Augusta Road, en route to Waldoboro, Kennebec and Lincoln counties January 2000

Matt Maxcy speaks from a lifelong hunter’s point of view. He was the first person who told me he did not want anyone thinking of his experience as a story. “This isn’t a story. This is my encounter. This is my encounter. Stories are stories. This is an encounter.” And he is right. People might read these accounts as stories, but they are a point in someone’s life where everything changed forever.

This is a Class A sighting from the border of Kennebec and Lincoln counties.

It was January in Maine — typically cold, covered in snow and ice, with a good three more months of the same to go. Matt Maxcy was almost to Waldoboro, driving back from Tennessee, where he’d been working. Accompanying him north was Andy, who was used to a very different climate. They were in Matt’s pearly white ’97 Ford Thunderbird, which just about matched the color of the snow around them and drove quiet as a snowfall. It was late morning, probably about 10:30 a.m. or so.

As in most of Maine’s sparsely populated areas, the road was lined with trees. They came around a bend, a straightaway before them. Matt saw movement to the right, where the snow swept up to the tree line. At first, he just saw snow sliding from the pine branches and plopping to the ground in a soft rush. But then he saw something big and brown. Thinking this was a pretty great introduction to Maine wildlife for a guy from Tennessee, he cut his speed in half and said, “Look Andy, there’s a moose.” What else could something that huge be?

But it wasn’t a moose. It stepped from the tree line on two legs, not four, and started down the slope. They braked to a halt as the figure strode onto the roadway a couple car lengths in front of them and stopped. Matt couldn’t get Andy to talk to him, because Andy was screaming and screaming all kinds of stuff. It seemed huge as it hunkered down, trying to see past the windshield reflection. It looked like it could rip the doors off the car if it wanted to — or pick Matt up and tear him in two. The creature was the reddish-brown color of the redbone coonhounds he used to run down south when he was younger. Its coat looked kind of like bear hair, except for where it grew longer on the forearms and the lower part of the legs. It was hard to distinguish a neckline between its head and shoulders, where its long hair reminded Matt of messy rock star hair.

It bounded across the road in fewer strides than he thought possible. Matt hoped someone else would drive up and see this, but the road remained empty. When the creature reached the top of the slope on the other side, it stopped and looked at them again before vanishing into the woods, confident there was nothing the two men could do to it. It was gone. Matt could see where the creature had loped through the snow. It had happened; it was real. He felt like he was expected to suddenly believe in something as nonsensical as a leprechaun or a dragon. That thing wasn’t supposed to be alive — wasn’t supposed to exist.

In the years since his encounter, he tells me, people have tried to say the whole thing would have been easy if it had been them: “Well, why didn’t you get out and take casts of the footprints?” or “Well, I would’ve gotten out and done this and that.” To them, he says, “No, no, you wouldn’t have. No. Nobody would. Because you’re in such shock at the mass and size of this thing. You know from the way it looks at you that if you were to even remotely upset this thing, it’s going to be game over for you.”

Matt describes it as being “too human to be considered an animal but too animal to be considered a human,” like so many other eyewitnesses say. It wasn’t a gorilla or an ape as we know them. He considers that it might be a woodland giant. “You could tell this thing had intelligence, and I’m not saying a gorilla doesn’t have intelligence, but there was a very, very close resemblance to something like a giant man, but still not [a man] — just a little bit offset.” Hair came only about halfway up its face, exposing skin that looked dark and almost bluish gray in the cold daylight. He noticed small clumps of snow dropping off its coat as it moved. The skin on its feet was the same color as its face. He could see the silhouette of its fingers and the snow caught in the fur on the back of its hands.

It looked right at him — once when it stopped in front of the car, the second time when it stopped at the top of the slope before departing into the trees. Between those two frozen moments, “it jetted across the road in huge strides, boom, boom, boom, and it was off.… And it just gave us that look like, ‘What are you gonna do?’ And we didn’t do anything.” He laughs. “There was no way with that thing. It was a very powerful moment.” Its eyes were set back under its brow and appeared black, with no whites of the eye visible. Its ears weren’t apparent, perhaps because they were under shaggy hair.

