The Montauk Monster was the carcass of an unidentified creature that washed ashore in July 2008 on the Ditch Plains Beach, a surfing spot near the East Hampton village of Montauk, on the east end of Long Island, New York.
The identity of the carcass became the subject of debate and speculation that involved local and national news outlets, cryptozoologists, alien hunters, and conspiracy theorists.
However, multiple subject specialists concluded it was a raccoon.
The mystery surrounding the carcass deepened after it disappeared mysteriously from the beach, and investigators could not gain access to examine it.
Beachgoers discovered the Montauk Monster washed ashore on Ditch Plains Beach on Saturday, July 12, 2008.
The most widely circulated photo of the creature, taken by East Hampton resident Jenna Hewitt, showed the partially decomposed carcass of a small or medium-sized carnivorous creature lying on its belly in the sand.
The physical features that caught people’s attention and ignited controversy were its upper jaw and furless body.
The distal end of the upper jaw bone appeared to have a pronounced beak-like curve or hook shape. The curved upper jaw was toothless, but the lower jaw sported a row of sharp, pointy teeth and a prominent canine indicative of a carnivore.
The beak-like upper jaw inspired fanciful descriptions that deepened the mystery surrounding the beast and fired popular imagination.
One commenter described the animal as a “rodent-like creature with a dinosaur beak.”
Another described it as an “eagle-dog.”
The absence of fur generated some interest. But many guessed the fur came off as the carcass decomposed.
There were no unusual or remarkable physical features besides the enigmatic “beak,” furless skin, and the distorting effect of bloating.
Although the photo did not include any reference for scale, it appeared to show a small/medium-sized animal with a compact body and slender limbs that ended in rodent- or dog-like clawed digits.
Other photos of the Montauk Monster that later surfaced appeared to show that most of the seemingly strange features of the carcass were artifacts of the angle from which Hewitt snapped the photo.
A less widely circulated photo (see below) that shows the animal from another angle revealed that the “dinosaur beak” was, in fact, due to the tissues surrounding the upper snout having rotted away to expose the bone.
The photo provides a clearer view of the head and gives a more accurate impression of its size relative to the rest of the body. It also shows remnants of fur.
Much of the online speculation regarding the identity of the Montauk Monster relied on the perspective of the carcass offered by Hewitt’s photo.
Speculation quickly gave way to conspiracy theories about experimental mutants. A popular theory claimed it was a mutant created at the nearby Plum Island Animal Disease Center that escaped.
Less fanciful suggestions included a rodent, a sea turtle, sheep, and a dog or coyote.
Experts contributed to the debate primarily to push back against the wild speculation.
Larry Penny, then East Hampton Town’s director of natural resources, suggested it was a raccoon. Penny argued that the strange features were due to distortions caused by decomposition and bloating in water.
Darren Naish, a palaeozoological researcher and author, backed up Penny’s suggestion.
However, skepticism about expert assessments intensified following reports that some unidentified individuals had secretly moved the carcass and would not allow investigators to examine it.
The seemingly suspicious circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the Montauk Monster only helped spark more conspiracy theorizing.
Not satisfied with explanations offered by experts, some turned to cryptozoologists for answers.
The speculation took a bizarre turn when UFO and alien enthusiasts suggested it might be an alien astronaut whose spacecraft or capsule crashed into the sea.
However, others declared it was a hoax or a viral marketing stunt. They argued that the suggestion that the creature was a hoax would explain why investigators were not allowed to examine the carcass.
On examination of the photo, William Wise of the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University reportedly said it was probably fake but concluded it might be a dog or coyote.
Some floated the suggestion that it was made from latex.
A few investigators explored the theory that it was a pit bull killed in an organized dog fight.
Another story that originated from the now-defunct ASSME blog claimed that the Montauk Monster was a dead raccoon set on fire and launched on an inflatable raft that reached Long Island from Shelter Island.
