Michelle Souliere with You Know Who behind her. Submitted photo

In the summer of 2006, when I stumbled onto a story about a mysterious creature found dead on the side of a Turner road, one of the first people I called was Michelle Souliere.

Souliere owns and operates the Green Hand Bookshop in Portland and she was, at the time, editor of the popular Strange Maine Gazette. This is a lady who is intimately familiar with strangeness, and because of that she was able to put me in touch with a weird array of zoological experts as I attempted to unravel the mystery of the Turner Beast.

In 2010, Souliere published the book “Strange Maine: True Tales from the Pine Tree State.” Since then, she’s been working on her latest book, “Bigfoot in Maine,” which involved traveling all over the state to interview eyewitnesses who claimed to have close encounters with the large and hairy cryptid.

Some of those Bigfoot sightings might be a little close to home for the comfort of some who live in the Lewiston area — is the big guy running around in the woods of Greene? Poland? Durham?

Now that the book is published, we caught up with Souliere to ask a few questions about what drives her to delve so avidly into the dark corners and weird chasms of the world around her. We also fished for inside info on Bigfoot himself. If that dude is right in our backyards, it would be a good thing to know as much about him (or her?) as possible.

I’m just going to go ahead and ask: Have you seen Bigfoot? Sadly, no — not yet, anyhow! I occasionally lose sleep thinking about all the possible scenarios that might ensue. Of course, being someone who tries to think in practical terms, I usually wind up focusing on strategies for my follow-up activity. Who do I tell? Do I try to contact someone in the scientific field? Do I try to quietly get protective legislation in place? My brain likes to get complicated about these things. Also it’s easier somehow than trying to anticipate how I will react in the moment. That I cannot predict — it will depend on so many things! 

Speaking of seeing Bigfoot, Lewiston is positively surrounded by sightings — Poland, Durham, Leeds, Turner, Greene, Livermore Falls. . . . You guys have some interesting neighbors up there!

What prompted you to take on this big, hairy topic? Ever since the first time I found out that there were actual Bigfoot reports tied to Maine, I’ve wanted to know more. And the longer I look, the more I find. I’ll admit it is a fascinating process, and I love the fact that I’m nowhere near finished with it yet. And if nothing else, it is possibly one of the best excuses ever to go tromping around in the Maine woods. 

I’ve always had a thing for Nancy Drew, and likewise the Three Investigators. When someone like me is handed a puzzle like this one, it’s almost unavoidable — there will be much digging, and many, many questions will be asked! And then a few more, just for good measure. And then a few more. And then there are those questions I never ask anyone that just keep bouncing around the inside of my head meanwhile. There’s always something going on in there. 

If you found Bigfoot and he granted you an interview, what would you ask him? Oh, geez. This one is going to keep me up all night too! If I could communicate with a Bigfoot, and it had the patience to deal with my endless questions, we could go on forever. What do you eat? What is your favorite food? Do you really like to eat algae? What do you do for fun (besides throwing rocks at humans?) Do you have friends that like to sneak up on humans and deer and freak them out? Do you spend a lot of time up in trees? Have you ever gotten stuck in a tree and had to jump? Can you really disappear or are you just incredibly quiet and agile? Do your eyes really bioluminesce? If so, what do the different colors mean? Can you feel it when the glow is happening? What is your least favorite neighbor — skunk? porcupine? humans? How do you keep ticks away? Do they even bother you? Do you hibernate in the winter at all? Have you ever found a human-made object that you really liked and wanted to keep? What do you think about all the humans out in the woods trying to get you to return their wood-knocks (I can only assume this is less annoying than call-blasting)? Have you ever run across really annoying humans that wouldn’t stay away from you and made you have to move out of the neighborhood to get away from them? Do you prefer caves or lean-tos? Do you think humans and Bigfoot can get along? 

How did you get started in the book business? Well, I’ve been a voracious reader since I was very young. I used to get in trouble for reading when I was supposed to be doing something else — hiding books under my desk at school, hiding under my blankets with a flashlight reading when I was supposed to be sleeping at night. At some point in my 20s I started selling books to local booksellers here in Portland when I was weeding out my way-too-big personal library. Then I realized that I could pick up likely books when I was out yard-saling and flea-marketing to sell and support my habit, because I had a knack for finding good ones. It’s a slippery slope, and when you’re a book magnet like me, that’s exactly how you get in trouble! I’m surprised I haven’t died in a book avalanche yet!!! 

What attracts you to the weird? Are you weird, yourself? I am a bundle of curiosity. In my eyes, it seems obvious that even the most normal or ordinary-seeming thing probably has something fascinatingly weird about it. Probably no one else is paying attention to it, or interested in it, but that’s their loss — they’re missing out! If you ever get to a point when you think even the weird has gotten boring, just wait — when you least expect it, you’ll be surprised by coming across something weirder than you ever thought you’d encounter! I’m happy to say that I find the search for the weird to be a lifelong journey for me. Life is a feast of the weird! 

I am indeed weird, myself. At some point in my young life, I realized I was never going to be fully appreciated as someone “normal” because I was never quite in line with everyone else in my class no matter how much I tried (and boy did I try). When I finally realized that I could embrace this weirdness instead of fighting it, my life got a lot better and way more interesting! 

What’s the deal with the Strange Maine Gazette? Oh, gosh! The Strange Maine Gazette, sadly, has been on hiatus for some years now. I would love to revive it someday, and hold out hope that will happen, but my life just seems to get more and more complicated. Growing up, I thought life got simpler, easier, and (worst case scenario) more boring as you got older. Clearly I was misinformed! The Gazette, while it lasted, was a broadsheet-style newsletter packed with tidbits and original research articles about all sorts of weird Maine history and culture that I discovered along the way. My first book, “Strange Maine: True Tales from the Pine Tree State,” was created from articles previously published in the Gazette and on my blog, which I beefed up with additional research for the book. If folks find themselves in Portland, I have a small handful of random back issues of the Gazette in my store, the Green Hand Bookshop. 

Remember the terrifying beast of Turner a few years back? Do you still have nightmares? How could I ever forget? If I was the one with the Mystery Beast’s paw in their freezer, I would definitely be having nightmares. However, luckily, I am not that person. Ha! Speaking of which . . . do you have nightmares, sir? (I’m not saying it’s you that has the paw. You just happen to be the party to whom I am speaking about it at the moment. I think we both know where the paw is!) 

I still have my eye on Turner — it is a conspicuous blank spot in Bigfoot in Maine that will need to be addressed in Volume 2. Speaking of which, if anyone out there has encountered something inexplicable in the Maine woods (or elsewhere in our fine state), please feel free to email me at [email protected] — I would love to talk with you about your encounter, even if it happened decades ago. 


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