Is This Oregon Mystery Really Solved: Etchings In The Desert

Was this geometrically precise etching the work of man, or aliens?

A file photo via The Oregonian.

In 1990, a massive religious etching mysteriously appeared in the Mickey Basin of Oregon’s Alvord Desert.  Officials suspected it took thousands of dollars and a lot of man power to complete along with high tech equipment and lasers.  Other people, including professors, believed it to be the work of aliens.  Everyone was surprised when an artist from Iowa and his friends stepped up to say it was them and that they’d used sticks, wires, 12 miles of string and a basic plow.  Those suspecting the desert carving to be from aliens weren’t convinced that the mystery had been solved.

Ten Days In The Summer Heat

Bill Witherspoon is an artist from Iowa.  He claimed he and three friends and his ten year old son created the symbol on the playa in the Alvord Desert.  The symbol is a Sri Yantra Mandala and is supposed to help with meditation.  Experts said the etching was done with perfect geometric precision, and were surprised to find out it had been made in just 10 days and with primitive instruments.

Some say Witherspoon and his friends are claiming credit for something made by aliens (perhaps paid off by the government to do so) and have a hard time believing that these men made the etching in the sweltering heat of summer.  They say their story doesn’t add up with how precise the etching is, and also note that the military, which regularly flies over the area, never noticed the etching being made.  They only found it after it was completed.  This 1997 website details more discrepancies that supposedly prove Witherspoon did not create the etching.

Check out this old news footage of the desert etching and the mystery surrounding it:

The Bureau of Land Management believed Witherspoon and cited him with willful defacement of public lands and fined he and each of his helpers $100.  They said that the site that was defaced had been under consideration for protection as desert wilderness.

The next summer Witherspoon returned to the Alvord Desert to the Alvord Ranch, with permission this time, and created another desert etching, this time twice the size of the last.  The second etching was of Hindu and Native American origins and included nine miles of etchings filled with red volcanic cinder.  This second etching on private land was at the base of Steens Mountain.

Photo by Unsettler via Flickr CC2.

Do you think the mystery of the mysterious etching was solved, or do you believe there were too many discrepancies in Witherspoon’s story and the etching was really made by aliens?  Let us know in a comment and tag friends who love mysteries.

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