Mythical Monday: The Montauk Monster by Mae Clair

If you have even a passing interest in cryptozoology—the pseudo-science devoted to the study of animals that may exist but haven’t been proven to exist—you know that cryptids come in many varieties. From the aquatic Loch Ness Monster to the forest-loving Bigfoot and beings such as the Mothman that lurk around abandoned sites, cryptids haunt different terrains and habitats. Their knack for elusiveness is extraordinary, a testament as to why we only have grainy images, breathless onlooker accounts, and/or occasional snippets of sound to suggest they exist.

But what if a clear photo materialized to support eyewitness testimony? Hoax or legitimate proof?

Take the case of the Montauk Monster, an unidentified creature that washed ashore on a beach in Montauk, New York in July of 2008. Most people know that when a body (or animal carcass) is submerged in water for a prolonged period of time, it alters the subject’s physical form, sometimes bloating and distorting it beyond recognition.

Is that what happened to Montauk’s celebrated find?

Driftwood on a beachThe story begins on July 12, 2008, when Jenna Hewitt, a Montauk resident, and three of her friends were strolling along Ditch Plains Beach, a popular surfing spot, in search of a place to sit. Noticing a large crowd gathered around something lying on the sand, they took a closer look.

What they found was a creature that defied description, a pale, bloated dog-like thing with a hooked beak. The animal was so bizarre looking that Hewitt later joked it might have been something that escaped from Plum Island—a nearby center, specializing in animal disease.

She snapped a picture of the creature, an image that eventually ended up in several newspapers and found its way onto the internet where it exploded and became an overnight sensation.

Interestingly, the carcass of the creature disappeared, spirited away by a man who remains unidentified. As images circulated and weblogs surfaced, zoologists and other wildlife experts waded into the ring. Several speculated the creature could be a raccoon, its ghastly appearance the result of being submerged in the water for an extended period of time. Others suggested a turtle, and still others a dog or sheep. In all circumstances, there were those who refuted the claims—the legs were too long for a raccoon, sea turtles lack fur and teeth, and so on.

So, what exactly is the Mantauck Monster? To this day, its true identity remains a mystery shrouded in a cloud of speculation. Why not weigh in with your own opinion? You’ve likely seen this photograph before, but perhaps didn’t connect it with the story of the Mantauck Monster. Take a look now, then hop back here to share your thoughts about this potentially new cryptid. You can see multiple images here.

Freaky, wouldn’t you say?