Things that Go Bump (or Howl) in the Night
By Earl Brechlin
With ninety percent of the land area covered in forest, Maine is the most heavily forested state in the country. With hundreds of large, often deep, lakes, and an unforgiving coast, there are plenty of places where mythical beasts and creatures can lurk. It seems like nearly every community has its own homegrown legends and mysteries of creatures, both real and imagined, that go bump in the night. The ones on these pages have gotten the most attention over the decades.
Monster of Pocomoonshine Lake
Located far off the beaten path in Washington County, Pocomoonshine Lake is the perfect place for the setting of a lake monster mystery. This one dates back to Native American legends of a forty-foot serpent, as depicted in carved pictographs, followed by a letter in a Machias newspaper in 1882 attempting to refute the existence of the “Chain Lake Snake,” after multiple reports of it leaving long, curving tracks on land. Like most good legends, no photos exist. Maine Atlas: M36, C2
Wessie the Giant Snake
With no poisonous species remaining in Maine, most folks venturing into the out-of-doors don’t worry about snakes. One incident in Westbrook, however, has some reassessing that position. In June 2016, police received reports that a snake, believed to be a giant anaconda more than ten feet long, had been spotted along the Presumpscot River near Riverbank Park. Later, police reportedly saw the snake consuming a large mammal, such as a woodchuck or beaver. In August of that year, a twelve-foot snake skin, believed to be from “Wessie,” was found along the riverbank. Biologists said the snake, which was probably raised as a pet and released illegally, was unlikely to have survived its first Maine winter.
Maine Atlas: M74, C2
Maine’s cousin to Bigfoot is the subject of several stories that tell of large, dark beasts walking erect in the vicinity of remote Meddybemps Lake, a relative stone’s throw from Pocomoonshine Lake. The ape-like creatures stand eight feet tall, have reddish hair, and emit a foul odor. Native Americans reportedly still talk of encounters with Gwakcoo, which means “one who is hungry all the time.” Their preferred food seems to be the area’s abundant freshwater fish, although one tale includes “little girls,” among their favorite fare.
Maine Atlas: M36, D4
Back in the 1950s a man in the Cherryfield area reportedly encountered a strange creature after his pickup truck broke down on the remote Blackwoods Road. He described the beast as half-man, half-goat, with the legs of a goat, body of a man, and horns sticking out of his head. Unlike goatmen seen elsewhere in the United States, this one was reportedly wearing a flannel shirt. Without photos it is impossible to ascertain whether the shirt was from Land’s End or L.L.Bean. Maine Atlas: M25, D2
The Turner Beast
A relative latecomer to mythical creatures in Maine, the Turner Beast was profiled in a newspaper article in August 2006 after terrorizing the region for some fifteen years, although reports go back to 1906. It was described as a 125-pound black predator known for mauling dogs and other pets, and threatening humans. After the Lewiston Sun Journal reported the beast had been hit by a car and killed, it sent the DNA away for testing. The test showed it was a very large dog or wolf/dog hybrid. About a year later, a local woman claimed it was her pet. Maine Atlas: M11, C5
Cassie the Sea Serpent
Now considered to be Casco Bay’s quintessential cryptozoological curiosity, Cassie the Sea Serpent has been spotted on and off for more than two hundred years along the Maine coast from Biddeford to Eastport. Described both as mammal and reptile, it has been estimated to be between 60 and 125 feet long.
Navy officer Edward Preble, who went on to command the USS Constitution, reported the first sighting in June 1779 in Penobscot Bay. Other sightings were reported near Portland in 1818, and off Mount Desert Rock in 1836. Reports were filed in 1905 and 1910. The most-detailed sighting was reported by two fishermen, Ole Mikkelsen and Ejmar Hairgaard, in Casco Bay in 1958. Maine Atlas: M3, A5
Members of the Penobscot Tribe believed that the fearsome god, Pamola, lived in a cave along the precipitous Knife Edge on Katahdin. With the body of a man, head of a moose, and wings and talons of an eagle, the evil Pamola purportedly stood thirty feet high. Early Native American guides reportedly refused to climb above the tree line on the mountain out of fear of being killed and eaten. A famous painting by Damariscotta artist Maurice Jake Day shows a more benevolent Pamola sharing stories with legendary Baxter State Park Ranger Leroy Dudley. Maine Atlas: M51, D1
The Basin Screecher
Eerie, shrill cries coming from a wilderness known as the basin in the coastal town of Phippsburg have been variously attributed over the decades to owls, foxes, raccoons, or the spirits of murdered children. One blogger reports seeing the source of the noises coming from a “small, quadrupedal animal.”
In 2019, three local teenagers produced a video called “The Hunt for the Basin Screecher.” They attribute the noises to a “half-man, half-bird cryptoid.” Of course, no photos of the creature are known to exist. Maine Atlas: M6, D4
Journalist Earl Brechlin lists Maine's myths and monsters in his book, Wild! Weird! Wonderful! Maine.