The 5 Fantastic Beasts of Maine – and where to find them (possibly)


Loren Coleman has spent most of his career hunting down fact and fiction regarding strange, unidentified creatures that may or may not roam the world. As founder and curator of International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, he’s amassed an incredible collection of instants related to everything from Bigfoot and Yeti to chupacabra and Jersey Devil.

Specifically, he has also done extensive research on cryptids – the term for an animal claimed but not proven to exist – which can roam the woods and waters of Maine. Below are five of the most famous to have cropped up in history – from quite possibly true to colorful and possibly fantastic.

Wessie, the giant Westbrook snake

In June 2016, a Westbrook resident spotted what he believed to be a 10-foot-long snake with a head “the size of a softball” straying away from a playground. A few more days a Westbrook policeman later saw a giant snake as well. By then, the creature already had a name: Wessie, the giant serpent from Westbrook.

Wessie wasn’t the first huge snake to be seen in Maine. According to Coleman, there are reports of huge snakes seen in the towns of Winthrop and Gardiner in the late 19th century, and other giant snakes have been seen in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Ohio.

Little of Wessie was seen for the remainder of the month or the following month, but in August 2016, a long moulting snakeskin was found in Westbrook. It was determined to be a Burmese python, possibly escaped from its owner. The snakeskin ended up in the hands of Coleman, who now has it on display at the museum.

Cassie, the sea monster of Casco Bay

Sailors have spotted sea monsters since time immemorial, be they kraken, hydras, monstrous fish or dragons. The vast majority of the time, they’ve actually spotted sharks, whales, or squid – but sometimes it’s hard to explain exactly what a sailor may have seen in the open sea.

This was the case for Ole Mikkelsen, a fisherman from Portland who in 1958 spotted a creature it estimated to be over 100 feet long off the coast of Cape Elizabeth. Mikkelsen told the story to Coleman in 1985, claiming that the creature had a tail that looked like a mackerel and was the color of a tusk, a cod-like fish. This sighting, along with others from the 19th century, is one of many tales from Cassie, the Casco Bay sea monster, a name for the unidentified creature.

Moose Specter

Since people hunt moose in the woods of Maine, there have been sightings of the specter of the moose – a huge ghostly white elk that roams the hidden corners of the state. Usually he’s been spotted somewhere between Katahdin and Moosehead Lake, and no one seems to know if he saw an albino moose or something a little more ghostly. Regardless, sightings of white moose are also common in other heavily forested areas of North America, including Ontario and upstate New York.

Kiwakwa

Everyone knows Bigfoot, or Sasquatch, the giant ape-man who some say lies deep in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. In the northeast, the Wabanaki people have somewhat similar stories of Kiwakwa, a gigantic humanoid that is said to have a taste for human flesh, especially during winter. Some stories say that Kiwakwa is a human under a curse; other stories say he’s a real monster. It is not entirely different from Wendigo, another described by the Algonquins, also a cannibal and seen most often in winter.

Black panthers

Trail camera image of a possible mountain lion taken near Topsfield, Maine in September 2019. Credit: Courtesy Howard Tomlin

Although the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife maintains that mountain lions (also known as cougars, pumas, or panthers) are not currently in Maine, some Mainers are convinced they are not. only here, but that there is also a subpopulation of big black or melanistic cats roaming the woods.

All cougars from the Yukon to Patagonia are part of the same global species (Puma concolor), and scientists believe they lack the genetic ability to develop melanism, in which their fur is all black. Only the jaguar, a distinct species from South America, can display melanism. Nonetheless, sightings of black panthers in Maine have persisted for decades. And with several thousand acres of Maine woodland remaining completely uninhabited by humans – who knows what might be there?


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