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Enigma Issue 13: Chupacabras

Chad Deetken investigates this Puerto-Rican mystery | Spring 1997

By now, most people have heard about a strange new phenomenon known in Spanish as "Chupacabra. The term chupacabra literally means "goatsucker.

Reign of Terror

In the past 24 months, particularly in Puerto Rico, a creature given this name has been blamed for more than 2000 attacks on domestic animals such as chickens, ducks, rabbits, cats, dogs, sheep, goats and even the occasional cow and horse. It has amounted to a reign of terror.

The victims reportedly have deep puncture marks around the neck or back of the head. Often, much of the blood is drained with no signs of it on the ground. Occasionally, internal organs are missing. There are rarely signs of struggle.

Many of the attacks and sightings have taken place in an area called "El Yunque", a vast impenetrable tract of Puerto Rican jungle set aside as a park. In fact, much of Puerto Rico is dense jungle, areas which could hide many secrets.

In more recent months the chupacabra phenomenon has spread beyond Puerto Rico and is now being reported in Miami, San Antonio, San Francisco, southern California, Costa Rica, Mexico and Brazil.

Strange Creature

Hundreds of eye witnesses claim to have seen this creature, often multiple times. Some of the sightings have been by multiple witnesses. The general description is that of a creature 3 to 5 feet tall covered in coarse dark-brown hair and walking erect. Its legs are thick and strong but the upper body is frail. It walks holding small thin arms as does a praying mantis. The eyes are alien-like wrap-around and are said to be fiery red at night but grey in the daytime. The creature is also described as having fangs and a proboscis-like tongue which it uses to suck its victim's blood. It emits a pungent odour by which it overpowers its victims.

First-hand investigations

In March of 1996, I travelled to Puerto Rico to see what all the fuss was about and to determine whether the bizarre reports had any merit. I spent much of my seven days interviewing eye-witnesses, newspaper reporters, several scientists who had taken an interest in this, several veterinarians as well as the Mayor of Canovanos where many attacks on animals have taken place.
I also had an opportunity to investigate a fresh attack.

A Classic Eye-witness Report

The following is an account of several chupacabra incidents as told to me by Madeline Tolentlino and husband Jose Miguel Agosto;

The first sighting took place in the second week of August 1995, at 4pm in front of their house in Campo Rico, south-east of San Juan. Her mother was also present in the house at that time.

While in her house, Madeline noticed someone had driven up in front and so went to the window to see who it was. She saw a man who was a neighbour, standing by the passenger side of his car, speaking to a female sitting inside. Suddenly the man stiffened, a startled look on his face as he started backing away from something. Madeline then saw he was staring at a strange creature which was walking down the sidewalk towards him.

The creature stopped right in front of her window, its progress blocked by the man's car which was parked partly on the sidewalk. The creature was no more than 6 feet away. She described it as 3 to 4 feet tall, covered in a coarse dark brown/black hair, wearing no clothing. She did not notice genitalia. Its arms, which it kept pulled up close to its body, were long and thin, ending with three long claws. It had what appeared to her to be a long "comb" of feathers down its back .

It also had several bare circular patches on its skin which were purple in colour and looked as if they were burn marks. Its jaw was prominent, it had a slit for a mouth and two holes for a nose, small ears and large slanted eyes which were grey in colour, lacking the whites. She described the eyes as being moist or gelatin-like. When it moved its head, it seemed to be in slow jerky mechanical motions. The upper body was thin and small and its lower body was thick and strong.

All this transpired in just a few seconds. The startled man jumped into his car and took off in panic. Madeline at this point screamed for her mother. The creature then ran across the street, its feet moving so fast that it appeared they did not touch the ground. It then headed for a small field of high grass next to her husband's auto repair shop.

Trying to catch the creature...

Her mother, Isabel Maldonado, followed the creature and was joined by Adalberto Roble Pascheco, a mechanic from the shop. At this point, her mother and the mechanic saw that the 'comb' on its back was in fact spikes which it was able to raise, like those of a prehistoric lizard. And when it opened its mouth, they could see four fangs. The mechanic lunged at the creature in an attempt to capture it. The creature bolted and when it reached a 6' tall fence, it jumped over like a kangaroo and scurried away.

