Seattle Monolith On the Move Again

S E A T T L E, Jan. 8, 2001 -- A mysterious giant metal slab, caught in an equally mysterious tug of war since its appearance in a Seattle park on New Year’s Day, will now return to its original base.

ABCNEWS’s Seattle affiliate KOMO reports that the monolith, built to mimic the inscrutable, shrieking alien artifact in Stanley Kubrick’s classic science fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey, and which was quietly removed from its perch in Magnuson Park in north Seattle shortly after its debut there, will be returned soon.

Built by an artists’ cooperative called “Some People,” the artifact’s mystical appearance captured the attention of people around the world, but that’s about as far as the artists thought their prank would go.

But just a few days later, they say someone stole the 500-pound steel sculpture, and installed it on Duck Island in the middle of Green Lake, a popular jogging and strolling site.

Louie Raffloer, the head of Black Dog Forge who built the 9-foot-tall replica of Kubrick’s conundrum, was surprised by the response to the quasi-extraterrestrial object.

“Everyone who was involved in this didn’t know it would skyrocket and that around the world people would have known about this,” Raffloer said.

Seattle artist Caleb Schaber, 27, said the 15 members of Some People spent several months planning the monolith project. The slab measures about 9 feet tall, 4 feet wide and 1 foot thick.

Always One Step Ahead

The monolith’s appearance and re-appearances in 2001 heralded portentous events — the dawning of intelligence, the evolution of species, and the fearful attraction of the unknowable.

Its appearance in Seattle drew similar wonder and praise. It reminded Rebecca Sargent, who visited the site, of Machu Picchu, the ancient Incan ruins — similar vibe, she said last week.

Her husband, Denny, was a little more cynical, humming the Space Odyssey theme as he moved forward to touch it.

“I feel my intelligence increasing by the moment,” he said.

No one initially claimed responsibility for erecting the object, but shortly after it appeared, it vanished, creating even more mystery around its origins.

After its rediscovery at Green Lake, people flocked on Friday afternoon to capture a glimpse of the budding Seattle icon, but didn’t know it would be gone by the time they got there. Some People had taken the monolith back from Duck Island and handed it over to the Seattle Parks Department.

“I think it’s almost better that I didn’t see,” said Lucy Stolsenberg who missed the monolith. “I keep missing it … I’m one step behind it.”

Now in storage at Magnuson Park on the shores of Lake Washington, it will be returned to the park's Kite Hill next week. This time it will be anchored more securely so it doesn’t pose a safety risk and can’t be swiped again.

The monolith will stay until the start of kite season in mid- to late-March, C. David Hughbanks, the park’s executive director, said Friday. An agreement to be signed next week by Some People leaders and parks officials will not recognize the monolith as public art, but as “a happening,” Hughbanks said.

Finding a permanent home in a city park would require a public approval process, said parks Superintendent Ken Bounds.

“It’s a gift to the city,” said a 26-year-old member of Some People called Stumpy.

It’s a gift that will likely be more appreciated than what has turned up in that same Seattle Park since the monolith disappeared. This weekend, the Seattle Parks Department found a 1,000-pound, non-explosive “practice bomb” sticking out of the ground at Kite Hill. So far, no one has claimed responsibility for putting it there.

ABC’s KOMO TV and The Associated Press contributed to this report.