I have traveled to Puerto Rico on many occasions. Usually (but not always) to go on expeditions with TV companies to try and find what is popularly known as the chupacabra. As an aside, I’ll be doing another such expedition very soon. But, I’m digressing. I’ll come back to that new expedition in a forthcoming article. Today, I’m going to share with you what was the creepiest story given to me. It was 2004 and high in the hills of the El Yunque rain-forest. There comes a time in the life of every investigator of the paranormal when a case just gels. From the credibility of the witness to the importance of the story, everything combines together and in the best fashion possible. I have experienced such a deep sense of satisfaction and connection on a number of occasions. But, there is, perhaps, no greater example than the amazing affair of a woman named Norka, who had a chupacabra encounter back in 1975. Yes, this case was long before the beast was believed to have been roaming around the island. Norka was a fascinating lady, who lived in a spacious and atmospheric house high in the El Yunque rain forest. Norka’s story was one that took our quest for the truth about the chupacabra to a whole new – and largely unanticipated – level.
After me and Jon Downes (my good mate and fellow Chupacabra-seeker) devoured our breakfasts fit for a king – in the open courtyard of the Wind Chimes Inn in San Juan – our convoy of jeep, cars, and trucks once again hit the road. There were people to interview, creatures to be sought, and absolutely no time to waste. Around ninety minutes after we left bustling San Juan behind us, we arrived at Norka’s lavish home. It was dominated by a pair of huge, wrought-iron gates and a driveway that was so steep it actually required me to put the jeep in the lowest possible gear to successfully climb it. I quipped to Jon that the fortified home had probably been built to keep the chupacabra out. Who knows? After digesting what Norka said, I seriously had to wonder if my joke just may have been on target, after all. Norka, seventy-something and sporting a beaming smile, invited us in as if we were old friends. It almost felt like we were. Norka was an incredibly generous host, despite unfortunately being in failing health. She provided us with liquid refreshment and snacks, gave us a tour of her home – which was, essentially, built solidly into the hill on which it stood – and regaled us with entertaining stories of her youth, during which she was a prize-winning, passionate motorcyclist. Both Jon and I instantly bonded with Norka, who was a fellow adventurer and lover of life – and a highly skilled artist, too.
Roughly an hour after arriving, the crew had set up all of their equipment, the cameras were ready to roll, and me, Jon, and Norka assumed our required positions on the balcony of Norka’s home. It provided an incredible, panoramic view of El Yunque. Indeed, the angle of the miles-wide view, coupled with the sheer altitude of Norka’s home, provoked a slight sense of vertigo. But that was no matter. Jon and I suspected that Norka had something special to say and we wanted to hear it. We weren’t entirely sure how special, but we quickly found out. Norka’s words demonstrated that the chupacabra enigma was much older than many researchers had assumed or concluded. Norka’s account, we were fascinated to learn, dated from 1975, at the height of the summer months.
It was dusk, on a stiflingly hot, weekday night in August. The atmosphere – as day began to surrender to nightfall – was as normal and tranquil as it had ever been. It wasn’t long, however, before normality and tranquility gave way to something hideous. As Norka drove carefully and slowly along the twisting, climbing road (in a car, rather than on one of her trusty motorbikes, I should stress), something suddenly surfaced from the huge, dense trees that stood proud and tall, like gigantic green curtains, and which dominated each side of the road. Doing barely twenty miles an hour to begin with, Norka was easily able to slow down as a curious beast loomed into view. Norka, looking into the camera, said that only about twenty feet in front of her was the strangest, most terrifying animal it had ever been her misfortune to encounter. For all intents and purposes, it looked very much like a bat. Except, that is, for one astonishing thing: the abomination was around four to five feet in height.
Not surprisingly, Norka could scarcely believe her eyes as the monster shuffled slowly across the road, its muscular legs taking slow but deliberate strides across the hot tarmac. With her eyes transfixed on the beast, Norka could see that its body was dark brown in color. Two large wings were folded tight against its back. The clawed fingers on its hands – that drooped in curious, limp fashion from its bony wrists – were of a distinct, white-yellow hue. Of a near-identical color were two enormous fangs that protruded from its gaping, almost slack-jawed, mouth. Most frightening of all to Norka were the eyes of the creature: focused intently on Norka herself, they were almost blazing, like red hot coals.
After what seemed like a torturous amount of time, but which was maybe no more than twenty or so seconds, the creature unfurled its wings. At this point, Norka could see just how big those mighty, membranous appendages were: somewhere in a combined region of twelve to fifteen feet. Norka said the wings flapped in a fast, furious and loud fashion that deeply shocked her. In mere moments, the beast took to the skies, vertically, and was quickly lost from sight. It was, I said to Jon later, almost a case of the Jeepers Creepers movies come to life. He didn’t disagree in the slightest. Since this was the only interview planned for that day, there was no need for us to make a hasty drive to destinations new, and so we hung out for another hour or so, chatting further with Norka, even though the cameras had stopped rolling. Jon and I were suitably impressed. Our quest for the truth of the chupacabra had taken a major step forward – and, in terms of the date of Norka’s encounter, a major step backwards! And there was one more thing: Norka had so enjoyed the afternoon that she surprised me by presenting me with nothing less than a full-color painting she had done of the creature she encountered back in 1975. I thanked Norka for her incredible generosity. Atmospheric and captivating, her artwork has pride of place on the one wall of my office that is not dominated by mountains of bookshelves.