Koilos Sculpture – Bala, Ontario - Atlas Obscura

Koilos Sculpture

Bala, Ontario

This nomadic monster has divided opinions as it prowls across Canada.  


Representing a strange crouching monster with a tentacled head, the Koilos sculpture once resided in Toronto’s Distillery District before a stint on Lake Muskoka and then a move to its current location in Bala, Ontario.

Koilos was sculpted in 2007 by Michael Christian for the Burning Man festival. Made from 2,000 pounds of steel, the 14-foot-tall sculpture is a strange sight indeed. It’s a monster of sorts, its body in a crouching position and its head a mass of outstretched tentacles that look intent on devouring something.

According to Christian, Koilos is practically a paradox: “It wants to jump but also wants to relax at the same time. It wants to contemplate, but also wants to play.”

After its time at Burning Man, Koilos was loaned to the Distillery District in Toronto, where it became a much-loved attraction in the popular tourist spot. Then, in 2013, Koilos caught the eye of Andrew Cummings, who immediately fell in love with the sculpture and, noticing it was suffering from a certain amount of damage, decided to buy it.

Cummings moved Koilos to his home on Baxter Island on Lake Muskoka, Ontario. Here, Koilos stood looking across the water, a surprising sight for people passing by in their boats. The sculpture soon became known locally as ‘The Beast of Baxter Island,’ and people began coming from all around the lake to see the strange creature.

Not everyone was happy about this new attraction on Lake Muskoka. Many locals considered it a frightful eyesore, completely out of place on the tranquil lake. Koilos remained on Baxter Island until 2018, when Cummings decided it was time for the sculpture to move on.

At first he offered it to the town of Bracebridge. In a letter to the mayor, he explained his reasons for letting go of Koilos: “Although my family and I enjoyed having the sculpture on the dock at our vacation property, we have concluded that the regular boat traffic in front of our property is an undue distraction for our neighbours on the lake.”

The town council was considering the proposal but missed the opportunity to acquire Koilos when Mike Chesney (known locally as Muskoka Mike), an art enthusiast in the small town of Bala about nine miles west of Baxter Island, decided to adopt the creature. And so Koilos made the short hop to Bala, where it currently resides outside Chesney’s food truck, the Mystery Diner.

Chesney wasn’t sure how the sculpture would be received in the small town, but was pleasantly surprised by the reaction. In July 2018, he told CBC News that “it’s creating a lot of emotions and everybody loves it.” Some locals now lovingly refer to Koilos as the “Bog Monster of Bala.”

Update: As of August 2019 the sculpture is now located at Muskoka Lakes Winery, however, it is not yet available for public viewing.  

Know Before You Go

The Koilos sculpture is located soon to be located at Muskoka Lakes Farm & Winery1074 Cranberry RdBala, ON P0C 1A0Canada

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