Plum Island | Want to buy a former animal disease center?

Saturday, February 9th, 2013 By

A visitor to Massachusetts' Plum Island watching the early morning sun rise over the dunes. He's wearing a T-shirt on his head that makes him look like Yassir Arafat. By the way, the Montauk Monster is sneaking up behind him.

No, it's not Arafat vs. the Montauk Monster. It's a Plum Island visitor enjoying sunrise and wondering if he'll get to see Lab 257. (Photo: Flickr)

Plum Island is a part of Southold, New York in Gardiners Bay, off the eastern end of the North Fork coast of Long Island. Since the beginning of the Cold War, the island has been the site of a military base and an animal disease center that shall forever be known as “Lab 257.” When Lab 257 was fully operational, access was limited only to select scientists and special guests. Speculation was that bizarre animal experiments were conducted there. Lab 257 is where some people believe the Montauk Monster originated. But those glory days are (allegedly) long gone. Plum Island is up for sale, reports local WCBS TV.

Plum Island – What can you do with a local legend?

The General Services Administration is currently taking community input as to what should be done with Plum Island. Some feel it should be made into a federal park and nature preserve, as many different bird species nest on the island. But concerns exist over Lab 257, particularly from a Homeland Security point of view. Pathogens that could potentially kill humans – and destroy scores of livestock – were once produced there. Furthermore, the island is not well-protected. Thus, some have argued that Lab 257 should be moved to Kansas and reopened for biological experimentation. Yet, as U.S. Rep. Timothy Bishop (whose district includes Plum Island) told local media, the sale of Plum Island would garner $50 million to $60 million. The costs of relocating Lab 257 would be significantly more, more than $650 million. Armed forces loans would be necessary. Bishop believes Plum Island facilities should go back into use rather than opening the “Pandora’s Box” of decommissioning and moving Lab 257.

The Montauk Monster – a product of Lab 257?

The rumor circulated along the small coastal towns of New York is that the Montauk Monster was a product of Lab 257. The Montauk Monster is likely just a decayed seal carcass or perhaps a large deceased raccoon, but the stories swirling around Plum Island and Lab 257 sound much more fun. One set of fishermen allegedly found the beast and gave it a proper Viking funeral, complete with at-sea immolation and the Montauk Monster secured in a child’s flotation device. Whether it’s all true matters very little. Such stories are what splash local color across the cultural landscape. Stories of Lab 257 on Plum Island may stretch the truth, but clearly some work with infectious disease has occurred on the premises. That’s enough to entertain generations of kids around the campfire on a summer evening.

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This post has 3 comments

  1. stang289 says:

    swine flu ?

  2. g says:

    “Plum Island sits at the mouth of the Merrimack River in Plum Island Sound on the Massachusetts coast.” True, & it also has a National Wildlife Refuge. BUT this is NOT the same as the one with Lab 257 in NY, at the tip of Long Island with Long Island Sound & Block Island Sound on either side of it! A very confusing article!

    • Steven Tarlow says:

      g – Thank you very much for the catch. I was turned around a bit by the geography, as both New York and Massachusetts apparently have their own Plum Islands. Myself and the article stand corrected :)

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