August 17, 2006

Mystery Beast Update: ‘Like horns of a devil’

Maine Mystery Beast

Photograph by Douglas Van Reeth, Sun Journal.

The story about the body linked to the central “Maine Mutant” broke over the second weekend in August and was discussed here when I was consulted on the case.

The events continued, building steam as soon as both the Cryptomundo blog and Lewiston Sun Journal reporter Mark LaFlamme’s article hit the newsstands. As it turned out, worried about parts of the body being picked over, I rushed to Turner, Maine, on Wednesday afternoon, August 16, 2006, with LaFlamme and the paper’s photographer Douglas Van Reeth. There we met up with Michelle O’Donnell and Debi Bodwell, Turner residents who have been most involved with the discovery, photography, and location/relocation of the mystery animal’s carcass.

The smell of the dead animal had become so difficult to tolerate when the wind shifted near the Bodwell’s home, that it had to be moved further up the frontal trail underneath the power lines. We easily found it, the odor, of course, was unforgettable, but I did an examination of what was left.

I’ll let LaFlamme’s article speak for itself, then come back with some concluding comments.


‘Like horns of a devil’
Lewiston, Maine
Sun Journal
By Mark LaFlamme, Staff Writer
Thursday, August 17,2006

Turner – Loren Coleman poked at the animal remains with plastic bags protecting his hands. There was not much left of the carcass, but there were clues here and there.

"The skull is gone. The haunches and all the internal organs, too. The only fleshy parts left are the paws," said the veteran cryptozoologist. "It’s got some extra claws that I find interesting.

"They’re sticking up like the horns of a devil. I’ll be looking into that."

Coleman was the only expert on the scene Wednesday as the controversy over the unidentified animal reached levels bordering on hysteria.

His early opinion: That the beast was possibly a chow, a breed of dog, that had turned feral.

Media outlets from as far away as Germany contacted Coleman or the Sun Journal throughout the day, looking for more information on the creature found in Turner over the weekend.

The story was picked up by national news organizations and a host of Internet sites as word about the strange creature spread throughout the day.

It was the continuing topic of discussion in corner stores and coffee shops, as residents debated whether the animal is a mere dog or some mysterious, unknown species.

"It’s crazy. Everybody’s talking about it. We sold out of newspapers by 9 this morning," said Debi Bodwell, who was at work at Schrep’s Corner Store in Turner. "Everybody is mad because the game wardens haven’t come out to take a look at it."

It was near Bodwell’s backyard Saturday that the dead animal was discovered. She and her neighbors believe it had been hit by a car while chasing Bodwell’s cat.

"I didn’t know the story would be this big," said Michelle O’Donnell, whose photographs of the animal were picked up by several organizations.

"My phone has been ringing off the hook."

O’Donnell, who came face-to-face with the animal a little over a week ago when it was still alive, said she had learned Wednesday that several neighbors were missing pet cats.

Later Wednesday night, O’Donnell said she had been interviewed by reporters all along the eastern seaboard, including CBS News out of New York. O’Donnell was interviewed in a live broadcast about her encounter with the beast. The strongest message she wanted to get out was to those people who still believe the mystery animal is a dog:

"It’s not," she said.

Across the region Wednesday, people argued about just what was found in the woods off Route 4. A common household dog, said many of them. A goat-sheep hybrid, said others. Still others weighed in that the creature may have been a Tasmanian Devil, a dingo, a mutant wolf or coyote.

One person offered that the animal may have mutated after roaming near a toxic waste dump. At least one person suggested the creature may be extraterrestrial in origin. Others insist that there is an unknown breed of animal roaming the Maine woods from the southern part of the state to the northern woods.

In areas like Greene, Leeds, New Gloucester, Wales, Sabattus, Lewiston and Auburn, stories about a strange, dog-killing animal have persisted for more than a decade. It has been blamed for killing a Doberman, mauling a Rottweiler and spooking people from town to town. Coleman is no stranger to the the rise of interest surrounding the sighting of an unfamiliar creature. He has spent this summer so far investigating reports of Bigfoot in South Dakota, and rumors of a Yeti-like creature in Malaysia. Considered the leading cryptozoologist in the world, his job is to lend his opinions and expertise in matters of such mystery.

"What we need," he said, "is a DNA sample."

