Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Beast on the Move: The Chupacabras Returns

Beast on the Move: The Chupacabras Returns
By Scott Corrales

The Puerto Rican media approached the subject of the paranormal predator again in 2012, when reporter Yaritza Santiago wrote an article for El Nuevo Dia about the entity’s return to the scene, this time in the island municipality of Vieques. “A strange wild animal prowls the verdant fields and communities of this island municipality. This is the only way to explain the discovery of dead horses, hens and rabbits in situations that terrified Viequenses have ascribed to a panther that allegedly escaped from an American tourist’s possession. Others say it is a jaguar; still others speak of the return of the Chupacabras, whose existence they do not question for a second.”

Thirty chickens met an untimely demise on the property of José Martínez and his wife Jeami in Barrio La Hueca. The couple had gone off to a birthday party on the previous night, returning home an hour before midnight. They went to bed and Mr. Martínez woke up at half past five in the morning to feed the family animals. In cold glow of his flashlight, José was startled to find the roosters dead in their cages, with deep puncture marks on their backs, drained of blood. The couple told reporters that they had not heard any abnormal sounds in the night.

José, 26, and Jeami, 21, described the massacre of their animals as “a battlefield” where the unknown assailant had operated at leisure. She remained convinced that the perpetrator was none other than the mysterious being that spread fear throughout Puerto Rico during her childhood. “It wasn’t a dog. I think it could be the Chupacabras.”

Reporters from El Nuevo Dia found “sort of animal print” at the location as well as poultry carcasses and metal cages scattered around the premises. Mr. Martínez filed a complaint with the municipal police, which in turn referred the case to the Civil Defense and Emergency Management Bureau. Police chief José Belardo, however, was unmoved by the carnage at the Martínez household, citing a lack of specific evidence or physical proof. He did, however, manifest to El Nuevo Día’s reporters his awareness of a “radar image” of a strange creature taken by a U.S. Marines radar, and that fear among the island’s population was quite real. Unlike Mayor “Chemo” Soto’s gallant efforts to capture the Chupacabras in the mid-90s, law enforcement on Vieques was not planning any grand gestures.

On main island of Puerto Rico, news organizations were covering the “gargoyle” that supposedly haunted the vicinity of Guánica, the city with the magnificent bay on the Caribbean Sea. This nightmarish vision had attacked not only animals, but allegedly humans as well. Its patterns of attack resembled those of the Chupacabras, but not exactly the same entity. “Some identified it with the Chupacabras, but others believe it was a different creature, a sly and sinister one, using the ruins and tunnels of the [abandoned] Central Guánica sugar mill as its lair,” wrote Pedro Bosque in an article for El Nuevo Dia. It was in this warren of half-flooded, weed-choked tunnels that the skeletons of its victims were reportedly found.

Despite its predilection for lovely Guánica, the “gargoyle” had reportedly been seen in Lajas and San Germán, communities in southwestern Puerto Rico that acquired notoriety in the late ‘80s and throughout the 1990s as paranormal hotspots. And unlike those relatively distant years, eyewitnesses were reluctant to share their names with the media, particularly when it came to the attacks on humans.

These incidents were discussed in hushed tones. One witness interviewed by the press claimed seeing injuries on a man’s belly, produced by an “animal with large wings” whose claws had torn at his flesh “to the extent that his fat could be seen.” The unnamed witness spoke soberly of seeing the victim – nicknamed - lift his t-shirt to display the wounds received in his own backyard.

Police officer Miguel Negrón, on the other hand, admitted to hearing “a loud sound of flapping wings” while patrolling the abandoned sugar mill. Was an unknown avian taking off from the rusted cranes of the old mill? According to the officer, the “gargoyle” had been described by some as a very large bird reeking of sulfur or rot (hydrogen sulfide?), feeding on live animals such as dogs, cats and horses by exsanguination.

Four Thousand Miles Away

While the Chupacabras staged a return to Puerto Rico, its sinister kin were making news in Chile, where the national media latched on to a story that was as sensation as it was bizarre: while attacking a henhouse in Paine, on the outskirts of the city of Santiago, the predator had allegedly suffered what was described as a “miscarriage”.

