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Saturday, December 14, 2019

Decemystery (2019) 14: The Montauk Monster

One of the only known photographs of the monster.

After the morbid, bleak story from yesterday, I think it’s time we cover something much more fun in nature. As such, today’s story is one that I recall having made the local news when it was first reported on. The Montauk Monster is a creature that’s less a mystery nowadays and more of a phenomenon that was a brief  flash in the dark. Nonetheless, there are still some aspects to it that are quite vague in nature. So without ado: let’s dig in.

Sunnyside Shores: The Mystery of the Montauk Monster

With a name first coined by legendary cryptozoologist Loren Coleman, the Montauk Monster’s reputation is one of a media frenzy and one photograph. Our story begins on July 23, 2008. It was on this day that an article was published in The Independent. Eleven days prior, on July 12th, 26-year-old Jenna Hewitt, a resident of Montauk, New York, and three of her friends went to Ditch Plains Beach. As the four looked for a place to sit, they all saw a group of people looking at something. Upon closer inspection, what they saw would quickly go on to become an Internet sensation.

The creature was said to be the size of a dog (contradicting this, one anonymous source that was later interviewed stated it was only the size of a cat), though it had little to no hair or fur. Rather, it had greyish-brown skin and a beaked mouth that contained a fair number of canine-like teeth. Its paws were clawed and its tail was lengthy and thin. Its ears were also small and, to make a personal observation, look like those of a cat.

Hewitt took a photograph and eventually went on their way; the four joking that the creature originated from Plum Island. Amusingly became a popular theory amongst those on the Internet.

The photograph Hewitt took is what sparked the fascination with the story and led to her being interviewed by a fair number of news outlets; Plum-TV, which is a local public-access TV show, being one of those outlets. Many of the reports made by the media had their own theories as to what the creature was: a turtle without its shell, a sheep, a pit bull that died in a dog fight, a massive rodent, a cat, a raccoon, and a failed experiment from the Plum Island Animal Disease Center are just a few of them.

Since I’ve mentioned Plum Island twice now, let me state that you’ll find no better place on the east coast of the United States to discuss genetic animal mutation and seedy experiments than Plum Island. Perhaps some time next summer, I’ll cover it, but for now, we’re stuck with the Montauk Monster…

Which disappeared after it was discovered.

Indeed, while the creature managed to make headlines in New York and set the Internet ablaze, both in the realms of conspiracy theories, cryptozoology, and general science, the creature’s carcass mysterious vanished. Hewitt later said that:

“A guy took it and put it in the woods in his backyard.”

She wouldn’t say who this “guy” was or where in the woods it was taken. Hewitt’s father would later deny that his daughter was keeping the location of the creature’s body a secret. This disappearance has led claims that Plum Island security took the body back to the lab to cover up what it really was, but we’ll get to that in the theories section.

With the corpse gone, all hope of positively identifying the creature was lost. Hewitt and her friends were interviewed by a few other outlets—like Gawker—but the buzz eventually faded away and the creature became little more than a companion of sorts to the Panama Creature (photo below). Unlike the Montauk Monster however, the identity of the Panama Creature was more or less positively identified, in this case: a sloth in the bloated stage of decomposition.

The Panama Creature.
As time went by, the Montauk Monster made a fair number of appearances on television programs. In 2009, Loren Coleman appeared on the television show Monster Quest and examined a replica of the creature’s remains. He, like many others, came to the conclusion that it was the remains of a raccoon.

On the second episode of the third season of the Internet sensation Ancient Aliens, the Montauk Monster was featured. The episode’s title is “Aliens and Monsters”.

On an episode of Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura, the monster was discussed. No word on if Ventura later got into a fight with the carcass.

With that: the story of the creature’s story more or less comes to an end. Though it lives on in theories and there are quite a few. Let’s go over them!

1. It’s a raccoon

Arguably the most popular theory and the one that most skeptics abide by is that the creature was a raccoon. The reason for this is the skull shape of the creature is very similar, as are the front paws. As for the odd shape, most state that a mixture of decomposition and water action (which removed the hair and some of the flesh) are the reason. This is backed up by East Hampton Natural Resources Director Larry Penny, who added that the raccoon’s upper jaw missing.

However, not all accept this theory. So let’s continued on and see what the other theories are.

2. It’s a dog

This theory is probably the second most popular, at least outside the realm of the more fantastical theories. Director of Stony Brook University’s Marine Resources Institute, William Wise, examined the photograph alongside a colleague of his and while both deemed the creature was nothing more than a hoax, they both said that their “next-best guess” would be that the creature was either a dog or coyote that was diseased. They added that it likely had “been in the sea for a while” Wise also went on to state that the creature was not the following animals:

#1: Raccoon The legs were too long in proportion to the body. Some have disagreed with this sentiment however; Paleozoologist Darren Naish provided an example of this. I’m unsure if the image below is the exact one or not, but it’s the best I could find.

#2: Sea Turtle They lack both fur and teeth.

#3: Rodent They have two sizable incisor teeth at the front of their mouths.

#4: Dog/Other Canine Despite theorizing this himself, Wise stated that the eye ridge and feet don’t match those of a canine.

#5: Sheep/Other Ovine Wise stated that, while the face is “somewhat Ovine” in appearance, sheep don’t have sharp teeth.

