Saturday, July 04, 2009

Chupacabras: A Blast from the Past

Technology is a remarkable thing. In 1995, while working on the draft of what would be The Chupacabras Diaries, my first monograph on Puerto Rico’s paranormal predator, Sergio Couttolenc, a friend and correspondent in the Mexican city of Coatzacoalcos, sent me a file via e-mail that I was unable to open. Something requiring some obscure piece of software called “Acrobat” that my trusty 386sx did not appear to have, and which dial-up at 9600 baud could not download. So the file was saved to a 3.5-inch disk (remember them?) and placed into a drawer where it rests with hundreds of other 3.5-inch disks laden with UFO and paranormal information from the ‘90s.

A decade or so later, while burning all the information contained in the little black squares to their descendants – shiny new DVD discs – I found the Adobe Acrobat file that Sergio had sent me, and whose information should have formed part of my project or even Chupacabras and Other Mysteries (Greenleaf Press, 1997). Since information is never truly “old” in the field of UFO and paranormal research, INEXPLICATA is pleased to share it with you now. One note: this information predates the start of the Chupacabras wave of 1995 by two years...the pebbles that started the avalanche, perhaps?

By J. Felipe Coria
(from Mexico’s “El Financiero” newspaper, no date, 1995)

UTUADO, Province of Arecibo, Puerto Rico – June 24, 1993, 03:30 hrs. There is noise in the pens. The sheep are calling out in terror: they are being attacked. Farmer Pedro Cabiya wakes up and is startled. His loyal dog “Emilio” sniffs the air and whines. The dog never barks – rather, it appears to want to bury itself alive rather than go outside. It moves in circles in front of the door, silently, looking straight toward the source of the noise, the sound of murder. It would never dare look outside. The dog is frightened – fear in its pure, raw state. Cabiya looks through the window. The night seems almost solid and deep; a physical, intense darkness. Aside from the sheep, there is no other source of sound. Suddenly they are quiet. He feels a chill. Time goes by – one, ten, thirty minutes. The night suddenly recovers its rhythm. “Emilio” begins barking furiously and bolts out the door toward the sheep pens; Cabiya reaches for his shotgun and a .38 Smith & Wesson, holding a weapon in each hand. He is being propelled by a fear that has crystallized itself into an intense sweat that streams from his brow, and down his back and chest. His t-shirt is soaked through. “Emilio” barks hysterically, leaping about, circling the pens. Cabiya takes a look. The attack is now over: his thirty rams are dead, but not dismembered.

He looks at them closely with a flashlight. No sign of scratching or bruising is evident. Nor does he see a single drop of blood. He does, however, see two perfect incisions at the level the base of the skull, barely separated by an estimated half a centimeter. At dawn, Cabiya checks his pens again, and not a single drop of blood is to be found. The animal carcasses are free from injury, except for the incisions. He immediately visits Doctor Berg, a veterinary specialist from Utuado, who inspects one of the slain animals. “It was exsanguinated,” he says. But before rushing to say that it was a bloodsucking vampire bat, such as the Vampyrum spectrum, an enormous Central American chiropteran (which would be odd in itself: why did it migrate? would it take one or several to finish off an entire flock?), he checks the incisions millimetrically. They are perfect: twelve centimeters and a half deep by three millimeters in diameter. Straight. Symmetrical. Too large to be made by a bat – the bite doesn’t match.

The injuries have indeed been made by fangs, but very large and close. A bat would have left scratches and traces of its presence in the bite. Yet it would seem that the intruder, an animal lacking claws and barely the requisite amount of strength, had gently but firmly latched on the sheeps’ heads, inserted its fangs, drawn blood and left the exsanguinated carcasses behind.

According to Cabiya’s own testimony, there was no sign of a fight. The other sheep were apparently frozen in place by sheer terror and awaited their inevitable death. What Doctor Berg finds startling is that the animals were attacked in the base of the skull, without exception. A bat never does this with such precision.

Since Berg refrains from offering a conclusive answer regarding the assailant, Cabiya heads for Arecibo, the city, to see his friend Frank Cassidy, of mixed Irish and Puerto Rican heritage, a veterinarian graduated from Florida State University. Cassidy listens to him, but also abstains from providing an answer. He promises to look into the incident, but files it away. It isn’t until four months later, when Cabiya visits him again, this time in the company of his neighbor Fernando de la Peña, owner of a farm two kilometers distant from Cabiya’s. An identical killing terrifies both men: 35 goats, 26 sheep and 13 hens. In this case, Peña fired indiscriminately into the darkness toward his animal pens for over ten minutes, only stopping when he ran out of bullets. But nothing. There was no trace of the assailant.

Cassidy, still unable to offer an answer given the peculiar nature of the attack and the bite involved, believes the culprit to be an unknown animal. He jokes: “I’ll send out your goatsucker file to see what we can find out.” – He calls it a goatsucker – Chupacabras – because goats represent the largest share of the casualties. He compiles a package with Berg’s information, his own necropsies, the official report from the Health department and the farmer’s eyewitness account. He sends it to his alma mater in Florida via UPS. The fact of the matter is that he still doesn’t know what he’s facing.

A web search of veterinarians currently practicing in Puerto Rico does not display either a “Dr. Berg” or “Dr. Cassidy”, but these may be pseudonyms employed by the journalist from El Financiero who wrote the article. The intriguing and contradictory claim here is that Dr. Cassidy bestowed the name “chupacabras” – in jest – on the paranormal predator, when in fact it was comedian Silverio Pérez of the Rayos Gamma comedy team who did so; Pérez, in fact, had come up with other funny names to describe strange creatures, such as “el cangodrilo”, to refer to the small, hirsute entity reported in central Puerto Rico during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.