American folklore has always included stories of mystical, supernatural creatures lurking in the woods. Today, we recognize most of these stories for that are: campfire stories, passed down through the ages, created either to scare children into learning a lesson or by people with too much time on their hands.
But locals in Westbrook, Maine, have been telling tales of “Wessie,” a supposedly massive snake roaming the area. In August 2016, a large snakeskin was found in the woods around Westbrook, and locals are claiming it could be Wessie’s discarded garb – or a hoax.
Sightings of Wessie began in June 2016, when a woman filed a report with the Westbrook police department claiming to have seen a snake as large as a truck, with a head the size of a basketball. Then, a late-shift police officer patrolling near the first sighting saw a large snake eating a mammal, “possibly a beaver.”
On August 20, a man walking along the Presumpscot River stumbled across the 12-foot-long snakeskin in question.
Since the creature was first spotted, Westbrook’s citizens have been thrown into a whirlwind of excitement and mystery. Police there have fielded reports of sightings from all over the region. Stores began printing Wessie-themed t-shirts, and a local brewery reportedly made a special-edition beer named after the snake.
Westbrook officials sent a sample of the snakeskin to a University of Texas at Tyler biologist for genetic analysis. He concluded that the skin belonged to an anaconda.
“It was pretty unexpected, I’ll tell you that,” said John Palcyk, the biologist in question. “This was a 100 percent match to an anaconda.”
Further study of the snakeskin has concluded that it was shed by a female green anaconda, at least 10 to 12-years-old, whose ancestors were probably from Peru of Bolivia. The green anaconda, by the way, is the largest snake in the world.
Though it’s illegal to own an anaconda in Maine, officials believe that the snake is an exotic pet that escaped its enclosure. Due to its age and size, it was most likely well cared for, and officials believe its owners are fully aware that it’s gone.
Then there’s the bubble-bursting, fun-sapping, and very real possibility that the snakeskin was placed by the river as a hoax.
Whatever the case, officials like Westbrook Chief of Police Sean Lally are concerned more for the safety of the snake than the public. Temperatures below 50°F are fatal to the tropical anaconda, and Maine’s brutal winters get much colder than that.
“If there is an anaconda,” warns Chief Lally, “it’ll be dead soon.”