The Unexplained: Was It a UFO Landing Pad?

The Devils Tower rises above the Wyoming Prairie, an otherworldly monument of rock. Photograph: J Gerald Crawford

Not only does the Devils Tower seem out of place on the prairie, it has long been a mystery to scientists who cannot agree on how it was formed.

It looms, mysterious on the flatlands.  It rises up alone on a blanket of ponderosa pines in Crook County, Wyoming.  It is mysterious, sometimes seeming malevolent.  It draws like a magnet for one to come closer……….come closer.  To me, it looks like a gargantuan petrified tree stump.

Devils Tower is its name,  It was declared a national monument in 1906 by Theodore Roosevelt.  The apostrophe in Devils Tower was omitted by accident, on the official documents, and it has stayed that way ever since, never corrected.

Not only does Devils Tower impose mysteriously on the prairie, seeming out of place, it is an additional mystery to scientists who cannot agree how it was formed.

It has the same geological properties as volcanic rock, but there are no volcanic formations under it or around it.  Some have theorized it is the core of a volcano after all the outside dirt has washed away. Geologists are stumped about the formation.

Sara Marie Hogg

Scientists have puzzled over Devils Tower for years.  How could a big block of igneous, hexagonal, columns wind up in an area that has no history of volcanic activity beneath it or around it?  It is classified as phonolite porphyry, formed as magma or lava cooled.  It is a big, unexplained mystery that still has geologists seeking answers.

The possibilities considered do not exactly fit together.  Was it the central part of an old volcano that remained while the outside volcanic structure eroded away over the ages?  Part of that could be possible, but not all of it, because there is nothing compatible beneath it or around it.

Was it a deep volcanic mass that had once formed, then was pushed up over time by geologic activity beneath it?  This doesn’t exactly fit either.  There is nothing beneath it or around it that would contribute to that scenario.

It is a big block of igneous rock that seems to be plopped into the wide-open spaces.  It is surrounded by sedimentary rock that was laid down in shallow seawater in the Triassic.  The sediments are mostly red sandstone and maroon siltstone embedded with shale.  Is there Black Hills gold way down beneath the formation?  Many think so.

The tower stands 867 feet tall, from summit to base.  It is 1,267 feet above the Belle Fourche River in northeast Wyoming, and 5,112 feet above sea level.

How did the tower get that intriguing name?  It was not always called that.  It was sometimes called Bear Lodge.  Native people have called it:  Great Horn Butte, Tree Rock, and the place where bears live.

During early expeditions to the area in 1875, Colonel Richard Irving Dodge took a large party out.  He sent out a smaller group, including a cartographer and geologist, Henry Newton, to conduct a study of the tower.  Newton’s group reported that the native people referred to it as “bad god’s tower.”  The group had lost something in the translation.  The words actually were about bears and not a bad god.  Even though it was incorrect, the evil connotation remained.

In 1893, Willard Ripley and William Rogers drove pegs into the side of the tower to use as a ladder to get to the top.  They had an audience of over 800 people as they made their ascent.

The top of Devils Tower is a fairly flat surface.  The panoramic view from that spot is astounding.

The tower has been in several movies, most notably Encounters of the Third Kind.  It has been suggested that it has actually served as a UFO landing pad on more than one occasion.

For that matter, it almost seems as if something otherworldly just placed it there.


Sara Marie Hogg is the author of The Scavenger’s Song. Please click HERE to find the book on Amazon.

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