A mysterious metal obelisk buried in the far western US desert has inflamed the imagination of UFO spotters, conspiracy theorists and Stanley Kubrick fans around the world.
The shiny, triangular pillar – which juts out about 12 feet[12 m]from the red cliffs of southern Utah – was spotted last Wednesday by puzzled local officials counting large horns from the air.
After landing his 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.”
“It is illegal to install structures or art without a permit in federally administered public lands, no matter what planet you come from,” the agency warned in a heavy-in-the-cheek press release Monday.
The news of the discovery quickly went viral online, and many noted the object’s resemblance to strange alien monoliths that unleash great leaps in human development in Kubrick’s classic sci-fi film “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
Others pointed to their discovery during a turbulent year that has seen the world caught up in the Covid-19 pandemic and optimistically speculated that it could have a completely different function.
“This is the ‘Reset Button’ for 2020. Can someone please press it quickly?” joked an Instagram user.
“Close up says, ‘Covid vaccine inside,'” wrote another.
Although officials have refused to reveal the site’s location for fear that hordes of curious visitors would flock to the remote wilderness, a Reddit user said they had managed to geolocate the obelisk using surrounding rock formations.
Sharing the Google Earth site – where a small structure can be seen, about six miles from the nearest road – the user said the structure was first photographed by Google in 2016.
Bret Hutchings, the pilot who happened to fly over the obelisk, speculated that it had been planted by “some new wave artist.”
Some observers 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.
On Tuesday, a spokeswoman for his representative David Zwirner said it was not one of McCracken’s works, but possibly by a colleague who paid tribute.
Later in the day, however, Zwirner made another statement in which he suggested that the piece was indeed by McCracken, which meant that it had been undiscovered in the desert for almost a decade.
“The gallery is divided on this,” Zwirner said. “I think this is definitely by John.”
He added: “Who would have known that 2020 had another surprise for us. Just when we thought we had seen it all. Let’s see it.”
Anyway, Hutchings admitted that it was “the strangest thing I’ve come across out there during all my flights.”
“We joked that if one of us suddenly disappears, the rest of us will make a run for it,” he told the local news channel KSLTV.