Mystery of the Montauk Monster

Bizarre Discoveries on Long Island Raise New Concerns about Old, but Not Forgotten, Dangers

In January of 2010 the last of several very unusual creatures was discovered on the beaches near Montauk Point on New York’s Long Island. To date, the creatures have not been identified as any known species. They had turned up in July of 2008 and again in 2009. The mostly-local media had a field day with what was dubbed the “Montauk Monster.” Opinions varied sharply on just what the creatures were. It was claimed that they could be some kind of bio-terror weapon, possibly carrying the H1N1 swine-flu virus or some other form of contagion. Others said it was the corpse of a dog bloated by long exposure in the seawater. Even Jeff Corwin of the Animal Planet weighed in. In his opinion the mutant creature was simply a raccoon.

CNN and Fox News both played down speculation of an unknown creature being discovered, although experts in­cluding William Wise of Stony Brook University’s Living Marine Resource said it was not anything that had been seen before. The hairless creature was not a sea turtle outside of his shell since Turtles don’t have teeth. It wasn’t a large raccoon as the legs were too long in proportion to the body. It was not a rodent based on the unusual teeth, and it could not be a dog as the prominent eye-ridge and shape of the feet didn’t match.

The first monster had washed up in Southold on the island’s quiet North Fork. When another washed up in tony East Hampton, Fox News announced “Its baaaack.” Then still another made an appearance on the other side of the Sound in Milford, Connecticut. All were described as smelling badly and looking worse, by all accounts hideous in ap­pearance. While the creatures were compared to different animals, there was agreement on the odd physical charac­teristics shared by all three. The fourth creature was more human-like.

The first three, though, were not anything close to human. In fact, one of the closest comparisons was to an odd animal called the Chupacabra. The name itself means “goat-sucker” as early reported victims were mostly goats. These creatures would, it is said, leave behind the partially eaten remains of their victims. Loren Coleman, the dean of cryptozoological studies with several books on mysterious creatures to his credit, says the Chupacabras had never been seen until they were found in Puerto Rico in 1995, where as many as 150 farm animals and pets were killed. Since then, these four-foot-tall, large-headed animals have been spotted in Mexico, as far south as Colombia and as far north as Maine. In Texas two were reportedly found. One was eventually declared to be a dog with terrible mange. The other was said to have features of a dog, a kangaroo and a rat.

Could these creatures have reached Long Island?

If there are mutant creatures lurking anywhere on eastern Long Island, the first place usually suspected is Plum Island. The relatively small, 840-acre island lies in the Long Island Sound between the eastern end of Long Island and the southern coastline of Connecticut. It started out as a USDA research facility at the end of World War II. The char­ter called for investigation into curing animal ailments such as hoof and mouth disease. But this was at a time when the American military, it is reported, was importing ex-Nazi scientists under Operation Paperclip. As many as 2000 were allowed into the United States. They were hired, it is alleged, to continue work begun under Hitler, from the building of rockets and weapons, to more ominous bio-terror weapons.

It was in 1954 that the research became less defensive and more offensive. Specifically the study was intended to provide a way of carrying disease to enemy livestock. Dr. Eric Traub was one of the early German researchers whose mission was to see if ticks could be used to spread disease. He had studied in America in the 1930’s and belonged to a German-American “club” referred to as Camp Seigfried before the war. The camp was based in Yaphank, 30 miles from Plum Island. He was a Nazi scientist until the end of the war when the Soviets forced him briefly to work for them. He then escaped to the United States. His Paperclip agreement had him working at Fort Detrick and Plum Is­land. These two facilities are on the highest level of such biological research outside of the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta. Two independent researchers Steven Nostrum and John Loftus (author of The Belarus Secret) made the connection between this ticks-as-weapons research and the outbreak of a new disease in southern Connecticut. In 1975 the disease was named for the place it was first reported, Lyme Connecticut. Eastern Long Island remains the record holder for the highest incidence of Lyme Disease.

The victims infected with Lyme Disease suffer from a host of flu-like symptoms including fatigue, headache, joint pains, and sometime, but not always, a target-like rash at the point of infection. Months after infection, even worse problems occur including arthritis, meningitis, inflammation of the heart, and muscle weakness. It is treatable with antibiotics but often misdiagnosed. At its worst, it is an incapacitating disease that causes memory loss, constant pain, paralysis, blindness and even death.

It is transferred to humans through the bite of a tick, mostly the smaller ticks called deer ticks. The tick itself must be infected with Borrelia burgdorferi, a bacteria. The Nazis as well as Japan’s infamous Unit 731 studied the Borrelia genus. Why suddenly did this outbreak begin in 1975? Several researchers point to the island two miles from Long Island’s North Fork. Several researchers believe that the ticks were not only infected as part of an experiment but purposely released as part of that experiment.

Coincidentally, or not, America entered the 70s under the impression that most diseases had been conquered.

Then, in rapid succession, we discovered Lyme Disease, AIDS, Hantavirus, Legionnaires disease, Hepatitis C, Mad Cow, Lassa fever, and Ebola Virus. Other diseases returned in stronger and more resistant forms. Could research into weapons of bio-terror be to blame?

A USDA internal memo circulated in 1978 titled “African Swine Fever” mentioned that Plum Island was experi­menting with ticks as a means of transmitting disease. No one seemed to object, as very few had enough concrete in­formation to connect the dots.

