Those Mysterious Monoliths Have Been a Welcomed Distraction in 2020

Even without mysterious steel monoliths popping up overnight in various corners of the world, 2020 has been a really weird year. Factor in what has grown to be dozens of monoliths, appearing overnight, first in a Utah desert, but eventually as far away as Australia, and what we have is a pretty bizarre saga. 

It’s certainly been exciting to watch headlines announcing the next one — particularly since so many of us have been confined to our homes. Not surprisingly, the monoliths have inspired numerous theories regarding their origins as well as copycats and of course, memes. To help make at least a little sense of it all and bring you up to speed on the monolith craze of 2020, let’s rehash the timeline of these unique structures and why they don’t appear to be going away (at least not until 2021 anyway).

The first monolith appears in Utah

By and large, the biggest news of November 2020 was the U.S. election, followed by more horrifying headlines of climbing COVID numbers. Coming in at third place, though, was the original monolith that was discovered by officers in Utah’s remote Red Rock area on November 18 (though it wasn’t announced to the public until 5 days later).  

Officers were in the region to count the area’s bighorn sheep population, when they spotted the strange structure during a flyover. A report of the finding read: “The crew members found a metal monolith installed in the ground in a remote area of red rock. The crew said there was no obvious indication of who might have put the monolith there.”

Although officers were curious, they weren’t amused with the vandalism and a follow up statement read: “Although we can’t comment on active investigations, we would like to remind public land visitors that using, occupying, or developing the public lands or their resources without a required authorization is illegal, no matter what planet you are from.”
The structure was hardly up for a week after its discovery before travel photographer Ross Bernards saw four then-unidentified men show up to remove the Utah monolith. As for the reason for the removal, the men said they removed it because some of the people who had come to see it were leaving trash behind.

Oddly enough, the same day the Utah monolith disappeared, a second nearly identical one was discovered in Romania. Just like the Utah monolith, the Romanian version was around 10 to 12 feet tall and made entirely of metal. The structure was on the Bâtca Doamnei plateau, near an archaeological site overlooking the city of Piatra Neamt, and it too soon disappeared.

Monoliths start appearing all over the globe

Fans of The X-files didn’t have to wait long for more monolith headlines. Not long after the discovery of the Utah and Romanian monoliths, a structure was spotted on Pine Mountain in California by a hiker. Other structures were also spotted in the Golden state in Joshua Tree National Park and in Santa Clarita.

United States monoliths were also discovered in Pittsburgh, North Carolina, Florida, Arkansas, and Texas. However, not all of these monoliths were towering or mysterious in nature. For instance, the North Carolina monolith was only around 3-feet-tall and a group of four men took credit for one of the California monoliths. 

The inspiring and perplexing structures have also been discovered in Poland, Finland, Ukraine, England, and the Netherlands. 

“It’s brought joy and reminded us we ‘can do’ public art and/or extraterrestrial visits,” said the director of Fayetteville, North Carolina’s downtown district. 

While some city officials welcomed the buzz, others were a little more critical of the strange structures. “It’s a fun light-hearted mystery but it is also frustrating to other members of the public who go through the long and arduous path through the legitimate City process to get a piece of art or other project approved by the City,” said JoAnn Cornish, Ithaca’s city’s planning director.

What or who is behind the monoliths?

When the first monoliths appeared fans of sci-fi pointed to extraterrestrial visitors, signified by the appearance of monoliths in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Despite the monoliths appearing and disappearing without much of any trace, there hasn’t yet been any extraterrestrial evidence linked to them. Like so many mysteries, humans are probably at the source. 

An artist community has taken credit for some of the monoliths on its Instagram page. When followers in the photo of one monolith asked “Was it you?,” the account repeatedly responds “if by you you mean us, yes.” While they didn’t provide much evidence that they were indeed responsible for the monoliths, they do say they can build them for those who want their own monolith for a hefty $45,000. Of course, if that’s too pricey, you could also take a DIY approach.

A man in Utah took inspiration from the global mystery and built his own 17-foot structure to cheer up his wife who is battling cancer. The project was completed over the course of a week and included a Christmas star on top to spread some holiday cheer. “They’re pretty straightforward in construction and design,” Anita La Scala, a founder of ARDA Studio told The New York Times. Some sheet metal and a blow torch is all one needs.

In all likelihood the monoliths of 2020 are not messages from outer space aliens or even a higher power. Whether they’re simply bored humans copying each other and putting their welding skills to use or a brilliant marketing scheme, the monoliths have been a welcomed distraction during a terrible year — and that’s good enough.

Photos via Twitter and Facebook

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