Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Shadow Worlds: Monsters in Our Midst

Shadow Worlds: Monsters in Our Midst
By Scott Corrales
(c) 2012

The concept of other creatures sharing our planet – creatures that do not fit into the accepted taxonomy – can be challenging under the best of circumstances. While it is true that great portions of the Earth remained unexplored, or poorly explored, these mysterious entities are not in the middle of the Guyana Highlands but manifesting themselves in our reality: in the farmland of Argentina and Chile, in rural North America, and even in the Pyrenean region between France and Spain. Sightings and encounters are so fleeting that they are best discounted as optical illusions or the product of active imaginations.

Perhaps the ancients had a better grasp of the situation. In polytheistic societies filled with deities and tutelary spirits, it was perhaps easier to find a place in the order of things for beings that deviated from the norm – hence the satyrs, dryads and nymphs and tritons of Greece and Rome. Yet even this freer order could be confronted by prodigies (“monstra”, from which the word “monster” originates) that challenged the wise. Some two thousand years ago, the Roman historian Pausanias had the opportunity to witness an unusual sight: the carcass of what was described as "a Triton" --one of the sea-god Neptune's helpers--allegedly slain after having come ashore to kill the cattle of the inhabitants of the Greek city of Tanagra. Pausanias reported the creature had "hard, dense scales and stank." Was the learned Pausanias describing a crocodile carcass, perhaps, or something that would even defy explanation today?

Winged Aberrations

On August 31, 1967, the city of San Luis Potosí in the heart of Mexico's minerals and metallurgy belt received the unwelcome attention of the national and international media due to a strange event which could have made a great X-Files episode thirty years later.

On the previous night, José Padrón, a construction site watchman on Mexico's Route 57, which connects San Luis with the city of Querétaro to the south, was getting ready to go to sleep within the cramped interior of the tin shack serving as guardhouse for the construction area. At around 1:00 a.m., Padrón was awakened by the sound of something large stumbling around the motor pool. Fearing vandalism, the watchman shook himself awake and went to investigated.

Years of surprising hooligans and thieves in the middle of the night could have never prepared Padrón for the site that now confronted him: an enormous shape was heading in his direction, taking prodigious strides. The monstrous being had enormous wings which Padrón would later compare with those of a small airplane. The sound being produced was apparently made by the creature's claws as it tried to take flight.
Verging on panic, Padrón ran back to the shack, cowering fearfully within the tin structure until daybreak when supervising engineer Enrique Rueda arrived on site. Rueda listened carefully to the badly shaken watchman and proceeded to measure the series of fresh footprints found near the watchman's shack. The prints were found to measure little over one foot wide and with a depth of six inches. The engineer's computations showed that whatever it was had made the impressions on the soil had weighed over six hundred pounds. Photos of the strange prints later appeared in the El Sol de San Luis newspaper.

Fortean researcher Godofredo de la Fuente would subsequently make plaster casts of the entity's footprints, deducing the following details from his study: the creature traveled diagonally in a northeast-southeast trajectory, bordering a barbed wire fence at several hundred feet from the highway.

Unlike many one-off sightings of "winged weirdos", the San Luis Potosí graced the construction site with its presence a second time: it returned the following night with a similar creature -- possibly its mate -- and both entities left a considerable number of footprints. The watchman, while understandably scared, observed their maneuvers carefully. He would later state the creatures appeared to be headed toward the San Miguelito mountains, adding a curious detail: the ground trembled as the creatures flew off. According to a subsequent newspaper article, the watchman "didn't try to get close to them, since he lacked weapons with which to deal with a troublesome situation."

The renewed visit caused the supervising engineer to increase the number of watchmen. Godofredo de la Fuente would later write in his journal "Next to the last of the twelve footprints we noticed a broken mesquite branch which appeared to have been forcefully snapped off due to the passage of the swift mystery creatures. Only something having considerable physical strength could have snapped off a solid, spiny branch of the mesquite tree. Our inspection of the area did not yield any samples of hair nor feathers."

Fortunately, the story of the gryphon-like creatures did not rest solely on the testimony of the frightened night watchman. On September 1, 1967, a number of American tourists who had parked their campers at San Luis' famous Cactus Inn (a de rigueur stop for all travelers plowing the Texas-Mexico City route) claimed to have seen strange creatures with tremendous wingspans flying overhead. The Cactus Inn was less than a quarter mile from the construction site.

Puerto Rico’s Seventies Monster Flap

A truly mind-bending case involving a monster (and which falls into the “paranormal Bigfoot” classification, to the distaste of many a ‘squatch enthusiast) took place in Puerto Rico in the early 1970s during the ’72-’73 wave. It was first mentioned by Salvador Freixedo on the Jorge Saldaña television program in Mexico City and subsequently appeared in his book Visionaries, Mystics and Contactees (Illuminet Press, 1992). He writes the following on page 58:

The case, which took place in Puerto Rico on the outskirts of the city of San Juan, was recounted to me by a person connected to the event. Unfortunately, I have been unable to talk to the witness herself, as the shock of the event caused her to be interned in a nursing home. She has refused to discuss the matter since.

This was a woman whose house was surrounded by a sturdy fence, making access to the house impossible without first ringing the bell. She also had several rather fierce dogs which had the run of the garden and surrounding vegetable patch, keeping strangers out.

One day, the woman, alerted by the frantic barking of the dogs, went to the garden and was surprised to see them barking at a rather large ape which had climbed up to the very top of a palm tree in the garden. The tree was a very tall one, so there was no way the dogs could get at the strange beast. The woman was aghast, first at the thought that the beast had gotten past the fence and the dogs, and then because it looked so menacing.

