The Portland Daily Sun stopped by the museum yesterday, and caught up on what’s been happening.
Joe Hill vs PETA. Not at all.
The going gets weird, crypto-weird
By David Carkhuff
It’s been a week of beauty and the beast for Loren Coleman.
“It just feels like it’s one of those weeks where lots of different things are hopping,” said Coleman, creator and curator of the International Cryptozoology Museum at 661 Congress St and a national crypto-celebrity, who has consulted with the History Channel’s “MonsterQuest” and “Deepsea Mysteries,” NBC’s “Unsolved Mysteries” and who’s even been depicted on a comic book cover.
The Portland resident went from searching for a creature variously described as a Bigfoot – or a werewolf – in northern Maine to winking at a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals protest Wednesday that featured scantily clad beauties positioned near his workplace.
In between, Coleman’s International Cryptozoology Museum was visited by the son of horror writer Stephen King, Joe Hill, a writer in his own right who was in the area for a book tour.
Coleman defines cryptozoology as the study of hidden animals, but its most popular representation is undoubtedly Bigfoot, and a sighting was in the news last week. So Coleman and his museum’s chief docent coordinator, Jeff Meuse, traveled to Androscoggin County to investigate reports of weird-animal sightings, including “Bigfoot and Bigfoot-type creatures.”
On his Cryptomundo blog, Coleman wrote about the in-depth investigation they launched Monday, March 1.
“In the midst of the boggy lands that are the Turner Triangle, in Androscoggin County, Maine, containing the little towns of Turner, Turner Center, Greene, Leeds, and farther south, Durham, there exists a hodgepodge of reports of cryptids, creatures, and critters. Some appear to be black panthers, others are of hyena-like animals, and a few tell of mountain lion/cougars. This is the county that has given us the ‘Durham Gorilla’ of 1973, the ‘Maine Mutant’ 0f 2006, and the backwood’s ‘Turner Beast’ or ‘Greene Monster’ of the last dozen years. The same area also hosts historical and new accounts of Bigfoot and Bigfoot-type creatures. Leeds, a name more associated with the Jersey Devil, in New Jersey, than monsters in Maine, nevertheless, appears to have its very own Windigo, of sorts,” Coleman wrote on March 7.
Back in his Portland-based museum yesterday, Coleman recounted his strange experiences.
“The environment was incredible, the land that the creature had come from was 32 acres, that was Leeds … the creature had walked from Leeds, Maine into Greene,” Coleman said in an interview. Describing 32 acres of swampy, boggy land, Coleman said he [obtained] photographed tracks attributed to Bigfoot in the heavily forested parcel.
“There was a trackway right across it, those footprints look about 14, 16 inches long. There’s an environment there, there’s a history of reports. There’s certainly lots of cover,” Coleman said.
“I’d heard about the Bigfoot during February and I was going to go up a couple of weeks ago, but all of the snow had melted,” Coleman explained. “What I wanted to do was wait for the first fresh snow up there and then go up right away so I could take pictures of the environment the way that it was on Feb. 8 when the people actually saw the Bigfoot and the tracks were found.”
He went up March 1 with Meuse, and they walked the roadside. A landowner stopped while he was checking the snow for tracks and this individual said people had scoured the area “for cougars” but that they really were looking for Bigfoot, Coleman recalled.
“Now I’m getting media calls from Boston this morning and from local electronic as well as print media,” Coleman said, noting the continued interest in these sightings.
“The only conclusion is the witnesses appear to be credible,” Coleman said. “The site is certainly very promising, as I mentioned, this is now what I call the Turner Triangle, you have Turner reports for over 12 years of some sort of creature in the woods, you have what was called the Durham gorilla in 1973, in 1985 we seemed to have up in the Turner area reports of a Bigfoot, a little Bigfoot leaning over some animal. So I’d say it’s promising, but of course also there are footprints, it’s interesting to find footprints so easily. It doesn’t look like they’re hoaxed, there are certain characteristics in those footprints that I can tell speaks against a hoaxing. Those people who were early involved and some of the people we talked too are certainly not interested in media attention.”
