You might not believe in Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster, but this museum can persuade you otherwise
It all started with a movie supposed to be shot in California – and culminated in a museum a continent away.
“So called” because, well, when you’re dealing with mythical creatures – or not – you never know for sure. Or you ?
A different film – this one clearly a fictional one – sparked a calling for Loren Coleman. When he was a boy in 1960 in Decatur, Illinois, he watched a movie called “Half Human” about an abominable snowman.
Since then, the film has marked his life.
At 69, Coleman is one of the world’s leading authorities on cryptozoology, the study of animals that are hidden (“crypto”) or believed to exist, such as the yeti (the abominable snowman), the Sasquatch and the Loch Ness Monster.
In 2003 he created what is considered the only International Cryptozoology Museum. The 10,000-article nonprofit, which focuses on these legendary creatures, called cryptids, moved into new digs this summer at a restored industrial site in Portland, about 115 miles north of Boston.
Coleman, who wrote or contributed to more than 100 pounds on cryptozoology, the mysteries of natural history and suicide prevention, has assembled a wealth of specimens and artefacts, such as âfoot castsâ and Aboriginal art.
As I began to prowl around the two-story museum, I soon found myself face to face with a rendering of an 8ft tall, supposedly life-size Bigfoot. Selfie, anyone?
For decades, the Hairy, Long-Armed Bigfoot (aka Sasquatch) has been a renowned cryptid because, Coleman told me, it’s the âclosest cryptidâ to humans. It is believed to live in the northwestern United States and Canada.
âCalifornia is a rich place for cryptids,â Coleman said. There is, he said, a “historic depth of sightings in California.”
He cited examples such as sea snakes, the Abominable Sandman (a desert Bigfoot) and the giant salamander, “A long list of other cryptids have been encountered in the state … They have been seen there”, did he declare.
Additionally, “the term ‘Bigfoot’ originates from northern California,” he said.
There has been at least one claim of a Bigfoot sighting in Humboldt County, California, about 40 miles south of the Oregon border. This is perhaps the most famous imagery of the creature.
In 1967, Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin reported encountering a huge ape-like creature walking along Bluff Creek.
Their meeting reportedly produced nearly a minute of footage that included the character glancing towards the camera before disappearing into the woods.
The images are part of the museum’s Bigfoot exhibit.
Nearby, another exhibit shows footcasts believed to have been taken from the star of the 1967 film.
“I’m pretty sure they indicate the existence of an unrecognized relic hominoid in North America, âscientist Jeff Meldrum said in an email. (A relict hominoid is a surviving species of an otherwise extinct group.)
Meldrum is Professor of Anatomy and Anthropology at Idaho State University in Pocatello and is an expert in primate locomotion and biomechanics.
Apparently Bigfoot is moving.
California is a rich place for cryptids
“The many footprints photographed and cast in the Pacific Northwest and inter-mountain west indicate the existence of a rare and elusive hominoid called Bigfoot or Sasquatch,” Meldrum said. His scholarly research can be viewed in the Relic hominoid investigation.
Meldrum, the publisher, described it as an online scholarly journal with the support of a Editorial board academics and professionals with relevant expertise.
Not everyone is a believer – in Sasquatch or any other cryptid.
There are a lot of mainstream scientists as well as lay people who claim that science fails to conclusively prove the existence of these creatures.
On the other hand, cryptozoologists are pointing fingers at once-mythical animals that have been found to exist, such as the giant squid, the okapi (a member of the giraffe family) and the coelacanth, a fish thought to be extinct ever since. 65 million years old is the museum’s logo.
An entire okapi skin and skull was discovered in 1901 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in central Africa (formerly Zaire). The animals can now be found in some zoos.
A coelacanth was found alive and healthy in 1938 when it was found in the Indian Ocean near the southern coast of Africa.
Coleman’s approach on the subject? âI am an open-minded skeptic and I am skeptically open-minded,â he said. âWe support critical thinking. “
Near the Bigfoot exhibits is a 1989 letter from actor Jimmy Stewart to Coleman about a Yeti Hand that Stewart received in 1959 from a member of a Yeti Expedition in Nepal.
Stewart reached into his luggage. But on the way home, his luggage was lost. When his bag was later found, “The Yeti [hand] was gone.”
In an adjacent exhibit, I found the first object Coleman collected as a teenager: a flag from Sir Edmund Hillary’s 1960 expedition to search for a yeti in Nepal.
The museum is more than Bigfoot, Yeti, and other hairy hominoids. Many exhibits deal with other hidden creatures: lake monsters, sea snakes, the Tatzelwurm, a 2 to 6 foot long lizard-like reptile believed to exist in the European Alps.
You can’t talk about cryptozoology without addressing hoaxes, and the museum does. Exhibits show fakes ranging from the jackalope (jackalope rabbit with antelope horns, made famous on postcards), a furry trout and a replica of PT Barnum’s mummified mermaid FeeJee, the head and torso of a monkey sewn to a fish tail.
You might not believe in cryptids, but you can’t deny their effect on popular culture. Curiosity cabinets are full of Bigfoot dolls, movie props, and even drinks with cryptic names.
How about a âLoch Ness Scotch Whiskeyâ or a âSierra Nevada Bigfoot Aleâ?
Skeptical or believer? No matter. The museum is fun. And that might get you thinking about the idea that some hidden beasts might be out there. Plus, you’ll get a hell of a selfie.
If you are going to
THE BEST WAY IN PORTLAND, MAINE
From LAX, American, Southwest, Jet Blue, Delta and United offer a connecting service (plane change) to Portland. Restricted round-trip fares starting at $ 375, taxes and fees included
International Cryptozoology Museum, 4 Thompson’s Point Road. Open 11 am-3:30pm Wednesday to Monday; from February 10 open on Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. $ 10 for adults; seniors, $ 8; $ 5 for children 12 and under.