Mystery of metal monolith at least partly solved as sleuths figure out its location

Mysterious metal monolith in San Juan County, Utah, Nov. 25, 2020 | Photo courtesy of Monica Holyoak, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The mystery of the metal monolith found in the southeast Utah desert has been at least partially solved, thanks to numerous sleuths who were able to pinpoint the marker’s location within a few days after the story first broke. 

A helicopter crew with the Utah Department of Public Safety’s Aero Bureau spotted the metal structure from the air on Nov. 18 while assisting the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources in counting bighorn sheep in the area. 

As previously reported in St. George News, DPS helicopter pilot Bret Hutchings reported hearing one of the biologists aboard exclaim, “Whoa, whoa, whoa — turn around. We got to go check this thing out.”

The DPS’s ensuing social media posts about the unexpected find attracted the attention of various media outlets, both local and national. Many commenters joked about the monolith being an artifact left behind by aliens or possibly a portal to another dimension. Others speculated it may be some kind of art installation or perhaps an old movie prop.

A strange metallic object was found in a remote area of Southern Utah, Nov. 18, 2020 | Photo courtesy of Utah Department of Public Safety, St. George News

DPS officials did not disclose the exact location of the marker in the department’s original posts, saying it was in a remote area and they did not want people to get stranded or lost trying to find it.

Within a matter of days, however, multiple people had managed to find the marker, with some posting the exact GPS coordinates in social media comments.

Moab resident Monica Holyoak told St. George News she started looking Saturday morning, the day after a story about the monolith had appeared on KSL-TV’s evening news.

Holyoak, an avid hiker and search and rescue volunteer who enjoys exploring the backcountry, said she had not ever seen nor even heard of the marker until Saturday. She spent the next few days off and on studying photographs and comparing them to topographic images on Google Earth, with some help from a flight tracker program and other resources. 

“It was like looking for a needle in a haystack,” she recalled.

Finally, on Tuesday morning, after following a few dead-end leads, Holyoak was confident she’d found the right spot, located in the Lockhart Basin area of San Juan County.

“I felt like a kid on Christmas morning,” she said Tuesday afternoon as she made plans with friends to visit the site as soon as possible. Since the location was about a 2.5-hour drive from Moab, they decided to wait until Wednesday morning.

Throughout the day Tuesday, it became apparent that multiple other would-be detectives had also managed to find the spot. Television personality Dave “Heavy D” Sparks from the Diesel Brothers show flew in from a helicopter and made a social media post of himself standing on the marker Tuesday afternoon. “Found it. Tried to get beamed up, must be out of service,” he joked.

Undeterred, Holyoak and a handful of friends still made their way to the site on Wednesday.

“There were six others there when we arrived, and we passed four coming out as we were going in.” she reported. “Lots of traffic on the road going in as we were coming out. It’s going to be crazy there this weekend.”

L-R: Moab residents Micah Johnson, Monica Holyoak, Melissa Nerone, John Marshall, Zippy the dog, Nicole Bonilla and Jamie Marshall at the site of a mysterious metal monolith in San Juan County, Utah, Nov. 25, 2020 | Photo courtesy of Monica Holyoak, St. George News

Holyoak said the road to the site is passable even for two-wheel drive vehicles, although there are a few sandy spots. It’s not advisable to travel in the area in wet weather conditions, she said.

Holyoak said there were no words or markings on any of the three stainless steel panels that could give a clue to their origin. 

“Just a lot of fingerprints,” she said, adding that a few of the rivets have popped out.

The three panels, each about 2 feet wide and 10 feet tall, are arranged in the shape of a triangular prism, buried upright in the ground in front of some red rock sandstone formations.

Although many questions have been answered, several others remain. The main one, of course, is who made it and put it there, and how? To date, no artist or sculptor has claimed responsibility, nor has any film production crew.

As for the when, Google Earth images reportedly show that the structure has been there since 2016, according to a newly created Wikipedia page devoted to the “Utah monolith.” 

There has not yet been any official word regarding whether the Bureau of Land Management plans to remove the marker or allow it to remain in place. The agency did issue the following statement in response to the publicity surrounding the monolith: “It is illegal to install structures or art without permission on public lands, no matter what planet you’re from.”

Check out the gallery below for photos taken by Holyoak and her friends at the monolith site Wednesday.

Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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