Was it aliens or artists? Yesterday, the internet was enthralled by the discovery of an unexplained metallic monolith in the middle of nowhere by officers for Utah’s Department of Public Safety. Roughly 24 hours later, we have a lot more answers, all thanks to amateur sleuths online. And given the area’s long history with Hollywood, it’s probably safe to say the monolith was either a movie prop or was placed there as a joke by someone working on a TV show or movie. Even so, we’re still holding out hope that it’s aliens.
Redditors spent Tuesday tracking down the flight paths of Utah Public Safety’s two helicopters in Moab, registered as N352HP and N325SL, based on information from FlightAware. From there, others narrowed the likely location of the monolith to someplace near Canyonlands National Park and its intersection with the Colorado River.
After that, a Reddit user was able to find the monolith on Google Earth. The coordinates of the strange monolith are 38.343080°, -109.666190° and plugging that into Google Earth shows you it’s just south of Dead Horse Point State Park, between the park and Needles Point, a tourist outlook. Others used Google Earth’s historical imaging data to narrow the appearance of the monolith in the area sometime between August of 2015 and October of 2016. As one of the internet sleuths pointed out, the three-sided monolith is miles from the closest paved road.
The monolith is also relatively close to Canyonlands National Park, the first clue based on the helicopter flight logs. As it happens, Dead Horse Point and Canyonlands have both been the setting for scenes in numerous films and TV shows. Dead Horse Point has been a shooting location for HBO’s “Westworld,” which started shooting in 2016, the movies Thelma & Louise (1991), Con Air (1997), Mission: Impossible 2 (2000), John Carter (2012), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), and perhaps most appropriately, the movie 127 Hours (2010) about a hiker who gets his arm trapped under a boulder and has to cut it off to get to safety.
Canyonlands National Park was also used for Thelma & Louise along with the shows “MacGyver” and “Touched by an Angel,” according to IMDB. Canyonlands was alos the location for shots in the visually stunning film classics Koyaanisqatsi (1982) and Baraka (1992). A number of classic westerns were shot there too, including Fort Apache (1948), Warlock (1959), The Comancheros (1961), Rio Conchos (1964), and Gold of the Seven Saints (1961).
Despite drawing comparisons to the black monolith of Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 sci-fi classic 2001: A Space Odyssey, it’s very unlikely that any part of that film was shot in Utah, given that the movie was shot almost entirely in England. Kubrick was just eccentric enough, however, that he could have secretly filmed something in the Utah desert, just to have us discover it in 2016 through an intermediary who placed it there. That would be quite the long practical joke, despite being extremely unlikely.
Utah Public Safety declined to share the exact location of the monolith in Red Rock Country because they were concerned that people who went out to find the metallic object might get stranded and need to be rescued. So now that the information is public, the best anyone can do is to ask that tourists not venture out to find the thing. There’s no need to go out and recreate 127 Hours.
Was the monolith a prop in a big budget movie or TV show? That question is still up in the air, but it seems like a more plausible explanation than aliens. We really wish it was aliens, though. Just come and take us away, aliens. We’re really messing up this planet beyond repair.