Lo and behold: the Montauk Monster was borne not of scientific experimentation or beastly mutation, but of an ordinary raccoon of normal biology, given Norse funeral rites.
Or so says a Shelter Island resident who didn't want to identify himself.
When the man and a group of his friends found a dead raccoon on Shell Beach last summer, their fateful decision to give the animal a Viking funeral -- positioned in a watermelon, set aflame on a child's pool toy on a raft and floated out to sea -- also gave the world the Montauk Monster.
"There's a yearly custom we do called Nanapaushat that a lot of people in Shelter Island do. It's like an Indian custom around July 4th, where you do a lot of games and celebrate," the 32-year-old man said by phone Thursday. "At some point you gather all the dead on your property and surrounding area and you cremate them, to celebrate the cycle of birth and death."
"We'll be doing it in a couple weeks," he added.
He said the Montauk Monster's international fame was "pretty hilarious," in particular "the explanations that people came up with."
"Sometimes it's just a raccoon," he said. "It's not from Plum Island, it's not a monster from space. Sometimes the answer is the easiest."
The man said the rag wrapped around one paw of the Montauk Monster in published photos convinced him it was the same raccoon, which was wrapped in gas-soaked cloth.
He explained that he came forward now because his friend Drew Grant, a freelance writer from Brooklyn, asked if she could write about the raccoon ritual for a media blog post Thursday. Read it here. T
"I'm dubious but it's almost so outrageous to not to be true," said Grant, 25, of Brooklyn. "If they went out of their way to make this up, they really went out of their way, and they held onto the photos for a very long time."
Gawker.com has already cast some skepticism on the story, pointing out discrepancies in the dates and the improbability of a raccoon on a raft making it from Shelter Island, around the East End, and landing on Ditch Plains Beach in Montauk.
And the Native American ritual celebrated on Shelter Island every summer?
"I've lived here my whole life and I've never done that. Never heard of it," said deputy town clerk Sharon Jacobs. Those inconsistencies are just part of the rich tapestry of outrageous true stories that are stranger than fiction, Grant said. "There are discrepancies in timing and where they were, but I would say that's the nature of a story told in a bar," she said.
But the Shelter Island man's story does not explain the appearance of a second Montauk Monster in Southold written about by blogger Nicky Papers. That carcass, of course, has also disappeared.
- Click here to see photos of the new and original 'Montauk Monster'
- Click for 40 creatures that may or may not exist
- Photos of ugly and unusual animals