We teamed up with our friends at West Elm to tell the story of the Brooklyn Beast—a strange and unexplainable creature that washed up near their headquarters a few years ago.
This month, we’re doing something a bit different. Our friends over at West Elm—you know, the ones with all the great furniture and home decor—reached out and asked us if we could find out more about a creature that washed up near their corporate headquarters in Brooklyn a few years ago. We did some digging and found enough to write about, and enough to make you a little nervous the next time you hear something scurry in the dark.
Welcome back to our mini-monster series. We here at Camp Monsters know that mysterious creatures are a year-round interest, so we’re making sure that you have a new monster in your feed every month until our full season launches this September.
This month, we’re doing something a bit different. Our friends over at West Elm-- you know, the ones with all the great furniture and home decor-- reached out and asked us if we could find out more about a creature that washed up near their corporate headquarters in Brooklyn a few years ago. We get requests like this all the time, but usually there just isn’t enough substance to write about-- we can only turn up a rumour or two, something people have heard of but never seen.
This one was different. In this case we found… well, you’ll have to decide for yourself what you make of it. We found enough… enough to write about, and… enough to make you a little nervous the next time you hear something scurry in the dark. Maybe our source isn’t reliable, maybe it was just fear and imagination working together… I hope it was. It’s up to you what to believe... and how to explain away what you don’t. So gather ‘round -- welcome to the latest mini-monster episode.
Imagine you’re in Brooklyn, New York, out for a late afternoon walk in the park along the East River. Your mind is elsewhere: the work you need to do, the groceries you need to buy, the friend you’ve been meaning to call back -- you really ought to call now. But then-- you catch something out of the corner of your eye, right at the water’s edge. A piece of trash? No… no, there’s something odd… no, it’s too big and heavy-looking to have blown in on the wind. The river must have floated it up. And… oh! No-- Does it have a face? What... used to be a face. You don’t want to get closer but you have to, and you realize that this thing was definitely- at one point- a living, breathing creature. But not like any creature you’ve ever seen. Or any creature you’d want to see.
This happened to a handful of Brooklynites back in 2012 when they found the carcass of something unusual underneath the Brooklyn Bridge. Bloated, grey, with a few mangy strips of fur or flesh hanging from it, hands strangely like a human’s but with a terrible beaked face unlike any creature you’ve ever seen. What was it? What had it been? They posted some pictures on the internet and the speculation began.
In spite of the creature’s completely alien appearance, some people tried to come up with reasonable explanations for this Brooklyn Bridge beast. A naturalist from Cornell University said it must have been the body of a dog, ravaged by many days in the water. Other theories linked it to another strange carcass that had washed up on the tip of Long Island that had been dubbed the Montauk Monster-- which had proven to be simply a water-logged racoon. And of course, many people decided it was just the remains of an unbelievably large rat-- something the city of New York has plenty of experience with.
I, like many of you, am not from New York. But our West Elm friends tell us that when you live in New York, you learn to spot a rat. Rats along subway tracks and in garbage heaps, rats singly and in groups called “mischiefs.” There’s your fun fact for the day: like a pack of dogs, a gaggle of geese, or a murder of crows, a group of rats is referred to as a “mischief” -- fitting, isn’t it?
A man in Brooklyn recently reported counting 30 rats in one walk around his block -- a number we can all agree is about 30 too many. Feeling squeamish? Let’s get back to why we’re here. The easy explanation for the Brooklyn Bridge beast is that it was the bloated body of a rat. If you look at a photo of the creature and squint REALLY hard, and forget that what you’re looking at is many, many times larger than a common rat, perhaps you could reach that conclusion. Or perhaps that’s just a handy answer... to keep the uneasiness at bay.
Uneasiness… like what one reporter suddenly felt when she was alone in the vast, open office of a Brooklyn media startup one night… and began to suspect that she wasn’t as alone as she’d thought. We’ll call her Mikaela, and we’ll join her in the middle of a long, long night working against deadline. No one else was left in the office-- the janitor had finally finished noisily buffing the floor by reception-- and Mikaela was so still as she wrote that the big room’s motion-activated lights had turned off. That was alright. It was cozier this way, alone in the glow of her computer and the warm, yellow light from her desk lamp. Alone in a sea of darkness that seemed comfortably familiar, until…
Mikaela wasn’t sure at first… wasn’t sure what had broken her concentration. She had an incredible gift for concentration-- coworkers would poke gentle fun at her for being so focused on her work that she wouldn’t notice if the building came falling down around her. So what had it been that had pulled her out of it?