Cristián Solís was sleeping peacefully when the frantic clucking of his hens woke him up at four o’clock in the morning. He ran outside to find fifty dead hens, arranged in circles, presenting no visible injuries, but without a drop of blood in their carcasses. Shocked and dismayed though he was, Solís was bowled over by what he found next.

He described the find as “embryos of something I had never seen before”. Describing them as miniature dinosaurs measuring some 30 centimeters long, they had hairy backs, thick, hard tails with sharp tips, arms shorter than their bodies, suggesting bipedal motion. “They were rather horrible,” he was quoted as saying. “I think the dead hens were attacked by the mother of these embryos, who must’ve had a miscarriage due to the strain of the attack.”

The specimens were turned over to SAG (the notorious Agriculture and Wildlife Service that hindered research into the Chilean mutilations wave of the year 2000). The ministry reported that it had been unable to determine the species to which the specimens belonged as they were “too dehydrated to be properly analyzed.”

Chupacabras activity had gone into abeyance for a number of years in these latitudes, with the most recent cases dating to 2007, when reports of attacks in world-famous Viña del Mar appeared in the press.

During the month of May of that year, the Ugalde family had its own close encounter with the unknown at four a.m., when a loud noise woke up the entire household – the sound of something very large and heavy suddenly landing on the roof, dragging its wings. The chickens behind the family property erupted in chaotic noises, extinguished one by one.

According to an article in the La Estrella newspaper, Mrs. Ugalde ran out into the darkness to save her poultry farm and face the unknown intruder. "I went to the backyard and I saw it. It was like a large bird, standing about a meter, with the bearing of a dwarf. It has feathers, wings and left footprints like those of a goat. It was looking for food, and I think it must've been hungry," she explained. The entity had already broken the henhouse door and helped itself to the farm animals. Upon being surprised by the woman, it flew off toward the hills.

Seven hens were lost that evening, and the family did not hesitate to place a call to the Carabineros (the Chilean state police) to report the attack. "They told us it was that (the Chupacabras) and that they had never seen anything like it. They were overwhelmed as well," Mrs. Ugalde added.

When the strange animal passed over the roof and reached the backyard, it broke the henhouse door and extracted the birds one by one, for a total of seven. When he was surprised by the homeowner, the Chupacabras took off, flying toward the hills.
Argentina, Chile’s neighbor on the opposite side of the towering Andes Cordillera, was not free from these strange attacks and sightings. In March 2007, El Ciudadano (www.elciudadano.net) reported on seven mutilated and exsanguinated bulls in Santiago del Estero, decrying the fact that farmers and ranchers had automatically leaped to ascribing responsibility for the killings to the Chupacabras. It is true, however, that there are significant differences between Chupacabras attacks and the “traditional” cattle mutilations, characterized by their fine incisions and the removal of certain internal organs, as was the case in the Santiago del Estero incidents.

A Mystery in Spain

On 23 February 2013 – as this article was being written – news arrived from Spain regarding a bizarre goat mutilation in the northwestern region of Galicia, specifically in the town of Fene. The story, which appeared in La Voz del Ferrol, described the mutilation and exsanguination of the goat as the work of “parties unknown”. The animals owners, understandably irate, ascribed responsibility to a “satanic cult”, stressing that “a number of people must have been needed to carry away all of the goat’s blood.”

No mention of involvement by the Chupacabras, of course, but a reminder of the long and silent history of encounters with the paranormal predator that have occurred in Spain since the ‘80s, resulting in the deaths of thousands of animals. Traditionalists blame wolves, especially in the Pyrenaic region between France and Spain, but reports and investigations carried out by the judicial system invariably mention the presence of aberrant entities, sometimes described as mandrills, baboons, or giant canids.

We must defer to the extensive work carried out by Ramón Nava Osorio and members of his Instituto de Investigaciones y Estudios Exobiológicos (IIEE) whose Chilean branch – spearheaded by Raúl Núñez – has become known to readers of INEXPLICATA over the years.

