I ask that question at the start of this article because, if you count, you'll find there's a handful of alleged different Chupacabras. Of course, there's the original. We'll start with that.For years, controversial tales have surfaced from Puerto Rico – or to give it its correct title, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, an unincorporated territory of the United States - describing a killer-beast creeping around the landscape, while simultaneously plunging the population into states of deep fear and apprehension. The reason why is as simple as it is distinctly monstrous: the face of the creature is dominated by a pair of glowing red eyes, it has razor-style, claw-like appendages, vicious-looking teeth that could likely inflict some truly serious damage, sharp spikes running down its neck and spine, and even, on occasion, large membranous wings. On top of that, it thrives on blood. Puerto Rico, then, is home to a real-life vampire. Its moniker is the Chupacabra, meaning Goat-Sucker – which is a reference to the fact that when the tales first surfaced, most of the animals slain by the blood-sucking nightmare were goats. That’s right: if you’re a goat, it most certainly does not pay to make Puerto Rico your home. It might not be too safe if you’re human either.
Much of the monstrous action is focused upon the Caribbean National Forest - El Yunque as it is known - which is an amazing sight to behold. Around 28,000 acres in size, and located in the rugged Sierra de Luquillo, which is approximately 40-kilometers southeast of the city of San Juan, it was named after the Indian spirit, Yuquiyu, and is the only rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System. More than 100-billion gallons of precipitation fall each year, creating the jungle-like ambience of lush foliage, sparkling leaves, spectacular waterfalls, shining wet rocks, and shadowy paths that really have to be seen up close and personal to be appreciated. The Forest contains rare wildlife, too, including the Puerto Rican Parrot, the Puerto Rican boa snake, a multitude of lizards, and crabs, not forgetting the famous coqui frog, so named after its strange and unique vocalizations. As for the Chupacabra: well, its predations and appearance are as legendary as they are feared. And the stories coming from the locals are as notable as they are disturbing. Some years ago, while on one of my now-many expeditions to Puerto Rico, I had the opportunity to interview a woman named Norka, an elderly lady living in a truly beautiful home high in the El Yunque rainforest that one can only reach by successfully negotiating an infinitely complex series of treacherous roads, built perilously close to the edge of some very steep hills. Although the exact date escapes her, Norka was driving home one night in 1975 or 1976, when she was both startled and horrified by the shocking sight of a bizarre creature shambling across the road.
Norka described the animal as being approximately four feet in height, and having a monkey-like body that was covered in dark brown hair or fur, wings that were a cross between those of a bat and a bird, and glowing eyes that bulged alarmingly from a bat-style visage. Sharp claws flicked ominously in Norka’s direction. She could only sit and stare as the beast then turned its back on her and rose slowly into the sky. Since then, eerily similar encounters with such vile entities have haunted the terrified populace of Puerto Rico – and continue to do so. As evidence of this, in 2004, I traveled to Puerto Rico with fellow monster-hunter, Jonathan Downes of the British-based Center for Fortean Zoology. During the course of our week-long expedition in search of the truth behind the beast, we had the opportunity to speak with numerous sources, including a rancher named Noel, who had an amazing account to relate. Some months previously, he was awakened during the hours of darkness on one particular morning by the sound of his chickens that were practically screaming down the house. Much to his chagrin, however, Noel failed to get out of bed and waited until dawn broke to see what all the fuss had been about. He told us that he was horrified to find all of his prized birds dead. Not only were they dead: they had two small puncture wounds on their necks, and checks by a veterinarian friend demonstrated their bodies were missing significant amounts of blood.
But what made this particular case so intriguing and memorable was the fact that whatever had killed the chickens had first carefully and quietly opened the complex locks on each of the cages before evacuating them of blood. This suggested to Jon and me that a diabolically sophisticated degree of cunning, intelligence, and dexterity was at work. The Chupacabra, then, may be far more than just your average wild animal. So, with that in mind, precisely what is it? Certainly, theories wildly abound with respect to the nature of the beast, with some researchers and witnesses suggesting that it is some form of giant-bat. Others prefer the controversial theory that it has extra-terrestrial origins. And a notably large body of people view the Chupacabra as a wholly supernatural beast, one created – or conjured up - out of devilish rite and ritual. The most bizarre idea postulated, however, is that the Chupacabra is the creation of a top secret, genetic research laboratory hidden somewhere deep within Puerto Rico’s El Yunque rainforest. Whichever theory may prove to be correct – and there may be other possibilities, too – of one chilling thing there seems little doubt: Puerto Rico has a monster in its midst.
