HomeEntertainmentRemember the mysterious monoliths? A new one just appeared near Las Vegas.

Remember the mysterious monoliths? A new one just appeared near Las Vegas.

It was like 2020 all over again: On Monday, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department announced the discovery of a mysterious metal monolith over the weekend just north of Las Vegas.

The sighting recalled an internet frenzy from the depths of the coronavirus pandemic. In 2020, a mysterious metal monolith was discovered in Utah. It was roughly 10 feet tall, shiny, reflective, straight out of “2001: A Space Odyssey.” No one knew where it came from. Then it just … vanished.

Internet sleuths, cooped up during covid shutdowns and experiencing the aftermath of the U.S. presidential election, hunted for an answer. Work of an artist? Aliens? Random YouTube pranksters? As people craved an origin story, copycat monoliths started popping up across the world. Few answers followed.

“We see a lot of weird things when people go hiking like not being prepared for the weather, not bringing enough water… but check this out!” wrote Las Vegas police in a social media thread on Monday that included a pair of photos of the monolith. Police said the metal structure was spotted on a hiking trail near Gass Peak, which is on the north side of Vegas.

The monolith seen in the police department’s photos is glassy, like it was plucked from a fifth-dimension bookshelf in “Interstellar.”

The LVMPD said it was fielding plenty of questions about the monolith Tuesday morning, but it did not answer questions about its origins, nor whether police planned to monitor the structure.

But police advised hikers to observe trail safety by the monolith, especially as “the internet gets to work on this mystery.”

What was the Utah monolith?

The original monolith was discovered by officials in November 2020, shortly before Thanksgiving. Utah land and safety officials were in a remote area of the Utah desert when they discovered the object, which apparently had been hidden there for years. (Reddit detectives uncovered through Google Earth that the monolith was probably installed by 2016.)

“We were kind of joking around that if one of us suddenly disappears, then the rest of us make a run for it,” pilot Bret Hutchings told Salt Lake City news station KSL-TV at the time.

So, yeah, a little weird, right? That didn’t stop people from flocking down to the remote Utah desert to snap photos and see the structure. Many theorized that it was the work of aliens. (Mostly in jest. Mostly …) TikTok videos suggested that the structure signaled the arrival of extraterrestrials or some other cryptid.

The world shortly entered what could be described only as monolith mania. UFO YouTubers investigated the site. Brands such as Southwest Airlines and MoonPie made jokes. Stephen Colbert even dished out a 12-minute “monolith monologue” about the structure.

Then the Utah monolith … vanished. And there was never a clear answer about where it went or how it arrived. Amid a debate over land preservation, a group suggested that it dismantled the Utah structure and returned it to federal land managers, but there are still questions about the monolith’s whereabouts.

Utah’s Bureau of Land Management told The Washington Post on Tuesday that it was “checking in” on the status of the original monolith but did not immediately offer more details.

Were there other monoliths? And did aliens make them?

The Utah monolith was just the beginning. A similar structure popped up in Romania, though it appeared a little different, and many considered it to be a copycat. Another popped up in California, but it seemed a little too light compared with the Utah structure. (The destruction of that California monolith was also well documented.) One showed up in New Mexico, but, as social media videos showed, it was torn down pretty quickly.

Several versions of the monoliths were then spotted throughout the world in late 2020, though many were considered to be straight-to-video sequels of the original — including one that was installed at the Fremont Street Experience in Las Vegas in December 2020.

Lots of monoliths. Plenty of attention. And that only proliferated more conspiracy theories and questions about where they all came from.

The leading theory was that the original was simply an artistic prop, with some suggesting that it was installed to say … something … about the environment.

Some in the art world speculated that John McCracken, a minimalist sculptor and sci-fi fan, put together the object before he died in 2011, the New York Times reported at the time. His son, Patrick McCracken, and his gallerist, David Zwirner, offered support for this theory, but Zwirner later recanted. There were also theories that performance artist Zardulu was responsible, but she didn’t take credit. And a prankster art collective called the Most Famous Artist claimed responsibility for the monoliths (then sold a version of them for about $45,000 in December 2020), but its authorship was disputed.

So here we are, in 2024, and the search to understand the original Utah monolith remains a small, confusing moment in history.

The specifics of the monoliths’ origins and departures may not matter. The original piece, the follow-ups, and the global conversation were together an artistic event. It was a chance for the entire world to remark, in real time, about an object’s appearance and meaning.

It also showed us that society has no problem indulging in a good conspiracy theory, especially one that’s a little more fun and offbeat.

And, at the very least, it was a good test case for what happens when aliens do arrive, right?

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