Posted by: Loren Coleman on July 16th, 2010
David Carkhuff contributes his column today.
By David Carkhuff
This just in: The Department of Defense has captured Bigfoot in Portland.
The Bigfoot in question is the 8-foot-tall, 400-pound replica that stands in the front window of the International Cryptozoology Museum on Congress Street. The hairy behemoth was captured on film Tuesday by a camera crew representing from the U.S. Navy, which was in town to film a segment for the viewing enjoyment of Naval personnel in Iraq, Afghanistan and at sea.
Loren Coleman, owner of the International Cryptozoology Museum, happily answered the camera crew’s questions and posed with various exhibits in his museum, which he opened last fall in the rear of the Green Hand Bookshop at 661 Congress St.
“The Navy called up and said, ‘What we’d like to do is come to Portland and talk to you about the museum and about what it means to be a cryptozoologist, because what we do is we show spots.’ They have sort of a Navy news station that shows highlights of what it means to come to certain cities and see interesting places,” Coleman explained.
Filming was by Defense Media Activity — Anacostia, the Navy’s arm of Defense Media Activity, a newly consolidated agency of the Defense Department that has about 2,400 employees and an annual budget of more than $200 million, according to its website.
The documentary production team, under contract from the Department of Defense, came to Portland “to produce a segment on cryptozoology and the cryptozoology museum. It will be shown to U.S. Navy personnel who are deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and ships at sea,” Coleman explained on the Cryptomundo blog.
Cryptozoology, the study of hidden animals, features such high-profile exhibits as the “Crookston Bigfoot,” the creation of Wisconsin artist Curtis Christensen once was housed in Crookston, Minn., which for a time billed itself as the “Bigfoot Capital of the World.” When a Bigfoot museum in Crookston failed to take off, a tool company in Minneapolis acquired the replica and took it to trade shows to promote the company’s tools, but Coleman later ended up with it and stationed the mammoth Sasquatch in the Green Hand’s front window.
Other exhibits in the museum include the chupacabra, a legendary goat-sucker often confused for a dog; the Feejee mermaid, a popular sideshow exhibit; and the coelacanth, a real-life prehistoric fish recently rediscovered.
On Thursday, Coleman paused from giving tours in his museum to talk about the documentary, as well as a string of other recent film projects at the museum.
On Tuesday, while the museum was closed, Coleman welcomed a civilian director and three active Navy personnel. One of the active Navy personnel had spent time on an admiral’s ship traveling up the coast of Asia, and another had been on warships in combat situations off Africa and Iraq, Coleman said.
Some members of the Navy have heard reports of a consistent noise that can’t be identified with any known animal. “Some people say that’s a signature sound of a sea serpent,” Coleman said.
This crew had wider-ranging interests.
“They were very interested in how cryptozoology connects up with bioscience and how it’s a gateway science, and how people can use it to understand different dimensions of the unknown and mysteries. They didn’t just talk about sea serpents, they were interested in Bigfoot, interested in the chupacabra,” he recalled. “They were very interested in the Feejee mermaid and the coelacanth.”
Portland’s own U.S. Navy Commodore Edward Preble reportedly saw a sea serpent out in Casco Bay in the mid-1700s, so Coleman told that story.
Coleman himself was born on a Navy base. His father was in the Navy during World War II and reupped, so Coleman was born in Norfolk, Va. in 1947. (He recently celebrated his 63rd birthday.)
Unsolicited, Coleman said his museum has become a media favorite in recent weeks.
“We just had the Italians here, we just had Irish TV, Animal Planet channel came by. Animal Planet channel came two weeks ago actually to do eight episodes of next season’s ‘Lost Tapes.’ Italian TV was here because they have a six-year series called ‘Voyager,’ and they were coming up Route 1, and they picked out the museum to be their focus for Route 1. And then the Irish TV did a whole program just about the museum for their Irish TV, and they did it in Gaelic.”
Thanks to Coleman’s many books and contributions to blogs and other media, he is closely connected to the hunt for mysterious creatures.
“People call me all the time, I picked up the phone yesterday and it was Christian Science Monitor and AOL News about the chupacabra,” Coleman said yesterday.
The Navy promised a DVD copy of its documentary that Coleman plans to show in the museum, and the segment will be broadcast on military TV.
Meanwhile, Coleman plans to release five new books in the next few years: On Sept. 1, look for Monsters of New Jersey; by the end of the year, True Giants, featuring “creatures that are even bigger than Bigfoot;’ this year, Coleman is collaborating with Michelle Souliere, owner of the Green Hand book shop, on Bigfoot in Maine; and he signed a contract for Monsters of Massachusetts. Coleman said he’s also writing a revised version of Mothman: Evil Incarnate.
So what did U.S. Navy Commodore Edward Preble see?
“The crew of the American gunship Protector had an extraordinary encounter in Penobscot Bay. One of the witnesses was an 18-year-old ensign, Edward Preble, who would go on to become a commodore and a notable figure in U.S. naval history. In his biography of Preble, James Fenimore Cooper recounts this event:
‘The day was clear and calm, when a large serpent was discovered outside the ship. The animal was lying on the water quite motionless. After inspecting it with the glasses for some time, Capt. [John Foster] Williams ordered Preble to man and arm a large boat, and endeavor to destroy the creature; or at least to go as near to it as he could. … The boat thus employed pulled twelve oars, and carried a swivel in its bows, besides having its crew armed as boarders. Preble shoved off, and pulled directly towards the monster. As the boat neared it, the serpent raised its head about ten feet above the surface of the water, looking about it. It then began to move slowly away from the boat. Preble pushed on, his men pulling with all their force, and the animal being at no great distance, the swivel was discharged loaded with bullets. The discharge produced no other effect than to quicken the speed of the monster, which soon ran the boat out of sight.’”
Like an elusive sea serpent, the Cryptomundo blog just about went under.
Craig Woolheater, who helped form the Texas Bigfoot Research Center in June of 1999, wrote about the perils facing his blog, where Portland’s own cryptozoologist Loren Coleman posts regular updates. The online log of mysterious and hidden creatues was on shaky footing.
“I recently posted about the troubling prospect of having to shut down Cryptomundo,” Woolheater wrote on Thursday. “The readers have responded! You apparently don’t want that to happen. Thanks to the readers of Cryptomundo, many great ideas were brought forth. Some, such as Cryptomundo themed merchandise has been discussed before and we are working on it. One reader, Steve Busti, owner of the Museum of the Weird in Austin, TX, will soon be running a banner ad on the site. Donations came in from the readers, enough that past due bills can be paid and the next month’s hosting fees are partially paid. I appreciate this immensely. We will re-focus our attention on cryptozoology.”