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‘Bigfoot in Maine’ examines the cryptid’s history in the Pine Tree State

June 8, 2021
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It’s hard to believe in a world that has been shrunk so significantly by technology, but there are still mysteries that remain to be solved. There are things that we can’t explain, no matter how hard we try. And when we do try, our efforts are dismissed as delusions or mistakes or hoaxes.

So it is with Bigfoot.

The legendary cryptid has been a part of American legend for hundreds of years. And while it is best known for roaming through the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest, there are plenty of other places in this country that could conceivably play host to the elusive beast.

Places like Maine.

Michelle Souliere’s new book “Bigfoot in Maine” (The History Press, $21.99) digs into the cryptozoological phenomenon’s history here in the State of Maine, delving deep into various archives and reaching out to a variety of eyewitnesses, bringing to life the beast’s ongoing presence in the Pine Tree State.

It’s a well-researched and well-written tome, built on a foundation of testimonies – some drawn from aged newspapers, others from the mouths of those who saw … something … with their own eyes. Souliere’s hypothesis is simple – Bigfoot has and may still walk the woods of Maine.

From the jump, the notion makes sense. There are many similarities between the landscape of the Pacific Northwest and that of the forests of northern New England. There are massive swathes of untouched wilderness, providing the large undeveloped strips of woodland that Bigfoot would need to maintain its life of hidden quiet.

Stories of “Wild Men” have been part of the discourse in Maine since the tail end of the 18th century, with some of the earliest reports springing up about these fearsome and shaggy figures lurking in the fields and woods in and around Gorham, Scarborough and Westbrook. They were never prevalent, but kept cropping up periodically over the years – perhaps not Bigfoot specific, but at least Bigfoot-adjacent, stories of giant skeletons being unearthed and hunters capturing small hair-covered humanoids. Are there other explanations? Perhaps … but that doesn’t mean that they’re the right one.

Tales of Bigfoot continued into the 20th century, with a handful of sightings and other events reported into the 1940s and ‘50s. It was in the late ‘50s that stories of the beast began spreading in earnest among hunters on the West Coast – a spread that exploded with the release of the famous (or infamous) Patterson-Gimlin footage in 1967.

From there, Bigfoot awareness spread rapidly across the country. By the early ‘70s, the heretofore little-known beast was a pop culture commonality.

From this point, Souliere moves to a chronological listing of eyewitness accounts, breaking them down into Class A and Class B sightings. According to the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization’s guidelines, a Class A sighting is one involving “clear sightings in circumstances where misinterpretation or misidentification of other animals can be ruled out with greater confidence,” while a Class B sighting indicates “incidents in any other circumstance that did not afford a clear view of the subject.”

These firsthand accounts – around 20 in number – stretch from the early 1960s well into the 21st century, with the last taking place just a few years ago into 2017. Geographically, the span is almost as impressive; as far north as Township E in Aroostook County and as far south as Berwick, as far east as Baileyville and as far west as Fryeburg. A score of sightings over the past half-century or so, all difficult to conventionally explain.

(Plus, there are the thousands upon thousands of acres of untouched wilderness in northwestern Maine, an area with few towns and even fewer people – a likely hotbed of Bigfoot activity. It should be noted that Souliere doesn’t really go there, due to her commitment to engaging only with what she can document in some way. Despite the subject matter, there’s little speculation on the author’s part.)

“Bigfoot in Maine” is a fascinating read, one that offers up a sort of shadow history of the cryptid’s presence in the state. There’s nothing lurid or sensationalized about Souliere’s work – this is a good-faith effort to seriously engage with a question relatively few people take seriously. She is meticulous in her archival research and gently engaging with her interview subjects, putting together a rounded portrait.

Whether you believe in Bigfoot or not, it’s fascinating to read an in-depth reckoning with the possibility – particularly when it is as cleanly and honestly executed as this one. Souliere has done good work in presenting the evidence as it is, rather than shaping it to suit her agenda. Obviously, she wants to believe – and wants us to believe – but she also wants the evidence to speak for itself.

“Bigfoot in Maine” is a quick, engaging read. No matter where you come down on the question, you’re likely to find something of interest here. It’s a mystery that has yet to be solved – and may never be solved – but it sure is fun to consider.

And who knows? Maybe you’ll get a chance to see for yourself.

Last modified on Tuesday, 08 June 2021 18:36

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