Saturday, August 09, 2008

35 Years Later: the Durham Gorilla

Back in July, the 35th anniversary of one of Maine's most prominent Bigfoot sightings passed quietly. Loren Coleman spoke to the Lewiston Sun Journal's Kathryn Skelton about the incident.
Durham's 'gorilla'
Weird, Wicked Weird By Kathryn Skelton , Staff Writer
Saturday, August 2, 2008

Was it really a bear? A hippie? A costumed hooligan? 35 years ago, something funky had this town talking.
Young bike-riding friends were the first to see it: something big, hairy, scary. After one mom saw it, too - she described an ape peeking out from behind bushes - 30 police cars circled Durham with orders to shoot.

Over several days, more townspeople would describe the animal as a black bear, a large dog, a chimpanzee, an orangutan, a gorilla.

"George Huntington went to Brunswick and bought a bunch of bananas because he was just so sure he'd seen it," said Elaine Sears, a longtime resident of the area where the sightings centered.
On July 25, 1973, while Watergate investigators needled President Richard Nixon to hand over his secret tapes, kids out biking on Shiloh Road had a close, strange encounter. The next day, their mother, Meota Huntington, told police she was driving down that same road when she saw something like an ape peek out from a bush, according to the Sun Journal archives.

That set off the police manhunt and a slew of new sightings. Faced with the variety of conflicting descriptions - bear, chimp, gorilla - Auburn Dog Officer Louis Pinette joked with a reporter that it could be "a hippie out looking for a free meal."

Adding to the intrigue, days after that first encounter the owner of Drapeau's Costume Shop in Lewiston told police a gorilla suit rented there in early July hadn't been returned. The man with the suit gave a fictitious name and address. Police warned that if it was someone in a costume, quit messing around.
Cryptozoologist Loren Coleman, featured on the History Channel's "MonsterQuest" and shows such as "Weird Travels," was in Illinois in 1973, but heard about the strange sightings a dozen states away. He collected newspaper clippings. "I found it an intriguing case because you don't have any gorillas in Maine."

Coleman looked into it and, with no reports of things such as zoo breaks, ruled out the idea of an escaped gorilla or ape. He's also ruled out Bigfoot and is skeptical of the costume theory.

"In rural areas, a lot of people have guns in Maine. It would be absolutely stupid to walk around during trigger-happy (times)," Coleman said.
Casts were made of footprints found behind Jones Cemetery. An Androscoggin County Sheriff deputy at the time said they might be chimpanzee.

The elusive critter - if there was a critter - earned the nickname Osgood the Ape in town.
Read the full article here: [Source]

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