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Hudson River giant head becomes Marist tourist attraction

Marist College's rowers are no closer to figuring out the origins of a giant foam head they pulled from the Hudson River on Monday, but they have figured out a new use for it: tourist attraction.

The Marist College campus sits on the east bank of the Hudson in Poughkeepsie, and the crew team takes to the river in the early morning hours for practice. On Monday morning, just after sunrise, team members spotted the 7-foot noggin bobbing in the water and, after taking a closer look, they hauled it onto the campus docks.

Since Newsday first reported the find on Tuesday, the story has gone viral, making the rounds on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit, and appearing in newspapers and on television news broadcasts across the country.

Students and campus visitors have begun taking photos of themselves standing around the mysterious head, and on Thursday, a small group of housemates and a visiting parent were among those who decided to take a trip to the docks to see the head for themselves.

"No one has claimed it," said Matt Lavin, the crew coach who made the discovery with his team on Monday.

Without someone coming forward, observers are left to theories, many of them imaginative. One Marist College student told Newsday she thinks the head was fashioned by an art student at nearby Vassar College, while others say it could only have come downstream from somewhere north of Poughkeepsie.

Lavin said he believes it was a theater prop, but acknowledged a theory put forth by a Newsday reader -- that the cranial, Fiberglas rendering was part of a Mardi Gras-like float.

"It looks similar, it looks about the right size and the construction techniques are roughly about right," Lavin said.

Ryan Rowe, who grew up in New Orleans, said the massive, Greek and Roman style cranium is exactly the type of decoration favored as the centerpieces of Mardi Gras floats. Rowe, an antiques dealer at Uncommon Objects in Austin, Texas, said it's not a stretch to believe the object could have been swept up the coast in a long, 1,300-plus mile journey after getting washed out from New Orleans.

He pointed to the dozens of stories about debris from Japan washing up on the West Coast after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Nine months after the earthquake, debris from Japan -- including pieces of furniture, soccer balls, surfboards and even cars -- began washing up on the shores of California, Oregon and Alaska.

"It makes perfect sense," Rowe said.

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