March 04, 2012

The Specter Moose of Maine

At least 29,000 live in Maine, according to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. That's a lot of moose! Most of those moose are colored black or brown, but over the last hundred years a gigantic, white moose has been seen lurking in those piney northern forests.

Because of its ghostly color it's been dubbed... the specter moose of Maine! Well, and also because of the weird stories associated with it.

The specter moose was first seen in 1891 outside of Bangor by a hunting guide named Clarence Duffy. Duffy, no stranger to moose, was horrified by the encounter. Not only was the animal an unusual color, but it stood 13 feet tall and had antlers that were more than ten feet across. It was a moose of almost prehistoric proportions!

Another man named George Kneeland was so frightened by the giant white moose in 1900 that he abandoned his newfangled bicycle and climbed up a tree for safety. After investigating the bicycle, the moose vanished into the forest.

The specter moose appeared sporadically throughout the 20th century and became an established piece of Maine folklore. But where did it come from, and why is it such an unusual color?

There are of course a few possible scientific explanations. The specter moose could simply be an albino moose, although that doesn't account for it's gigantic size. It could also be infested with winter ticks (yuck!), which are known to cause lightening of an animal's coat.

However, science can't account for some of the wilder stories about the specter moose. For example, what would a scientist say about this story? A group of hunters near the Molunkus stream in Maine killed a large white moose, slit its throat, and hung it from a tree overnight so they could skin and dress it the next day. They were surprised in the morning to see that the moose had vanished, but were even more surprised that evening when the giant moose walked into their camp - with its throat still cut. The hunters shot it dead (again) with their rifles, but the moose calmly got up and walked off into the dark forest. Wisely, they didn't pursue.

That's pretty freaky, but things got even freakier. The giant white moose, its throat slit open, was seen soon after by one Burt Peggins near Ashland, Maine. Peggins shot at the moose to no effect, and then dropped his rifle and ran into his house. From inside, he watched the moose pick up the rifle with its teeth, fire it, and then amble away.

An undead moose that can shoot a gun is kind of scary, but the specter moose has his happier side as well. A man named Harry Porter claimed that he became stranded out in the woods with his girlfriend after their horse died. Happily, a giant white moose appeared and carried them back to town. Specter moose to the rescue!

One of the later stories about the specter moose also shows its supernatural side. According to some people in Franklin, the moose appears when bad things are about to happen, and it reportedly appeared shortly before the town's restaurant burned down in 2002.

Your average, mundane moose is pretty scary, but a giant supernatural white one is just disturbing. I can thank the following for adding a new monster to my nightmares: Michelle Souliere's book Strange Maine, and the BioForetan Review's article "King Moose." Michelle Souliere also writes the Strange Maine Blog, which is full of unusual stuff from the north.


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