She peered around the dark collection of cubicles around her, took an automatic sip of her coffee-- yugh-- ice cold. But everything else was as it should be, nothing out of the ordinary, and she was about to sink back into her computer screen when-- there it was again. A noise. A noise so foreign to the sterile office environment that it had brought her out of her deep concentration. A noise like… scratching. Light and distant at first. Mikaela would have never noticed it if it weren’t for the dead silence of the office. “Rats,” she thought, followed quickly by an eye roll and a quick note on a nearby pad to tell the office manager to call pest control.
She’d been a New Yorker for most of her adult life, and had had her fair share of experience with these creatures. In one of her first apartments- which she shared with four other, less tidy roommates- she’d once found a rat gorging itself on cold pizza left in a box on the coffee table. Her screams of frustration and surprise woke the whole apartment and she’d demanded they all cancel their plans for a weekend of deep cleaning. And once, while on an early morning run, a huge rat had darted out from under a dumpster and danced across her foot. Her immediate reaction was to high kick, and the rat went flying into the air, landing stunned on the sidewalk before skittering away. So yeah, Mikaela knew rats well.
But she had never heard a rat in her office before. Pristine and clean and newly-built, she thought of the building as a refuge from the pests. And yet, here was that tell-tale scratching sound. If her ears were correct, it was coming from the wall near reception -- which sat at the end of a row of darkened cubicles, right next to the elevators and stairs. Feeling somewhat spooked, she started waving her arms in order to trip the motion sensors and turn on the lights. She felt a little ridiculous, but no one was around and she wanted the comfort of the bright fluorescents overhead. But nothing happened…
She stood up and started doing a little dance to try to activate the sensors, a feeling of uneasiness slowly rising in her chest. Maybe the sensors near her desk were broken? She made her way to the next block of desks, waving her arms wildly at the ceiling, all shame about potential security footage trumped by her growing anxiety. Still, nothing happened. Mikaela had never really been scared of the dark, but her inability to turn on the lights brought a new sense of dread. The large open office space, usually lit and full of people took on a new, ominous feeling that pushed her toward the brink of panic.
Everything that was happening was abnormal, and Mikaela hated it. The lights here always worked. She had never heard rats in the walls. Her awareness of being alone grew until it sat right below her throat -- she felt her face grow hot, and a nervous tingling crawled down her limbs. All she was focused on now was getting back to her desk, gathering her things as quickly as possible, and getting out of this place that suddenly felt so unfamiliar and dark and hostile.
As she made her way back, along the long line of shadow-filled cubicles, she heard the noise again-- coming closer. Coming quickly. As she reached her desk she wheeled around-- and her relief at not seeing anything charging at her was quickly transformed into disgust and terror as she realized that the sound had stopped moving and was coming from above her… in the ceiling, just above her head. And it was loud, too loud to be just one rat. She stared in frozen horror at the thin ceiling tile above her, thought she saw it move, and imagined a mangy river; a writhing ball; a squealing, scratching, biting rain of rats about to fall onto her head. She had seen the maintenance workers pop up those flimsy tiles so many, many times… the scrabbling, scratching sound was incredibly loud now… how many rats could one tile support? Mikaela couldn’t help but let out a tiny scream, a way to vent the paralyzing terror that had grown almost unbearable.
Just as panic broke loose inside of her: the noise stopped. The frantic sounds that had been scratching down at her from above ceased completely, and silence draped over her -- heavy and uncertain. What had happened? Why had the sounds stopped? Where had it-- whatever it was-- gone? She held her breath, waiting for something to happen. Because she knew... she could feel... that something was going to happen. She stared at the ceiling until the texture of it began to crawl inside her eyes. Then there was a sudden sound behind her--
Mikaela wheeled around and gripped the doorway of her cubicle and watched and heard the last bubble in the water cooler by the wall reach the surface with a burble. She took a deep breath and willed her heart to start beating again. The familiar sound had broken terror’s spell and she turned back to her desk to grab her purse and head for the elevators.
