The Montauk Monster is a mysterious unidentified animal which washed ashore on a beach near Montauk, New York in 2008. A photographer on scene snapped a photo which was quickly widely distributed, attracting the attention of the press and the speculation of cryptozoologists in many corners of the world. As often happens when a creature which is difficult to identify turns up, a number of competing theories from the mundane to the supernatural have been proposed to explain the identity of the Montauk Monster, known affectionately as “Monty.”
The creature washed ashore on Ditch Plains Beach, a popular spot for summer vacationers. In the widely-distributed image, the Montauk Monster appears to be mostly hairless, with a body type which vaguely resembles that of a dog, complete with four legs and a tail. However, the creature's brow ridge also appears unusually prominent, and it seems to have a beak, rather than the more conventional jaw. One of its front paws is also elongated, and a scrap of leather or fabric is wrapped around the front leg.
Most of the mundane explanations for the Montauk Monster focus on the fact that it was badly decomposed when it washed up, and no scientists have been able to examine the body. From the available evidence, the creature might be a dog, raccoon, or large rat, although the lack of scale in the image makes it hard to tell. Monty may also be a mysteriously shell-less sea turtle.
Conspiracy fans suggested that the Montauk Monster was an escapee from the neighboring Plum Island Animal Disease Center, a United States Department of Agriculture facility. Plum Island stressed that is had an impeccable safety record, and it clearly did not appreciate the press. One report even suggested that an entire race of such creatures was wandering around Montauk.
Monty may also be part of a viral marketing campaign. Several of the people involved in the discovery of the creature have worked for viral marketing firms, and several films and television series could certainly benefit from the extra exposure. One film, Splinterheads, even claimed to have created the Montauk Monster, but it later withdrew the claim.
The lack of additional photographs and a body to examine have made a serious investigation into the identity of the Montauk Monster rather challenging. Evidence seems to strongly suggest that the Montauk Monster is simply a well-executed hoax, and additional information may filter out in later years to reveal the truth.