The International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland has for nearly 20 years attracted people from all over the world to explore its exhibits on Bigfoot, Yeti, sea monsters and other animals as yet undiscovered by science.
This fall, longtime museum director and internationally renowned cryptozoologist Loren Coleman will expand northward, when he opens a bookstore, gift shop and archive in Bangor.
The shop, to be located at 585 Hammond St., will feature books and gifts, a location for the museum’s archive and a rotating selection of Coleman’s vast collection of artifacts on display. Though it will not be a museum in the same way the Portland location is, Coleman said it will still offer a peek into the mysterious and colorful world of cryptozoology. Coleman and his wife also intend to move to Bangor. The Portland museum will remain open.
“My wife, Jennifer, is from the Bangor area, and we always thought maybe, someday, we’d move here,” Coleman said. “We love Portland, and I’ve been there for decades. But we just need more room, and Bangor gives us the opportunity to actually buy something, instead of lease. It just seemed logical.”
Coleman has studied cryptids, the term for an animal whose existence is unsubstantiated, for close to five decades. He’s written more than 40 books on various cryptozoological topics, and has served as a consultant and been interviewed for movies, TV shows and documentaries.
He opened his first museum in Portland in 2003. Since then, the museum has expanded twice, first onto Congress Street and then, in 2016, to a much larger space at the Thompson’s Point development on the Fore River.
The museum showcases artifacts, samples, models and artwork of cryptids from all over the world — from well known ones like the Loch Ness Monster, to lesser-known ones like Mokele-Mbembe, a dinosaur-like creature supposedly found in the Congo, to Maine creatures like Wessie, the giant snake in the Presumpscot River, and the Specter Moose, which stalks Maine’s North Woods. It also displays exhibits on creatures once thought to be extinct, like the coelacanth, the “living fossil” fish that was rediscovered in the 1930s and which serves as the mascot for the museum.
After five years at Thompson’s Point, the museum has outgrown the space, with a particular need for a place to house the more than 100,000 books, articles and other ephemera that make up the museum’s archive. This time, however, finding more space to expand into in Portland is virtually impossible for Coleman and his nonprofit — there’s no space left at Thompson’s Point, and real estate prices in the Portland area have ballooned in recent years to the point where many buyers are priced out of the market.
Coleman decided, instead, to look north to Bangor. Within just a few weeks of searching, he found an affordable, turnkey property on Hammond Street, which he closed on earlier this month.
“Anything we’d wanted to buy in Portland would have been three, four times what it costs in Bangor,” Coleman said.
The Hammond Street location, which Coleman hopes to have partially open in the next few weeks and more fully open in the coming months, is located on a high-traffic road. It was formerly the location for Bangor Brass & Woodwind Repair, and before that, an insurance office.
It also, as Coleman is well aware of, is just around the corner from Bangor’s No. 1 tourist destination: the former home of Stephen and Tabitha King on West Broadway. That iconic red mansion is now the site of King’s charitable foundation and his archive, and it attracts thousands of visitors each year.
“I have, jokingly, in the past been called the Stephen King of cryptozoology,” Coleman said. “Once I saw how close this building was to there, I was all in. I think Stephen King tourism and crypto-tourism are going to meld nicely.”