the International Museum of Cryptozoology in Portland has been attracting people from around the world for nearly 20 years to explore its exhibits about Bigfoot, Yeti, sea monsters and other animals as yet unknown to science.
This fall, Loren Coleman, longtime museum director and internationally renowned cryptozoologist, will expand north by opening a bookstore, gift shop and archive in Bangor.
The shop, which will be located at 585 Hammond St., will feature books and gifts, a location for the museum’s archives, and a rotating selection from the extensive collection of Coleman artifacts on display. Although it’s not a museum in the same way as the Portland location, Coleman said it will still offer insight into the mysterious and colorful world of cryptozoology. Coleman and his wife also plan to move to Bangor. The Portland Museum will remain open.
“My wife, Jennifer, is from the Bangor area, and we always thought that one day we might move here,” Coleman said. “We love Portland and I’ve been there for decades. But we just need more space, and Bangor gives us the option of buying something instead of renting it. It just seemed logical.
Coleman has studied cryptids, the term for an animal whose existence is unproven, for nearly five decades. He has written more than 40 books on various cryptozoological topics, has consulted, and been interviewed for movies, TV shows, and documentaries.
It opened its first museum in Portland in 2003. Since then the museum has expanded twice, first on Congress Street and then, in 2016, to a much larger space in the Thompson’s Point development on the River Fore .
The museum showcases artefacts, samples, models and artwork of cryptids from around the world – from well-known ones like the Loch Ness Monster, to lesser-known ones like Mokele-Mbembe, a dinosaur-like creature se -said to be found in the Congo, in Maine creatures like Wessie, the giant snake of the Presumpscot River, and the Specter Moose, which stalks the North Woods of Maine. It also features exhibits on once-extinct creatures, like the coelacanth, the “living fossil” fish that was rediscovered in the 1930s and serves as the museum’s mascot.
After five years at Thompson’s Point, the museum has moved beyond space, with a particular need for a place to house the more than 100,000 books, items and other ephemera that make up the museum’s archives. This time, however, finding more space to expand in Portland is nearly impossible for Coleman and his nonprofit – there’s no more space in Thompson’s Point, and real estate prices in the Portland area have exploded in recent years to the point where many buyers are priced out of the market.
Coleman instead decided to look north to Bangor. Within weeks of searching, he found an affordable turnkey property on Hammond Street, which he closed earlier this month.
“Anything we wanted to buy in Portland would have cost three, four times what it costs in Bangor,” Coleman said.
The Hammond Street location, which Coleman hopes to have partially opened in the coming weeks and more fully opened in the coming months, is located on a busy road. It was formerly the location of Bangor Brass & Woodwind Repair, and before that, an insurance office.
It’s also, as Coleman well knows, just around the corner from Bangor’s #1 tourist destination: Stephen and Tabitha King’s former home on West Broadway. This iconic red mansion is now the site of King’s charitable foundation and archives, 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 totally into it. I think Stephen King tourism and crypto tourism will merge well.”