Mysterious monoliths are popping up in the US and Europe, spawning wild theories and puzzling authorities. The latest monolith appeared and then quickly disappeared from a mountaintop in California this week — and it looks just like the ones that were found in Utah and Romania in November.

The latest monolith was found on Tuesday on Pine Mountain in Atascadero, on the central Californian coast. "The three-sided obelisk appeared to be made of stainless steel, 10-feet tall and 18 inches wide," the Atascadero News reported. But then, just as quickly as it had appeared, it disappeared. On Thursday morning it was gone, and nobody is claiming responsibility for taking it down.

The California structure is similar to the Utah and Romania monoliths in appearance, and also similar in mysterious origins: nobody knows where they came from. The Utah monolith was first discovered during an annual count of bighorn sheep in a portion of southeastern Utah by the Utah Department of Public Safety Aero Bureau and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources on November 18. Having spotted it from the sky, the helicopter pilot and wildlife officers decided to land nearby to investigate further, and found a metal monolith installed in the ground in a remote area of red rock.

A giant metal monolith found in a desert in Utah
The monolith was found in a remote area © Utah Department of Public Safety

There was no obvious indication around who might have put the monolith there, although people have compared it to the work of various minimalist sculptors, including the late John McCracken. Other people have speculated that the structure was put in the remote area by extraterrestrial beings. The pilot, Bret Hutchings, examined the metal slab and he told local news station, KSLTV, that he assumed it was put there by a new wave artist or a fan of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Two men examining a metal monolith found in Utah
Members of the crew examined the metal slab © Utah Department of Public Safety

But just as the wild theories were gathering steam, the Utah monolith disappeared on November 27. It was taken "by an unknown party" according to the federal Bureau of Land Management’s Utah office. And that "unknown party" appears to be local outdoor stuntman Andy Lewis, who claimed responsibility for the removal with a video posted to YouTube. In the grainy footage Lewis and a team of people can be seen dismantling, what appears to be, the three-sided structure. It's not clear if Lewis' team had any involvement with the installation of the monument.

Will another monument make an appearance? One popped up in the Romanian city of Piatra Neamţ last week, and then disappeared again. We're seeing a pattern here.

This article was first published on November 25 and updated on December 3, 2020.

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This article was first published Nov 25, 2020 and updated Dec 3, 2020.

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