She didn’t make it.
The eyes. That was the first thing she saw. Red and wet and shiny and… inches in front of her face. Eyes… in a terrible beaked and pointy skull with naked gray flesh pulled tightly over it. A stout grey body, mottled with black and white streaks of hair… Or skin? Something that hung off of it in strips. Bigger than a possum, disappearing up into the darkness above the ceiling from which it dangled. Definitely. Not. A rat.
The thing’s long thin hands, like a human’s but clawed, pawed the air toward her face as it arched its back and snapped its vicious beak, reaching. Mikaela was frozen in panic. There was no response from her legs as her brain screamed GET OUT! GET OUT NOW! But then the creature, unable to reach her as it dangled, dropped from the ceiling and twisted in the air, landing nimbly on all four feet on the top of her desk. It had barely touched down before Mikaela was sprinting for the stairs, her face contorted in anguish and terror.
As the rows of dark cubicles streaked by, all she could hear was her breathing and her heart and-- and the scratching of the creature’s claws across the hard tile floor as it scrambled after her. It was gaining. She didn’t dare look around but she could hear it: it was gaining. She flung herself into the stairwell and turned to slam the door-- but the pneumatic door-closer stopped her. She threw herself against it, struggling… but the door refused to move faster than its usual leisurely pace. She was going to be mauled to death by a creature unknown to science while this door closed whisper-quiet on her screams.
As she pushed, her face was pressed against the wire-embedded window in the door, and now she saw the creature running and the gap was still too wide-- it was going to make it in. She leapt back in a crouch, to face the thing when it came… and the last sound she heard was the creature losing its footing on the freshly-buffed floor, smacking into the door frame, skittering and sliding and thudding into something with a satisfying slam. Then the door closed-- whisper-quiet-- and shut out everything else.
Her purse, her phone, her keys -- everything Mikaela needed was stuck in the office. She ran to a nearby diner, and the concerned waiter attempted to calm her down with some water and a reminder to take deep breaths. When she had regained some sense of reality, she asked to use his cellphone and then waited until her tired, frustrated roommate showed up to help her home. Her roommate’s frustration was quickly replaced with concern after one glance at Mikaela’s pale, fear-wearied face. When asked what was wrong Mikaela just shook her head and said, “not now.” So her roommate took her arm and they started walking the short distance to the subway.
A block short of their destination, Mikaela let out a scream that pierced her roommate to the teeth-- “What?!” she exclaimed. Mikaela shuddered and pointed to a nearby pile of trash bags, teeming with rats.
So when Mikaela saw the report of the creature that had washed up under the Brooklyn Bridge, she knew it wasn’t a rat. She felt an echo of panic the moment she saw the pictures. There, bloated and disfigured, was the creature that had dropped from the ceiling, the monster that had left her with such a deep, deep phobia of all things that scurry.
Perhaps you don’t believe Mikaela’s story. Chalk it up as just another urban myth about the hidden mysteries of New York. A tall tale people tell over drinks to scare the newcomers that still pour into the city. Perhaps. But anyway, try not to work too late. It can be bad for you.
As for us, we’ll be back next month with stories of monsters, spirits and demons from Japan that’ll make you think there’s a monster around every corner.
If you like these mini-monster episodes, you’ll like our full-length shows even more -- Season One is available now and Season Two is coming in September of 2020. Please subscribe, rate and review us on Apple Podcasts: it’s your support that keeps these spooky stories on-air.
Our mini-monster series is written and produced by Chelsea Davis. These sounds are engineered by the very talented Nick Patri from Cloud Studios. Our executive producers are Paolo Mottola and Joe Crosby. Thank you to our friends at West Elm who brought us this story. Whether your version of the Great Outdoors means an overnight campout or a (rodent free!) picnic on your city stoop, it just got even easier to make yourself at home, outside. The new REI + West Elm collection is portable and on-the-go, designed for your backyard and beyond.
We got our mini-monster facts this week from the Huffington Post, Business Insider and Fandom. Our rat facts came from the New York Times and Popular Science. Links to our sources will be in our show notes if you want to learn more about all the things that scurry through the streets of New York. I’m Weston Davis. Thank you for listening, and see you next month.