During three encounters more than a century ago, Al Michaud’s great-great-grandfather took two shots at the Specter Moose, a gray, beefy, 15-foot tall, 2,500-pound legend of the Maine woods.

Like everyone else, he missed.

“They said it had 10 pounds of lead in it because nobody could kill the moose,” said Michaud, 49.

When Michaud was a boy, his great-uncle would tell tales of the hunts during trips to camp at Moosehead Lake. Asking around years later, Michaud found lots of people told lots of stories.

Researching newspaper archives over a span of 50 years, he found tales there, too, including one in which hunters successfully bagged the animal, only to have the moose resurrect itself the next day.

He’s gathered the stories into a book, “Hunting Old Moxie: The Largely True History of the Specter Moose of Lobster Lake, Maine,” self-published in April.

Michaud grew up in Winslow, moved to Nashville and returned to Maine last year. He said the Specter Moose hit the national scene in 1899 with stories in The New York Times, The Boston Globe and other newspapers.

Four hunters from away came out of the woods claiming to have taken shots at it, kicking off what Michaud called a “long stretch where it had national fame.”

“The moose had been seen by Maine hunters for a good decade before 1899,” Michaud said. “For quite a while after that, papers across the country would print the latest about the Specter Moose. The first major newspaper coverage was between 1899 and 1904, then returned in 1908, again in 1911, 1917.”

The last article he found ran in 1942. He also discovered it wasn’t enough just to report on a monster moose in the Maine woods.

“Newspapers would speculate, ‘This must be the son or grandson of the original Specter Moose’ — moose only live into their 20s and this had been reported for 50 years,” Michaud said. “It had a lot of supernatural qualities. It was claimed to be 15 feet tall, grayish-white in color, its antlers spread 12 feet across. A very unusual moose. People would report a light would appear between its antlers, like a ball of light, that’s from the newspaper accounts.”

In comparison, adult bull moose in Maine average 1,106 pounds and about 6 feet tall at the shoulder, according to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife.

State moose biologist Lee Kantar said the state hunting record holder, the 1982 Masardis Bull, weighed more than 1,700 pounds when it was shot.

“That being said, we have not seen a bull that big since,” he said. Even a 1,475-pound bull would be “exceptional. That is a smasher and I would be highly suspect of larger eastern moose.”

Michaud’s great-great-grandfather claimed to have had three encounters with the Specter Moose, in 1889, 1890 and 1903, according to the stories Michaud’s great-uncle would tell.

He said he wrote his book weaving together the history of the woods, hunting, logging and tourism with newspaper accounts and “what I call ‘bean supper tales,’ basically local folklore, people just spinning yarns about it.”

“Maine has a long, wonderful history of yarn spinners, that’s part of our heritage,” he said. “We’re actually nationally known for that. There’s a lot of newspapers from that time period, ‘Here’s another story from Maine …'”

Author Al Michaud

While stories originally had the Specter Moose hanging out in the Katahdin area, it was eventually sighted everywhere from Washington County to Aroostook County and Rangeley.

“Lumbermen and hunters in the upper Kennebec, they called it Old Moxie,” Michaud said. “It was also the Ambajejus Giant because it was seen by Ambejejus Lake, near Millinocket. Around Rangeley, it was called Jumbo. Once it became national, it was just called the Specter Moose.”

Michaud, who works as a data analyst for Amazon, found one newspaper story of the Specter Moose actually meeting its end. Sort of.

“It was shot and killed, and it was strung up (and bled out),” he said. “The next day, it was back alive. It was standing outside of their camp.”

He doesn’t take a view on whether the moose was real or not. Michaud said he enjoyed focusing stories on Maine’s inland instead of its more-written-about coast. He sees opportunities the state could be having with the moose today.

It could be the name of a craft beer. Used to promote the Maine woods.

“I could even see, just for fun, legislation making the Specter Moose the official state monster or something,” Michaud said.

He’s included an email address in the book — [email protected] — hoping to collect more tales and add to “Hunting Old Moxie” in the future.

Weird, Wicked Weird is a regular feature on the strange, intriguing and unexplained in Maine. Send photos and ideas to [email protected]

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