Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Chupacabras: A Study in Darkness (2001)

This article originally appeared in PARANOIA Magazine (2003). Special thanks to Joan D'Arc and Al Hidell. A decade separates us from the manifestations of the paranormal predator in Chile, the South American nation that felt its "bite" the hardest, prompting action by the national police force and even prompting questions in the Chilean senate. These manifestations went on considerably longer than the ones in Mexico and Puerto Rico, and spilled over the Andes into Argentina for a brief period of time. They are of interest due to the "protean" quality of the creature(s) involved in the attacks: eyewitness descriptions ranged from winged, simian creatures (such as the ones allegedly involved in the attack on a farmer in Parral) to entities similar to the one described in the Northern Hemisphere.

by Scott Corrales

No one knew the darkness as well as they did, these desert shamans responsible for supplying the sacrifices. They would stand in the cold desert night, the skies above filled with stars, waiting at a distance for the gods to appear. Generation after generation had learned the ritual and carried it out. Sometimes a dog, sometimes a young llama, the animal would be sacrificed and left out in the desert for the gods.

At sunrise, when it was no longer a sacrilege to approach the patches of desert where the gods had made their presence felt, the shamans would check to see if their offering had been accepted, and it always was: the carcass was now completely drained of blood, with the tell-tale puncture mark visible somewhere on the body--neck, hindquarters, stomach--indicating that the gods' thirst had been slaked. It was now time for the priests and the tribe to share the meal with the gods by eating the sacrifice's flesh, whose remains would ultimately be buried under a cairn as reminder of the bond between mortals and their deities.

Anthropologist Juan Schobinger has written that the northern coast of Chile faces the one of the richest seas in the world and one of the world's most barren deserts. This characteristic has granted a special archaeological value to the region's organic and ceramic deposits, causing experts to marvel at preservation of so many fragile and perishable cultural elements, such as basketry, textiles and food remains.

It has been further possible to reconstruct the rituals of the inhabitants of the Atacama Desert from chronicles kept by the conquering Spaniards or from oral traditions that still survive to this day. Dr. Virgilio Sanchez-Ocejo has noted that the museum of the city of Calama boasts an exhibit of one of the desert cairns, called apachecta, and the remains of a desiccated dog employed in a sacrifice...perhaps the only tangible link of a trade between gods and men that has gone on since the dawn of history.

Chupacabras in the Southern Cone

Chile, the longest nation on earth, is pinned between the Pacific Ocean and the towering Andes. The verdant rainforests of its southern islands, which number in the thousands, stand in stark contrast to the northern deserts and salt flats bordering Perú and Argentina. Known for its fine wines and fruit, this country first came to the attention of U.S. audiences following the violent overthrow of Socialist leader Salvador Allende in 1973 and the brutal dictatorship that followed under Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Chile had always been of special importance to UFO researches given its reputation as a "proven producer" of high-quality UFO sightings, due in great measure to the clarity of its nocturnal skies, a feature which had led a number of research facilities to build important optical telescopes along the Andean cordillera.

A world emerging from the threat of Y2K and facing the dawn of a new millennium barely gave little notice to the news stories which indicated that northern Chile was in the midst of a strange wave of animal deaths. On April 20, 2000, Chile's prestigious El Mercurio newspaper told its readers that a multi-agency meeting had been convened to look into the bizarre sheep and goat deaths occurring in the northern province of El Loa. The task force's goals were simple: determine what had caused 135 animals to die under mysterious circumstances and put down the perpetrators, which officialdom had a priori identified as dogs, dismissing all the talk among the locals that the dreaded Chupacabras might be to blame.

Lucas Burchard, chief of Environmental Hygiene and Food Control in Calama, posited the theory that dogs developed a taste for blood by biting each other during fights. Therefore it followed that packs of blood-addicted canines would go on cattle-killing sprees, after discovering that it was easier to drink their prey's blood than eating its flesh. Another agency, the Cattle Farming Service (SAG, by its Spanish acronym), informed the concerned locals that it would install baited traps to capture the predators and removed them, while the country's national police force, the Carabineros (who had played a major role in President Allende's overthrow) promised to use its infrared gear to conduct nocturnal patrols.

