The Story of the Obsession Stone

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The Story of the Obsession Stone

Article - 8 months ago

Acknowledgement:  Thank you to Andrew Hall for which the style and initiative to write this article was provided. Much appreciated.

                                                             Story of the Obsession Stone

Mystery begets obsession. When something doesn’t fit with what we think we know, it sparks curiosity. When curiosity can’t be satisfied with an explanation, curiosity can turn to obsession.  That is the case with The Obsession Stone.

Obsession Stone was studied by local geologists and rock hounds in 1996, who weren’t sure, but tentatively called it a tektite, rock altered by the heat and crushing impact of a meteor strike. With this assessment, the discoverer of the rock, James “Wes” Hill of Moab, Utah, believed the rock to have value and decided to share it with the public. He soon partnered with marketer Robert Hawthorne. They knew the stone was connected with the Upheaval Dome site in Canyonlands National Park, but wanted more information to assure its value. After contacting scientists from Brigham Young University and University of Utah, they were unable to identify the rock.

Hawthorne went to some of the nation’s leading scholars on meteors. He caught the attention of Dr. William Cassidy of the University of Pittsburgh. Cassidy’s collections from Antarctica account for over half of all meteorites ever found. His writings also earned him the Barringer Award, only the fifth recipient in the last 100 years, at the time. Cassidy had never seen anything like this rock before and had the Smithsonian Institute run a spectrographic analysis. The results only made the mystery deepen; they found compounds in the rock they could not identify. Curiosity over the rock escalated and so did the obsession [1].

At the advice of a scientist from Brigham Young, Hawthorne was guided to the attention of Dr. Eugene Shoemaker, co-discoverer of comet, Shoemaker-Levy 9, which famously affected Jupiter in 1994. Shoemaker’s curiosity was peaked so much he visited Hawthorne and took a field trip to the strange deposit of stone to evaluate it. Shoemaker said at the site, “Upheaval Dome is the best example of a deep impact crater on the face the Earth” (1996). Sadly, Dr. Shoemaker died in car accident later that year. Curiosity continues.

Sometime later, Dr. Cassidy, unsatisfied with the previous attempts, referred us to Mike Zolensky who was curator of NASA’s cosmic dust collection. An x-ray diffraction test was conducted and compared to the numerous standards available. The results came back that the rock was a mineral known as analcime (NaAlSi2O6*H2O  a crystalline silicate of igneous origin), with traces of calcite[2].


All of the scientists involved agree the stone is unique, but they can’t identify what caused this peculiar form of mineral. Geologists are discovering that lightning causes shattered quartz, tektite-like rock and other features previously believed to be caused by meteor impacts [3]. When put under a microscope at 4x and 10x magnification glassy filaments can be seen woven through the tiny isotropic grains that resemble glass spheres. Perhaps the Obsession Stone and landscape craters are the products of thunderbolts?

glass filament in analcime sample
Glass filament

glass filament in analcime sample.

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The Obsession Stone was featured at the “Electric Universe 2017, Future Science” conference, in Phoenix, Arizona. Each year Electric Universe (EU) proponents of electrical phenomena in the cosmos and geology meet to share findings and ideas. They attribute electrical discharge between planets in a younger solar system as the primary mechanism for craters on the moon and the other planets, including the Earth.

Hawthorne and his son, Robert Hawthorne Jr., were invited to attend and bring samples of the Obsession Stone. Samples were examined by attendees to the convention, whose scholarship included geology, physics, mathematics, and electrical engineering. Co-founder of the Thunderbolts Project, Wal Thornhill stated, “This collection is really good, because this sort of material is needed to form the basis of a demonstration” [4].