BATH, Maine — The Pine Tree State has no shortage of unexplained crypto creature encounters. There’s Cassie the mythic Casco Bay sea monster, first reported in the 18th century. In the 1970s, kids say they saw a gorilla on the loose in Durham. Bigfoot was reportedly sighted in Turner just a few years ago.
Now, thanks to three Morse High School students, we can now add another to the list: The Basin Screecher.
Juniors Alden Harkin and Gavin Hanna, along with senior Owen Barter, produced an eight-minute, comic documentary film about the local Phippsburg legend. The trio researched the legend, interviewed locals and even went on a nightime search for the Screecher.
They’ve entered their film called “The Hunt for the Basin Screecher” in the Portland Youth Film Festival.
The film consists of actual interviews with local residents interwoven with bits of comically overblown fictional dialogue delivered straight to the camera. Like a legend, itself, it’s hard to discern just where truth and mythology begin, end and overlap.
As the name suggests, more people have heard the Basin Screecher than have seen it with their eyes. Emitting a blood-stopping scream, it’s said to haunt the Basin in Phippsburg. The Basin is a wooded area long known for late night forest parties and beer-fueled shenanigans. The few who have seen it describe a creature half man and half bird.
Some say the Screecher is the ghost of a screaming little girl. Harkin, Hanna and Barter think it may have something to do with mysterious rune stones found in Phippsburg in 1972.
No photographic or recorded evidence of the Basin Screecher is known to exist.
Q: First, let me thank you for contacting me, seeking permission to use a clip from my video about the rune stones in your project. A lot of people wouldn’t have bothered asking.
Owen: Thanks for letting us use it.
Q: No problem. Owen, your family goes back several generations in Phippsburg. Do you remember when you first heard about the Basin Screecher?
Owen: I feel like the Basin Screecher has always been a thing in Phippsburg. It’s always been mentioned. I don’t remember when I first heard about it, but growing up in Phippsburg, it’s always been this legend in town.
Q: Where did the idea for this video come from?
Gavin: We make videos promoting the yearbook and that’s where our teacher got the idea for us entering the film festival — shoutout to Mrs. Stanton. We spent a lot of time researching it, writing the script and planning it out. We started working on it a while ago, after Christmas.
Q: How do you go about researching something like this?
Gavin: You gotta’ really dig deep on the internet to find stuff like this.
Alden: I did a lot of the other research, contacting people about the rune stones. There’s multiple sources who’ve written about the stones — debating whether they’re real or fake. A lot of people think there might be more to them. I did a lot of research into that, trying to connect them back to the story of the Basin Screecher.
Q: What’s the reaction to your documentary so far? I see more that 1,500 people have already viewed it on YouTube.
Owen: It’s been mostly positive. People that know us — and my parents’ friends — they think it’s funny. But people that are in Phippsburg, some have commented that it’s the stupidest thing they’ve ever seen. But I don’t know if they get what the video is — either they didn’t finish watching it, or they did and just didn’t understand what was going on. We really got some of those deep Phippsburg people mad.
Q: Mad because you’re revealing one of Phippsburg’s dark secrets?
Gavin: I don’t know what it’s about. I think they must think we’re making fun of Phippsburg. Some people take the Screecher pretty seriously. Some people insist that it’s a very real thing. Some people got really riled up about that.
Q: What do you want people to get out of this video? Information or just entertainment?
Alden: We want it to be interesting, where you can learn something about Maine — maybe something about the culture.
Gavin: A little bit of Phippsburg lore.
Owen: Yeah, that’s it.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.