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A perplexing metal monolith appears in northern Colorado


Big metal monoliths have appeared outside cities around the world over the past few years. A similar object recently showed up in northern Colorado, and just like the others, no one seems to know where it came from and who or what put it there. Joe Wertz from Colorado Public Radio went to find out more.

JOE WERTZ, BYLINE: From a distance, it's a sparkling glint on top of a hill. You'll know you're close when you see a bunch of cars parked on the side of the road behind the Morning Fresh Dairy Farm, and gaggles of people who have come from across the state and region just to see this object. Alyssa Harrison from Loveland, Colo., is taking her turn squinting, pointing and guessing what exactly it is supposed to mean or be.

ALYSSA HARRISON: Large, shiny door.

WERTZ: Where do you think it goes?

HARRISON: I don't know.

WERTZ: To get a closer look, you have to jump a barbed wire fence, dodge some hostile local fauna...


UNIDENTIFIED HIKER #2: Watch out. There's prickly pears there.

WERTZ: ...And hike a steep hill. Colorado State University senior Harrison Frase is at the top as I get there.

Well, you made it up here. What do you think?

HARRISON FRASE: It's pretty cool, more reflective than I thought. I thought it was like a mirror surface but it's actually a metal, very polished metal.

WERTZ: The monolith is about 10 feet tall, wider than my outstretched arms. It reflects the clouds and the rugged foothills near a river canyon outside of Fort Collins. Lori Graves owns the private land where the monolith was placed. She also owns the Howling Cow Cafe near the bottom of the hill.


WERTZ: She doesn't know how the monolith got there. One of her employees alerted her, but Graves didn't give it a second thought until a couple of days later.

LORI GRAVES: And one of the customers came in looking for it. Where is the alien structure? I don't know. (Laughter) What are you talking about?

WERTZ: Word spread, first on the internet, then local news reporters. The cafe roared with customers. It's a popular local spot, but the mysterious monolith meant even brisker business. The baristas even served a monolith mocha.

GRAVES: So we thought, yeah, we should probably do something alien-themed.

WERTZ: The object's similarity to the one in Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey, " and a possible connection to other installations around the world, has convinced many that the Colorado monolith was part of some sort of clandestine public art project. Graves says nobody saw or heard anything unusual in the days before the monolith was discovered, but she did notice unfamiliar tire tracks leading up the hill.

GRAVES: But I don't know what kind of cars aliens drive. Do you?

WERTZ: At first, Graves was amused by the curious monolith and the public frenzy. She said it made her think about her daughter being there. She died in a farm accident when she was just 13.

GRAVES: Kelsey's sitting on top of it right now, just laughing and laughing (laughter).

WERTZ: But Graves grew frustrated with the traffic and crowds and hordes of visitors leaving trash in her field. She removed the monolith less than two weeks after it was discovered. On Facebook, the dairy farm says it's keeping the object safe and will return it to the rightful owner if one ever appears.

FRASE: I touched it.

WERTZ: College student, Harrison Frase again.

FRASE: I knocked on it. It sounds hollow.

WERTZ: There are clues that at least some humanoids were involved in making the monolith. It had a poured concrete base, which was attached to the object with the kinds of nuts and bolts you'd find at the hardware store.

FRASE: It feels like sheet metal almost, a little more dense. Doesn't have as much give, but definitely sheet of metal.

WERTZ: And you weren't whisked away to another parallel universe?

FRASE: I don't think so. Maybe there's a special knock that you have to do. I just did the classic one, two, three. I don't know the secret code.


WERTZ: I knocked on the object, too - nothing. We may never know what the monolith is for or who made it. But I did have a lot of fun looking at it and wondering about it with a bunch of strangers I just met, so maybe that was the monolith's secret.

For NPR News, I'm Joe Wertz in Denver.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Joe Wertz