The curious case of the moving monolith has a new wrinkle as yet another mysterious silver structure has appeared in Southern California, this time in the Los Padres National Forest.
The latest installation is the second shiny statue to pop up in San Luis Obispo County after one appeared — and quickly vanished — from the top of a hiking trail in Atascadero last week.
San Luis Obispo resident Matt Carver was among a group who made the most recent discovery Saturday morning. He and several friends were camping at a site near Arroyo Grande when they came across the gleaming gargantuan structure while shooting drone footage.
“When we realized it was a monolith, we started freaking out and flew the drone back, jumped in the truck, drove ASAP to the spot,” Carver said Monday, “and then danced around it like idiots for a few minutes.”
The three-sided structure appears to be made of stainless steel and is about 2 feet wide and 10 feet tall, Carver said, noting that it would have taken “a bit of work” to get it up there.
“It’s such a silly thing, but it really made our day,” he said.
Unlike the Atascadero monolith, this one features an added symbol at the top that is (almost certainly) human-made: a red UFO beaming up a person over the word “caution.”
With monoliths also reported in Utah, Romania, England and Pittsburgh, the latest discovery brings the total across the globe to at least half a dozen.
Another statue was spotted along Highway 14 in Santa Clarita on Sunday evening, according to footage obtained by OnScene.TV, although it appeared to be more flimsy and flawed than some of the others.
"It doesn't look like the exquisite ones we've seen all over the internet," Canyon Country resident Stephanie Wittenbach told OnScene. "This is a little bit cheaper, I would say. You can kind of lean it over, but I think it’s super cool.”
At least some of the recent creations are admitted fabrications.
San Luis Obispo artists and metalworkers Wade McKenzie, Jared Riddle, Travis Kenney and Randall Kenney ’fessed up to creating the Atascadero monolith that appeared Dec. 2.
Travis Kenney said they decided to create it after the first two monoliths were spotted in Utah and Romania.
"You knew there was going to be a third," he said. "Somebody was going to do it, so why not us?"
The group took inspiration from the 1968 Stanley Kubrick film "2001: A Space Odyssey," which features similar mysterious structures. McKenzie said he was happy to see their creation making people smile.
"People were loving it," he said. "They weren't talking about COVID. They weren't talking about politics. They were just walking up our mountain all happy."
By Dec. 3, the excitement turned sour when a group of young men reportedly traveled from Orange County to topple the structure under the cover of night. Video posted online showed the young men chanting, "America first," while pulling the statue down, and one could be heard saying, "We don't want illegal aliens from Mexico or outer space."
McKenzie and his friends were disappointed by the apparent politicization of the monoliths and decided to build a new one to replace it.
"We weren't going to let the big-city folk push us country folks around," said Randall Kenney, the project's welder.
The new monolith was created using stainless steel and a structural steel frame, Randall Kenney said, along with stitch-welding on the edges and rivets at the top, middle and bottom.
This time, it's held in the ground with hundreds of pounds of concrete, he added.
The group shared a video of its reinstallation on YouTube, and said they had the support of Atascadero Mayor Heather Moreno.
But they did not take credit for the most recent structure in the Los Padres forest, nor for the Utah monolith that started it all.
Although the Utah monolith has been removed, there remains much speculation — and zero confirmation — about its origin or creator.
Some, like Carver, prefer the mystery.
“I love the idea that there are still things and places 20 miles from home that can surprise us and make us feel a few moments of pure joy,” Carver said. “Thank you to whoever put that out there.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.