In 1868 Joseph Rich owned a spa on Bear Lake in the southeast corner of Idaho. He wrote to the Deseret News in Salt Lake City and told a story he said he'd heard from local Indians. According to their legends, a serpentine monster prowled Bear Lake. It had short, stubby legs it sometimes used to scurry onto shore and snatch away maidens in its terrible jaws.
After the letter appeared, people all over the valley began seeing the monster. One said it was 40 feet long and swam faster than a horse could run. Another claimed it was 90 feet long and swam faster than a locomotive.
This astonishing creature had everyone in an uproar.
The Salt Lake newspaper carried many accounts of monster sightings, and efforts to trap the beast.
Then, Joseph Rich wrote another letter to the paper expressing his sorrow that some didn't believe in the monster. He said, "they might come up here someday, and through their unbelief, be thrown off their guard and gobbled up by the Water Devil." There was a tone to that letter though, that not everyone caught. Mr. Rich was writing tongue in cheek and having a wonderful time with the tale he had invented to attract customers to his resort.
Many more people claimed to have spotted the Bear Lake Monster over the years, and they started seeing monsters in other nearby lakes... which must have been an endless source of amusement for the monster's father, Joseph Rich.
Other entrepreneurs are using a mythical creature to attract tourists today. Francis Conklin and Dennis Sullivan are husband and wife artists who live in Cottonwood. They had great success in 1995 when their chainsaw carvings of dogs were featured on QVC. They had to work like—sorry—dogs to keep up with the orders.
Their studio and shop are near the highway as it passes by Cottonwood. To draw people in, they carved up the “world’s biggest beagle” and parked it out front. That worked so well that they had another big idea. How about a dog big enough that you could sleep in it?
Dennis and Francis built the 30-foot high, two-bedroom beagle and started booking reservations at Dog Bark Park Inn. It drew tourists off the highway, all right, but the big dog’s fame grew in other ways. The beagle, which also has a balcony, has been featured in dozens of magazines, blogs, videos, etc. To name a few, O Magazine, the Ellen DeGeneres Show, the Washington Post, LA Times, CNN, and on and on.
They have at least as much fun with their invention as Joseph Rich did with his 127 years earlier.