There are few things that feed my inner journalist like a good mystery.
Urban legends, scary stories, tales of alien abduction or visits to another world – it’s all fascinating. While all appropriate to Halloween, we’re not talking about those. In the spirit – pun intended – of the season, I want to check out some of the seldom-seen neighbours of our beloved Sasquatch – cryptids.
Cryptids are defined as animals that have been claimed to but never proven to exist. I hesitate to count the Sasquatch among them as The Sasquatch Museum in Harrison and several people who have visited our local forests clearly have some evidence hinting toward the tangibility of the Pacific Northwest’s favourite primate.
I wish I could say I was gearing up for a cross-country documentary exploring Canada’s unexplored regions in hopes of stumbling on the yet-unseen. I had to instead settle for consulting the Wayback Machine to check out an online archive of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club. Founded in 1989, the BCSCC is committed to archiving a database of cryptids from B.C. and beyond.
And so my research began.
Among the more famous cryptids is the gigantic Ogopogo. Not to be mistaken for its Manitoban cousin the Manipogo or its relative on the east coast, Champ, the Ogopogo swims the depths of Okanagan Lake near Kelowna. It’s often described as serpentine, perhaps black or dark green with a head resembling a horse or a sheep. It’s been sighted individually and in groups.
A Chase man by the name of Arthur Folden captured footage of a huge creature apparently surfacing on the lake while a car salesman from Kelowna sold his 1989 footage – the clearest image of the beloved Ogopogo as of 2014 – to Unsolved Mysteries for $30,000.
Though humans are thought to be a threat to Ogopogo’s habitat, it doesn’t seem to have any ill will toward people.
Serpentine cryptids seem to have a penchant for our humble province. Followers of Black Press publications might remember Cammie, the elusive creature that lurked in Cameron Lake near Parksville. Then-BCSCC vice president Adam McGirr came to Cameron Lake at least twice to follow up on rumours of a serpentine, scaly monster deep within its waves; roots of Cammie sightings have gone back to the 1980s. In 2012, the Parksville Qualicum Beach News reported on one of the clearest photos of what appeared to be long, scaly remains floating in the lake, which turned out not to be Cammie after all; McGirr’s subsequent investigation identified it as a water lily root.
I’m not one to discredit a fellow Adam, but does Mr. McGirr’s most recent debunking dismiss Cammie’s existence altogether? Not necessarily. Cammie could still be out there.
There are thousands of cryptids out there; several more in B.C. alone, I’m sure. From the silly jackalope of my former Wyoming home to the terrifying but seemingly benign Jersey Devil to the eldritch, modern horror of the Slender Man, North America – and well beyond its borders – is filled with creatures of legend and lore that may yet walk among us.
What is it about these lake monsters and these elusive hairy men and hybrid beasties that keeps us talking about them year after year?
The appeal of cryptids is not only the chase to find a long-sought and legendary species, though that notion of important discovery is undoubtedly enticing. It’s the lore, the stories that capture the child-like imagination within and tap into a primal, human excitement that there’s still so much on the God’s green earth left to discover.
Personally, I like the way Harrison Hot Springs’ own Sasquatch expert, the charismatic Thomas Steenburg, puts it during an episode of “B.C. Was Awesome”: “If the Sasquatch exists, it will be a major scientific discovery. If it doesn’t exist, I’ve done my part to record a great piece of Western Canadian folklore and mythology.”
Happy Halloween, everyone. Stay curious and keep the dream alive.
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Adam Louis writes for the Agassiz-Harrison Observer