Matt estimates that the creature stood about nine feet tall with a shoulder span of at least three feet. “It looked like a bodybuilder, but it didn’t have the ripples in the stomach.… The solar plexus was barreled out, like half-barrel solar plexus, where the stomach is.” Its arms were long and massive. “It was huge. And the strength in the thing — you could tell just by looking at it that it could rip the door off my vehicle or physically pick up a man and rip him in half. It ran faster than anything I’ve witnessed — moose, deer, bear, elk, I’ve seen them all in person running. This thing ran faster than any of them, covered more distance faster than anything.”

Matt found his life changed after the encounter. “Everybody who knows me knows that I go hunting, fishing. I would stay out in the woods by myself all night long, no guns, maybe a knife or whatever. But it’s changed me. I’ll get all dressed up to go hunting, and I’ll go to walk out the door, and I’ll look at my own wood line, and I can’t do it.” He understands that in general Bigfoot might be a neutral creature, but he knows if “somebody else has seen one of these just an hour earlier and shot at it or done something, and then I’m in the woods and it’s angry.” He can’t help thinking about that risk. It’s an upsetting situation to find yourself in when you’ve been the alpha predator all your life. “I grew up fishing, hunting, trapping, running hounds,” he said. All that has changed.

Occasionally, he goes hunting with company, but he’s wary now. In January 2016, a month before our interview, he and his nephew went coyote hunting near Warren. They received an unexpected response to their amplified coyote caller when they turned it off. In the silence, they heard a howling and then a roaring from a few hundred yards up the slope. It was not a coyote, and it sounded enraged. The sound was so loud that “you could feel it through yourself.” It crescendoed over the whole valley.

From the other side came a staccato, piercing, whooping noise no coyote ever made — like something out of the deepest jungles, not the northern woods. It was more like a large gibbon’s cry than anything else.* Something walked and then stopped on the slope nearby. “I want to leave, I want to leave, I want to leave!” his nephew whispered urgently. They drove down to grab the coyote caller and head home.

“It was dead quiet in there that night — dead quiet. There was no movement, nothing,” he said. Matt and others had noticed the area was increasingly empty of deer. “Before, during the off-season, it would not be uncommon for us to see fifteen, maybe even twenty, thirty deer in a night in different groups walking around through the snow, leaving trails.” Lately, only five or six different deer trails might appear in an evening — with no visuals whatsoever. He theorizes that the area had become a hunting territory for whatever howled that night, an idea that makes him leery of returning. “I would not attempt to shoot that thing.… Not a chance. I would not even think about shooting one of them with [my high-caliber gun, a .270], because I just don’t think it would work.”

Matt Maxcy takes his outdoors very seriously. Yes, he has a sense of humor and jokes around, but the outdoors is his life. “If I tell you that something like this happened, it happened. A lot of people don’t want to come out with their experiences because of being ridiculed.” The area where he had his first sighting is around an hour from his house. The place where he heard the vocalization is only fifteen minutes away. Both encounters were during the winter.

Matt has since collected accounts from other people. One family friend was chased by something as a teenager, back when the Old Augusta Road area was far less developed. At first, the man thought it was someone from the party he left behind. But when it came up out of the swamp at him, and he caught sight of it under the moon, he realized it wasn’t human. He managed to escape and hid in a culvert, clutching a stick, his innards roiling with fear as the creature walked up and down the bank looking for him. Matt has heard all sorts of theories from folks, some of them pretty far-fetched, but when it comes down to it, he says, “What I can tell you, my personal self, is they are a flesh-and-blood creature. And they do make sounds, and they do scare the sh— out of you. Excuse my language.”

I asked Matt if he had been in touch with his friend Andy since that visit, but he hasn’t. Andy went back to Tennessee, and they fell out of contact. Any time he looked for him online, he found nothing. I tried unsuccessfully to track him down myself. If you’re out there, Andy, shoot me an email. I’d love to talk to you (and Matt would too).

* After hearing Matt mimic the call, I listened to a lot of call samples. Gibbon calls were closest to what he described.