Conspiracy theories are always making the rounds in Maine. Some believe that Chinese troops have invaded our shores. Others believe that mountain lions or cougars rule our terrain. And they’ve been outspoken about it. But there is one wonder that remains whispering among Mainers: is Bigfoot wandering our forests?

Author Michelle Souliere has published a book with over 20 accounts from eyewitnesses who claim to have had an encounter with Bigfoot. The encounters vary in length, intimacy, frequency and location in Maine. One account comes from a Livermore Falls local. Photo courtesy of Michelle Souliere

Author Michelle Souliere interviewed around 20 Mainers who not only seem to believe so, but claim they have had firsthand encounters with a Bigfoot for her new book, “Bigfoot in Maine.”

I wouldn’t necessarily call myself an outright believer, nor would Souliere, which she clarified in an interview. But the case “Bigfoot in Maine” makes is compelling, extensively researched, and delicately handled.

Souliere has been researching Bigfoot sightings and claims in Maine since 2005, when she started her blog “Strange Maine.” She calls the blog “a nexus for conversation about Maine’s unique strangeness” where she writes about cryptids, urban legends and unusual experiences in the state of Maine. She has been drawn to cryptids and urban legends since she was a child.

I find the whole idea of cryptids fascinating  — the idea that we don’t know everything about the world we exist in,” Souliere said. “I feel like there’s a lot of room for exploration still, even though with technological connectedness, it feels like the world gets smaller all the time. I feel like in the natural world, there still exists a lot of little pockets of surprises that we haven’t stumbled across yet.”

Souliere began the “long and convoluted process” of writing “Bigfoot in Maine” with intentions to focus on the history of Bigfoot sightings in newspapers and other recorded accounts after coming across captivating historical documents.

The idea that there might be Bigfoot in Maine just kind of flabbergasts most people including myself,” Souliere said.

After a similar book came out in recent years, Souliere shifted her focus to interviews with Bigfoot “eyewitnesses — their accounts, their experiences and their voice.”

“The historic trails wound up leading to people who live and exist today who have had encounters with something they can’t explain and the closest thing that it matches winds up being Bigfoot,” she said. 

A lot of time was spent tracking eyewitnesses down and gaining their confidence. This required a lot of “patience and tenacity,” Souliere said.

The collection of interviews in “Bigfoot in Maine” is experientially and geographically vast. There are accounts that focus on the aftermath of a sighting and accounts that detail deeply intimate encounters. In the first interview, Souliere tells the story of a woman who met a family of Bigfoot as a child and bonded with them. In this chapter, you learn about the ways in which the Bigfoot cared for her, taught her how to swim and protected her from danger.

This drawing is an illustration of a photograph of a footprint. The footprint was found by Jeff Robertson of Livermore Falls and his son, Seth, while they were fiddleheading at the brook by his house. Robertson described the footprint as 12 feet long with toe imprints and no claws. Michelle Souliere drawing

In another chapter, Souliere recounts the experiences of a man based in Livermore Falls. In 2011, Jeff Robertson of Livermore Falls and his son, Seth, found a footprint next to a brook near their home that matched Bigfoot traits.

Soon after, Robertson began noticing “mysterious noises … from the summer woods behind his house.” Robertson told Souliere he heard vocalizations, tree shakes and tree knocks, among other noises. Something also kept knocking down his birdfeeder.

When he let out a vocalization similar to the calls he heard, Robertson said a figure “about 6 feet tall and covered in black hair” ran across his backyard. Following these encounters, Robertson has kept an extensive log of his experiences, “including hundreds of tree-knocks.”

Robertson also said he saw Bigfoots while driving across the Androscoggin River on Route 219 in Leeds, perhaps even “the same family behind his home.”

Souliere said Robertson’s accounts are distinct because their proximity to his home allowed him to “pay attention and notice patterns.”

A lot of the encounters in the book are kind of one-off sightings in places that aren’t where the person lives, she said. “I feel like a lot of people don’t have that opportunity to pay attention and study what’s going on around them. Jeff was afforded a unique opportunity to do that because it was right outside the back of his house.”

During the interview, Souliere was asked if there could have been a Bigfoot habitat in the Livermore Falls region, given that there were many instances of communication and sightings.

“I do believe so,” Souliere responded. In fact, Souliere said she “would not be surprised” if there were other untold accounts in the Livermore Falls region.

However, Robertson’s son said the area behind the home has been “heavily logged since then, so some of that may have been lost in the meantime.”

“A lot of the accounts I’ve heard about depend on a greenway for movement,” Souliere said. “It seems like they don’t mind being close to human populations so long as they have tree cover that will protect them and allow them to disappear and stay out of sight. I think when large areas of that get interrupted by harvesting, it probably changes their travel patterns, so to speak.”

When discussing this story with co-workers, Sun Journal staff-writer Donna Perry said, “I never heard of Big Foot being in Livermore Falls. I have lived there for 32 years.”

Souliere said there is a lot of secrecy around Bigfoot sightings for fear of being shunned or mocked, as was the case with certain accounts in the book.

“I think that most people who have had an encounter in Maine that they can’t explain tend to keep it to themselves because they don’t know what kind of reaction they’re going to get from people. In a lot of cases, they can safely predict there is an element of ridicule that comes into the equation,” Souliere explained.

However, television shows such as “Finding Bigfoot” have “shifted things” and released some of the stigma. In fact, Souliere said a number of people spoke with her in part, because they had seen the television show and “felt like maybe this was the time that they could actually share it without getting shouted down.”

The naysayers believe that Bigfoot remains would surely have been discovered by now. Or perhaps, a recorded encounter. However, Souliere countered that “the natural world is very adept at disposing of remains.”

Maine has many, many, many miles with little or no human presence in them,” she said. “We can’t be everywhere all of the time. There’s plenty of stuff going on out there that we have no idea about. I think anybody who thinks they completely know anything other than kind of their own backyard woods area is probably blowing smoke.”

Souliere does not consider herself a solid Bigfoot “believer,” that she changes her mind frequently. However, she knows “that people are seeing something that’s unexplained.”

“There are people who are encountering something that appears to be a large mammal that matches none of the known large mammals in Maine and there are a lot of people who are encountering something that fits the same general description,” Souliere explained. “I go back and forth all of the time, could it have been a misidentification … a trick of the light. But the number of people I’ve talked to at this point and the patterns that have popped up in what they encountered, visual, audio, all those different elements, there’s something interesting going on.”

Souliere plans to write a second volume of “Bigfoot in Maine” as she has collected accounts from “dozens” of eyewitnesses. Anyone with their experience is encouraged to reach out to her via email, at [email protected]. Her other research and explorations can be found at http://strangemaine.blogspot.com/.

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