Posted by: Loren Coleman on October 6th, 2007
The Lewiston Sun Journal came for a visit to my museum. Here’s the way reporter Kathryn Skelton experienced it. And me.
Weird, Wicked Weird
A man and his (weird) museum
Hair from Sir Edmund Hillary’s Yeti expedition, water from Loch Ness, a 9-foot latex pterodactyl, Loren Coleman’s got it all.
Sometime next spring, Loren Coleman’s getting a 12-foot-long replica of Canada’s Ogopogo lake monster. It’ll probably have to stay on the porch, near his 8.5-foot-tall, oxen-haired Bigfoot.
Coleman is a little pressed for space indoors. There’s already a 9-foot latex pterodactyl camouflaged by an avocado tree and a cabinet of skulls with surly looking cuspids in the living room.
The International Cryptozoology Museum runneth over.
He’s tried to contain it, so far, to a single floor in his Portland home, and it makes for a sort of cryptid wild kingdom. There’s a busy brick wall in particular that TV and documentary crews love to pose him against when he talks about sea serpents and Bigfoots and Dover Demons.
Coleman is an authority on things that haven’t been found. Yet.
He started the museum, open by appointment, four years ago.
Coleman has been collecting tales, evidence and artifacts since he was 12. He’s got a resume that includes a surface expedition on Loch Ness, frequent spots on shows like Travel Channel’s “Weird Travels” and authoring or co-authoring 30 books. He’s also officially pop culture; the cryptozoologist in Vertigo’s “Swamp Thing” comic is named after him.
“I’ve traveled to every state in the United States except Alaska looking for creatures, giving talks, demonstrations, different things like that,” Coleman said, competing with the chatter of the museum’s only live specimens (his son’s Australian parakeets, Simon and Garfunkel).
Why no Alaska?
“I’m not a wealthy cryptozoologist. I’ve been able to drive to all those places and I used my frequent-flyer points to get to Hawaii,” he said. “I’m the first to say writers don’t make any money … and cryptozoologists are even lower in terms on the totem pole. But you know, it’s exciting. I’m an adventurist.”
He’s turned it into a full-time vocation, teaching at the University of Southern Maine for a long stretch. Coleman said he trades hundreds of e-mails a week with people wanting his opinion on sightings and photos, and to interview him. In June, a Japanese film crew flew him to Vermont to talk about Lake Champlain’s monster, Champ.
Through decades of contacts like that, he scored two favorite items in his museum: Hair from the separate Nepal Yeti expeditions of Sir Edmund Hillary and adventurist/oil man Tom Slick.
Though Hillary played a game of “What if?” with his specimen at the time, the hair is from a rare goat-like animal, Coleman said, and Hillary knew it.
The Slick specimen, a cluster of 50 or so brown, wiry hairs, has been tested and came back unknown. Coleman suspects it belonged to a 4-foot tall variety of Yeti.
“No one else in the world has these,” he said.
In other spots in the museum: The top half of a monkey sewed to a fish and passed off years ago as a Fiji mermaid; plush stuffed animals like Mothman; a Gigantopithecus skull (some people think it’s Bigfoot; Coleman says it’s too big) and loads of plaster Bigfoot casts.
Only some of his 25,000 cryptozoology books are on display. When his sons, both of whom are in college, move out, he’ll expand the museum and display more.
The home is in a dense suburb, nondescript except for the “Bigfoot parking” sign in the window. He makes it clear he’s not into ghosts, UFOs or psychic phenomenon and, for all the hundreds of interviews he’s given, Coleman claimed he’s actually pretty shy. Single, he joked about being a youthful 60 and wearing blue for TV cameras because it picks up the color of his eyes.
It’s going to take time, patience and money to find and authenticate the existence of some of the big, mythic creatures mentioned or portrayed in his museum, Coleman said. “I think there’s huge odds a lot of people are looking in the wrong place.”
He thinks there’s probably a population of 2,000 to 4,000 Bigfoot living in the Pacific Northwest. If he ever came nose to nose with one in broad daylight, “reporters want me to say I’d run away,” Coleman said.
He wouldn’t. Or, should that be, won’t.
“One time, I think I said I would actually stay and interview it,” Coleman said, laughing.
For daily crypto updates or to request a visit, check out Coleman’s blog at cryptomundo.comA man and his (weird) museum, By Kathryn Skelton , Staff Writer, Lewiston, Maine, Sun Journal, Saturday, October 6, 2007.