What is the Montauk Monster?
In late July, a ghoulish carcass washed up on the sunny shores of Montauk, New York. Shortly after being photographed, the carcass disappeared, leaving behind a mystery that would connect the words “Montauk” and “monster” forever.
Hairless, bloated, and smelly, the Montauk Monster definitely earned his title—even if he wasn’t a supernatural creature.
The carcass was a little larger than a cat. It had bare skin, varying from white to a deep bruised purple, and a few tufts of brownish-grey fur. Rather than the usual paws, it had hands with delicate fingers. It’s head, still covered by a thin layer of flesh, seemed to taper into a beak with a lower jaw full of needle-like teeth. And it had a long naked tail like a rat.
On July 23, 2008, three young women went for a stroll on Ditch Plains Beach, a surfing hotspot just outside of Montauk, New York. The girls were enjoying the sun on their skin and the sand between their toes when they noticed a cluster of people farther down the beach. The girls hurried to join the group, and when they elbowed their way to the center, they were met with a shocking sight: an unidentifiable animal carcass, with bruised skin and bared fangs. The girls snapped a picture, and the legend of the Montauk Monster was born.
Shortly after the girls took their photo, the carcass disappeared from the beach. Some claim that a local resident removed the carcass, because of its smell, and buried it in his backyard, but of course, there are alternative theories about what happened to the “evidence” as well.
At first, the “monster” didn’t attract much press coverage. A small, tongue-in-cheek article appeared in Independent magazine, with the author speculating about sensational explanations for the creature, before concluding that it was probably a decomposing raccoon carcass. But the more sensational explanations caught on, and large media players picked up the story that was sweeping the coast like wildfire. To date, CNN, Gawker, Cracked, Snopes and FOX have all covered the creature.
As soon as photos of the “monster” were published, animal experts began weighing in on what it really was.
General consensus is that the creature was a raccoon. Few other animals could explain the human-like hands and the rodent-like tail. A raccoon’s sloped skull could also be mistaken for a beak, especially if the teeth in its upper jaw were missing.
A few experts have disagreed, claiming that the creature’s legs are too long to belong to a racoon. Instead, they propose that the carcass was once a dog—or perhaps a case of rogue taxidermy, with many animal pieces being spliced together to create an “unknown” species.
From the birth of the Montauk Monster’s legend, theorists have noted the proximity of Plum Island, a governmental research facility that specializes in animal diseases. Several ideas have emerged in relation to Plum Island. Perhaps the monster was an unidentified species which was being housed at the research facility for further study. Or perhaps it was a known animal, like a raccoon or a dog, with a rare or unknown disease.
The most sinister theory is that the monster was a product of animal experimentation—a sort of genetic Frankenstein or a radioactive mutant.