For a while, it glared at her from the top of the palm tree, seeming to shoot flames from its eyes. The animal gradually began to shrink and acquire a spherical shape, taking on a fiery glow. This went on until it became a shining round mass the size of a basketball. The woman, her heart pounding, watched as the ball began to rise slowly, vanishing into the sky.

Understandably, the woman, who was a little impressionable to start with, was prostrated with shock at what she had witnessed.

As in many cases, the reaction of the dogs precludes to a great extent the possibility that the woman simply experienced a hallucination. It is a fact, however, that a dog’s master can exert a great influence on its mind, but there is a limit to which this can occur.

There were no further reports (published, at least) about the presence of this fiery, vanishing manimal. Sightings of other strange entities became common in Puerto Rico later in the same decade – diminutive Bigfoot-like creatures collectively referred to by the singular “El Cangodrilo” (literally “kangaroo-crocodile” but having the same effect as “jackalope” in English) were reported throughout the island. In August 1975, during the depredations of the “Moca Vampire” -- predecessor to the Chupacabras – reports of a “mysterious, 7-foot-tall giant appearing during the night and knocking on people’s doors” filled residents of Maunabo’s Barrio Emajagua with fear. Jacinto Leon, Civil Defense director for the Maunabo area, combed the area with members of the police force but found nothing. Despite official assurances that everything was normal, many area residents chose to move rather than take a chance with the unknown giant. Local residents claimed “seeing the giant descending from the hill belonging to the Melendez Neco family, but upon pursuing the entity, it ran away swiftly and jumped into the sea.” (The area sits above the towering cliffs that look over the Caribbean Sea, specifically the Roosevelt Roads – Radas de Roosevelt). After its spectacular plunge, the Cangodrilo was never seen in the area again.

Another hirsute manimal was reported in June 1984 in the municipality of Villalba, north of the city of Ponce. A young man was allegedly attacked by “an enormous, hairy thing” which proceeded to jump on the fellow, who ran home screaming that “a monster was trying to grab hold of him.” Other locals complained to the police that some unknown animal was destroying their banana trees, shredded as if by powerful claws. Area growers noted another curious detail – despite an abundance of tropical fruit to be had in the area, the intruder was only interested in eating the fibrous hearts of the banana and plantain trees, but not in their fruit. Police officers visited the area and listened to detailed complaints from locals who were now “afraid to go out in the dark, in case that thing is around,” and as another neighbor added: “It has claws”.

A South American Monster Flap

Beginning in January 2004, newspapers in Chile and Argentina began reporting on enigmatic creatures in the wake of the “Chupacabras” wave that hit both countries in 2000-2001. These reports involved a beast with a kangaroo-shaped body and a muzzle resembling that of a wolf. One of the main locations for these incidents was peak known as Cerro Cullipeumo, whose abandoned gold mines were considered an ideal lair for what was dubbed the “Viluco Monster”, whose existence was known to old miners and local residents.

Two bus drivers, identified only by their nicknames “El Dinamita” and “El Fena”, workers for the Buin-Maipo Bus Company, told journalists that former employees of the mining company firmly believed in the existence of a strange creature lurking in the galleries of the forgotten gold mines. “Old timers who’ve worked there all their lives always say that strange stuff goes on in that mountain ...they even say that those who poke their noses in too deep never come back,” said “El Dinamita” to the local media, adding that shadowy presences could be seen running up the mountain’s slopes and vanishing into the mine for decades.

Alberto Urquijo, director of the paranormal research organization known as GEO, believes that the earliest reports on the Viluco Monster are from the 18th century, but the most recent sightings kicked off in 2000 with the Chupacabras wave.

“It was an animal I’d never seen before,” said one of the bus drivers with the Buin-Maipo line who had a chilling close encounter with the entity. “It was tall, well over a meter and a half, standing at least 1.80 (5 ft. 9 in.) and its eyes weren’t red (as local tradition maintained) but black. The driver had a seemingly endless 20 second opportunity in which to look at the intruder. “When I saw something had crossed my path, I hit the brakes. The animal was on the right side of my vehicle. Its muzzle was longer than that of a wolf, it had a small hump on the back of its neck and carried a creature in its maw. It looked at me, crouched in a fetal position, and then jumped, vanishing instantly.”

In early February 2004, Roberto Ayar and his wife Maribel would have a chance to see the Viluco Monster for themselves as they returned home early in the morning.

“It was horrible,” said Roberto. “I swear to you that I’d never seen anything like it. It wasn’t a dog, rabbit or any other known animal. It was halfway in the middle of the road, standing on two feet. It was completely covered in hair and had red eyes.” Maribel Ayar concurred, adding: “It was bent and had a hump on its back. It had the body of a kangaroo, with two small hands that it moved quickly, as well as deep set eyes. In fact, it looked at us, and seemed just as scared as we were! It ran off, jumping into the bushes.”

Meanwhile, thousands of miles to the north in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, dozens of searchers combed through the semi-tropical vegetation for a singular monster: a “wolfwoman” described as a hairy being, 1.5 meters tall (4 ft. 9 in.) with red eyes, “sometimes running on two legs.” Benito Canul, a local resident who had managed to fire a number of rounds at the entity as it brazenly stood outside his house, wasn’t sure if he’d managed to hit it. Describing the creature as “dog-shaped and with glowing eyes”, Canul joined the hundred-man posse organized by the commissariat of Huncuná to apprehend or kill the “wolfwoman”. No further reports on their progress were ever received.