The nature of Plum Island’s research was already known, however. Cuba would claim that that island’s agriculture was under attack. It was most likely a reliable claim, as years later Cuba’s Agricultural Research Service is on record asking for a role in our nations bioterrorism research. In 1999 President Clinton agreed. After all, it is speculated, the winds came from the west and any accidents would simply be blown out to sea.

With the blessing of Congress and the President, Plum Island became the only other laboratory on the level of Ft. Detrick in Maryland. Its mission is the study of zoonotic disease that can be transmitted to humans from animals. These include West Nile disease, Ebola, and Lyme disease. Not everyone was happy.

The top secret nature of the island was not as secret as it was intended to be. In 2001 the New York Times broke the secrecy about “Project Jefferson.” This effort by the Department of Defense enlisted Plum Island researchers to study a way to create a vaccine-resistant form of anthrax. Clearly the research was not intended for anything the USDA might have originally envisioned. The government’s reaction to being outed was to classify such research and then to turn the facility over to Homeland Security.

With the speculation that disease could escape from an accident on the tiny island, possibly spreading to nearby New York City, any publicity was bad news. One of the worst situations came in 2002 when the union that controlled nearly half of the Plum Island workers staged a walkout. Substitute workers were brought in to insure that decon­tamination efforts and waste water treatment would not be compromised. Then the water treatments were compro­mised. The FBI was brought in to see if this was the result of sabotage. Again the New York Times broke the story and residents of both eastern Long Island and Connecticut were frantic to find out if the air, the water, or their shoreline was contaminated.

The publicity, apparently, brought much more heat than the Government would have preferred. Reporters and freelance researchers attempted to get in on the story. The Government stepped up its guard. Workers on the island would not be permitted to stay overnight and would take a government ferry to and from the island. No one would be allowed either to make contact with the workers or attempt to get close to the island. Even fishermen were warned away. Such defensive measures might work near Area 51, but Long Island is just too populous to keep such a secret.

In 1997 best-selling novelist Nelson DeMille wrote a fictional work about a secret bioterror facility and did not at­tempt to hide the location. His book was Plum Island and a skull and crossbones decorate the cover. The same year The Poison Plum by Les Roberts was also published about the facility. So much for Top Secret.

Plum Island was again the source of speculation in 1999 when West Nile Virus hit New York State. It started with the deaths of as many as 10,000 birds, including exotic birds in the Bronx zoo. Then it began to hit horses and cows, killing half the city’s cows. The official story was that it was most likely carried from a visitor from Africa to New York City. The problem with blaming it on the global community is that the disease, like Lyme, results from being bitten by a mosquito that carries it—not from a human infecting a mosquito or another human. Also, like Lyme Dis­ease, the symptoms include fever, headaches, body aches, and sometimes a rash. There were 254 cases of West Nile starting in 1999 and 26 deaths as a result. And according to New York State’s Department of Health, there may now be over 100 infected mosquito pools, one third on Long Island, two thirds in New York City itself.

The Wall Street Journal covered a story about Plum Island in 2002 quoting both scientists and government offi­cials saying the facility should be closed. Officials seemed unconcerned about safety but very concerned over the ex­panding budget. When a whistle-blower came forward regarding the safety concerns, he was fired. At the same time, Vermont’s Senator Patrick Leahy publicly questioned whether the West Nile Disease was actually caused by research­ers. He had received an anthrax-laden letter shortly after the attacks of September 11 and it was later determined that the anthrax had come from Fort Detrick, Maryland.

In 2004 Lab 257: The Disturbing Story of the Government’s Secret Plum Island Germ Laboratory was released. The author, New York attorney. Michael Christopher Carroll, covered Plum Island from its inception with Operation Paperclip. The Army Chemical Review would conclude the book was highly accurate but deny the link to Lyme Dis­ease. From 1975 to 2010 Lyme has continued to spread throughout the United States. If the Government admitted such research it could present a serious litigation problem.

However, in 2008, a Pakistani woman, possibly linked to Al-Queda, was arrested. She was carrying notes about a mass casualty attack on Plum Island. Since only 200 work there, the mass of casualties can only refer to nearby New York if, indeed, the island’s refrigerators, holding everything from Ebola to polio, are crippled.

The recent “Montauk Monster” discoveries may be connected to the Government’s decision to finally close the labs of Plum Island. The new plan was announced shortly after the last strange creature was washed up on nearby Long Island’s shores. Witnesses said it was humanoid in appearance with elongated fingers. Police were tight-lipped but commented wryly that it was most likely a neurosurgery patient as indicated by five holes drilled in the head.

Recently, former wrestler and Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura, who investigated the story for his series Con­spiracy Theory, announced with a bit of incredulity: The lab and all its contents was actually being moved far from Manhattan, New York, to Manhattan Kansas. In September of 2010, the Department of Homeland Security posted a message on its website declaring that the additional space to research animal diseases is needed but is not available, so, they will be moving. The new National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility will replace the Plum Island Animal Disease Center. The message also reiterates that they have never done any research into Lyme Disease. It does, however, men­tion that the newer facility will be studying Nipah virus, Hendra Virus, African Swine Fever, and Rift Valley Fever as well as a host of others.

BY STEVEN SORA

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