Now, let's get to the so-called Florida Chupacabra.Although the legendary Chupacabra – that bat-like, vampire-style beast which caused so much mayhem in the 1990s - is most associated with the island of Puerto Rico, there are indications that it, or at least something very much like it, has made its way to Florida. In April 2007, a comment was left at my There’s something in the Woods blog by a source using the alias of “Mack the Knife.” He told a remarkable and strange story of having encountered not just one monster, but a pair of them. According to Mack: “I find the possibility of chupacabras particularly interesting, as it is the crytpid I may have gotten a brief glance at. During the Florida drought of 2001 I lived on a farm with my ex-wife. Many of the trees were in great distress because of the heat and dry conditions. One had nearly fallen over on my house. In an effort to help cool and water them I was out spraying down their trunks during the hottest part of the day. I was using a pressure nozzle with some real power.” It was this particular activity that apparently provoked the two creatures to surface from the depths of their hidden lair, as Mack reveals: “At one point the stream went into an open cavity and out popped two very unhappy looking creatures the like of which I have never seen before. Rather large, especially given the size of the hole they emerged from, about three feet long, they gave much the appearance of a primate and moved like one. Their shoulder looked strong even bulky. They had flat faces, and I remember they seemed to be squinting against the light. Most curious of all, from their arms to their legs stretched a thick membrane much like a bat. They were startlingly white.”
Mack continued: “It could be said that these were just a large albino bat, in and of itself that would be quite a sighting. However, the largest bat in North America is called The Western Mastiff bat which in the US is only found in southern California, and the body of which is only a foot and a half long. Honestly, as someone who has studied wildlife science, the size of the wings doesn't seem large enough to carry a creature of that size. Is that a chupacabra? I don’t know. But it was something. It was not an opossum, as there was no gray in the fur, no naked tail, and it moved completely differently. The sighting didn't last long. I remember feeling bad for them actually, as though I had disturbed their privacy. I got the impression they were either siblings or a mated pair. They gave off no sense of menace or evil. Strangely, I did feel as though they were sentient somehow, different than just an animal, and their heads were quite large, with the rounded, side mounted ears of a primate. It’s just strange. I looked for them after that, but never saw them again.” There the story ends. To this day, the mystery of Mack’s creepy critters remains exactly that – a mystery. Also downright mysterious is this: if the Chupacabra has indeed managed to leave the island of Puerto Rico behind it and make its way to mainland USA, how on earth did it achieve such a thing? And how many other countries might it now inhabit as well? They are, without doubt, sobering and worrying questions.
Now, to the Texas Chupacabra. Over the course of the last few years, I have found myself doing more and more radio, newspaper, magazine, and TV interviews on the phenomenon of the so-called “Texas Chupacabras” – those admittedly very strange-looking, hairless beasts that have predominantly been reported within woods and fields in and around the Austin and San Antonio areas, but that are now being seen with increasing frequency in the vicinity of the city of Dallas, very near to where I live. One of the questions that keep on surfacing during those same interviews is how, and under what particular circumstances, did these mysterious beasts manage to migrate from the island of Puerto Rico – where the Chupacabra reports began to surface in the mid-1990s – to the heart of the Lone Star State? Well, the answer to that question is very simple: they didn’t. While Puerto Rico’s most infamous monster may very well share its name with that which haunts the woods, ranches and wilds of Texas, that’s pretty much where the connection ends. Notably, when I have mentioned this to certain media outlets, there’s nothing but outright disappointment in response. So, let’s take a look at what is really afoot, and how the creatures of Texas have become entwined with those of Puerto Rico.
