Status: Mystery Moose (existence undetermined)
Curtis MacDougall, in his 1940 work Hoaxes
, briefly mentions a creature named the Specter Moose. He writes:
Recent additions to unnatural history, all of which received space on press association wires, include:... a "specter moose" reported to have appeared again in the woods of Maine after having previously been seen in 1901, 1917, and 1932. (p.15)
Unfortunately that's all he says about the Specter Moose. But I've always been intrigued by this mysterious creature, and recently when I decided to expand and improve my Gallery of Tall-Tale Creatures
, I resolved to find out once and for all what the Specter Moose is.
A web search turned up nothing except one other person
who had also come across MacDougall's mention of the creature and was similarly intrigued. A search through various library research databases didn't turn up anything. Google Book search also came up dry. But finally I got some results when I tried newspaperarchive.com
, which is an archive of old newspapers.
The Specter Moose appears to have been a moose version of Moby Dick. It was a huge, whitish-gray moose, apparently immune to bullets, who terrified hunters by chasing them around. As such, it's probably less of a tall-tale creature and more of a cryptozoological legend.
On November 14, 1900 the Minnesota Freeborn County Standard
The enormous moose that has been the wonder of the sportsmen in northern Maine since 1891 has again been seen, and this time under rather different circumstances from ever before. A bicyclist came close to the monster in the road between Sherman and Macwahoe, and was obliged to abandon his wheel and climb a tree for safety. So he had a near view of the animal, reports the New York Sun.
Every story that comes from the north woods concerning this moose makes him a little bigger than before. It is generally believed that no moose ever killed in Maine, or, so far as is known, anywhere else, has approached in stature or weight, much less in spread of antlers, this specter moose of Lobster lake. He is called the specter moose because of the weird appearance he presents at night, his color being a dirty gray...
The average weight of moose shot in maine is from 800 to 900 pounds, with antlers spreading from 4 to 4 ½ feet, and rarely having more than 8 to 12 points on a side, while the bell, as the appendage under the animal's neck is called, is generally eight to nine inches long. All who have seen the big moose of Lobster lake aver that he must weight at least 2500 pounds, that his antlers spread not less than ten feet, while the bell is declared to be not less than 18 inches long. It is supposed that this monster wandered into Maine from British Columbia, as none approaching his size has ever been seen in Maine before. He is a great traveler, having been reported in almost every part of northern Maine. The hunter who brings him down will win fame and a big pot of money at the same time.
The Specter Moose returned to the headlines on November 19, 1911, at which time the Texas Galveston Daily News
gave this summary of reports coming out of Maine:
The moose has always been described as of immense size and of a dirty white color, from which latter characteristic it became known as the "specter moose." As often as the stories have been told they have been denied and set down as the fabric of an excited imagination or the result of too much whisky. One skeptic even declared that it was not a moose at all but an old gray woods horse that had been turned out to run at large. Still, the story of the "specter moose," be it fact or fiction, survives, and only this week it was related by an Indian guide who has been piloting a party around Lobster Lake.
Finally he reared his antlers again in 1938 when news wires carried this blurb (which appeared on March 15 in the Pennsylvania Charleroi Mail
SPECTER MOOSE IS MAINE SENSATION
Always hunters get near enough to be appalled by this gigantic beast, but seldom within range for an effective shot. In the accumulating lore of the forest he is described as ten to fifteen feet high, "dirty white" in color, brandishing immense antlers. Not only his ghostly hue but also his keen scent, acute hearing and seemingly magical power of instant disappearance have built up the legend of a wraith. Skeptics say there "ain't no such critter," but a man named Houston brings the story of the latest visitation.
After that the Specter Moose never again seems to have been seen. At least, no sightings made it into papers. Perhaps the big guy died of old age. It's quite possible, of course, that a white moose (or more than one) was wandering around Maine. The size of the creature is the real question. My guess is that Maine hunters may really have seen a white moose, but then exaggerated its size, as hunters have a tendency to do.
To put the Specter Moose in perspective, Mooseworld.com
reports that the largest moose on record was an Alaskan bull moose that weighed 1,697 lbs. Other sites
report that this record moose had an antler spread of 6 ½ feet. The Specter Moose, at 2500 lbs and with an antler spread of over ten feet, would easily have beaten this record.