Posted by: Craig Woolheater on April 7th, 2014
You might still hear about a UFO sighting or two in Maine – or maybe a report of a large beast in the woods. But it’s much less common to hear modern accounts of the sea serpent. There was a time, though, when such sightings were much more common, and reported by upstanding citizens. In the latest installment of our occasional series, Maine’s Hidden History, Maine Things Considered host Tom Porter turns once again to Portland historian Herb Adams.
Herb Adams: “Well, Tom, after lobsters, sea serpents might be Mainers’ very favorite thing in the sea. We’ve seen enough of them going back over 300 years. For example, in July 1779, young Lt. Edward Preble of Portland – the future commander of Old Ironsides, the USS Constitution itself – saw, he said, a 44-foot sea serpent cruising around Muscongus Bay, up the Penobscot (River). Black, he said it was, body big around as a man, head reared six feet above the water. And Preble chased it with a swivel gun, firing away. The sea serpent ignored him totally and swam off to Louds Island, and slithered ashore into the woods.”
Tom Porter: “You might think that a fantastical tale, but I guess Mr. Preble is a fairly reliable source, isn’t he?”
Herb Adams: “Yes, and Preble was always glad to talk about it, too. Experienced men of the water, such as him, clearly saw something, and usually would stand by what Sea Serpents 7they said. Here’s an example: A hundred years later, August 1874, the schooner Emily Holder. Captain Edward York told the Portland Daily Press that on the 22nd of August, when his schooner was about 10 miles southwest of Matinicus Island, and moving at a three-knot breeze – that’s pretty good – about 500 yards off he saw the sail of a huge swordfish. As they got closer they saw a huge neck projecting out of the water, about 10 feet. The neck was as big around as a barrel, he said. The schooner attempted to get near to the creature, but the creature dove, and as he did – these are the captain’s own words – he ‘brought his tail around with a whisk, the end of it striking the stern of the schooner with a slap that made the craft shiver and set the crockery spinning in pantry.’ Now that has the ring of truth to it.
Now here’s another one from the 20th century: In the year 1958, right off Cape Elizabeth near Portland Head Light. There, a fisherman named Ole Mikkelson was out Sea Serpents 6very early one day in the fog, then all of a sudden out of the haze comes what he thought was a submarine. But as it came closer he and his crew discovered it was something alive. It was light brown, looked well over 100-feet long, its tail was like a mackerel and its head stuck out of the water, but it was broader than the neck. He couldn’t see ears or eyes but obviously the creature had both, because every time the foghorn on the light ship Portland sounded, the creature turned its head in that direction. And as it came near it would dive down, its tail would come out of the water, it would come up loud and splash and go down slowly again. Three or four times in three or four minutes it did this. Then it came up and stopped as if to look them over – clearly it could see. And then it swam away back into the mist, literally into mystery.
Tom Porter: “Pity Mr. Mikkelson didn’t have an iPhone on him, we could have some video evidence.”
Herb Adams: “That’s right, or the serpent could have called him and announced he would be coming.”
Tom Porter: “Any evidence, Herb, that the serpents have ever hurt anyone in Maine waters?”
Herb Adams: “So far as we know, not – at least no one’s come back to tell us about it.”
Although there’s no photographic evidence of Maine’s sea serpents, Adams says there have been more than 75 reported sightings over the years – and one of the beasts was even given a name.
Herb Adams: “You know, much like the Loch Ness monster is nicknamed Nessie, the Maine crypto-zoologist Lauren Coleman has nicknamed Casco Bay’s sea serpent Cassie. And it may, in fact, be a permanent resident – it’s been seen fairly frequently, right into the 20th – and, let us hope – the 21st century. It’s good, Tom, to have a little mystery left in the world, and in the water, don’t you think?”
Portland historian Herb Adams is our go-to guy for our occasional series, Maine’s Hidden History.
Co-founder of Cryptomundo in 2005. I have appeared in or contributed to the following TV programs, documentaries and films: OLN's Mysterious Encounters: "Caddo Critter", Southern Fried Bigfoot, Travel Channel's Weird Travels: "Bigfoot", History Channel's MonsterQuest: "Swamp Stalker", The Wild Man of the Navidad, Destination America's Monsters and Mysteries in America: Texas Terror - Lake Worth Monster, Animal Planet's Finding Bigfoot: Return to Boggy Creek and Beast of the Bayou.