Barely a week after it was found, Utah’s mystery obelisk has vanished.
The tower of stainless steel in a remote alcove in San Juan County attracted international attention after wildlife biologists caught a glimpse of it from the air earlier this month. The obelisk even has its own Wikipedia page.
Unfortunately for anyone who was hoping to make the pilgrimage to see it in person, it has disappeared.
The Salt Lake Tribune went to the former location of the obelisk Saturday to confirm its absence. All that was left of the tower was a triangular metal piece that used to be on top and a hole where the base of the tower stood. There are trails and tracks in the area around the obelisk from the many visitors who have come to see it over the past week.
The Bureau of Land Management says it did not remove the obelisk.
“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,” said BLM spokesperson Kimberly Finch in a statement to The Salt Lake Tribune. “The BLM did not remove the structure which is considered private property. We do not investigate crimes involving private property which are handled by the local sheriff’s office. The structure has received international and national attention and we received reports that a person or group removed it on the evening of Nov. 27.”
Colorado resident Riccardo Marino told The Salt Lake Tribune that he drove eight hours through the night to get to the obelisk. He said he was 30 minutes from the trailhead at 10:40 p.m. when he saw a truck with a large, rectangular object in the back driving away from the site. He said he finished the trip to the site and found that the obelisk was gone.
“(It was a) very eerie feeling, arriving in the moonlight to nothing there,” he said.
Another disappointed visitor was Salt Lake City resident Spencer Owen.
Owen was able to see the obelisk Friday afternoon. He camped in the region overnight and decided to visit the structure again on Saturday. As he was hiking toward it, people he passed along the trail warned him it was gone. Sure enough, when Owen got back to the site of the obelisk around noon, all that was left of the tower was the one triangular piece of metal on the ground.
“I was really bummed,” Owen said. “It was so pretty and shiny. I wanted to go see it again.”
He said the obelisk excited a lot of people. He even saw person in an ape suit around the area in an apparent reference to the film “2001: A Space Odyssey,” which features a similar structure.
Steven Adams said he left Helper at 7 a.m. to drive to the obelisk on Saturday. He asked for directions when he got to the dirt road that leads to the obelisk and was warned that the tower was gone. Adams and some friends decided to hike in anyway.
“It was pretty disappointing,” he said. “We were really excited to go down and have an adventure to see it. It feels like it was everybody’s and then it was nobody’s. It’s gone.”
He said he had hoped that maybe the people who warned him that it was missing were mistaken. Adams said the other people he saw on the trail were equally disappointed.
Barbara Warnock, a friend of Adams, said she is putting whoever took the obelisk on “the naughty list.”
“I think it was kind of a rotten thing to do,” she said.
Courtlan Gordon, a 26-year-old filmmaker from Los Angeles, drove through the night Friday with three of his friends in an attempt to reach the obelisk.
“The fact that [the sculpture] became so viral was what drew me to it,” he said. “I think with the pandemic there wasn’t that much going on. Everyone’s been home for the whole year and then you get this weird random news that makes people want to get outside and see it.”
The group only heard about the sculpture’s disappearance after making the 17-hour drive.
“We didn’t believe the guy who told us when we were hiking up the canyon,” he added. “We were like, ‘There’s no way.’”
But even with the change in circumstances, Gordon said the trip was worth it. “It’s just such a cool anomaly,” he said.