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'Beast' Has Legs, As Maine Paper Continues Probe of Creature

AP | August 21 2006

TURNER, Maine -- Whether or not tests prove that a "mystery beast" is a dog or something else, the story that has captured headlines from coast to coast won't go away any time soon, according to an expert in human behavior. The Sun Journal newspaper obtained samples of the creature and shipped them to a University of Maine professor and to HealthGen in Toronto for genetic tests to determine the type of animal, said Judith Meyer, managing editor.

But the test results may not matter because people tend to be enthralled with the idea of something that defies categorization.

"Having scientific evidence is not going to kill this story. It's like an unslayable monster that will keep coming back," predicted Elizabeth Eames, chairwoman of the anthropology department at Bates College.

The newspaper first reported in Wednesday's editions about the creature that was hit by a car while chasing a cat. The story quickly began making the rounds on the Internet.

The beast created interest well beyond a typical news story, and the newspaper's Web server strained and cracked under the pressure. The servers continued to crash Friday as people around the world tried to read about Turner's version of Bigfoot.

The number of unique visitors to the newspaper Web site jumped from a couple of thousand a day to 12,000 to 15,000 a day, and the number would've been higher if there was greater bandwith capacity, said Eric Kaiser, Web editor.

"It's been a blessing and a curse for us," Kaiser said Friday. "It's great to have the traffic, but only if your server can handle it."

Loren Coleman, a Portland author and cryptozoologist, examined the creature's remnants on Wednesday and concluded it was likely a feral dog. Scott Lindway, a state wildlife biologist, agreed with that assessment after looking at the photos.

The newspaper decided to have tests conducted to provide conclusive evidence after the Maine Warden Service declined requests to examine the creature, Meyer said.

The Maine Warden Service has been deluged with calls from people, many of them critical of its decision not to examine the remains.

Deputy Chief Gregg Sanborn defended the warden who declined to check it out when called last Sunday. The warden service is a law enforcement agency, and wardens are too busy on summer weekends to look at dead animals, Sanborn said.

As for Eames, she said people seem to enjoy a little brush with the unusual. People tend to want to categorize things, and they're unsettled when they can't. At the same time, people are drawn toward that which they fear.

"People approach this thing with trepidation, but they want to approach it," Eames said. "Fear is exciting."

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