Posted by: Loren Coleman on November 17th, 2009
University of Southern Maine student Aubin Thomas’ first feature newspaper article of her career is herewith shared.
It is most appreciated and great that she would do it about cryptozoology. I congratulate her on her published piece, and wish her the best in her journalistic future.
It was good to meet her. I enjoyed her friendly manner and overview of the museum.
Cryptozoology museum opens on Congress Street
by Aubin Thomas
The Free Press
Issue date: 11/16/09 Section: Arts and Entertainment
The University of Southern Maine
Media Credit: Aubin Thomas
A view inside the Cryptozoology Museum itself. The model of a FeeJee Mermaid is on the right there with a Jackalope to the side of it. The “Civil War Pterodactyl” in the back was part of a marketing campaign for Freaky Links back in the ’90s.
It was another rainy afternoon on Congress Street in Portland. From behind a large first-floor window, an eight foot tall model of Bigfoot watched the traffic roll by from behind a plastic shrub, trying to make sense of his new home – the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland’s Parkside neighborhood.
The museum, which shares space with the Green Hand bookshop, opened with a grand ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday, Nov. 6. Around 300 people attended the event, which was led by Herb Adams, who represents Portland’s Parkside and Bayside neighborhoods in the Maine House of Representatives. Adams praised both Loren Coleman, the driving force behind the museum, and Michelle Souliere, who runs the book shop, for being part of the revitalization of Parkside. As he handed them official certificates of appreciation from the legislature, he said that entrepreneurs and artists like Coleman and Souliere were playing a vital role in overcoming Parkside’s reputation as a high crime district. He also pointed out that there are few places in the area with such interesting objects. “You have everything you could want here, it’s one stop shopping,” he said with a smile as he gestured toward a tray of what looked like hand crafted paws on key chains that were labeled “Yeti Feet.”
Since the grand opening, there has been a steady flow of people through the museum. Coleman believes this success is indicative of a growing societal acceptance of Cryptozoology, the study and search for “hidden animals” like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. “In the beginning, interest was small,” he explained, “but then you have things like the ‘X-Files’ using the word Cryptozoology for the first time on TV, and it’s slowly over the years become a subject of interest and a part of our culture.”
Part of that acceptance of Cryptozoology can be attributed to Coleman’s own work. Over the course of his fifty years of research and fieldwork, Coleman has written seventeen books and served as a consultant on television projects for the History Channel and the Travel Channel. He has also worked on a number of movies, including the 2002 Richard Gere film “The Mothman Prophecies,” for which he served as the resident expert on the legends surrounding the real Mothman.
The museum is the first of its kind in the world. Prior to its opening this month, the pieces in the collection had been on display in Coleman’s home in Portland and could only be seen by appointment when he wasn’t busy giving lectures or teaching courses as an adjunct professor at USM. “The visibility here is so much better,” he said, “because there’s set hours and people know when to come in.”
Coleman hopes the museum will appeal to everyone, regardless of how familiar they are with Cryptozoology. “Everybody has said they can look for hours and find new things on the shelves,” he said. “It has different layers. For people who are involved at another level, they get into looking at the different [footprint] casts. For people who have never really been here, they kind of go through fast and get that overview.”
Coleman offers a membership option to the museum and says that he plans to rotate certain displays every three months so that there is always something new and different to look at. “People from around the country want to donate stuff,” he said. “It’s just going to keep growing. There’s no way to stop that.”
Michelle Souliere, who writes the Strange Maine blog in addition to running the Green Hand bookstore, thinks that the mystery/sci-fi focus of her book store compliments Coleman’s museum nicely and will continue to draw people into the space. “There’s always things to look into,” she said. “There’s never a shortage of weird things in the world. There’s mystery to be found everywhere that human beings and nature produce anomalies.”
Special thanks for the benefit on behalf of the International Cryptozoology Museum, organized by volunteer coordinator Jeff Meuse, at Ricetta’s held on Tuesday, November 17, 2009.