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The Chupacabra Phenomenon: 25 Years and an “Anniversary”

Puerto Rico is a place that is enchanting and beautiful. Located in the northeast Caribbean, it is comprised of the main island itself, plus the islands of Mona, Monito, Vieques, Caja De Muertos, Culebra, and a number of other, smaller bodies. Today, Puerto Rico has a population of close to four million people, while its land mass is of roughly 3,500 square miles. It was in 1995 that the phenomenon of the chupacabra exploded all across Puerto Rico. That was when numerous animals were found slaughtered in the towns of Morovis (located in central Puerto Rico) and Orocovis, which is situated within the aforementioned La Cordillera Central mountain range. Locals were plunged into states of near-hysteria by the attacks, which reportedly left animals dead, with strange marks on their necks, and a distinct lack of blood in their corpses. Since many of the early attacks were on goats, the term, “chupacabra,” was created. It means, in Spanish, goat-sucker. Vampires were on the loose; monstrous vampires. Reports of strange killings soon began to surface from other parts of the island. The creatures were clearly on the move. The death-rate increased even more. The population was on edge and the media had something new and sensational to report on.

It was a turbulent and strange time. But, what, exactly, was responsible for all the killings? Yes, there were plenty of dead animals but, unfortunately, there was no solid, eyewitness testimony relative to the killers themselves. That is, until August 1995, when a woman named Madelyne Tolentino – who lived in Canovanas, which is close to the northeast coast of Puerto Rico – changed everything. Tolentino’s description of the creature she encountered, close to her mother’s home, was disturbing, to say the very least. It was a description eagerly embraced by the island’s media and by investigators of monsters and mysteries. Tolentino told journalists and researchers that the creature was around three feet in height, bipedal, ran in a weird, hopping fashion, had large black eyes, bony fingers on each hand, overly long arms and legs, and a kind of feathery line running down its back. Or, it appeared to Tolentino to be a feathery line: a young boy employed by Tolentino’s husband claimed that he saw the beast up close and personal and maintained that the feathers were, in reality, sharp spines. The boy also said that the creature possessed a mouthful of vicious-looking fangs. Not only did the people know of the chupacabra and its predations, they also now knew what it looked like: something straight out of their worst nightmares.

Puerto Rico (Nick Redfern, 2005)

As the years progressed, so did the attacks. And what was, for a while, a mystery of purely Puerto Rican proportions, very soon became global. Within twelve months of the chupacabra surfacing in Puerto Rico it did likewise in Mexico. Then, as the 1990s came to a close, the focus was on Brazil: blood-drained farm animals were found strewn across Sorocaba, Sao Paulo. Just a few months later, Chile was hit hard by the beast, which reportedly killed not dozens, but hundreds of animals. Texas became a favorite haunt of the chupacabra in 2004. Even Rukshin, Ukraine got in on the act in the 2000s. The chupacabra was no longer just a mystery. It was an absolute phenomenon.

Since 2004, I’ve been on many expeditions to Puerto Rico in search of the Chupacabra. I’ve spoken to police-officers, veterinarians, farmers, civil-defense personnel, and the island’s very own creature-seekers. My conclusions? While I don’t pretend to know what the creatures really are, I do conclude there is indeed an unknown predator on Puerto Rico – a predator of a very dangerous type. By now, you know its name. It should be said, however, that the controversy surrounding the Chupacabra has been complicated by various other issues. For example, time and again I have heard stories from Puerto Rico of large, black cats – once kept as pets – that escaped from their enclosures in the 1990s. If true, then at least some cases of alleged Chupacabra attacks may have been the work of the likes of jaguars. I can easily see how some people might mistake the savage attack of a large cat to that of a Chupacabra. There’s also the fact that on many times I’ve heard of cults and secret societies on Puerto Rico who use the blood of animals in their rituals, particularly goats. Of course, it was said – twenty-five years ago – that Chupacabras had a particular taste for goat meat. I also heard that some of those “secret groups” deliberately spread tales of Chupacabra attacks to cover their activities – which makes some sense, albeit in a grisly fashion.

Deep in the heart of Puerto Rico, Nick Redfern and monster-hunter Jon Downes finally find a Chupacabra. (2005)

What all of this means – in my mind, at least – is that there is a genuine mystery. And, even after twenty-five years, it still needs to be resolved. But, as I have also shown, it’s a mystery that has been made even more complicated by those other phenomena that have become part of the story: those aforementioned large cats and secret societies. The phenomenon of the Chupacabra may not be as popular as the likes of Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster, but  – in light of all the above – I would say it’s the weirdest cryptozoological phenomenon! Let’s hope we’ll get the answers before the 50th anniversary comes around…

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Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.
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