Later, Madeline's husband Miguel admitted to her that he had seen this creature early that same morning but didn't tell her at the time for fear she would think him mad. He said he was starting the engine of his 1984 Chevrolet station wagon. Suddenly, he heard a loud banging noise coming from under the hood and then saw a strange creature running out from under the car. It jumped over a fence and disappeared. He described its running motion much like Madeline did.

When he opened the hood of the car, he noticed all three belts broken.

Another incident!

The second incident occurred Jan 4th, 1996 around 7PM. She was driving with her 2 year old son in their Isuzu Trooper. The windows were rolled down. They were driving on Route 185 near a horse race track called "El Comandante" when she suddenly smelled something pungent like sulphur which irritated her throat. She kept driving and suddenly saw the creature again. This time it had bright red eyes, or it was emitting a red light or beam from its eyes. It ran across the road in front of the car and disappeared. She was very frightened and drove home to tell Miguel. He returned to the scene where he could still smell the odour but did not see the creature. Miguel went out later that same night with an uncle to search for the chupacabra near a farm.

Levitating ability?

There was a full moon that night so that visibility was relatively good. As they were standing near a coral, they suddenly saw what looked like the creature, about 25' to 30' in the air. It was moving along, levitating it seemed, at about 20 miles per hour in the direction of Barrio Cambalache towards Loiza Valley. They both noticed a sort of membrane hanging under the arms. Although they realise this description sounds bizarre, they are sure it was not flying but levitating.'

New Case

On my last night in Puerto Rico (April 1), reporter Eddie Deese received a call from a farmer who had just had three sheep attacked in a pen near his house. I drove with Eddie to the farm and we arrived about 8pm. One of the first things I noticed was the occasional faint but distinct smell, similar to that of a skunk, around the house and sheep compound. However, there are no skunks in Puerto Rico.

One of the sheep, a large ram, was missing and the other two, a female and young male were alive but had been badly wounded in the neck area. They appeared to be in shock. Closer examination of the neck wounds revealed multiple punctures. Some of these punctures were deep and a fair amount of blood was found in several corners of the compound. We looked for footprints as well as other evidence but there was nothing obvious. I collected blood and hair samples to be analysed later.

At the time of the attack no one was home, but a retired couple who live next door keep their eyes on the house every day while the owners are away at work. Neither heard or saw anything. They said there was no sound from the sheep nor from the 3 guard dogs which are chained at various locations outside the house. These dogs were not suspect since they could not reach the sheep pen.

Had there been an intruder the dogs would normally have caused a great deal of commotion but for some reason this time, made no sound.

Searching for evidence

Soon after we examined the site and took photographs, a search for the missing ram was organised. Eddie Deese and I were accompanied by the mayor of the town, the farmer and his son as well as members of the Civil Guard. After a lengthy search in the darkness, the area adjacent to the property, including a ravine, yielded nothing unusual and so we decided to return to the house.

Something noxious detected

Suddenly, as we were climbing back out of the ravine, we were overcome by something noxious which sent all of us into a fit of coughing. I do not remember an odour but the irritant was rather debilitating, making it difficult to breathe. Not being able to find a source, we scrambled out of the area as fast as we could. Our throats were burning for some time after. The area was searched by the Civil Guard a second time next morning and again, severe throat irritation was experienced. And like before, no source for the noxious odour was discovered.

Experiences similar to this are frequently reported in cases of chupacabra attacks, although an unpleasant odour is usually associated with the breathing difficulties.

Spooks?

The following experience is something that added a whole new dimension to my investigation. I still don't know what to make of it, but it did happen.

One of the scientists looking into the Chupacabra affair phoned me one day at my hotel to say a friend of a friend of hers was very interested in this phenomenon as well as UFOs etc. and would like to talk with me. I said "sure." The friend called the day before I had arranged to interview witnesses Madeline and Jose.

During my conversation with him, he asked if he could come with me to that interview. Since he spoke fluent English as well as Spanish, and Madeline and Jose spoke only Spanish, I agreed. It would make the interview much easier for me. I phoned the couple later to ask if I could bring another person with me and they said that would be fine.

Next day "Miguel" (I won't use his real name) picked me up at my hotel and we drove to the small town where the couple lived. Just before we left my hotel I was putting my pack into the trunk of his car and noticed a black plastic bag which felt very heavy when I pushed it aside. Toys for his kids, he said.

