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The Montauk Controversy: Lacking in Evidence

Situated on Long Island is a facility that, within the field of conspiracy theorizing, has become infamous. It was in 1917 that the installation came into being. Its name, the Naval Air Station Montauk, situated at the east end of the South Shore of Long Island. Then, in 1942, it became known as Fort Hero (after Major General Andrew Hero, Jr.). Strategically, it was a highly important facility, one which kept a careful watch on the coastal waters for Nazi U-Boats. Then, in the 1950s, when the Russians began to flex their muscles and the threat of atomic war became all too real, the base was upgraded with new and revolutionary radar-based equipment which would provide the U.S. military with advance warning of incoming Soviet bombers. The base was finally shut down in 1981. Or was it? There are persistent and widespread rumors that Montauk was, for decades, the home of a highly secret group that engaged in a wide variety of research into all manner of bizarre topics, including invisibility, time-travel, genetic manipulation, and more.

Joe Nickell is a Senior Research Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) and “Investigative Files” Columnist for Skeptical Inquirer. A former stage magician, private investigator, and teacher, he is author of numerous books, including Inquest on the Shroud of Turin (1998), Pen, Ink and Evidence (2003), Unsolved History (2005) and Adventures in Paranormal Investigation (2007).  He notes that: “In July 2008, the carcass of a creature soon dubbed the ‘Montauk Monster’ allegedly washed ashore near Montauk, Long Island, New York. It sparked much speculation and controversy, with some suggesting it was a shell-less sea turtle, a dog or other canid, a sheep, or a rodent – or even a latex fake or possible mutation experiment from the nearby Plum Island Animal Disease Center.”

The strange saga of the admittedly very weird-looking beast was one that caught the attention of not just national, but international, media. This was hardly surprising, since the animal appeared to have a beak-like face, large claws, and a dog-like body. While the controversy rolled on for a long time, and provoked deep rumors about what “the government” was doing, an answer to the riddle finally came, as Dr. Darren Naish noted. The creature was not some weird alien entity. It wasn’t the result of top secret experimentation. And it had no connections to the world of conspiracy and cover-ups. Dr. Naish said:  “The match for a raccoon is perfect once we compare the dentition and proportions. The Montauk animal has lost its upper canines and incisors (you can even see the empty sockets), and if you’re surprised by the length of the Montauk animal’s limbs, note that – like a lot of mammals we ordinarily assume to be relatively short-legged – raccoons are actually surprisingly leggy (claims that the limb proportions of the Montauk carcass are unlike those of raccoons are not correct).”

Moving on, there’s the matter of Bigfoot. The claim is that top secret research was once afoot deep below the old Montauk base to create a Tulpa-style version of Bigfoot. That’s to say, monsters conjured up in the imagination and which can then be projected outwardly and given some degree of quasi-independent life in the real world. Weird U.S. note that on one occasion, one of those attached to the secret experiments – a man named Duncan Cameron – envisioned in his mind “…a large, angry, powerful Sasquatch-like” entity which “…materialized at Montauk and began destroying the base in a rage. It utterly decimated the place, tanking the project and disconnecting it from the past. As soon as the equipment harnessing people’s psychic power was destroyed, the beast disappeared.”

There’s no doubt that the one conspiracy – more than any other – attached to the Montauk saga is that of the so-called Philadelphia Experiment. So, the story goes, throughout 1943, at the Philadelphia Naval Yard, the U.S. Navy was secretly working hard to make its ships radar-invisible – a concept very similar to that in today’s so-called “Stealth” aircraft. According to legend, the Navy did far more than that: one fringe experiment resulted in one ship, the USS Eldridge, becoming literally invisible – something which had a catastrophic effect on the crew, many of who were allegedly driven mad or died during the experiment. Or, that there was a time-travel aspect to the story. Maybe both. Whatever the truth is, the Navy, unsure of what had happened, supposedly – and hastily – shut down the program. At least, for a while. The story continues that in the 1950s, the research was restarted, deep below Montauk, in a series of cavernous facilities. Rumors of the military perfecting invisibility, traveling through time, encountering both friendly and hostile aliens as a result of its work, and much more abound.

Now we come to the end of the affair. My thoughts on all of this? They go like this: show me some proof that the Montauk monster is something more than a raccoon and I’ll be impressed. Show me proof that an “angry” Bigfoot appeared at Montauk and I’ll also be impressed. And give me evidence that even just one sailor aboard the Eldridge traveled through the decades and I’ll be very impressed. I should stress that I do think something weird happened to the Eldridge and its crew. But, time-traveling? That worked okay for a not bad movie of 1984. But, for the real world? Nope. The fact is, there is no 100 percent, verifiable evidence to support any of these claims about Montauk. Fun stories. But, that’s about it.

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Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.
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