According to Gawker, ASSME writer Drew Grant reported he met an old friend who claimed that he and some friends visited Shelter Island, NY, in June 2008. While on the island, they found a dead raccoon and decided to grant it a Viking funeral.
Sightings and Tales
Ditch Plains Beach sighting
Three friends–Jenna Hewitt, Rachel Goldberg, and Courtney Fruin–were strolling along the Ditch Plains Beach, Montauk, on July 12, 2008, when they encountered a small crowd looking at something lying in the sand.
The friends joined the crowd and saw that the object of interest was the half-decomposed carcass of a strange-looking creature.
They had no idea what it was and Hewitt joked it might be an experimental mutant that escaped from the nearby Plum Island Animal Disease Center.
She took a photo of the beast and shared it on social media. It gained sufficient attention on social media, and local news media took notice.
East Hampton Independent was reportedly the first local news outlet to cover the story. On July 23, the outlet published a tongue-in-cheek report under the headline: “The Hound of Bonacville.”
The coinage was a play on the word “Bonackers”–as the East Hampton area in Suffolk County is known–and Sir Arthur Conan Doyles’ The Hound of the Baskervilles.
The story gained traction, and on July 29, Gawker covered the story under the headline: “Dead Monster Washes Ashore in Montauk.”
Other national news media outlets–Fox News, NBC, and The Huffington Post–followed.
Media attention increased interest in the mysterious creature, and the Montauk Monster became an online viral sensation.
Investigation by cryptozoologist Loren Coleman
Loren Colemen, director of the International Cryptozoology Museum based in Portland, Maine, was one of several cryptozoologists and alien hunters who made the pilgrimage to East Hampton to examine the Montauk Monster firsthand.
However, by the time Coleman–who reportedly coined the name “Montauk Monster”–arrived in New York, the carcass had mysteriously disappeared.
He and other investigators who inquired about the whereabouts of the Montauk Monster concluded that someone had purposefully moved it to an unknown place.
Coleman claimed that locals stonewalled him when he made inquiries. However, some investigators learned that someone removed the carcass after it had decomposed beyond recognition. An unidentified person reportedly took it away.
Hewitt reportedly confirmed to Newsday that someone moved it to a wooded backyard, but she declined to name the person and the location.
The mystery appeared resolved when Eric Olsen, a surfer, and real estate agent, told the East Hampton Star that he took the remains to a friend’s backyard and left it to decompose.
He reportedly claimed he wanted to preserve the bones for an art project.
|Other Name/s||Montauk Monster, The Hound of Bonacville, Montauk Beast|
Where to find
https://allthatsinteresting.com/montauk-monster, “Inside The Unsolvable Mystery Of The ‘Montauk Monster’ That Washed Ashore In Long Island,” accessed on January 22, 2023
https://observer.com/2018/07/montauk-monster-true-story-gawker-richard-lawson/, “10 Years Later The Montauk Monster Is Still a Weird, Gross, Dark Mystery,” accessed on January 22, 2023
https://www.gawker.com/5280493/the-latest-montauk-monster-theory-a-compleat-accounting, “The Latest Montauk Monster Theory: A Compleat Accounting,” accessed on January 22, 2023
https://tetzoo.com/blog/2021/10/23/montauk-monster-a-look-back, “What Was the Montauk Monster? A Look Back to 2008,” accessed on January 22, 2023
https://www.wired.com/2008/08/montauk-monster/, “Montauk Monster: Dogfighting Washout?” accessed on January 22, 2023
https://www.discovermagazine.com/the-sciences/science-what-else-reveals-the-secret-of-the-montauk-monster, “Science (What Else?) Reveals the Secret of the Montauk Monster,” accessed on January 22, 2023
https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/tetrapod-zoology/alien-investigations-and-montauk-monster/, “Alien Investigations and the Montauk Monster,” accessed on January 22, 2023
- The Montauk Monster was found lying dead on a beach in Long Island. Jenna Hewitt / Wikipedia
Last modified on February 2nd, 2023 at 1:54 am