What's brownish-purple, goes to the beach and stinks of rotting flesh?
New York's celebrity-obsessed Hamptons summer season got even sillier this week when a strange-looking, very dead creature washed up on a beach in Montauk at the far eastern end of New York's Long Island.
On Tuesday afternoon, a photo was posted on Gawker, the Big Apple's reigning gossip blog, which treated the Montauk monster with characteristic respect: "Good Luck With Your Hell Demons."
The animal looks like a bloated, hairless dog, except that it's got an eagle-like beak, a prominent brow ridge and a curiously elongated front paw.
Speculation immediately arose that it might be a hitherto unknown marine mammal, a sea turtle without its shell, an artful Photoshop creation or — cue the " X-Files" theme — an escaped experiment from the government animal-disease research facility on Plum Island, just offshore from Montauk.
The animal's resting on sand in the photo, with no other indication of location or scale except for what appears to be a large fly on its back.
Gawker itself thought it had broken the case late on Tuesday, when it noted that the woman who'd e-mailed in the photo worked for a viral-marketing firm.
It all tied in neatly to "Cryptids Are Real," an upcoming Cartoon Network show about mysterious, scientifically undocumented animals such as Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster and the Chupacabra.
But the tipster, whom New York magazine identified as Los-Angeles based Alanna Navitski, denied that her efforts were part of any campaign.
She said she'd gotten the picture from her sister, who'd gotten it herself from a friend in New York who actually saw the darn thing.
"I saw the monster," said another witness, a waiter at a nearby restaurant, to New York magazine. "I just came walking down the beach and everyone was looking at it. No one knew what it was. It kind of looked like a dog, but it had this crazy-looking beak. I mean, I would freak out if something like that popped up next to me in the water."
Plum TV, a sort of upscale public-access network carried on Hamptons cable TV as well as in other tony summer resorts, promises an interview Friday with the original photographer as well as two other women who say they saw the animal.
FOXNews.com thinks one commenter on the Plum TV Web site may have figured it out.
The short beak-snout and long, flipper-like paw certainly don't belong to a dog, but they could easily belong to a young raccoon whose fur and nasal cartilage rotted away in the water. Check out images of raccoon skulls here and here, and this image of a raccoon's paw.
To complicate matters, no one seems to know exactly where the mysterious beastie is now.
It's no longer at the beach where it was supposedly found; then again, the sand it's resting on in the photo could be anywhere in the world.
"They say an old guy came and carted it away," Navitski told New York magazine. "He said, 'I'm going to mount it on my wall.'"