Yet even as these agencies took a pro-active stance regarding the mutilations, reports continued streaming in from all over El Loa province to the provincial seat at Calama. Dozens of dogs, hogs and chickens were now added to the roster of mutilated animals, even as reports of an outlandish predator were being brought before the authorities. Jose Ismael Pino, a farm laborer from the village of Huepil, told the state police and the media that a creature he called "The Bird" had been responsible for the deaths of four sheep and a cow in the area; on April 29, 2000, Pino had gone to fetch a bucket of water at around at ten o'clock p.m. under a moonlit sky when a shadow caught his attention. At first he thought it was a bulls belonging to the ranch he worked for, but "that's when I saw it. It hardly moved. It just stood there, looking at me. It stood about 1.50 meters, like a big monkey, with long, clawed arms and enormous fangs protruding from its mouth, as well as a pair of wings." The farmhand ran back to the ranch house for his hounds, whom he sent after the monstrous intruder. One of the hounds "returned with a bloodstained neck."

Local schoolteacher Carlos Villalobos did not hesitate to remark upon the strangeness of the attacks: "I think its linked in some fashion to an unknown life form, probably alien in origin, but the problem is that the authorities do not wish to acknowledge it, and this course of action may probably be justified, since a collective panic situation may be unleashed."

There were clear signs that the attacks were waxing in strangeness. On May 3, 2000, professor Liliana Romero was enjoying a good night's sleep in her apartment in the town of Concepción when she was wakened by the howling of five stray puppies she had adopted and kept in the building's courtyard as company for Black, her large mastiff. Fearing that a burglar might be at work, Romero carefully looked through the window and was startled by what she saw. The mastiff was huddled in fear against the wall as the puppies continued to whine. "I could see the back of what appeared to be an immense man, standing some two meters tall. It's shoulder blades were split, as though it had wings," she would later tell reporters. Professor Romero made an unsuccessful effort to get her husband to take a look, and by the time she'd returned to her vantage point, the entity had vanished.

The following day, Professor Romero went about her business and gave the matter no further thought until her children informed her that they'd found a dead dog near where the strange sighting took place. Her husband agreed to take a look at the carcass, which had "two deep holes in its jugular [vein], about as wide as a BIC pen, separated by 5 centimeters. What impressed me most was that [the carcass] was completely bloodless and light as a feather. The dog was incredibly wooly and in fact, I had to move its fur to see the wounds."

Within hours, three Carabineros officers reported to the Romeros' home to collect the mutilated dog, remarking on the similarity between the attacks on the canid and the animals found at other locations. The state policemen asked the Romeros for trash bags in which to carry their grisly find and then curtly ordered them to keep quiet about the event.

The dog was brought to the precinct and left in an office near the local prefecture, where many local functionaries were able to get a good look of the carcass, some of them even confirming Prof. Romero's remarks about the puncture marks and the dead animal's near-weightless condition.

On May 8, 2000, Jorge Torrejón, writing for the Estrella del Loa newspaper, reported that three young men travelling aboard a refrigerator van transporting 20 tons of fish from Lebu to Arica had a close encounter with the creature. Mauricio Correa, an experienced articulated trailer driver, was trying to park his rig not far from the María Elena salt mines assisted by Oscar Robles and Ricardo, an anonymous hitchhiker he'd picked up along the route. After parking the truck at 5:00 am, he turned off the engine and the lights and became aware that the vehicle's cab was tilting toward the right, where Oscar was sitting. The vehicle's lights inexplicably began turning themselves on and off. To their horror they noticed that a "very ugly animal, very hairy and black, having a long oval head, fangs and slanted, goggling yellow eyes" was staring at them through the side window. The apparition had pointed ears and "whiskers similar to those of a boar. It was something awful that was stuck to the glass for several seconds."

Recovering from the shock, the driver managed to get the truck going to make a report to the authorities. Oscar, his co-pilot, checked his wristwatch to ascertain the time for the report, but discovered that the digital timepiece had stopped, and later resumed functioning in a haphazard manner.

The drivers did not stop until they reached the vicinity of Victoria, where the frightened men waited for daybreak before getting out of their vehicle at a truck stop, where they had coffee and resumed their journey to the town of Pozo Almonte, presenting their report at the local Carabineros headquarters at 7:00 a.m.
The only evidence of their experience were the prints apparently left by the creature on the back and side of the trailer cab.

Ghastly encounters aside, the number of mutilated animals was increasing almost exponentially, prompting Judge Flora Sepúlveda of the Third Criminal Court to open an inquest into the strange deaths on May 10, 2000, ordering that the University of Concepción's Department of Pathology conduct an analysis to determine the causes of the events, if necessary by exhuming the remains of the animal slain to date.

