Meet the Montauk Monster, a bizarre, unidentified carcass that washed up on the beach in 2008 and has dumbfounded scientists and animal experts ever since…
Jenna Hewitt and three friends discovered this hideous, hairless creature on Ditch Plains Beach, just east of Montauk, New York, on July 12th 2008. Hewitt took this photograph and passed it to local newspaper The Independent. As the story circulated through Montauk, more local newspapers interviewed other residents who had seen the creature, printing stories that were seized by the world’s media and went viral.
To be honest, mystery and controversy surround just the mere discovery of the Montauk Monster, let alone what the bloody hell it is. Nobody knows where it went after it was found on that beach. The original report in The Independent said that “someone took it away” — but gave no details of who this “someone” was. Hewitt said that some guy took the carcass and “put it in the woods in his backyard”, but wouldn’t say who or where. Another Montauk resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said she knew people who seen it at that person’s house. Again, she would not name the person or identify the creature’s location.
So the only physical evidence of the creature’s existence is Hewitt’s photo. This is why the Montauk Monster has been resigned to the realm of cryptozoology, because no scientist has been able to examine the remains to confirm what it is.
A dog? A raccoon? An escaped science experiment? An alien?
Plenty of experts have tried to guess what the Montauk Monster is from the photo. William Wise of Stony Brook University’s Living Marine Resources Institute said that the creature had to be a fake, because it couldn’t be anything else. It appears that Mr Wise did not entertain the possibility that it might be an alien or a science experiment. (Perhaps he’s part of the cover-up!)
Anyway, Wise discounted the following possibilities:
- Raccoon — the legs are too long.
- A sea turtle without its shell — sea turtles do not have teeth or fur, and its back wouldn’t be smooth like this because its shell and spine are fused.
- Dog or coyote — while the corpse is a bit doglike, its eye ridge and feet are definitely not those of a dog.
- Rodent — rodents have two large incisor teeth at the front of their mouths.
- Sheep — sheep do not have sharp teeth.
However, palaeozoologist Darren Naish disagreed with Wise on the raccoon point. He and several others have concluded that the legs are proportionate to that of a raccoon, and the skull shape and paws are similar to a raccoon’s. Cryptozoologist Loren Coleman also agrees at the Montauk Monster is probably the remains of a raccoon.
But the plot thickens. Rebecca Alexis Turner, a wildlife rehabilitator from Nuts for Squirrels Wildlife Rehabilitation in Florida, has cared for many raccoons and is adamant that the Montauk Monster is not one. She says:
“Raccoons do not take on a beaked appearance when their skulls are bared, contrary to what has been posted in several places. Also, the orbital ridge of a raccoon skull lines up with the lower brain case to form a rounded dinner bell shape not seen in the image of the Montauk skull. Lastly, the limbs of the Montauk creature are too short to be a raccoon. Raccoons have long limbs that leave them looking like they walk on stilts until the long belly fur of adulthood grows in.”
Turner goes on to say, “Plum Island may hold the key to the Montauk creature.” She’s referring to the Plum Island Animal Disease Centre, a nearby government facility for animal testing.
Indeed, rumours floated about at the time that the Montauk Monster was a mutant that escaped from the facility (similar to the science-experiment-gone-wrong tales of ‘giant spiders’ in Missouri and ‘lovebugs’ in Florida who just can’t stop mating).
It’s all speculation, of course, because nobody knows where the body of this bizarre beast ended up. What intrigues me, in particular, is the bloke who allegedly took the creature to his home.
Who was he? Why did he take the creature? Why wouldn’t he hand it over to the authorities for testing and verification?
And why were the people of Montauk protecting his identity?
Next week: story updates and advice for writers on understanding the differences between literary and commercial fiction