obelisk in store for us. On Tuesday, almost immediately after the Utah monolith disappeared, reports started hitting the internet that residents of Piatra Neamt in Romania had discovered another 10-12 foot tall triangular steel monolith on the Bâtca Doamnei plateau overlooking their city, thousands of miles from the one in Utah.
Milky Way Galaxy, Sol System, Planet Earth, California, December 3rd 2020: And another one. This is an incredibly last minute update to the article so I’ll be brief. The monolith in Romania has now inexplicably disappeared, and a third one with the same dimensions and design has mysteriously appeared overnight at the summit of Pine Mountain near Los Angeles, California. Similar to the Romanian monolith, this one appears to be hastily constructed and is free standing, even capable of falling with a strong push.
2020 has officially defeated my drive to find witty commentary on current events, so I can offer no conclusion this time. I mean honestly, there are actual monoliths appearing and disappearing for no discernible reason across the Earth’s surface. We’ve stopped living in a pandemic movie and started living in a laughably unbelievable science fiction movie. If somebody out there figures out what’s going on, rest assured that I will let you know. Until then, just try not to attract the attention of any cursed obelisks that show up near you.