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We Know How That Utah Monolith Disappeared

4 guys dismantled it at night, a photographer tells the 'New York Times'
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 1, 2020 11:34 AM CST
We Know How That Utah Monolith Disappeared
In this Saturday photo, rocks mark the location where a metal monolith once stood in a remote area of Utah.   (Kelsea Dockham/Canyon State Overland via AP)

So where will a monolith turn up next? First, one popped up in the Utah desert, only to vanish. Then another turned up in Romania, but now it's gone, too. While nobody seems to know exactly what's going on, the New York Times has at least shed light on one part of the weirdness—how the Utah monolith disappeared. (Spoiler alert: Humans, not aliens, took it down in the night.) Coverage:

  • The dismantling: Photographer Ross Bernards says he was at the Utah site Friday night taking pictures when four men appeared with a wheelbarrow, then pushed over and quickly dismantled the monolith, reports the Times. (The story includes grainy cellphone images of the dismantling.) Were they the same people who put it up? Not clear. Bernards says he and his companions didn't try to stop the men. "As they walked off with the pieces, one of them said, 'Leave no trace,'" Bernards says.
  • On Instagram: You can read Bernards' own account of this on Instagram. He writes that the men were right to remove the object because it was beginning to attract lots of visitors who weren't respecting the delicate environment. "This is why you don't leave trash in the desert," he quotes one of the men as saying.

  • In Romania: Reuters reports that the similar-looking object that turned up in a remote area of Romania vanished on Tuesday. "An unidentified person, apparently a bad local welder, made it ... now all that remains is just a small hole covered by rocky soil," says local journalist Robert Iosub.
  • Material: The Utah object had a metal exterior, but photos from the dismantling revealed it to be "a hollow structure with an armature made from plywood," per the Times. The Romanian object was apparently made of sheet metal, and it had a badly welded joint, according to Reuters. (Hence the crack from the local journalist above.)
  • Disappointed: The Salt Lake Tribune rounds up reaction from disappointed hikers in Utah, including one who apparently glimpsed the pickup carrying the dismantled monolith away from the site Friday night. "(It was a) very eerie feeling, arriving in the moonlight to nothing there," he says.
  • No answers: Don't expect police to be able to shed much light on the Utah mystery. The San Juan County sheriff says he doesn't have the resources to launch a big investigation into the monolith, which was illegally placed on public land, reports the AP. Meanwhile, the Times reports that a theory linking the Utah object to the late artist John McCracken has largely fizzled.
(More Utah stories.)

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