New England Myths & Legends: The Monster Of Pocomoonshine Lake
Maine is known for its many pristine lakes. In the summer the state is overrun with tourists and snowbirds, flocking to enjoy everything the state’s quaint, lakefront towns have to offer. And Princeton, Maine is no exception.
What many outsiders don’t know is that Princeton’s beautiful Pocomoonshine Lake has a dark history – one that may still pose a threat to today’s lake-goers.
Pocomoonshine Lake first made a notorious name for itself in the 1880’s when witnesses began reporting a gigantic creature dwelling beneath the surface. “Poco” is supposedly a massive, snake-like creature, made all the more terrifying by the fact that his sightings are not restricted to just the water. He – and his huge snake trails – have been spotted on the beach and in the woods as well.
The story goes that in 1882, sawmill owner Sewell Quimby claimed to have seen a 30–60 foot long snake in the water. But the March 21, 1882 issue of the Machias Union seems to refute this claim. The paper contained an article entitled CHAIN LAKE SNAKE, that included a letter from Quimby in which he attempted to deny the existence of the monster.
“Mr. Editor: As I was returning home Saturday night I heard a man say with great earnestness that he had seen the man that saw the great snake, and that they were going to lease the ground around Chain Lakes for a hunting ground; that they were already having great chains made, huge traps constructed, harpoons, lances, spears, gaffs and barbs in readiness when the spring opened, and were going to capture if possible the monster of the mighty deep, now landlocked in the small fresh water ponds of the Machias Chain Lakes.
“Just a little later I heard another person say, with the same vim, they had seen a man that saw the man that said he saw the great snake…. Hall and Libby were on the shore of Chain Lake … they heard a noise…and saw what they took to be a man and a skiff, but soon became convinced it was a serpent … its smallest part was as large as a pork barrel. He says when last seen in the outlet, it had left the water and passed a distant point of land covered with granite boulders.”
“In January, one Hunnewell of Alexander came to our camp with a big story that he had seen the trail of the huge creature, four feet wide, three feet deep and a quarter mile long. Logs had been turned out of his track and he had torn things up awfully. Mr. H. was also very much excited.”
While many scoffed at the idea of a lake monster and Quimby went down in history as the first recorded sighting, others recalled an old Native American legend that spoke of just such a snake supposedly living in Pocomoonshine Lake.
The folklore claimed that a fight between an Algonquin shaman and a Micmac chieftain turned into a supernatural battle when the shaman transformed into a giant snake and the chieftain into a monstrous serpent. After the Algonquin shaman won, the Micmac chieftain was killed and tied to a nearby tree.
We may never know the truth behind the mysterious beast and massive tracks through the sand, but the legend of “Poco” is alive and well in Princeton.
Featured Image via Flickr/Nick Ortloff