“The intrepid explorers go down to inspect the alien lifeform,” narrates a chuckling Bret Hutchings in a video documenting a strange encounter in southeastern Utah on November 18, 2020.
Hutchings, a helicopter pilot for the Aero Division of the Utah Department of Public Safety, was participating in an aerial count of bighorn sheep in remote desert canyon country. After a wildlife biologist spotted a reflective metallic object standing out from the red rocks, the helicopter landed to investigate.
Once on the ground, three crew members—wearing matching flight suits that look straight out of a 1950s science fiction film—approached what a Utah DPS press release described as a “metal monolith installed in the ground.”
“We were kind of joking around,” said Hutchings. “If one of us suddenly disappears, then I guess the rest of us make a run for it.”
The crew had plenty of fun with this odd discovery. Some posed for photos, and one crew member even stood atop another crew member’s shoulders to inspect the top of the object.
“It’s probably between ten and twelve feet high,” said Hutchings, in an interview with KSL TV. “I’m assuming it’s some new wave artist or someone who is a big 2001 Space Odyssey fan.”
Hutchings’ reference is to the 1968 Stanley Kubrick film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, which involves the discovery of a mysterious black obelisk of extraterrestrial origins. Meanwhile, other observers have suggested the metallic monolith resembles the plank sculptures of artist John McCracken, who died in 2011.
In response to a Utah DPS Aero Bureau Instagram post about the discovery, users made thousands of humorous comments that continued the fun. Many comments referenced apprehension at the object being discovered during a crisis-filled 2020. Others claimed the monolith was placed by aliens or signaled an impending invasion. Many quoted, paraphrased, and horribly misquoted lines from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
One user, @meowatthesun, suggested the object is actually a giant USB stick running the simulation we’re all living inside.
About the object, which appeared to be implanted using saw cuts made into the sandstone bedrock, Utah BPS offered an important reminder about the law: “It is illegal to install structures or art without authorization on federally managed public lands, no matter what planet you’re from.”