Chupacabra: Legend of a Blood-Sucking Cryptid in Latin America

Chupacabra, a terrifying Latin American cryptid

The Chupacabra is a legendary cryptid often associated with Mexico, and well-known across Latin America. One of the locations the Chupacabra has made a significant impact in the past is in Puerto Rico. Reportedly first sighted there during the mid-1990s, the Chupacabra made headlines across the world when livestock started mysteriously dying.

Animals were found completely drained of blood through small incisions which, according to experts at the time, were not compatible with the bite of a dog, monkey, or any other known carnivore from the region. More than 200 Chupacabra sightings were reported on the island in 1995 alone, yet as quickly as the cryptid sightings started, they stopped, leaving behind a trail of questions.

The Origins of the Chupacabra in Puerto Rico

The name “Chupacabra” is of Spanish origin meaning “goat sucker” (from chupar, meaning “to suck”, and cabra, meaning “goat”) which is in reference to how the cryptid allegedly attacks its prey.

‘Chupacabra.’ (Eggmungus/DeviantArt)

‘Chupacabra.’ (Eggmungus/DeviantArt)

The phenomenon of the Chupacabra has been associated with the “Vampiro de Moca” from February 1975, when a Puerto Rican legend tells of fifteen cows, three goats, two geese, and a pig that were found with puncture marks in the Rocha Barrio suburbs of Moca. Later autopsies showed that blood had been drained from their bodies. The incident made headlines and police blamed the animals’ deaths on stray dogs. When a cow was found dead with similar marks on its skull, a newspaper called the phenomenon “El Vampiro de Moca.”

The 1995 Chupacabra Attacks Made the Cryptid as Famous as Bigfoot

A series of isolated attacks took place on the island from 1992 to 1995. In March of 1995, there was a supposed Chupacabra incident where eight sheep were found dead. Their bodies were completely intact but their blood had been drained, leaving behind puncture wounds in the chest. Paranormal researcher Mark Davenport and video producer Joe Palermo were in Puerto Rico at the time of the attacks filming a documentary. They described the animal deaths as a continuous daily event:

Day and night over the radio, over television, they were constantly talking about this Chupacabra activity going on – this was very serious to them. They’d wake up one morning and find the carcass of their four favorite rabbits sucked dry of blood and just lying there on the ground.

Five months later, there was another event, this time with more bloodshed. In August of 1995, as many as 150 farm animals and pets were killed by a predator around the Puerto Rican town of Canóvanas. Just like the sheep from the incident in March, the animals were said to have been drained of blood through small puncture wounds.

Interestingly, in each of the cases studied, local veterinarians said the cause of death was due to puncture wounds under the right side of the neck. The wounds were about the diameter of a drinking straw and three to four inches (7.62 to 10.16 cm) in length.

In March 1996, the Spanish talk show Christina aired the story about the Chupacabra, and immediately following the show there was a tremendous amount of alleged sightings across Latin America and the United States.  The Chupacabra had become as famous as Bigfoot.

A coyote often attacks by biting the throat of the prey

A coyote often attacks by biting the throat of the prey. (Public Domain)

What Does a Chupacabra Look Like?

There are no known photographs of the Chupacabra. Many supposed images of the cryptid have turned out to be nothing more than disease-ridden coyotes. Thus, it is unknown what this mythical creature looks like – if it actually exists.

There are however, numerous “eyewitness” accounts which offer varying descriptions of its appearance. The Chupacabra of Puerto Rico was described by many eyewitnesses as standing on two legs. In newspaper articles during the series of incidents, it was said to be “some type of large ape” and “a vicious monkey that can run upright on its legs, slaughter goats and suck the blood from its prey.” A sound bite from an Associated Press video at the time said “There are two big animals, as big as a man. I saw them from afar, they looked like big apes, like a mandril but I couldn’t distinguish their features.”

