Philadelphia-based Hog Island Press has created what it calls “A Cryptozoological Map of the United States,” posting the areas of the country best associated with the likes of creatures such as Bigfoot, the dog-like Chupacabra and a bevy of lake monsters, perhaps the best-known of which is Champ in Lake Champlain.
(“Cryptozoology,” for the uninitiated, is commonly defined as “the study of hidden animals.”)
But while not every state in the union has its own mystery beast on the map, Maine lays claim to its very own cryptozoological legend — one that has receded into the fog of history somewhat, largely replaced in fireside chats by our own local Sasquatch stories.
Maine has Cassie, the Casco Bay sea serpent.
Fishermen have apparently claimed to see this massive eel-shark creature in the Gulf of Maine going back to the 1700s, with the all-things-supernatural website UnMuseum making mention of an alleged sighting as recently as 2002 off the coast of Biddeford.
The blog Maine Mysteries, building off the research of famed Portland cryptozoologist Loren Coleman, cataloged a range of reported sightings throughout the area’s history, including one in 1779 by none other than U.S. Navy hero Edward Preble, who claimed to have seen a beast raising its long neck 10 feet out of the water before fleeing at the sound of the officer’s warning shots.
Other reported sightings followed, including one in 1780 by Capt. George Little off the coast of what’s today Waldoboro, and another in 1912 by a woman named F.W. Saunderson and two dozen other passengers aboard a steamer passing Wood Island off the coast of Biddeford-Saco.
“Saunderson reported that the creature rose about 20 feet above the water, remained erect for half a minute or so, its head turning slowly as it if to take a good look at its surroundings, and then slipped back into the water,” Maine Mysteries reported, in part.
The aforementioned Coleman is reported to have interviewed an elderly fisherman, Ole Mikkelsen, who said that in June of 1958 he saw something he initially mistook for a submarine, but came to describe as a 100-plus-foot-long serpent with a fish-like tail and long neck.
In 1880, a Bristol fisherman named S.W. Hanna claimed to have caught what he considered a juvenile sea serpent, 25 feet in length, shaped like an eel, but with shark-like skin, gills and teeth.
“I am a fisherman of 25 years’ experience, and am acquainted with about every species of fish from the capes of Virginia to French Saint Peters [Saint Pierre, off Newfoundland], and I never saw a fish that resembled that one entirely,” Hanna would write in a letter at the time, dismissing a number of different sharks and other large fish as candidates.
But like with most mystery beasts, any hard proof of Cassie, the Casco Bay sea serpent, remained elusive.
“I did not save the fish for the reason that I did not know what I had caught,” the fisherman wrote. “In fact, I considered it a streak of ill-luck rather than good fortune, having torn my nets very badly and otherwise bothering me in my business.”