Posted by: Loren Coleman on August 2nd, 2011
During July of 1973, the rural town of Durham, Maine, in Androscoggin County (and into nearby Cumberland County), was the site of several reports of a “gorilla.”
The following summary is my overview of the case from the archives:
The specific location of the sightings were ~
(#1) Shiloh-Lisbon Falls Road area, in Brunswick, Maine; half-mile from the Huntington home, in Durham, Maine;
(#2) near Durham Road, in the Jones Cemetery, Durham, Maine;
(#3) River Road, near the Jones Cemetery, at the Durham-Brunswick, Maine line; and
(#4) “behind the Jones Cemetery.” at the Durham-Brunswick, Maine line.
Tied to the numbers above, this is what was observed:
(#1) Mrs. Huntington reported (after her own sighting – #3 – the following day) that her daughters have seen the animal three or four times. The first sighting consisted of four youngsters on bicycles seeing it. The three Huntington children ~ i.e. Lois Huntington, 13; George Huntington Jr., 10; Scott Huntington, 8 ~ and their friend, Tammy Sairo, 12, were riding along the road about a half-mile from the Huntington home. They matter-of-factly reported an encounter with a chimp.
Mrs. Huntington would later tell reporters: “My 13-year-old daughter fell off her bike about three feet from him and all he did was cock his head and look at her.” It was described as upright and chimpanzee-like. The quiet, intelligent, reserved Lois reportedly told the Maine Sunday Telegram: “I fell right down in front of him and all he did was look at me. I would have known if it were a hippie or something. But it had a regular monkey face. You have seen a monkey before, haven’t you?”
(#2) A gorilla-like animal standing on its hind legs was observed two or three times by a James Washburn. Officers searching the area found moose and deer tracks. (Please note – Finding moose tracks anywhere in Maine is not unusual.)
(#3) Mrs. George (Meota) Huntington, 33, of Lisbon Falls Road, Durham was driving home from a baseball game when she saw the “ape” peeking out from the bushes on the Durham Road. It was twenty feet away, and made a “mad dash” on two legs into the heavily wooded area. The exact description of the “ape” was that it was a little over five feet tall, with a shaggy, black coat, and weighing about 350 pounds.
She says it had a “monkey face.” “Chimp-like” was another way it was described. She coasted her vehicle so as not to scare it, but when it apparently saw her vehicle, then it ran into the woods. She reportedly saw it two separate times during this incident, as she returned with neighbors and sighted it again. She stayed in her car, as others searched the woods. She was sitting in her car, when she saw it again, peering at her from the crotch of a tree.
Soon after police were notified, the following arrived to begin a search – Androscoggin Sheriff’s Department (a number of deputies), Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department, the Maine State Police, and State of Maine Game Wardens. Altogether, over thirty officers in thirty police cars searched for the animal for two hours. (A helicopter was used in a search in the following days.)
Tracks found near a cemetery and not directly associated with the sighting looked human but had claws – they appeared to be of a bear. At first, that night, some officers brushed off the whole incident as a bear sighting. This would change.
Huntington commented: “They make it out to a monster. I never said it was a monster.”
(#4) By Friday, 27 July 1973, several more (unidentifed) witnesses had come forth saying they had seen “it.” At 7:30 PM, Peter and Jean Merrill found a footprint behind the Jones Cemetery, the scene of most of the sightings. They said it looked like a chimpanzee print.
Androscoggin County Deputy Sheriff Blaine Footman (sic) examined the series of prints, and cast what was described as one which was “rather deep.” Footman said it was about five inches wide with “the thumb part broken off. Whatever made it weighs 300 or 350 pounds and I can’t tell you much more. It’s definitely not a bear track. I don’t know what’s going on here and I’d rather not express an opinion.”
Other witnesses included Huntington’s daughters and friend who were riding bikes near their home. Washburn’s activities are not noted. Huntington was in her automobile, returning from a local baseball game. (Information on the opponents and score were not collected, unfortunately.)
Reports of a gorilla suit not returned since March 1973, to a Portland area costume shop were mentioned in the press, but did not seem to be considered too related to these incidents by the central Maine authorities. By Saturday, 28 July 1973, after many more phone calls from others confirming they had seen an unusual animal in the area, police were taking the sightings very seriously.
The reports had a high level of reliability, according to Brent Raynes and David Downs who interviewed witnesses and investigated the case in 1973.
No wild, captive, or zoological garden gorillas existed in the state of Maine in 1973. The above example of a zoo gorilla is for illustrative purposes only.
The specific eyewitness(es) for each incident were:
(#1) Lois Huntington, 13; George Huntington Jr., 10; Scott Huntington, 8 and their friend Tammy Sairo, 12;
(#2) James Washburn;
(#3) Mrs. George (Meota) Huntington, 33; and
(#4) Peter and Jean Merrill.
The times for each encounter were:
(#1) 25th, afternoon;
(#2) 25th, nighttime;
(#3) 26th, about 7:15 p.m.; and
(#4) footprint discovered 27th, 7:30 p.m.
The details of the case appeared in the following newspapers through articles (now archived and highlighted on a map at the International Cryptozoology Museum):
26 July 1973 The Times Record, Brunswick, Maine.
27 July 1973 Evening Journal, Lewiston-Auburn, Maine.
27 July 1973 Press Herald, Portland, Maine.
27 July 1973 Daily Sun, Lewiston, Maine.
27 July 1973 Evening Express, Portland, Maine.
27 July 1973 The Times Record, Brunswick, Maine.
28 July 1973 Daily Sun, Lewiston, Maine.
28 July 1973 Press Herald, Portland, Maine.
28 July 1973 Evening Express, Portland, Maine.
29 July 1973 Boston Sunday Globe, Boston, Massachusetts.
29 July 1973 Maine Sunday Telegram, Portland, Maine.
30 July 1973 Daily Sun, Lewiston, Maine.
30 July 1973 Evening Journal, Lewiston-Auburn, Maine.
30 July 1973 The Times Record, Brunswick, Maine.
31 July 1973 The Times Record, Brunswick, Maine.
What can be re-discovered about this episode to inform the source of these sightings?
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013.