The Montauk monster: a dead raccoon, after all…

Over the past week we’ve been treated to a barrage of news stories about a mysterious carcass which washed up on the beach of Montauk, Long Island, on July 13th.  Dubbed “The Montauk monster”, it even rated a video bit on CNN.

Alas, the ‘monster’ has been identified, and is none other than the decayed remains of a raccoon that had spent lots of time in the water.  Details can be found at Tetrapod Zoology.

There was never any doubt in my mind that this would turn out to be the remains of a mundane animal, even though I couldn’t identify the specific animal myself.  The combination of water and decay can create all sorts of strange alterations in ordinarily familiar animals, creating a sort of Rorschach test for the imaginative viewer.  The same phenomena seems to occur in many (if not all) cases of UFO observation: witnesses, faced with something they cannot immediately explain, leap to the most exotic and outlandish conclusions first.

For instance, on April 25, 1977 the Japanese trawler MS Zuiyo Maru picked up the following badly decayed carcass:

This image is still displayed all over the web as evidence of a still-extant pleisosaur-like creature.  Reputable biologists of the time, however, concluded it was the remains of a basking shark:

The lower jaw of the shark is one of the first parts to fall off during decomposition, leaving what can appear to be a long, elongated neck and small plesiosaur-like head.

The Montauk Monster will be remembered as another milestone of mainstream journalism: the week that ‘dead raccoon washed up on beach’ became a national news story…

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10 Responses to The Montauk monster: a dead raccoon, after all…

  1. Babs67 aka the fiancee says:

    Oh Honey – that’s terrible! I just finished eating lunch!

  2. marge67 says:

    I was voting for turtle that lost it’s shell. Maybe that’s not possible.

  3. marge67 wrote: “I was voting for turtle that lost it’s shell.”

    I think the important thing isn’t really what specific animal it ends up being in the end, but recognizing that quite ordinary animals can take on extraordinary appearances after a significant period of rotting. I find it amusing that this story got as much traction as it did.

  4. kev says:

    since when do raccoons give the finger, the bird.

  5. Bob says:

    “I was voting for turtle that lost it’s shell.”

    Turtle’s backbones are attatched to their shells. Not possible.

  6. Jimmy says:

    the montauk monster is a raccoon

  7. ang says:

    thats so nasty but it realy doesnt luk lik a raccoon it luks lik a bird pig thing lol

  8. moe says:

    first off basking sharks like all other sharks have a dorsal fin! That photo taken in 1977 if a marine creature is definately not a basking shark or any other known present day animal! Look at the photo carefully it’s obviously not a shark does have an elongated neck and four flipper like appendages! Word of the day “cryptozoology” look it up! keep an open eye and mind.

    • Did you actually read the post? Different parts of animals decay at different rates! The dorsal fin is one of the first parts to rot off.

      “Reading comprehension”: look it up.

      • Kricia says:

        “The dorsal fin is one of the first parts to rot off”

        Did you actually read the post?? There isn’t any mention of the dorsal fin…

        “The lower jaw of the shark is one of the first parts to fall off during decomposition”

        And if you’ve read any other article about this “plesiosaur”, you would know that the carcass never even made it to shore… The Fishermen that caught it took pictures and measurements… That’s all… So, there was never anything for any scientist, or anyone for that matter, to analyze to come up with any conclusion of what the animal even was… No one will ever know what that was…

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