One of the categories of creatures that lies squarely somewhere out in the fringe twilight between cryptozoology and the paranormal is the phenomenon of spectral animals. Britain has its mysterious phantom black dogs, the Midwest of the United States seems to be plagued by bizarre disappearing and reappearing kangaroos, the list goes on. These are creatures that on the surface seem to be of a somewhat cryptoozoological nature, yet on further inspection prove to be not only strange, but way too strange. Within this menagerie of the weird, one that certainly stands out among all of the strangeness is an apparition known as the Specter Moose of Maine.
The Specter Moose was a mysterious creature spotted in several areas around Maine during the 1900s. The creature was described as being an enormous moose 10 to 15 feet high, with a ghostly, dirty white coloration and brandishing an immense set of formidable antlers. The coat of the animal is sometimes described as glowing faintly. The Specter Moose was said to have an extremely acute sense of smell and hearing, as well as the ability to appear or disappear at will and to phase through solid objects. Hunters who came across the apparition often told of not being able to get near enough for a shot, as well as the animal’s rather disconcerting habit of suddenly blinking in or out of existence right before their eyes. A hunter by the name of Gilman Brown and his companion, a taxidermist by the name of Granville Gray, described one encounter in which they fired at the moose only for it to vanish before the bullets could hit it.
The Specter Moose was first sighted in 1901, when a sportsman from Boston by the name of M.A. Cushing spotted the beast near Chairback Mountain in the Katahdin region. A few months later, the giant moose was seen again near the Lobster Lakes by a town guide named Clarence Duffy and a Bangor lumberman called John Ross. In the following years the moose would appear in waves of sightings only to disappear for years at a time before rearing its head again. One such rash of sightings occurred in 1917, another in 1932, and then again in 1938.
During the 1938 sightings, the monstrous moose was most often seen stalking the forests of the Chesuncook region along the west branch of the Penobscot River. One particularly vivid report came from a man only known as Houston, who was on his way back to camp after a timber cruise around Chesuncook Lake. Houston came across an open bog that he described as being about 30 acres in size. Within this bog, the man spied a herd of 16 moose feeding. About 80 yards from the main herd, just inside the timber line, Houston spotted three big, impressive bulls. The interesting part was that one bull dwarfed the other two and made them look like “pygmies,” even though they were by no means small specimens themselves. Houston described this enormous moose as a “monster” and mentioned that it had an almost luminous white coloration. Of the monstrous moose’s antlers, Houston said:
Beside the spectral coloration there were the antlers again, twenty points on one side, twenty one on the other, with a palm at least eighteen inches wide in the velvet.
At the time, some skeptics pointed out that it may have been merely a large grey horse that had escaped a logging camp, but this would certainly not account for the size descriptions or the antlers. Moose are typically larger than horses in the first place, and an experienced hunter would not be likely to mistake a horse for a moose. Perhaps a more reasonable explanation is that the Specter Moose was actually an individual or individuals exhibiting unusual coloration.
While most moose are brown, there have been cases reported of white moose. It is uncertain just why this color pattern pops up from time to time, but it does not appear to be albinoism as the moose still have brown eyes rather than the pinkish hue one would expect if they were true albinos. The color pattern is extremely rare, but there is one area of Ontario, Canada that has actually been called the White Moose Forest due to the uncommon number of sightings of white moose there, which locals call “Spirit Moose.” The small town of Foleyet, as well as Ivanhoe Lake Provincial Park seem to be the center of this “White Moose Forest,” as it is here where most of the sightings have occurred. A large individual with such coloring seems like it could certainly account for a ghostly moose with spectral white coloration.
Could a very large moose with a rare and anomalous color pattern such as this be behind the historical accounts of the Specter Moose of Maine? Or is there still some kind of mystical ghostly moose out there prowling Maine’s forests and rearing its enormous antlers ever once in a while? It is difficult to say what it is or whether it will appear again. For now, the creature remains mostly a local legend that has accumulated its fair share of lore over the years.
Researcher Michelle Souliere rediscovered the story of the Specter Moose after years of being mostly a forgotten legend, and she has done a lot of work to document and provide a chronology of sightings of the moose. Cryptozoologist Loren Coleman has also written extensively on the matter in articles and blog postings. More fascinating information on the history of this phantom animal can be found in Souliere’s book Strange Maine.