The phenomenon itself was clearly unimpressed by all of officialdom's fussing and flapping: Twenty-four hens were exsanguinated in the commune of Lebu on May 14, and 30 more on the following night in the vicinity of Concepción, but these numbers would pale in significance when compared to the 500 hens slain on July 3, 2000 in a single farmstead--the Chilean Chupacabras was obviously playing for keeps.

Conspiracy in the Wasteland

It is conceivable that the Chilean animal mutilations may have been completely overlooked outside the country had it not been for a development which catapulted them to worldwide prominence.

On May 15, 2000, the Crónica newspaper told its startled readership that Pablo Aguilera, an on-air talk show personality with Radio Pudhauel 90.5 FM, had received a series of telephone messages from Calama and other points in northern Chile indicating that a family of strange animals, "possible Chupacabrases", as the paper put it, had been captured by the Chilean armed forces near the Radomiro Tomic copper mine. The male, female and cub were allegedly handed over to FBI agents who arrived in Calama from the U.S Embassy in Santiago de Chile.

The newspaper story made no mention of the creature's taxonomy nor if they had been taken dead or alive. "Police sources told Crónica that the capture of the specimens was real and that everything had transpired as originally told. Pure paranoia?" asked the unsigned journalist.

Chilean researcher Jaime Ferrer notes that the military stood fast by its "neither confirm nor deny" stance, but sources were able to determine that the three creatures were provisionally held in the stockade of the 15th Infantry Regiment based in Calama, but that an Army lieutenant was forced to kill the male specimen "because it was causing them too much trouble."

Adding conspiracy-enriched fuel to the fire, a retired air traffic supervisor named Patricio Borlone claimed that all flights arriving or departing Santiago's international airport had been put on hold while a cargo plane loaded two cargo containers with the NASA seal, allegedly containing the rare specimens in question. Borlone provided the flight numbers and departure times to substantiate his theory.

Transmitted via the Internet to the remotest corners of the world, the belief that the U.S. and Chilean governments might possibly be in collusion regarding these improbable creatures prompted a firestorm of speculation. Was the Chilean Chupacabras a American genetic experiment run amok in the barren salt deserts of Chile, as some believed? Or, given the area's history of animal predation, were the creatures natural inhabitants of the deep caves and passages under the dusty desert towns, perhaps brought to the surface by the mining companies' copper production? Even more disturbing were rumors that a security guard for the SOQUIMICH conglomerate had been clawed in the back by one of these hairy beasts, and that a Chilean soldier had allegedly been killed by one of the "Chupacabras" creatures during the operation that took them captive. If the U.S. was somehow involved, as many believed, the superpower saw nothing wrong with paying the price for its covert operations in Chilean blood.

Almost a month later, on June 10, 2000, Chile's largest UFO research group, OVNIVISION, spearheaded by researcher Cristián Riffo, announced that it would formally petition the Chilean Ministry of Defense to look into allegations of NASA involvement with the Chupacabras and the deaths of hundreds of animals in the country. During the press conference, Riffo noted that the belief that NASA had lost control "of at least three genetic experiments in Chile" was becoming increasingly widespread, and that the specimens in question would be the creatures responsible for the massacres. "Many persons agree that they have seen a kind of ape or mandrill with human features but with very large eyes," added OVNIVISON's leader. "An animal having these characteristics was hunted down by the Chilean military in the vicinity of the Radomiro Tomic mine near Calama, an operation in which one soldier allegedly died."

Riffo was not being overly dramatic in his statements to the media. Residents of Calama and its encircling towns and villages openly blamed NASA for the Chupacabras's apparitions and attacks. "The gringos had at least three genetic experiments run away from them and they've only be able to capture two," was the belief expressed by architect Dagoberto Corante, a respected citizen of Calama who informed Spain's EFE news agency that one of the captured specimens was kept "all day at the regiment's barracks until the NASA experts arrived to take it away."

Perhaps the most curious twist in the chronicles of the Chilean Chupacabras came when the Antofagasta Diario La Estrella newspaper featured a story on the discovery of "Chupacabras eggs", which suggested that the predator might be oviparous. A caller to the aforementioned Pablo Aguilera radio show claimed that Chilean soldiers had returned to their base near Calama-- after having encountered as strange creature during their nightly patrols-- carrying several of these "eggs", which were obtained the same day that NASA personnel allegedly came to collect the creatures.

The story involving the "eggs" came to a spectacular, if not downright explosive, end when the Chilean Air Force's fighter/bombers dropped an unspecified number of bombs between 8:30 and 9:45 a.m. on July 20, 2000, causing the earth to shake and creating a good deal of consternation, something that isn't exactly easy to do in a region accustomed to underground mining detonations.