Along the powerlines near Route 4 on Wednesday, Coleman had little to work with. The carcass had been picked clean by birds and other animals four days after it was killed.

"Here’s a shoulder blade. Something like this won’t have much DNA in it," he said, poking at bones and body parts with a long ruler. "I imagine something dragged the skull away for later. In the woods, something dead like this gets eaten very quickly."

Still, he came away with a paw and other body parts to be examined later. Another paw was taken by the Sun Journal, which was exploring the possibility of having DNA tests done on its own.

By Wednesday night, Coleman was not ready to weigh in on exactly what the creature in Turner might be. He was, however, developing some educated guesses.

"I think this dead animal is a chow or chow-mix, a relatively small dog, that was feral, which is unusual for that area," he said. "Nevertheless, this interesting body probably has nothing to do with the local killings, and it is highly doubtful the real ‘mystery beast.’" Sheila Rousseau of Auburn, who posted comments about the mystery animal in a blog, had her own theory: perhaps the animal that was killed in Turner over the weekend died as a result of a run-in with the real mystery creature, which still remains a phantom.


After the August 16th article in the Lewiston paper and the Cryptomundo discussion here, the mystery beast story was picked up by the Associated Press, Fox News, Boing Boing, The Anomalist, Drudge Report, and all the usual friendly media suspects.

Then the electronic media weighted in. One local CBS station did a live feed from a location near the end of the frontal road, on Route 4. The field report was straightforward, but the studio framing was typical of how the television media treats such stories – with ridicule. The on-stie reporter interviewed Michelle O’Donnell and some other "scared" townspeople. They treated it all as typical summer fare, although O’Donnell came across as credible and down-to-earth. However, they could not help but make fun of the story, ending it with the "remaining mystery," that of the Pleasant Pond "Loch Ness Monster," by showing a local gag photo of a woman in a mask apparently posted at a Route 4 truck-stop.

Back to the story at hand: What is the identity of the animal that belonged to this dead animal?

Early in this investigation, I thought it was a feral chow or chow-mix, a re
latively small dog, which is unusual for that area, as owners and local residents know each other dogs and which ones have gone missing. (I was misquoted about the wolf-dog mix for this animal or for the 1993 report, which was a black wolf, but that’s water over the dam.)

Maine Mystery Beast

Finding the two dew claws in the condition they were was a key for me in shifting my thoughts on this animal – as well as all the comments by the Cryptomundo readers, of course. Different breeds have different standards for dew claws. Most dogs have them removed as puppies. I would say from the condition of those dew claws this was a wild dog, or definitely a feral one for some time. Its dew claws were intact, not even trimmed, as any owner might have had a vet do even if not removed as a puppy. The fact they were long, curving somewhat, and so sharp probably indicates this animal has never been a pet, or at least not for a long time.

The AKC breed standard for the Akita is to not have the dew claws removed from the front legs, but removed for the back. The Chow standard is for both legs’ dew claws to be removed.

Maine Mystery Beast

A fine example of a show dog standard Akita.

To me, this dog does look like it was a member of the breed Akita, or a cross involving Akita. That this does not solve the larger picture of the local Mystery Canid reports is a fact, perhaps one, other than from the typewriter of Mark LaFlamme, the media will not write about in future stories.

This interesting body has nothing to do with the local killings, and it is highly doubtful this wild dog had anything to do with the real "mystery beast." The media attention, nevertheless, highlighted that the real cryptid is still out there – that this is an ongoing unexplained series of incidents worthy of examining. Cryptozoology must pursue every piece of evidence that comes along – even the ones that turn out to be mundane, like this one, or negative, like misidentifications, mistakes, hoaxes, and fakes.

Most of the media attention has come from a "solution" to the mystery. Weird animal stories disappear quickly from the news, with the media mostly dealing in solutions, if possible. But that does not mean that the local people aren’t left with the actual strange cryptid in their midst and still out there.

Maine Mystery Beast

Please click on image for full-size version

Photograph by Michelle O’Donnell. Used by permission.

Maine Mystery Beast

Click on image for full-size version

Photograph by Michelle O’Donnell. Used by permission.

Maine Mystery Beast

Click on image for full-size version

Photograph by Michelle O’Donnell. Used by permission.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. 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. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

Filed under Breaking News, CryptoZoo News, Cryptozoology