The Chupacabra of Puerto Rico is sometimes described as a type of terrifying large ape. (GARETH  /Adobe Stock)

The Chupacabra of Puerto Rico is sometimes described as a type of terrifying large ape. (GARETH  /Adobe Stock)

The “typical” description of a Chupacabra sighting today seems to be more in line with a reptile or even resembling an alien creature. Most of the claimed eyewitnesses have described a beast with a gray oval head, lizard-like skin, and measuring about 3 to 4 feet in height (91 cm to 122 cm). People tend to say that it resembles a kangaroo that is able to hop around on its hind legs. It is said to have large red eyes, fangs, and a forked tongue, as well as sharp quills running down its back.

The Most Important Chupacabra Sighting is Questionable

There are a number of theories regarding the origin of the Chupacabra. Some of the more outlandish claims suggest that the creature is a modified vampire bat or an extraterrestrial pet that was brought to earth by aliens.

A few reports have indicated that there are three puncture wounds left on the animal victims of the Chupacabra – which would be unusual because carnivores generally have two fangs.

Drawing of a Chupacabra preying on animals. (Jeff Carter /CC BY 2.0)

Drawing of a Chupacabra preying on animals. (Jeff Carter /CC BY 2.0)

Another theory purports that the Chupacabra is part of some top secret government experiment in the El Yunque National rainforest in Puerto Rico. The town of Canóvanas is only a few miles away from the border of the El Yunque and is the only tropical rainforest within the United States (28,000 acres, 43.75 square miles in size). The majority of the first Chupacabra sightings and animal attacks are said to have taken place here.

Puerto Rico is also home to a large population of Rhesus monkeys – which are not native to Puerto Rico and often stand up on their hind legs. They were brought to the island for research back in the 1930s and several dozen managed to escape.

Then there are skeptics who contend that these incidents are by nothing more than attacks from ordinary animals such as wild dogs or coyotes. The animals go for their victim’s neck, and their teeth leave wounds resembling vampire bite marks. Instead of tearing up the carcass, they simply bite the neck of the prey, leaving it to die.

One scientist, biologist Barry O’ Connor at the University of Michigan, believes that the Chupacabra is nothing more than coyotes with severe cases of Sarcoptes scabiei or the itch mite. The animal loses its hair when mites burrow into its skin, causing it to become thickened and ugly. Their faces swell and their teeth take on a more fang-like appearance. Weakened by the infection, they may be more prone to attack livestock.

A lengthy investigation into the Chupacabra phenomenon was launched by author and skeptic Benjamin Redford and documented in his book The Vampire Beast in Fact, Fiction, and Folklore in 2011. It showed how eyewitness accounts of the Chupacabra could be traced back to a single individual, a woman by the name of Madelyne Tolentino.

Redford claims her sole sighting of the cryptid became the basis for all other accounts of the creature. She offered a detailed description of the Chupacabra – spikes along its back, bipedal, dark eyes – which did not match any other known animal on the island. However, another sighting at the time came from Michael Negron, a student at a nearby university, who had this to say about the mythical beast:

I was looking off the balcony one night, and I saw it step out of a bright light in the back yard. It was three or four feet tall, with skin like that of a dinosaur, it had bright eyes the size of hens eggs, long fangs and multicolored spikes down its head and back.

Radford concluded that the description given by Tolentino was based on the creature Sil in the science-fiction horror film Species. The alien creature, Sil, is nearly identical to Tolentino’s eyewitness sighting and she had seen the movie before her report: “It was a creature that looked like the chupacabra, with spines on its back and all… The resemblance to the chupacabra was really impressive,” Tolentino reported.

Radford revealed that Tolentino “believed that the creatures and events she saw in Species were happening in reality in Puerto Rico at the time,” and therefore concludes that “the most important chupacabra description cannot be trusted.”

The Results of the Paranormal or Over-Active Imaginations?

The mystery of the Chupacabra seems to have become somewhat diluted with time, even as supposed sightings continue. Although there have been thousands of articles written on the topic, along with movies and documentaries, television programs, and several books over the years, there is little hard evidence to take this cryptid beyond the realm of legend.

The “original” Chupacabra sightings have manifested into sightings of the mythical creature from across the world in remote places such as the Philippines and Russia. However, what happened in Puerto Rico seems to have been something unto itself – which leaves one wondering how much of it was paranormal and how much was due to the human imagination.

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