The military aircraft allegedly took out a "Chupacabras nest" located in an area filled with small hills and mounds located between the town of María Elena and the abandoned Pedro de Alvarado mining camp. According to copper miners, erosion had eroded many of these hills into ideal locations for the creatures to hide.

Researchers suggested that an unknown number of breeding pairs of this creature may have entered their reproductive phase, and the government had seen this as the most opportune time for getting rid of them.

The forces behind the conspiracy to destroy the creature and silence any further stories coming out of Calama employed a variety of tactics, including an all-out effort to purchase the silence of individual witnesses, ostensibly to keep the panic from spreading and perhaps causing unrest among the mining industry workers who may suddenly have felt threatened by the entity. One of the most unusual events involved a promise made by unspecified "authorities" to the owners of an automobile destroyed by a hairy, simian entity with bat-like wings. In exchange for their absolute silence in this matter, they were promised a brand new vehicle of the same make and model. However, human nature being what it is, the victims could not resist telling their story to a friend, who in turn told the entire world on "The Pablo Aguilera Show". As the show's host noted, it was unlikely that the unidentified agency would make good on its offer after that.

A New, Improved Goatsucker?

In the monograph Chupacabras Rising: The Paranormal Predator Returns, this author stressed the physical differences between the creature commonly identified as the Chupacabras (small head, wraparound red eyes, kangaroo-like body, small arms and spines running down its back) during the Puerto Rican events of 1995-1996, the Mexican events of 1996-1997 (a huge bat-winged entity), the 1997 events in Spain (conflicting descriptions involving a mandrill-like entity and another with more canid characteristics) and the one seen in Chile during 2000.

Most of the Chilean reports agreed that the mystery predator had large, self-luminous yellow eyes that can mesmerize its prey, as occurred in some of the Puerto Rican cases. On July 14, 2000, two motorists were unwilling participants in a case which illustrates the strange properties of the creature's eyes. As they drove toward Calama on their way back from a civic organization meeting, the two anonymous women saw two bright yellow lights up ahead. Thinking it might be a driver heading toward them, the driver flashed her high beams. But as they got closer, they realized that the "thing" standing in the middle of the road wasn't a car: it resembled a very large, earless dog with long grey hair and a pair of immense, slanted yellow eyes.

The women and the "thing" exchanged looks for some five to ten seconds, after which the car drove off along the left lane. The "animal" followed their departure with its head -- an extremity capable of 180 degree turns.

"I felt a terrible panic," the driver told journalists. "I wanted to get out of the car but she [the companion] calmed me down. We saw the two yellow lights again, but this time they lit up the entire road before disappearing. I hit the accelerator and kept up speed until we reached Calama."

Researcher Liliana Núñez Orellana mentions a case in which a Calama witness was able to take a good look at the creature, describing it as very similar to a mandrill with black and grey fur, two very long eyeteeth and the curious detail of a nose similar to that of a pig or bat, and a hyperkinetic, nervous attitude as it darted around. The witness frankly admitted having nearly lost control of his bowels during this sighting. "It is known," writes Núñez, "that males and females of this species exist and that they appear to reproduce sexually." She points out a case involving a fire fighter who noticed that their genitalia was quite similar to that of humans.

Yet, as the old saying goes, the scariest monster is the one you can't see. This was certainly the case in the early morning hours on June 9, 2000 when residents of the town of Maria Elena felt the presence of a strange entity that they identified as "dense air" falling over the town. "It was as if something went past pushing against the walls, but without making any noise," according to a nervous local.

The Paranormal Possibility

Since the Chupacabras made itself known in 1995, three probable origins for its existence have been suggested: believers in extraterrestrial life consider it either part of the cargo manifest of an itinerant UFO that got left behind on our lonely planet, or else a cunning E.T. experiment whose ultimate purpose we cannot fathom; scorning any non-terrestrial considerations, others have successfully managed to weave the Chupacabras into the vast quilt of conspiracy theory by identifying it as either "a genetic experiment gone astray" or as a biological robot dropped off in the Third World by the New World Order's minions for equally unfathomable reasons.

But the Chupacabras' penchant for that sticky vital fluid called blood appears not to have made much of an impact among either of these two factions. Thus, a third faction composed of believers in the paranormal origin of the creature has paid closer attention to the blood factor.

