Beast in Show

A sensational late-summer tale ended with a whimper when the so-called beast of Turner turned out to be just an odd-looking dog. On Aug. 16, the Lewiston Sun Journal ran a front-page story, “Mysterious Beast,” telling of a stinky carcass found in nearby Turner. Could it, asked concerned locals, be the legendary beast long rumored to have inhabited the Turner wilds? By late August, the news story and its photos of a dark-haired, blunt-faced carcass had hit the wire services, the Internet, and the worldwide media.

But in mid-September, DNA tests sponsored by the Sun Journal indicated the animal was 100 percent dog, and the story was dead. The human side of the story was perhaps more fascinating. Anthropology professor Elizabeth Eames, quoted in the Bangor Daily News, noted the fear-love relationship we have with anything unfamiliar. “Things not familiar to us become…unsettling,” she said. “But there is a certain level of pleasure in that…. Fear is exciting.”

Coincidentally (or was it?), the Bates Museum of Art was hosting Cryptozoology: Out of Time Place Scale. Cryptozoologists study animals rumored to exist (e.g., the Loch Ness Monster), and the Bates exhibition showcased artists whose work deals with the vivid weirdness of the field. As the real cryptozoological drama played out in Turner, museum director Mark Bessire explained how the artists in his exhibit have the power to focus and redirect the public’s interest in shadowy creatures toward “better stewarding of our environment and at-risk species that actually exist.”

More pointedly, though, the exhibit explored how people “continue to have a need for the existence of beings outside our realm of existence,” he said.