A new book by Michelle Souliere explores tales of Bigfoot sightings in Maine. Contributed / Michelle Souliere

Maine is known for many iconic animals – the lobster, moose, black bear and black-capped chickadee – but after a decade’s work on her latest book, a Portland author posits that Bigfoot could be added to that list.

“I don’t have any problem saying that is a distinct possibility,” said Michelle Souliere, author of the new “Bigfoot in Maine.”

The book shares a dozen accounts, including a few published for the first time, Souliere said, from people who say they saw the big, legendary beast or proof of it in the state. Those encounters took place, for example, during an August 1977 game of hide and in Berwick; during a May 1990 father-son fishing trip on the Mattawamkeag River near Island Falls; at the site of car accident possibly involving Bigfoot in Northport in November 1997; while on a 2011 walk along Augusta Road near the border of Kennebec and Lincoln counties; and while foraging for fiddleheads in Livermore Falls in 2011.

Souliere said she herself has never had a Bigfoot encounter. Most of the encounters she heard about happened by accident.

Michelle Souliere’s latest book “Bigfoot in Maine,” explores the history of Bigfoot sightings in Maine and includes some never published before accounts of close encounters. Contributed / Arcadia Publishing

“They were somewhere at the same time something else traveled through that location,” she wrote in the book published by The History Press, an imprint of Arcadia Publishing. “They crossed paths with it. This type of sighting is momentary, often lasting only a few seconds, yet for the rest of their lives, the memory vividly remains. Over the years, they find themselves returning again and again to that puzzle – what did they see? And like a puzzle piece, they turn the memory over and over in their minds, trying to fit it into familiar boxes. Was it a bear? Was it a moose? Was it a person? Every time, the answer is no, and they are left holding that piece of memory, with nowhere to put it but in the back of their minds, where it continues to stand, alone and strange.”

All the encounters had a lasting effect on the individuals she spoke with, she said in an interview.

“Even decades after their encounter, when they are talking about it, you can hear something in their voice. They still don’t know how to cope with what they saw,” she said.

Depictions vary, but generally Bigfoot, according to the reports of him, is described as upwards of 7 feet tall, walks on two feet, moves quickly, is covered in long dark hair and emits a low deer roar or hooting or whooping noises.

Souliere said she was particularly struck by two encounters: an account from Mike Dunphy Jr. and Mike Dunphy Sr. who saw Bigfoot while they were on a fishing trip on the west branch of the Mattawamkeag River in May 1990, and another from Bigfoot enthusiasts who came upon what they thought could be a Bigfoot family near a large tree structure in the Saco River basin in York County in April 2017. In both cases, Souliere was able to talk to multiple witnesses to the same sighting.

“It changes things when you have corroboration,” she said.

Mainers’ reports of seeing of large hairy creatures, dubbed Wildmen, go back to the 1700s and 1800s, she said. It wasn’t until an August 1895 that a report in the Bar Harbor Record suggested a creature more in line with modern-day descriptions of Bigfoot.

The newspaper reported that two women and three boys were picking blueberries near South Gardiner when they “came upon a hairy monster which walked upright on his hind legs toward them. They were badly scared, but the animal, which looked like an immense African monkey walked past them, leaving a footprint like a saucer.”

“Bigfoot in Maine” author Michelle Souliere said that Bigfoot witnesses, “still don’t know how to cope with what they saw.” Illustration by Michelle Souliere

The term Bigfoot didn’t come into the vernacular until the 1950s and by the 1970s, versions of Bigfoot, also known as Sasquatch, routinely turned up on television shows and in books, movies and newspaper articles.

Souliere said people are interested in Bigfoot and other animals whose existence is unsubstantiated, or cryptids, because “in general we are fascinated there might be stuff we have not discovered yet, things we haven’t given a taxonomy to.”

“My interest is in Maine history, but especially the anomalous stuff that sometimes can slip through the cracks,” she said.

This interest lead Souliere to publish “Strange Maine,” a 2010 collection of strange, but true, tales about Maine.

Katie Parry, publicity director of The History Press, said that given the success of “Strange Maine,” the publisher thought “this one could be similar.”

“The first person interviews and unpublished oral history material increased our desire to publish this,” Parry said. “It’s also just a unique and fun subject and fits nicely into our list of Maine titles.”

“Bigfoot in Maine” can be purchased at arcadiapublishing.com, at Souliere’s Green Hand Book Shop at 661 Congress St. in Portland or at greenhandbookshop.com.

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