It’s been named the 7th weirdest museum in the world by TIME, which was all I needed to know before deciding to spend a morning at the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.
What the hell is cryptozoology?
Cryptozoology is the study of animals that have not yet been proven to exist. Bigfoot. Kraken. Yeti. The Loch Ness Monster. The Ghost Deer (deer that’s impervious to bullets). The Globster (decaying sea monster shaped like a blob). The Loveland frog (frog that stands upright on two feet). Mothman (lol). The Ayia Napa sea monster (can’t stop raving). Man-Eating Trees.
Yes, Cryptozoology is a pseudoscience that’s all about proving these animals truly exist, and the International Cryptozoology Museum is the only museum in the world that’s dedicated to showcasing the hidden creatures that may be living alongside us.
Just like when I visited Roswell, I approached the museum with an open mind.
It’s easy to mock the people who decide to devote their lives to chasing the Abominable Snowman, but as I was reminded upon entering the museum, the colossal squid and duck-billed platypus were once believed to be folklore until their discovery. So was the okapi and giant panda. Komodo dragons and mountain gorillas were believed to be a myth up until the early 1900’s.
It’s that fact that convinced me to hold my judgment and see what the museum had in store for me. I was more than willing to be convinced there were plenty of other cryptids (the name given to animals who have not yet been proven to exist) waiting to be uncovered.
I was excited to study the scientific evidence the museum presents to its visitors and come to my own, non-biased-by-my-science-background conclusion.
Putting the family tree of Santa Claus up on display was probably not the best approach to convince me this museum was going to be based on hard scientific evidence.
It was, however, an excellent indication that this place was going to be exactly what I had been hoping for: an excuse to giggle a lot.
The museum opened its doors back in 2003 thanks to local researcher and cryptozoologist Loren Coleman, who decided to share his personal collection with the outside world. He’s one of the most reputable cryptozoologists out there, having authored several books on the topic, as well having made regular appearances on TV and radio. It was because of this that I couldn’t get my head around why the entire place felt like an enormous piss-take.
There was no science behind any of it. There were statues of freaking Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. There was the Santa Claus family tree. There was talk of mermaids and fairies and werewolves and…
What was most baffling of all was that only Dave and I seemed to find the experience amusing. Cryptid fans swirled around us, whispering of Bigfoot sightings and comparing their favourite story of the Dover Demon. Much like in Roswell, I felt like an outsider in a tribe full of — um, I’ll be polite here — gullible people.
It was so freaking weird.
I’ll be honest with you: I learned very little from the International Cryptozoology Museum, but what I did learn will stick with me forever.
(Because it was too bizarre to ever forget.)
Half-man and half-moth, this seven-foot-tall creature with no head and red eyes is often sighted just before or after disaster strikes. Most notably, Mothman was spotted sitting atop Point Pleasant’s Silver Bridge in 1967, just moments before it collapsed into the river. Damn you, Mothman!
Next up: the FeeJee Mermaid.
The FeeJee Mermaid is said to exist in the South Pacific, and is a hybrid between a monkey and a fish. A quick google, however, tells me that the “mermaid” used to be common in circuses, where staff would sew a monkey’s head to a fish’s body and present it as a mummified mermaid. Personally, I’m not sure why it’s in a cryptozoology museum if it’s a known fake, but little did I know, this was going to become a very common theme. Perhaps the only theme.
Next up: the Civil War Pterodactyl!
The Civil War Pterodactyl was supposedly discovered by a handful of civil war soldiers, but was later discovered to be a hoax. SO WHY IS IT IN THE MUSEUM?
Oh wait, this one’s a fake:
I absolutely adored that the museum had a cabinet dedicated to “fakes”, because isn’t that essentially the entire contents of the museum?
Here’s a painting of a family portrait, Bigfoot included:
There was an entire section devoted to the Dover Demon: a small, pale, large-eyed creature spotted over the space of just one week in April 1977, in Dover, Massachusetts.
And I can’t not mention the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and bigfoot that was totally getting ready for fall.
I’m going to say it: this museum was totally worth the $10 per person entrance fee, because spending 30 straight minutes laughing at the displays put me in a good mood.
But I do have some criticisms: the museum was small, chaotic, and disorganised. There was very little information about the cryptids beyond the date they were first spotted and where they’re known to roam. There were so many toys and stuffed animals and known hoaxes on display that it made the entire museum feel a little bit absurd.
If you’re a diehard cryptozoologist, you’ll probably get a kick out of seeing a fellow believer’s enormous collection for you to peruse.
If you’re open to the idea of cryptids existing and want to learn more about the study and history of them, this will be an enormous disappointment.
If you like looking at weird things, this is 100% worth visiting. I loved every second I spent there.