In March 1996, writes Nava Osorio, a shepherd in northern Spain by the name of Guillermo Miral Cordesa had an unexpected encounter with a strange animal as he led his flock from one mountain slope to another. “That day,” explained Miral, “I had left the flock on high and was headed downhill with two magnificent dogs. I descended quietly and normally and suddenly found myself confronted by an animal I had never seen before, and whose description I’d never heard from other shepherds. It was neither a wolf nor a dog. It looked like a huge dog, an unknown mixture, but it’s an unknown creature in the end. Neither a mastiff nor a wolf….I cannot describe its eyes, but I did focus on the enormous width of its muzzle (describing it as flat and nearly square), and for that reason I can tell you it wasn’t a wolf. It was an unknown animal with large flat ears; its fur was grey and spotted, with abundant short hair. A short tail, large paws and looking like a dog, yet not a dog. It didn’t run. It took two impressive leaps and vanished.”

While clearly a predator, the entity did not growl or bear its teeth. Miral’s own dogs followed the intruder, only turn back after traversing a brief ten meters’ distance.

In his study on the Iberian mutilations phenomenon, Chupacabras: Un Verdadero Expediente X, Miguel Aracil explores the strange simiots which have been a constant feature of Catalan legend since medieval times. The simiots are described as "strange, hairy creatures having semi-human features" and a group of woodsmen were attacked by one such entity a few decades ago: the hairy monster engaged in an orgy of destruction, smashing vehicles and forestry equipment, even hurling logs at the terrified tree-cutters (similar behavior has been reported in cases occurring in suburban Maryland during the 1970's). Although Spain's Guardia Civil looked into the matter, they conveniently "cannot remember", as Aracil notes rather dryly in his treatise. A number of armed posses were formed to explore the environs of Peña Montañesa (Huesca) where the events occurred, but "nothing was ever found, perhaps due to the large number of immense caves in the area, and the rough terrain." Medieval statues of the simiots depict them as devouring children or being trodden down by the Holy Mother: while he does not offer specifics, the author mentions that these supernatural entities were allegedly responsible for slaying entire herds of animals and on certain occasions were even responsible for some attacks on humans. Could the simiots have cousins across the ocean?

Navia Osorio contributes a “high strangeness” detail to the situation that raises the stakes: the possibility that the anomalous entity (or IEA, the Spanish acronym for “Spontaneous Aggressive Intruder”) had been brought along by a human or humanoid presence, unleashed at selected locations. Also in October 1996, José Miguel Trallero, a member of the IIEE, appeared on a local television program in the town of Barbastro to discuss the mutilation crisis. In the wake of the broadcast, a local woman approached him to tell him about a sighting near Barbastro’s shrine of Pueyo: she had seen two figures, described as “atypical”, with a very strange dog between them. The two figures had “greyish skin” and their arms were longer than usual.


If reality resembled the world of fiction more closely, monsters would be put down with the finality of Lieutenant Ripley purging the hideous alien xenomorph out of an airlock, consigning it to vacuum of space. The sense of finality and justice delivered by a wooden stake through the undead heart of a cinematic vampire imparts catharsis, but we find none of that with the monsters and visions that persistently manifest themselves in our reality. After eighteen months of depredations in West Virginia in 1966-67, the Mothman disappeared into legend and the uneasy dreams of those whose encounters changed the course of their lives. Hunters and scientists emerge from forays after the elusive Bigfoot with little to show for their efforts, save the tell-tale strands of hair and plaster casts that have become a trademark of their avocation.

The same can be said for the Chupacabras. The protean creature manifested for the first time in Puerto Rico in the mid-90s, followed by a rash of sightings throughout Latin America, each time described a little differently than before. Media burnout and the trivialization of the subject by popular culture – the cascade of t-shirts and bumper stickers, rap and ranchero songs, cheap plastic memorabilia sold in marketplaces – resulted in a loss of interest in the creature’s exploits in Brazil and Chile later that decade.

But the Chupacabras keeps coming back like a prize fighter, unmindful of the fatuous pronouncements of skeptics, efforts at fitting it into the UFO totem-pole by researchers bent on seducing the media once more, their prize a conference invitation or the lure of a television show. The demon is triumphant.