Creature on exhibit.

International Cryptozoology Museum

Field review by the editors.

Portland, Maine

According to its founder and curator, the International Cryptozoology Museum is the only one of its kind in the world (and now in a Portland facility 5 times larger than the original). Cryptozoology is the study of unknown or mysterious animals, and those animals include monsters.

And monsters are well-represented in the museum's displays.

Loren Coleman has been collecting cryptozoology artifacts since 1960, and his collection comprises the bulk of the museum. This includes hair and poop samples from Bigfoot, dozens of preserved footprints, and exhibits on animals ranging from the coelacanth (a prehistoric fish) to the Jersey Devil.

In addition to artifacts from real monsters, Loren exhibits fake monsters such as a full-size rubber Thunderbird, a Fur-Bearing Trout, and an exact replica of P.T. Barnum's 19th century "FeeJee Mermaid." Loren believes that recognizing and acknowledging frauds helps cryptozoologists to be more careful. "And it's fun," he told us. "You have to have a sense of humor in cryptozoology. It's too bad the skeptics don't."

Fur-bearing trout.
A Fur-bearing trout (not Loren's).

The museum's most eye-catching exhibit is an eight-foot-tall Bigfoot, a popular photo-op. It was built by a Wisconsin taxidermist, and it's named the Crookston Bigfoot, according to Loren, "because the town of Crookston, Minnesota, bought it. They wanted to become the Bigfoot Capital of the World. And all they had was one footprint cast from one 1981 sighting! That was their museum. And it was in the front of a roast beef restaurant."

Loren calls cryptozoology a "gateway science" that can lead to interest in other, more conventional fields. That's a message that he conveys to nervous parents who sometimes buttonhole him about their children. "I'm very worried about Johnny," he paraphrased, "because he's interested in monsters. You think it's gonna ruin his life?"

International Cryptozoology Museum

Address:
11 Avon St., Portland, ME
Directions:
I-295 exit 6A. Drive south on Hwy 100/Forest Ave., stay in the right lane, then turn right onto Hwy 77/State St. Drive for a half-mile, through the park, back into the city, then make the fifth left onto Congress St. (at the bronze seated statue on a pedestal). Drive one block and turn left onto Avon St. The museum will be on the right.
Hours:
M 12-4, W-Sa 11-4, Su 12-3:30. Closed Tu.
Admission:
Adults $7.00
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
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