The headline said it all, “Dead Monster Washes Ashore in Montauk”. It was July 29, 2008, and the website Gawker.com ran a local story that very soon spread from the shores of eastern Long Island to the rest of the world. Stories of monsters are nothing new as humans have claimed to have seen unknown sea creatures for as long as we have been able to communicate. We have given these unknown sea monsters names like The Kraken, Moby Dick, Cthulhu, and Nessie. They eat humans and will stop at nothing at getting revenge on all of humankind. We tend to think of these creatures as something from a distant past, a time before science when myth and legend were the truth. However, we have only explored around 5% of the ocean water below the surface, so what is down there hiding in its dark corners is still a giant mystery.
Today’s tale is one of mystery that isn’t in a forgotten land or in the mind of a crazy author. This monster has a name and it came to be called, the Montauk Monster, and was found by a local named Jenna on July 23, 2008. She said that she was walking along the beach with some friends when she came upon the unknown animal carcass and took a picture. She was quoted as saying in a story that ran in a local paper:
We were looking for a place to sit when we saw some people looking at something … We didn’t know what it was … We joked that maybe it was something from Plum Island.-Jenna
So what’s at Plum Island? Plum Island is a small island off the coast of northern Long Island, which has been the home to the sinister-sounding, Plum Island Animal Disease Center. The island which is owned by the federal government was once a secret biological weapons site during the Cold War. Locals would whisper about the testing on the island and many conspiracy theories have been born because of the secret nature of the island. A common story is that Lyme disease, which was first documented in nearby Lyme, Connecticut, was a biological weapon that was developed on the island before it was let loose on the mainland. That story is of course false, but that has never stopped it from been spread.
After sharing the picture and story with a local public access show it started to leak out into the world. Within days it found it’s way onto Gawker, and the strange things happened. Not long after the story ran, rumors that the carcass had been taken away by mysterious men started to be told in the town of East Hampton, where the animal was found. The story blew up as the photograph quickly was shared via emails, weblogs, and news stories that would get little to none of the story correct. An Urban Legend was quickly being born. And much like any good American story, men in the shadows were said to be covering it up.
Speculation as to what the animal was ranged from a turtle without its shell, a dog, a science experiment from Plum Island all the way to an alien left behind by mistake. Most experts who have studied the picture say that it is a raccoon that has been affected by ocean water. But where was the animal and why did no one save it. People claimed to have seen men with lights searching the beaches at night, as if they were looking for something.
Time has passed and there are still no clear answers as to what Jenna and her friends saw that day at the beach. Since a body was never recovered, we might never know. But whispers are still passed along as the phone keeps going in the internet age. Why was the body taken and by whom. Jenna says that a man took the body and buried it in a backyard, but she won’t say who it was. Did the government silence her? There are even some who say that there was no Jenna, and as soon as the animal was found, plans were put in motion to keep the story quiet. But like all good things, once the story broke, it was hard to put back into the bottle. ￼
You can of course still visit East Hampton and all of Montauk Point where the unknown animal was found on the beaches in the summer of 2008. Ditch Plains Beach where it was said it washed ashore, is a popular surfing spot and for people who invade the shore in the summer. In the offseason, it’s a good place to get away and walk the sandy beaches quietly.
I’m not sure if I believe that a monster was found that day, hell it could be an alien for all we know. But there are many more questions than answers and that is how a story that might have a simple answer goes from a local raccoon on the beach story, grows into a tale of a government cover-up of an escaped beast that was taken away but not before it became a legend.