Maine’s ‘Godfather of Cryptozoology’ is Hunting Down Something Really Big: A Legacy

Director of the International Museum of Cryptozoology, Loren Coleman, speaks about the museum during a recent visit to the museum in Portland. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Movie toys and memorabilia, including one from the movie “Gremlins,” can be found throughout the museum. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

The Abominable Snowmen will have their own section. The monsters of the lake too, of course.

Ditto for werewolves and dog-men, eventually.

Loren Coleman has moved his vast collection of 100,000 books – on yet-to-be-discovered creatures, natural history, parapsychology, ufology and more – to Bangor, future home of the International Museum of Cryptozoology Bookstore. It has an attached archive reserved for scholars and fellow cryptozoologists, and a 10-year plan to build a new museum that is 10 times larger than its popular tourist destination at Thompson’s Point in Portland.

While the new bookstore and archives open this spring, there are still years to enjoy the quirky International Cryptozoology Museum, where famous Patterson-Gimlin images loop and every square inch is filled with plaster casts, of pop art, sculptures and stories of witnessing sightings of cryptids too numerous to count.

The star of Thompson’s Point is the 8.5ft tall, massive Crookston Bigfoot, made from two musk ox hides – a must-see photo opportunity.

The star in Bangor during the construction of the new museum may well be a 9-foot-tall papier-mâché Wendigo created by members of Indian Island’s Penobscot group.

But first, there is this sheer volume of books to organize and put on the shelves.

The museum features several casts of Bigfoot footprints. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

“It’s just amazing to think what 100,000 pounds looks like,” Coleman, 74, said. “When I started in 1960, I went to the librarians and said, ‘Do you have any books on cryptozoology?’ The word wasn’t even used back then. I joke with some of my friends, “Well, I hadn’t even written any yet, so there weren’t many in the library.”

His interest was piqued young – Coleman’s sixth grade teacher helped him land his first artifact, a flag from the 1960 Abominable Snowmen Expedition led by Sir Edmund Hillary – and he opened his international museum of cryptozoology in August 2003.

A section of the museum is devoted to the Beast of Bray Road, a wolf or bear-like creature said to have been seen in 1936 in Elkhorn, Wisconsin. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Coleman bought an oversized house in a Portland neighborhood so he could live above it and fill the first floor with all manner of Bigfoot casts, books, artwork, and skulls. He was open by appointment and popular with film crews from “Weird Travels” to “Monsterquest” eager to interview Coleman about lake monsters, sea monsters, swamp monsters, mutant dogs or Bigfoot. , to name a few.

In 2009, the museum was on Congress Street. Two years later, larger neighborhoods still on Avon Street.

And in 2016, it landed at Thompson’s Point, where it has about 15,000 artifacts and receives 20,000 visitors a year.

This winter it has been featured in the AAA’s “Unique Museums of the North East”, the BBC’s “Five of the World’s Most Unusual Museums” and recommended as the first stop on “The Great American Bigfoot Tour”. of Atlas Obscura.

The exhibits rotate in and out of the space. Right now you’ll find the entrance decked out with the “Sasquatch Revealed” exhibit by Chris Murphy, who traveled the country before finding a home at the museum.

Loren Coleman stands outside the International Museum of Cryptozoology recently at Thompson’s Point in Portland. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

“One thing happened — in the beginning, when this all became the museum, it was all my artifacts. Since that time, we’ve been getting some pretty big characters or artifacts or replicas,” Coleman said. “We sponsored a giant salamander search expedition over the summer in California. I ordered a 6 foot long bronze giant salamander to go in the middle of the Portland museum, with the various materials we have to continue this quest.

The expedition used both traditional and underwater drones, and hadn’t found the rumored six-footer since the 1920s, “but they got new knowledge and new eyewitness accounts, so that was exciting,” did he declare.

A depiction of the Dover Demon is on display at the museum. Three teenagers from Dover, Mass., say they saw the big-eyed creature “with tendril-like fingers” in 1977. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Look for this exhibit later this fall.

Arranged over two floors, the ground floor of Thompson’s Point is filled with cabinets celebrating the Loch Ness Monster, the Dogmen, dinosaurs that may not have died out, and even the “crypto-brewery”: a collection of Sasquatch Stout, Snallygaster blended whiskey, dark lager from Lake Monster Brewing and other spirits.

Upstairs are lots of Bigfoot and a little Coleman, with memorabilia from his long career and numerous appearances, including, as of last month, a one-of-a-kind custom figurine by artist Charlie D. Perez.

“One thing I’ve learned since I started this in 2003, which seems like yesterday to me, looking at the long term, is that now I see museums – Bigfoot museums, Mothman museums – popping up all over the world. country,” Coleman said. “Now that our museum is almost 20 years old, I’m now the consultant around the world telling people how to do it.”

What if someone else tries to open an international encrypted museum, like the person he advises in Germany?

“I will always be able to say that we were the first,” he said. “Maine is always first, right?”

His plans in Maine so far include opening the bookstore and archives at 585 Hammond St. in Bangor, which will also include small exhibits, as well as moving in with his wife, Jenny, a board member. of the museum, and possibly the plotting of this new monster-sized museum.

One of the museum’s most prized exhibits is an ancient collection of Bigfoot artifacts. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

“Space is cheaper, and there’s a lot more of it, in Bangor, so the long-term idea is to create a museum from scratch in Bangor,” he said. “We can have more space and really combine archives, offices and a huge amount of exhibition space. Whether I’m still alive or not is unknown, but because it’s a non-profit organization, and 501c3, and I have staff in training, I really see a long-term vision, a dream that will last. My legacy will live beyond me because I set it up this way.

He will have 100 of his own books in the current archive, 40 which he has written and another 60 for which he has written chapters or introductions. Two more are slated for release this year, one of them being “a true survey of mermaids and mermaids around the world”, starring the late Mark Hall.

(Access to the archives will be limited primarily to researchers; it will not be open to the general public.)

One of hundreds of posters and panels in the museum. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Coleman plans to play a hands-on role in Bangor, so fans of beastly mysteries picking up a Rougarou or Pukwudgie t-shirt, or a deck of Bigfoot playing cards during a visit to the bookstore, might be lucky to find him. the low.

Active in the field for over 50 years, he has been dubbed the “Godfather of Cryptozoology” and the “World’s Best Living Cryptozoologist” by convention promoters.

“That, and ‘legend,'” Coleman said. “I always joke with these people who do this, ‘As long as you put the word ‘live’ in front of it. . . ‘ I never thought I’d be a “former statesman”, a former cryptozoologist. It’s all part of the game.”

He feels that some people visiting the museum are tourists looking for something strange. Some are interested in mystery or nature. Some, but not many, want to come in and laugh.

“I’ve discovered over nearly seven decades now that cryptozoology is a gateway science,” Coleman said. “A mother who came in said, ‘I’m really worried about Johnny. I think he’s going to grow up and ruin his life because he’s into cryptozoology. I said, ‘No, don’t don’t worry, don’t worry, he could grow up to be an engineer.

Director of the International Museum of Cryptozoology, Loren Coleman, speaks about the museum during a visit. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

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