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Photographer shares shots of men taking down the mysterious Utah monolith

Photographer shares shots of men taking down the mysterious Utah monolith


It was there… but now it’s gone.

Utah Department of Public Safety Aero Bureau

Last week the internet went crazy when a strange 2001: A Space Odyssey-esque metal monolith was spotted in the Utah desert. Then, as mysteriously as it showed up, the strange metal object went missing. 

The state’s Bureau of Land Management “did not remove the structure, which is considered private property,” read a BLM statement posted on Facebook. 

We now know who did. 


Michael James Newlands, a friend of adventure photographer Ross Bernards, used a smartphone to snap this photo of the monolith being disassembled on Friday night. 

Michael James Newlands

Colorado adventure photographer Ross Bernards was visiting the structure on Friday night when, he said, he saw four men arrive and dismantle it. He documented the structure’s presence, and then its absence, on Instagram. He also shared images snapped by a friend of the men taking it down.   

“Four guys rounded the corner and two of them walked forward,” Bernards writes. “They gave a couple of pushes on the monolith and one of them said, ‘You better have got your pictures.’ He then gave it a big push, and it went over, leaning to one side. He yelled back to his other friends that they didn’t need the tools. The other guy with him at the monolith then said, ‘This is why you don’t leave trash in the desert.'” 

The men appeared to view the structure as an eyesore. “As they walked off with the pieces, one of them said, ‘Leave no trace,'” Bernards told The New York Times. They then carted it off with a wheelbarrow, he added. 

The Utah Department of Public Safety had initially discovered the object in a remote region of southern Utah while counting bighorn sheep from a helicopter.

“I’d say it’s probably between 10 and 12 feet high,” pilot Bret Hutchings told KSL, back when it was initially discovered. “We were kind of joking around that if one of us suddenly disappears, then I guess the rest of us make a run for it.”

But in the wake of the discovery, dedicated folks on Reddit made an attempt to uncover the origins of the monolith. First they located the monolith on Google Earth, then they used historical imaging data in an attempt to discover exactly when the object first appeared in the desert. Using this data, they discovered that the monolith first appeared between August 2015 and October 2016. 

Around that time, sci-fi drama Westworld was filming in a nearby location, which has led many to speculate that the monolith is an old movie prop.

Considering the location had also been used in a number of other TV shows and movies — from recent films like 127 Hours and Mission: Impossible 2, to classic westerns in the 1940s and 1960s — it’s a possibility. Regardless, the monolith is gone. 

Correction, Dec. 1: The photo of the men removing the monolith was taken by Michael James Newlands.

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