Civilizations around the globe since the beginning of recorded history have considered blood as a sign of invulnerability and potency, a substance to be sacrificed to gods in exchange for divine favor. Looking back from our own century, we are understandably repulsed by the hideous blood orgies of the Aztecs and Mayas, whose high priests' hair was "caked with human blood" according to chronicler Bernal Díaz del Castillo. The demand for blood sacrifice by the God of the Old Testament is no less bewildering; yet we read of the mythical Roman king Servius, who thwarted Jupiter's request for the sacrifice a living creature by throwing in a small fish into the offering. The immolation of animals or humans for propitiatory purposes, according to German scholar Wilhelm Ziehr, stems from the fact that deities do not accept gratitude expressed through prayer or the acceptance of commandments -- only sacrifice, and the greatest sacrifice that can be offered is, of course, human blood.

In many traditions, deities both good and evil have craved for blood, or will perform services for a human sorcerer in exchange for it. In the Odyssey, brave Ulysses summoned the grim shades of the dead with an outpouring of blood from freshly slaughtered black sheep, and must the hold the howling revenants at bay with his sword so that only one of them -- the specter of the dead seer Tiresias -- can feast on the blood's energy and foretell the circumstances of his return to Ithaca. The ancients believed that the spirits of the dead lusted after blood, as did other beings belonging to the spirit world, which could be appeased with nothing less. As a result, the sight of blood created was highly disturbing, particularly among the old Middle Eastern cultures.

A number of contemporary authors -- Salvador Freixedo, John Keel, Anthony Roberts -- have done their level best to explain the seemingly insatiable need for vital fluids. Freixedo, for one, has noted that the entities crave not the substance, but the vital energy associated to it. Therefore, the manner in which the blood is released from the body becomes supremely important--the unwilling donor's pain and shock amplify the release of this energy, which -- observes Freixedo -- appears not to be necessary for the existence of these forces, but rather a pleasurable experience for them, much like the consumption of spirituous liquids by a human.

The preceding paragraph may smack of obscurantism and superstition to many, but the accounts from Calama which claim that the night air is rent by the howling screams of dying dogs suggest that this theory is perhaps closer to the truth than any dreams of alien intervention.

Jaime Ferrer, director of the Calama UFO Research center, has not shied away from this possibility, particularly after a conversation he held with a 91 year old desert native from a locality known as Peine. The elder told Ferrer that "his grandfather's grandfathers" were well aware of that these predators existed and that they were, in fact, gods who came to leave messages, adding the curious explanation that in the past, these messages were articulated as complete sentences, but now, they were numerical in nature. When Ferrer pressed him for an explanation, the elder replied: "Seven lowered by one, Thirteen lowered by seven, Four raised by two."

In other words, 666 -- the mark of the Beast.

The reader may share the researcher's disbelief at hearing this item of Biblical numerology from the lips of a desert nomad, but Ferrer's written account goes on to mention that these predatory entities were already known as Achaches ("demon-slaves") in the ancient Cunza dialect which predated the current Aymara tongue by centuries, and that the term is still commonly used among the tribal dancers whose performances feature these improbable beings.

Since 1995, researchers have reached agreement on at least one thing: whatever is draining animals of blood cannot possibly be doing it for its own consumption. Could we speculate that the decline of blood sacrifice in regions where it was once practiced has led to the appearance of an order of beings in charge of collecting it? Certainly the anomalous bloodsucking entities whose trajectory we have followed are drinking many times their own weight in the vital fluids of different animals.


Who or what were these strange deities feared and worshipped by the ancient Atacamans? Their existence has been recorded in a number of cultures ranging from Mexico to Mesopotamia, where blood sacrifices have been carried out at a given point in history. What would occur if the Atacamans neglected to perform the ritual? Did their deities send monstrous minions to collect the blood they appeared to need?

Derided by the intelligentsia as "phantasm of the Hispanic mind", the blood-sucking creature popularly known as the Chupacabras (or the Goatsucker) first emerged in 1995 in Puerto Rico, where its exploits in the municipality of Canóvanas became a matter of legend. But there was no reason why the Caribbean should have a monopoly over such an entity: in rapid succession, the Chupacabras and its kin spread throughout the southern United States in 1996 (southern Florida, Texas, Arizona and California) and began attacking both livestock and humans in Mexico during the same period of time. By 1997, reports were coming in from northern Spain, and the following year Brazil bore the brunt of its depredations. It would seem as if the Chupacabras waited patiently until the landmark year 2000 and saved the best for last--an all out wave of animal mutilations and confusion that persists as of this writing.