Remember the mysterious metal monolith that officials found in the Utah desert this past week, prompting tongue-in-cheek comparisons to the alien artifact in Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film “2001: A Space Odyssey”?
Now, in the latest perplexing turn of events, state officials say the puzzling object has vanished — and they have no idea where it’s gone.
“We have received credible reports that the illegally installed structure, referred to as the ‘monolith’ has been removed from Bureau of Land Management (BLM) public lands by an unknown party,” wrote the Utah Bureau of Land Management in a statement today. “The BLM did not remove the structure which is considered private property.”
Utah officials who were counting bighorn sheep from a helicopter first spotted the strange structure last Saturday, gaining wide attention on social media. By Tuesday, bemused BLM officials had complained that the three-sided monolith was unlawful — even if, as many netizens speculated, it had been placed there by extraterrestrials.
“It is illegal to install structures or art without authorization on federally managed public lands, no matter what planet you’re from,” read an official statement. “The Bureau of Land Management will be determining if they need to investigate further.”
Most government officials, according to the New York Times, suspect the object was an art installation of some type. The Times also speculated that the object was leftover from a movie set, since multiple Hollywood films have been shot in the area where it was found.
By midweek, online sleuths had figured out the monolith’s location, even though state officials had declined to reveal that info, citing concern that people would become lost trying to find it. Intriguingly, according to Google Earth, the structure appears to have been in the spot since some point between August 2015 and October 2016.
And now the object has disappeared. It’s unclear whether a different branch of the government seized it, or whether a third party — perhaps pranksters attracted by the storm of media attention — were responsible for the heist.
“Somebody took the time to use some type of concrete-cutting tool or something to really dig down, almost in the exact shape of the object, and embed it really well,” a spokesperson for the Utah Department of Public Safety told the Times. “It’s odd. There are roads close by, but to haul the materials to cut into the rock, and haul the metal, which is taller than 12 feet in sections — to do all that in that remote spot is definitely interesting.”
READ MORE: That Mysterious Monolith in the Utah Desert? It’s Gone, Officials Say [The New York Times]
More on the monolith: Scientists Discover Mysterious Metal “Monolith” in Utah Wilderness