The Mojave Desert is the driest desert in North America, and though it rests between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, it is remote, mostly roadless and full of secrecy. Not far from the ghost town of Crucero, California, this arid emptiness is home to the enigmatic Mojave Megaphone, so-called for its resemblance to a loudspeaker.
Located in a remote corner of the Mojave Desert National Preserve, this "megaphone" is a rusty hunk of metal permanently embedded into a rocky outcropping. No one has been able to identify what, exactly, this thing is. Some call it the Sentinel Enigma. Others call it art. Everyone calls it a mystery, much like the Utah monolith that made worldwide headlines in November 2020.
Furthermore, there's nothing and no one, for miles around. It's a riddle as to how this heavy, roughly 8-foot- (2.4-meter-) long, unwieldy object wound up in its resting place. Comprised of two horn-shaped pieces of metal bolted together in the middle, it's too big to be a one-person job. A group of people — or perhaps aliens? — went to a lot of work to place this monstrosity far from any civilized place, mounting it on the cliffside.
No one knows how long it's been there, either.
"My best guess is that it was put up there about 30+ years ago," says Eric Edwards, the founder of CampsitePhotos, via email. He wrote about the Sentinel Enigma on his blog and has visited it. "Although it is in two pieces, each piece is very heavy but a few people could probably carry and drag it up there. Still, it would be very difficult and take a long time to get it up that hill."
Possible Explanations for the Sentinel Enigma
There's also another lingering question: What in the world is it?
"That's the big question," says Edwards. "It has some similarities to a siren (circa 1940s and 1950s), but [that seems] unlikely. Still, the area was used to transport chemical agents (on rail) and perhaps a siren was used if there was a mishap."
He also pointed out that there are no markings on it to indicate what it is or where it was made. Recently someone put animal skin over the openings and used it as a drum, but he says he doesn't think that was its original purpose.
Others have speculated that it's part of a rocket system or perhaps a pipeline venturi, an hour-glass shaped enclosure that's used to control the flow rate of a fluid.
Because it has crosshair shaped metal strips inside it, others believe it's a gunsight or sighting device of some sort. There are more fantastical theories, too — perhaps it's a tool pointing out the location of a California cave system that extends for hundreds of miles, or even an "X" marking the spot of a huge gold hoard.
Given its shape, though, the megaphone nickname makes a lot of sense. Maybe it's part of an antiquated alert system, as some people have guessed, like tornado siren on steroids. Or perhaps not.
"It's probably not a civil defense or air raid siren," says Sarah Robey, a history professor at Idaho State University via email. "The early Cold War versions almost always have a rectangular mouth, WW2-era air raid sirens didn't really look like that either, even the ones that were more cylindrical. Moreover, you'd expect to find such civilian-oriented sirens in much more heavily populated areas than out in the desert."
Her guess? It's a measurement tool of some kind.
"Its proximity to Edwards Air Force Base (as well as Navy and Army sites) is a much bigger clue," she says. "Edwards is where the Air Force did a lot of sound barrier experiments, including Chuck Yeager's famous flights. I could definitely see something like the megaphone being some sort of measuring instrument related to flight, shock/sound waves, etc."
She also points out that the Nevada Testing Site (now the Nevada National Security Site) isn't too far away. That's where all of the U.S. continental nuclear weapons were tested — these were conducted above ground until 1963, then below ground after.
"Even though the megaphone is 150+ miles [241+ kilometers] away, it's plausible that something like this could have been used to detect long-range shock waves or other disturbances," she says. "However, I kind of doubt it."
Visiting the Mojave Megaphone
If you have a rugged vehicle with high clearance, you can make the journey to the megaphone and then hike the ridge to see it with your own eyes.
"To reach it, someone would need to use a 4WD vehicle and drive through the Mojave River, then on dirt roads and through sand," says Edwards. "From Highway 15, exit Afton Canyon road and go east to the campground. From there, continue another 13 to 15 miles [21 to 24 kilometers] east through the canyon and follow the railroad tracks. Turn right (south) on Crucero Road for a few miles then start looking for it on top of a small hill."
Once you're on location, it may be helpful to have the megaphone's exact coordinates (35.0056 degrees N, 116.1963 degrees W).
Even if you don't have the motivation or means to see the megaphone in person, it's clear that these odd objects seem to spark the human imagination in weirdly moving ways.
"The desert, especially remote desert locations, are inherently mysterious," says Edwards. "Often you'll find pristine areas with amazing views and beautiful (sometimes strange) geological formations. I think people like to put these strange objects in these locations because they add even more mystery and wonder. I doubt their intentions are to draw interest to any particular area, but rather to have a little fun and see how people might react."