I have been on a number of expeditions to Puerto Rico in search of the island’s blood-sucking beasts, and there’s no doubt in my mind that they exist. I have interviewed numerous ranchers, veterinarians, civil-defense employees, and members of the public who have either seen the creatures, or who have been witness to their blood-sucking activities. In most cases, the Chupacabra of Puerto Rico are described as bipedal creatures with large eyes, vicious claws and teeth, hairless monkey-like bodies, row of spikes running down the backs of their heads and necks - punk-rock Mohawk-style – and even, occasionally, sporting membranous bat-like wings. As for their mode of attack, most of the interviewees stated that the Chupacabras kill their prey by a bite to the neck and then proceeds to drink the blood. Turning to Texas, however, we see something very different at work. In each and every case on record, the Texas Chupacabras are most certainly not described as being bipedal in nature. Rather, they walk on four-legs. There are no wings, no huge eyes, and certainly not any spikes running down their heads.
But that doesn’t mean that high-strangeness is not afoot. It most certainly is. In those cases where we have been fortunate to secure the body of a Texas Chupacabra – either after it has been shot or hit by a vehicle – DNA analysis has proven with 100 percent certainty that these creatures have canine origins. Yes, they look weird, but they are from the dog family, of that there is no doubt. The story doesn’t end there, however. Canine they are, but normal they’re most certainly not. The lack of hair has led many commentators to suggest that the animals are afflicted by mange – which may be true. However, not only are we now seeing pups with the adult creatures, but young and old all seem to be adapting quite well to living without hair. There’s none of the usual intense itching and scratching – to the point of bleeding – that is typical in animals affected by mange, and the lack of hair doesn’t appear to have any bearing on their ability to roam quite happily and comfortably in the pulverizing summer heat of Texas. And as someone that shaves his head to the bone daily, I can say with certainty that the Texan sun can certainly do some damage to the skin without adequate protection!
In addition, in some cases the front legs of the animals appear to be much shorter than one would consider normal – which gives them a weird hopping, Kangaroo-type gait. Others have elongated upper jaws, many have cataracts, and they act in a highly aggressive nature around people – which is quite unlike normal, wild canines which will usually steer clear of humans. And then there is their mode of attack – which a number of ranchers have said involves bites to the neck of farm animals, and a sizeable amount of blood drained from the bodies. And, it is this latter point – and, arguably, this latter point alone – that has led many people to believe that the Puerto Rican Chupacabras and the Texan Chupacabras are one and the same. But they’re not. The term Chupacabra is a great marketing tool. It provokes intrigue and terror, and is a journalist’s dream come true. And the whole thing has now gone viral within the media, on the Net, and in monster-hunting circles. So, in other words, we have two distinctly different phenomena in evidence: one is borne out of sightings of, and encounters with, truly unknown beasts on the island of Puerto Rico, and the other is focused upon weird-looking Texas canines that may have some extraordinary changes going on at a genetic level, too. Beyond that, however, all we can say for certain about the real Chupacabra is that just like Las Vegas, what happens in Puerto Rico continues to stay in Puerto Rico. And, now, how about the Russian Puerto Rico? Yes, you did read that right!
In April 2006, Russia’s Pravda newspaper told a story that strongly suggested the chupacabra had somehow made its way to the heart of the former Soviet Union. It was a story that, to me – when I dug it out of my old files - suggested there just might be some merit to Ed’s controversial claims. “The worries,” said Pravda, “…began at the end of March 2005 not far from the regional center of Saraktash. On the Sapreka farm two farming families suddenly lost 32 turkeys. The bodies of the birds, found in the morning, had been completely drained of blood. None of the farmers either saw or heard the beast that killed them. Then in the village of Gavrilovka sheep fell victim to the night-time vampire. The unknown animal was also in the hamlets of Vozdvizhenka and Shishma. In the course of the night 3-4 sheep or goats perished. All together the losses in the region amounted to 30 small horned cattle.” A farmer named Erbulat Isbasov, Pravda recorded, got a close look at the creature that was slaughtering his animals: “I heard the sheep start to bleat loudly. I run up to them and see a black shadow. It looked like an enormous dog that had stood up on its hind legs. And jumped like a kangaroo. The beast sensed my presence and ran away. It squeezed through an opening in the panels of the fence.”
Although I kept a careful watch on this particular story, it soon died a death and the killings in Saraktash ended as mysteriously as they had begun. I have to say, though, that the references to “an enormous dog that had stood up on its hind legs;” and which “jumped like a kangaroo,” sounded astonishingly like the physical characteristics of a thylacine. Where a presumed-extinct creature would come from, though, I have no idea!