A mysterious metal monolith found in a remote desert of the western United States has apparently disappeared, officials said.
The Utah Bureau of Land Management said on Saturday that it had received “credible reports” that the object had been removed “by an unknown party” on Friday.
The bureau “did not remove the structure which is considered private property,” it said in a statement.
“We do not investigate crimes involving private property which are handled by the local sheriff’s office.”
The shiny, triangular pillar, which protruded some 3.7m (12 feet) from the red rocks of southern Utah, was spotted on November 18 by local officials counting bighorn sheep from the air.
After landing their helicopter to investigate, Utah Department of Public Safety crew members found “a metal monolith installed in the ground” but “no obvious indication of who might have put the monolith there.”
Utah state workers walking near a metal monolith in the ground in a remote area of red rock in Utah [Utah Department of Public Safety via AP Photo]The mysterious structure garnered widespread media attention and prompted theories that it was the work of extraterrestrials.
Many social media users noted the object’s similarity to strange alien monoliths that trigger huge leaps in human progress in Stanley Kubrick’s classic sci-fi film 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Meanwhile, some observers pointed out the object’s resemblance to the avant-garde work of John McCracken, a US artist who lived for a time in nearby New Mexico, and died in 2011.
His son, Patrick McCracken, told The New York Times recently that his father had told him in 2002 that he would “like to leave his artwork in remote places to be discovered later.”
Bret Hutchings, the pilot who happened to fly over the monolith, speculated that it had been planted by “some new wave artist”.
He said 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.
Although officials had refused to disclose the object’s location out of fear that hordes of curious sightseers would flock to the remote wilderness, some explorers were able to track it down.
Instagram user David Surber said he trekked to the monolith using coordinates posted on Reddit.
“Apparently the monolith is gone,” he posted later.
“Nature returned back to her natural state I suppose. Something positive for people to rally behind in 2020.”