01 Aug 2008

Montauk Monster

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Original 7/29 Gawker photo

Richard published at Gawker published the original news item on Tuesday alleging that the above object had washed up on a Montauk, Long Island beach, and hinting that it may have originated from the federal Plum Island Animal Disease Center, the vacation spot promised fictional supervillain Hannibal Lector were he to help recover a Senator’s daughter kidnapped by a serial killer in Thomas Harris’s The Silence of the Lambs.

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The authorities at Plum Island obligingly cooperated with the silliness by issuing a denial.

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The story spread, and was picked up by CNN who ran a

2:30 video.

Over which development, Gawker’s Richard yesterday gloated.

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8/1 Newsday photo

The story went international, and the British Telegraph gravely reported:

The identity of this creature, which reportedly washed up on a New York beach last month, has captivated the blogosphere and is dividing animal experts.

The beast, dubbed the Montauk Monster after the Long Island resort where it was discovered, has a hairless, leathery body, sharp teeth and what appears to be a beak.

A photo of the animal appeared on the gossip website Gawker earlier this week under the headline “Dead Monster Washes Ashore in Montauk”, and the story has since been picked up by US networks Fox News and CNN.

The woman who claims to have taken the original photo on Montauk beach on July 12 says she had no idea what the creature was.

“We were looking for a place to sit when we saw some people looking at something,” said Jenna Hewitt.

“We were kind of amazed,” the 26-year-old added, “shocked and amazed.”

Other locals have now come forward to say they saw the animal, which has been variously identified by blog commenters as a dog, raccoon, and shell-less sea turtle.

The dog theory, which depends on the creature’s beak actually being a nasal cavity, currently appears to have most support.

An initial theory that the image may be a hoax produced as part of a viral marketing campaign has been undermined by the number of witnesses.

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All this was so much fun that today Newsday climbed on board with its own photograph and witnesses, claiming:

A. Something really did wash up in Montauk, one sunny day, two weeks ago.

B. More than four people saw it.

C. More than one person photographed it.

The surf was rough, flipping the thing, over and over, and over again.

Jenna Hewitt, of Montauk, and three friends crept up to examine one side. And Hewitt snapped the camera shot heard ’round the world.

But here’s the rub.

Her group was the second on the scene that afternoon.

The first was a quartet of sun-worshipers from western Suffolk and New York City.

“It looked like nothing I’d ever seen before,” said Ryan O’Shea, of Brooklyn. “It looked like it died angry.”

They were so puzzled by what they saw, they left and came right back, with more friends.

The second time around, Christina Pampalone, of East Northport, borrowed O’Shea’s camera. She aimed and kept on firing.

The result is lots of — ew — gross photos of a carcass that looks more domestic than exotic, a bloated dog, not the Hound from Hell.

It shows ears. A big swatch of fur. And its proportions appear to be less distorted — making the head appear to be a suitable complement to the body.

“I was telling people, all day (Wednesday), that I had better photos,” Pampalone said.

“Everybody I showed her pictures to said it looks like a dead dog,” O’Shea said.

“But looking at the claws, and at the teeth in the front, it looked like it could be something else, something vicious.”

It was relatively small, roughly 21/2 to 3 feet long, he said.

She also told our man Wargas — who had started his workday high on the hope of seeing, and no doubt, smelling, the beast’s remains — that the carcass had been moved from the backyard of her friend to another location.

Damn.

But wait.

Joann Dileardo saw it at the end of Roe Avenue in Patchogue, a few weeks ago. “I didn’t know what that thing was,” she said. “It looked like a pig.”

Another reader, Pat, e-mailed that the ladies in his office saw it on an East Quogue beach — back in April.

Elizabeth Barbeiri said her family saw it about a mile east of Gurney’s Inn in Montauk, July 14. And Ryan Kelso, via iPhone, said he spotted it — alive! — in the Montauk dunes. “It looked about the size of an average fox, gray in color, eyes like a mole, hairless and was breathing quite heavily,” he wrote, “needless to say we were freaked out by this discovery and fled the area quickly.”

Lavey Fater saw a surfer bring one to shore, near Ditch Plains.

“It was hairless and gross,” Fater reported. “… The surfer said he had no idea what it was, but that he threw it in the dunes because he didn’t want to be surfing next to it.”

Keith found something last week in Greenport; Chris found one a month ago at Jones Beach east of Field 6. (“The one I saw had a longer snout or beak or whatever you want to call it.”) Sean said he buried one, 3 feet deep, in South Jamesport.

They’re multiplying.

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One Feedback on "Montauk Monster"

Steve Bodio

I’ll send it to Darren.



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