From Dude Chilling to Shitterton, all signs point to theft

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From Dude Chilling to Shitterton, all signs point to theft

The exact status of the Dude Chilling Park sign is either the very definition of meta, or the type of mind-bender people who hang out in the park can contemplate for ages.

Even more so with legalized marijuana on the horizon.

It's the replacement of a replica which is itself an art-installation imitation of a real sign.

Regardless — it's gone missing again.

"I can really only remember two park signs being stolen in the recent past," says Alex Downie, the Vancouver Park Board's acting director of parks.

"And they're both from Dude Chilling Park."

Which way to the Bat Cave?

The iconic sign went missing sometime during the week of June 25 — whisked from its perch at the edge of a patch of green space whose actual name is Guelph Park.

As the family name of Queen Victoria, "Guelph" has an interesting history itself. But no one's brewing a beer or printing T-shirts in its honour.

It's the problem with being famous: everybody wants a piece of you. And when it comes to famous signs, they're not happy until they have the whole thing.

From Richard Bong State Recreation Area to U.S. Route 666 to Bat Cave, North Carolina, authorities worldwide have had to grapple with the question of how to circumvent sign thieves.

The residents of England's Butt Hole Road grew so tired of replacing pilfered signs and watching mooning tourists snap pictures in front of the ones that remained that they banded together to change the street's name.

'Try to keep ahead of them'

But Downie says the park board's not there yet. Especially given the sign's history.

A guerrilla artist created the original in 2012 in homage to a sculpture of a reclining man. It was made out of wood but looked exactly like the park board's real signs, which are made of aluminum and painted green.

The board took it down, but a grassroots campaign saw the Dude Chilling sign reinstalled as public art. When the original was stolen in 2014, it was replaced with one of the aluminum signs the wood version had copied.

The sign was bolted onto concrete posts with vandal-proof fasteners. Downie says they require a special tool to unlock. 

"Some enterprising person probably went to a specialty hardware store, took a picture and found one and went to some trouble to beat our system," he says.

"We have a couple of standard ones that we use. But we're going to look for another one, a different one to try to keep ahead of them in case they've got the kind of brilliant idea to do it again."

'It makes us laugh anyway'

The City of Yellowknife has seen the sign for Ragged Ass Road stolen so many times that a decision was taken to weld the sign to its post. London's Abbey Road signs are now mounted on buildings.

On the other side of the Atlantic — in England — Diana Ventham is familiar with Vancouver's natural beauty, if not its stranger local landmarks.

But the Shitterton resident knows about stolen signs.

After her local council refused to fork out any more money to replace the last Shitterton sign, Ventham had a brainwave.

"I said why don't we get a great big stone sign that can't be stolen," she says.

Ventham says the giant Shitterton stone sign has as much heft below ground as it does above. It can't be moved.

"Of course the only problem now is that everybody stops in their cars to have their photographs taken by it, which is quite distracting. It makes us laugh anyway."

Where's the task force, dude?

Downie says he doesn't see a Dude Chilling rock monument happening anytime soon. And stone has its own issues with moss and algae anyway.

And in the meantime — where is the sign?

The theft isn't high on police priorities. Apparently, there's no task force working the case.

From the Mona Lisa to Edvard Munch's Scream, thieves of great and easily recognizable art have learned that it's very hard to unload their ill-gotten goods.

And if a criminal mastermind can't fence purloined property, how hard would it be for the kind of person that steals a Dude Chilling Park sign?

Downie says the aluminum itself probably wouldn't fetch much as scrap metal.

Which means it's most likely in someone's basement, being privately enjoyed by some dudes, chilling.