Despite this, there are those that say the creature is absolutely that of a dog that was either dumped into the sea as a way to bury one’s now deceased best friend or the creature simply  disposed at sea.

3. It’s an unknown species of animal

This theory is that the creature was a cryptid and nothing more; an unknown species of animal that was mistaken as a normal raccoon and, due to the corpse having gone missing, is now impossible to prove. Given that even cryptozoologists don’t believe this, one can likely disregard this.

4. It’s a genetic experiment from Plum Island

Plum Island is a place where some say animal experiments, genetic mutation, hybridization, and an array of other tests go on. Think of it as the Animal Area 51. God willing, I’ll cover this thing in novella-sized blog entry where I’ll go over every conspiracy associated with it as the thing is a place that’s ripe with craziness.

In the case of this specific theory though: the idea is that an experiment either got loose and was killed or simply died and the scientists decided to throw it into the ocean in the hopes that it’d be eaten. Instead of that happening though, it washed ashore and made the news. As such, the government was called in and took the beast away, and gave firm orders to the friends to say their friend took it and is keeping it for future examination.

This theory is extremely popular among those that think that Plum Island is more than it lets on. Whether or not you believe that is entirely on you as some think the place isn’t anything more than it claims to be. Me personally, I’ll let you speculate on what I think until next summer.

5. It’s an alien

One thing that I dislike about this year’s Decemystery is that I haven’t had enough stories where aliens are a theory. Lucky for me: today is a day where one of the theories is that it was, well, an alien.

This theory posits that the Montauk Monster was similar to that of a Chupacabra (I think there may actually be a theory that it was a Chupacabra, but I’m not 100% sure) and it died at some point. Whether due to the atmospheric conditions, the air pollution of New York City or the general vicinity being too much, or the water, I’m not sure. Either way, the creature was an alien and the body was either taken away by the government, by the aliens themselves, or that friend of Hewitt’s has it in his possession still. No matter what, I can bet good money that an alien could land in Central Park nowadays and nobody would bat an eye. So the idea that this creature was an alien is next to impossible; it was noticed by a New Yorker rather than being ignored.

6. It’s a hoax

There are those that echo the sentiment of William Wise by saying the four friends simply photoshopped the creature over the corpse of a dog that had died. One reason for this is because the creature’s corpse has never been found, nor has it ever been presented for analysis. As stated earlier: Hewitt stated that the corpse was taken away.

This isn’t entirely true.

One of Hewitt’s friends, a woman by the name of Rachel Goldberg, stated in an interview with Nick Leighton, stated the following:

“It decomposed in our friend’s backyard. It’s been since removed… by friends of ours.”

Leighton then stated that Goldberg was being “a little shady” with details. He then asked if they were planning on writing a book about the creature, to which Goldberg shrugged and nodded before finally saying:

“We’re hoping to have scientists contact us to find out what it is, It’s in a box.”

At a later point, another friend of the girls stated the creature was in his backyard and had the following to say:

“We’re gonna try to have some experts analyze it. It’s a really cool beast.”

Eleven years later and this hasn’t happened.

To some, this is proof that the creature was faked, be it by use of latex and other materials or by photoshop—likely the former since that friend who said they were going to have “scientists” analyze the corpse allegedly held up “skin that was attached to bones” when he stated that (as he sent a video to a news anchor). If you want to read more about that interview: click here for a blog post by Loren Coleman.

7. It was a product of Three Mile Island

Similar to the idea of the Plum Island theory, there’s a niche one that states the creature originated from Three Mile Island, the site of a nuclear meltdown.  The creature eventually died, fell into the ocean, and washed ashore. Whether it was a mutant dog or raccoon is anyone’s guess. Eventually, it was whisked away and the friends were told to keep their mouths shut and lie about where it went.

My Take

This creature is a load of nonsense. While I think it’s possible it’s a raccoon, the actions and mannerisms by Hewitt and her group of friends are as shady as a snake oil salesman trying to sell you the tonic for immortality. I’d be hard pressed to find another supposed corpse of an unusual creature that’s as laughably transparent as this one, but the Internet loves a good mystery and this one was at the right place at the right time to become a phenomenon.

Realistically though: this thing isn’t real. It’s a fake. Big time.


Not every mysterious carcass is something special or mysterious. Sometimes, they’re identifiable animals. Other times, they’re merely globs that were once Basking Sharks or whales. Then there are instances where they’re mid-twenties New Yorkers who wanted to have their fifteen minutes of fame and waste the time of a 23-year-old on the Internet who thinks it’d make for a good blog entry.

If the corpse of this creature really is in the backyard of, as Loren Coleman put it, a “surfer-dude”, I’d love to know why this thing hasn’t had any tests done on it and why I’m sitting on my bed at 1:38 in the afternoon on a Saturday writing about it instead of covering something more worthwhile. Perhaps there’s a bit of fun that one gets out of dangling a carrot in front of the faces of those who seek to find the truth of cryptids.

Those people are dicks.

1 comment:

  1. ......This wasn't a mystery, it was a goddamn media circus.

    But I'm more open than most, I'll subscribe to the Three Mile Island theory. While I'm not saying we're going to get the Hulk any time soon, the idea of a mutated dog... isn't that far out there.