April 10, 2009 Features & Images » Feature Story

So… Ogopogo 

Or at least, here be something that feeds our collective appetite for big scary monsters. Belief sold separately

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Rattlesnake Island was once owned by an eccentric Lebanese businessman named Eddie Haymour, who leveraged the notoriety of Ogopogo's putative den by building a theme park here, with a strange pyramid at its centre and an elaborate miniature golf course. The pyramid's crumbled foundations are now covered in broken beer bottles, and muddy run-off has caked over the golf holes. I tour Haymour's strangled concessions in the misty dawn. There's a visceral discomfort walking through the ruins of a modern commercial dream; none of the ancient spirituality radiating from a place like Stonehenge, just awareness of the shameful bricolage of attempted exploitation. It doesn't do a monster justice.

Or does it? All the touristy kitsch-the many roadside signs, the bags of "Ogopogo poop," the cheesy statue in downtown Kelowna that has been ridden by generations of children-do serve to keep the monster alive. There's something elemental at work in the collective protection of this myth.

The truth is that some ideas are like pit-bulls, hanging onto the human psyche long after you'd expect reality to dislodge them. You can easily rationalize why you don't believe in something but it's almost impossible to discredit the unknown reasons why someone else does. And so, it seems, we still have monsters. But maybe this is a good thing. After all, what would be worse for humanity, the failure of investigation, or the failure of imagination?

"Humans love mystery and discovery because it means there's more to learn," Dave MacLean had mused. "Life would be horrific if we knew everything there was to know. We want to believe there are things out there that can't be explained."

I'll go one better: I think we need to believe in the unexplained, that it's inherent in the fabric of the self-consciousness it co-evolved with. Nature will lose much of its identity when it's fully circumscribed, and so will we.

Which reminds me of the words of a famous Sasquatch aficionado. Although he spent huge amounts of personal time and money searching for it, in a moment of startling candour he'd told an interviewer: "It sure would be a shame if we actually found one. Without Bigfoot out there, there's no such thing as wilderness left."

So... Ogopogo.

 

 

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