When we arrived at the house it was already dark. Madeline and Jose welcomed us into their house and we introduced each other. At this point, Madeline and Jose's expressions froze as they looked at each other. The conversation then became cool and hesitant. Stage fright perhaps, I thought.

Miguel started talking very fast, trying to get things rolling. I couldn't follow most of it because it was too rapid but within 10 minutes Madeline and Jose relaxed and became very hospitable. They served us tea and told us their story.

Government Investigations?

We departed after midnight and drove back to San Juan. Along the way we talked about the incredible story we had just heard and about UFOs in general. Then Miguel turned to me and asked what I thought of government conspiracies, agents and interference in investigations. I said I thought there might be something to it but that in all likelihood, the subject matter was exaggerated. He said "I have to tell you something. I'm an FBI agent. I laughed at him in disbelief. "You mean CIA, don't you?" I joked, hoping he was kidding. "No. I'm serious", he said and pulled out his badge and photo ID.

The plot thickens...

I couldn't believe it! That's why Madeline and Jose froze up at first when they heard his name. I learned later they had been warned beforehand. And the black bag in the trunk? He showed me. It contained a bullet-proof vest, gun and holster. "I swear", he said, "this is just a co-incidence. I'm a guy who is really interested in this stuff and just happen to be working for the FBI. Everybody has to work somewhere. I'm with drug enforcement." "Ok, maybe", I thought. "I'll try not to become paranoid".

Next evening I was to get together with him to make sure I had a proper English translation of Madeline and Jose's story. However, the case with the three sheep came up and I went to that instead.

Pounding on the door!

I got back to the hotel from the sheep case at 3am that night and went to bed exhausted. I had to fly home that morning and needed some sleep. At 5:30am, I was awoken by a terrible commotion next door. It was several men pounding on the door of the suite next to me. I picked out the words "goddamned Canadian" in the midst of their cursing. They were also yelling "police, police! Open up!" and kicking at the door. I managed a quick glimpse through the blinds and saw they were plainclothes officers. At that point I realised I felt terribly ill, possibly from the noxious smell I had encountered while investigating the sheep case only hours before. I barely managed to fall back into bed. I felt terrible.

Time to leave

The next thing I knew it was 8:30am and the phone was ringing. All traces of the commotion next door had disappeared. It was Miguel on the phone. He wanted to see me. I said that wasn't possible since I had to get to the airport right away. I made no mention of the night's events.

He made some small talk and then started asking which airline I was flying with, what time my plane departed, was I flying direct or did I have a stop-over in the US, was I carrying any agricultural products with me? I lied about everything. This was too much. I began to worry.

I divided the samples I took at the farm between my carry-on and check-in luggage and then proceeded to the airport, still not feeling well. Checking in and getting on the plane was uneventful. "Just get me out of here", I thought.

Technical problems?

The plane made its way to the end of the runway and sat waiting to take off. It was there for a few minutes when the pilot announced that there was an electronic problem and we would have to wait until it was repaired. A van pulled up and several men entered the cargo hold. I was starting to sweat. You could hear things being knocked around and I was sure someone was about to pounce out of the hold, apprehend me and drag me off the plane. But after an hour, the van left and the plane departed.

Home at last!

Upon arriving back in Vancouver, I anxiously opened my suitcase. The contents had definitely been rearranged, but to my surprise, the plastic ziplock containing the samples was still in my dirty laundry bag where I had put it.

A month later, the sample results came back from the lab, - all samples identified as that belonging to the sheep family of ruminants. Nothing unusual.

Conclusion

Something bizarre definitely is occurring in Puerto Rico. With hundreds of similar eye-witness reports, thousands of corpses of animals with deep wounds that cannot be explained, it is difficult to write the whole thing off to a figment of the imagination. And what about my experience at the sheep farm and later with the FBI agent?

On the other hand, what is very bothersome to me is that this phenomenon seems to be limited to Spanish-speaking communities. Is this a coincidence or does it point to the possibility of a social phenomenon?

Also, despite all the eye witness reports, fantastic claims and recent reports of the creature having been captured, there is as yet, no bird in the hand.

Did this whole thing start as an erroneous report which was whipped into a national sensation by fear and hysteria and then exploited by the media until it became part of the social psyche, or is it based on reality? More research needs to be done.

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