Not all sightings pan out, of course.
One dead roadside “Maine Mutant” of 2006, found on Route 4 at Turner, was revealed to be the carcass of a dead dog, Coleman noted. Yet the false alarms can’t explain all phenomena, he said.
“That dog that was found on the road did not explain 12 years of reports in the woods, and you’ve got the same thing going on here, more reports of black panthers, hyena-like creatures, mountain lions and Bigfoot all in the same area. So there’s something really happening,” he said.
As recently as March 6, Coleman said, he “was told by a local in Leeds that a large animal has been ‘heard’ all week, screaming in the woods up and down the Line Road that splits Leeds/Greene.” The creature was called “the Leeds Loki,” but the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization said people in the area gave it the name “Loopgaroo.”
“The local name given as ‘Loopgaroo,’ appears to be a corrupted spelling of, as the BFRO also discovered, loup garou, which is French for werewolf,” Coleman concluded on his blog.
Speculation will continue about the Leeds Loki. Meanwhile Coleman is back to leading $5 tours through his museum.
On Tuesday, Coleman narrowly missed meeting a horror writer of some note. Hill, who is promoting his second novel, “Horns,” had visited Border Books in South Portland before venturing into Portland.
“Yesterday Stephen King’s son dropped by — Joe Hill,” Coleman said Wednesday. “We had just moved in a new display case and it was in some disarray, so we gave him a couple of passes and asked him to come back and he will get a formal tour.”
Coleman was absent, but Meuse was at the museum. Hill was photographed with a massive Bigfoot replica in the storefront window. Hill seemed impressed.
“He was very excited by the museum, I guess after he got over here, he wants to come back,” Coleman said.
Hill started out across the street at several stores, including the Fun Box Monster Emporium, whose owner, Tristan Gallagher, is married to Michelle Souliere. Souliere is owner of the newly opened Green Hand bookstore. The Green Hand shares a space with the cryptozoology museum. Gallagher pointed out the bookstore and museum to Hill. Hill recounted the rest.
“Early yesterday afternoon, I was able to swing by Casablanca Comics and Coast City Comics and left them with signed stuff,” Hill wrote on his website. “I also popped over to the International Cryptozoological Museum, but wouldn’t’cha know the place was closed? Loren Coleman, who runs the place, had to answer a call to duty — there was another sighting of the Leeds Loki up in northern Maine, a hairy, naked bigfoot type fella who has been sighted roaming the highways. Of course, Israel Skelton of Skelton Crew Studios lives up that way. I spoke with him later in the day, and told Israel to put some clothes on and stop scaring people, but he swears it wasn’t him.
“I did make a new friend at Green Hand Books, the lovely used bookstore that shares space with the museum. …” Hill added.
Coleman returned to the museum Wednesday to discover one last unusual animal-related event to cap off a strange start to March. PETA’s “Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur” campaign brought PETA activists Katherine Johnson and Holly Peterson out to the end of Coleman’s block, where they posed on a bed on a public sidewalk wearing nothing but their underclothing and holding a sign reading, “Fur-Out, Love-In.” It was part of PETA’s Northeast anti-fur tour.
Coleman mentioned the noontime protest on his blog, couching it both as a legitimate traffic alert to customers and as a tongue-in-cheek blog posting.
“I was mostly warning people about traffic congestion. …” Coleman said about the posting, but added, “I think it’s all good fun, and the description of them hardly wearing any underwear is going to get a big crowd, you know that.”
Coleman couldn’t resist mentioning his towering Bigfoot replica and its abundance of fur.
“We certainly hope they leave our Bigfoot alone,” Coleman said. “I’m a vegan and I’m a supporter of not killing animals. But I can’t pass up a chance to have a Bigfoot in my place.”
The print edition of the Portland Daily Sun is distributed free throughout the Greater Portland area, and the e-edition of this story is available online here.