Strange Americana: The Mystery of Utah's Disappearing Monolith

Photo Courtesy: DPS News/Department of Public Safety, Utah via Twitter

Developing Story | On November 18, 2020, wildlife biologists spotted something unusual from their helicopter while conducting a survey of bighorn sheep in the Utah desert: a mysterious silver monolith. It looks like something out of The Twilight Zone — or maybe even the Museum of Modern Art — and, according to the Bureau of Land Management, the structure was illegally put up. Meaning, there’s no official record of its installation. So, what is this 10-foot-tall, seamless silver monolith, and how did it find its way to the red rock canyons of Utah?

Since the discovery, theories surrounding the monolith’s origins swirled, ranging from memes about Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and aliens to jokes about the monolith being part of some viral marketing campaign. The New York Times even speculated about the monolith’s roots, asserting that it looks quite similar to the works of late Minimalist sculptor John McCracken, who, apparently, loved sci-fi and even befriended Star Trek’s Leonard Nimoy. Now, it seems an anonymous art collective is taking responsibility for at least some of the monoliths that have cropped up around the globe, but the mystery isn't completely done and dusted.