TNB Night Owl – The Sentinel Enigma

The Sentinel Enigma in the Mojave National Preserve. Image captured by the News Blender.

File this under weird, trivial mysteries that you can travel to if you really need a destination and the leanest of excuses to go exploring. Halfway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, inside the triangle formed by interstates I-15 and I-40 east of Barstow, there’s a rusting artifact bolted to boulders on top of a rocky hill 150 feet above the Mojave desert floor. The remains of a ghost town, Crucero, lay about three miles to the northeast. Also close by you’ll find scenic Afton Canyon and the absurdly named Spooky Cave (as if a cave in the middle of nowhere – where it might be quite awhile before anyone found you if “something” should happen to you – could be scary).

The weathered object on the hilltop, sometimes called the Sentinel Enigma but better known as the Mojave megaphone, has been there for decades according to locals. At a distance it appears to be a pair of funnel-shaped loudspeakers connected back-to-back, which is where the moniker ‘Mojave megaphone’ comes from. It also resembles an industrial-scale venturi tube, a device used to measure air or fluid flow. Some have described it as a giant riflescope. Since the tube is about 8 feet long, it would have to be meant for a very large weapon.

Speaking of weapons, it’s rumored that chemical weapons tests were conducted here in the 1940s and fifties. According to this rumor, the megaphone served as a warning siren when the tests were about to commence, or alternatively that a train loaded with chemical weapons was approaching. Sounds like utter bunk to me, but credence is lent to this theory by the relatively close proximity of several military bases including China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station, Edwards Air Force Base, Fort Irwin National Training Center, and the Marine Corp Air Ground Combat Center.

Another purported purpose for the peeper is to pinpoint a mammoth underground cave containing a “river of gold” – some people will believe anything, I guess. Some other far out ideas make it part of a space rocket system, or that it may have been placed there by aliens. NASA’s Goldstone spacecraft tracking and communication center is only a few tens of miles to the northwest, so why not?

Up close, it’s obvious the Enigma was constructed by an amateur welder, so we can eliminate the military, NASA, and aliens right away as they only buy the best. The dead giveaway, however, is the rebar and scrap metal the thing is made of, which leaves the last (and only other suggested) possibility of purpose standing: it’s art, placed there years ago to invite discussion and interest for decades to come.

The GPS coordinates for the Mojave Megaphone are 35.006159, -116.196492 if you really want to jump in the car and go see it right now. The first video below provides good directions if you don’t own a GPS or a smartphone. You should own a four-wheel drive vehicle, because it is several miles off-road, after all, and the condition of the dirt roads you’ll be taking are not guaranteed to be accessible by Mini Cooper or Miata.

“The Mojave Megaphone, Afton Canyon and Spooky Cave” (3:28)

“A Mysterious Object on a Hill in the Middle of Nowhere – Mojave Megaphone” (4:13)

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About Richard Doud 622 Articles
Learning is a life-long endeavor. Never stop learning. No one is right all the time. No one is wrong all the time. No exceptions to these rules.