For years, controversial tales have surfaced from Puerto Rico – or to give it its correct title, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, an unincorporated territory of the United States - describing a killer-beast creeping around the landscape, while simultaneously plunging the population into states of deep fear and apprehension. The reason why is as simple as it is distinctly monstrous: the face of the creature is dominated by a pair of glowing red eyes, it has razor-style, claw-like appendages, vicious-looking teeth that could likely inflict some truly serious damage, sharp spikes running down its neck and spine, and even, on occasion, large membranous wings. On top of that, it thrives on blood. Puerto Rico, then, is home to a real-life vampire. Its moniker is the Chupacabra, meaning Goat-Sucker – which is a reference to the fact that when the tales first surfaced, most of the animals slain by the blood-sucking nightmare were goats. That’s right: if you’re a goat, it most certainly does not pay to make Puerto Rico your home. It might not be too safe if you’re human either. Much of the monstrous action is focused upon the Caribbean National Forest - El Yunque as it is known - which is an amazing sight to behold. Around 28,000 acres in size, and located in the rugged Sierra de Luquillo, which is approximately 40-kilometers southeast of the city of San Juan, it was named after the Indian spirit, Yuquiyu, and is the only rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System.
I had the opportunity to interview a woman named Norka, an elderly lady living in a truly beautiful home high in the El Yunque rainforest that one can only reach by successfully negotiating an infinitely complex series of treacherous roads, built perilously close to the edge of some very steep hills. Although the exact date escapes her, Norka was driving home one night in 1975 or 1976, when she was both startled and horrified by the shocking sight of a bizarre creature shambling across the road. Norka described the animal as being approximately four feet in height, and having a monkey-like body that was covered in dark brown hair or fur, wings that were a cross between those of a bat and a bird, and glowing eyes that bulged alarmingly from a bat-style visage. Sharp claws flicked ominously in Norka’s direction. She could only sit and stare as the beast then turned its back on her and rose slowly into the sky. Since then, eerily similar encounters with such vile entities have haunted the terrified populace of Puerto Rico – and continue to do so. As evidence of this, in 2004,
I traveled to Puerto Rico with fellow monster-hunter, Jonathan Downes of the British-based Center for Fortean Zoology. During the course of our week-long expedition in search of the truth behind the beast, we had the opportunity to speak with numerous sources, including a rancher named Noel, who had an amazing account to relate. Some months previously, he was awakened during the hours of darkness on one particular morning by the sound of his chickens that were practically screaming down the house. Much to his chagrin, however, Noel failed to get out of bed and waited until dawn broke to see what all the fuss had been about. He told us that he was horrified to find all of his prized birds dead. Not only were they dead: they had two small puncture wounds on their necks, and checks by a veterinarian friend demonstrated their bodies were missing significant amounts of blood.
But what made this particular case so intriguing and memorable was the fact that whatever had killed the chickens had first carefully and quietly opened the complex locks on each of the cages before evacuating them of blood. This suggested to Jon and me that a diabolically sophisticated degree of cunning, intelligence, and dexterity was at work. The Chupacabra, then, may be far more than just your average wild animal. So, with that in mind, precisely what is it? Certainly, theories wildly abound with respect to the nature of the beast, with some researchers and witnesses suggesting that it is some form of giant-bat. Others prefer the controversial theory that it has extra-terrestrial origins. And a notably large body of people view the Chupacabra as a wholly supernatural beast, one created – or conjured up - out of devilish rite and ritual. The most bizarre idea postulated, however, is that the Chupacabra is the creation of a top secret, genetic research laboratory hidden somewhere deep within Puerto Rico’s El Yunque rainforest. Whichever theory may prove to be correct – and there may be other possibilities, too – of one chilling thing there seems little doubt: Puerto Rico has a monster in its midst. For our purposes, though, let’s take a look at the alien / UFO link to the Chupacabra. Yes, indeed, there is one.
There is a story of a UFO crashing in the heart of El Yunque in February 1984 - from which, supposedly, a number of Chupacabra jumped out and into the rain-forest. I know that, because the basics of the account have reached me on three occasions over the past decade. It was early one morning when a large, circular-shaped object slammed into the ground, immediately after flying over the rain forest in a decidedly erratic fashion. To prevent people from learning the truth of the matter, a diversionary tactic was put into place that the UFO was a meteorite. Personnel from NASA, the U.S. Air Force, and the CIA were soon on the scene – in part, to scoop up the pummeled body-parts of a couple of dead chupacabras, whose lives came to sudden and bloody ends when the alien craft hurtled violently into the forest at high speed. That’s how the story goes, anyway. There is another reason why I am so intrigued by the potential UFO link to the chupacabra controversy. I spoke with a woman who had her own encounter with a UFO, but in a location where a chupacabra was seen only days later. As Rosario told me, it was early March 2000, and she was working in a grove near the foot of El Yunque where she picked plantains. Her attention was suddenly drawn to a deep, resonating hum, one that was coming from directly above her.
Looking up, Rosario was startled to see a black, triangular-shaped object – about 25 to 35 feet in length - that was hovering overhead at a height estimated to be around 90 to 120 feet, and which had a glossy, shiny surface. Surprise and amazement turned to shock when a pencil-thin beam of light shot out of the base of the craft, fanned out, and enveloped Rosario in a pink glow. For what almost seemed like an eternity, Rosario was rooted to the spot, while her mind was flooded with images of widespread nuclear destruction and environmental collapse in the Earth’s near-future. The final image was of a large, bald head with huge, black eyes and that closely resembled the alien face on the cover of Whitley Strieber’s 1987 best-selling book, Communion – which Rosario was inexplicably drawn to read in the immediate aftermath. Suddenly, the light retracted and the flying triangle rose into the sky, heading slowly towards the heart of the rain forest. Interestingly, in the wake of the encounter, Rosario developed an overwhelming interest in environmental issues, and quite literally overnight – after a lifetime of eating meat – became a staunch advocate of vegetarianism.
That was not all: three days later, and only a couple of hundred feet from where Rosario was working on that fateful day, two girls spotted a chupacabra of the bipedal, spiked and decidedly menacing kind. The beast spotted them, too. Evidently, however, it was a monster on a mission, since, after peering at them for a few moments it fell down on all-fours and bounded away into the heavy undergrowth. It was an event that – due to both the time-frame and the proximity – led Rosario to conclude the chupacabra was somehow linked to the UFO phenomenon. And here’s the clincher: she, too, had heard rumors of dead chupacabra, found in a crashed UFO some years earlier that had been secretly taken to Roosevelt Roads, a now-closed military base on Puerto Rico. Also of relevance, while on Puerto Rico in 2005, with Paul Kimball and his Red Star Films crew, our guide, Orlando, was filmed talking about a 1990s-era event in which U.S. military forces reportedly captured several extremely vicious Chupacabra in El Yunque. What happened to them, beyond first being held at Roosevelt Roads and then flown on to the United States - in secure cages, aboard a military aircraft - is unknown. Then, there’s the matter of an entire village of strange, alien-looking people living in an area where sightings of chupacabras was rife.
According to the tale – which half the film crew and a couple of locals had all heard - the entire population of the village was afflicted by a strange malady; a very strange malady. The village-folk, we were told, were skinny, pale, and downright anemic-looking. They never surfaced during daylight hours. They only ever dressed in black. And, here was the clincher: they fed on nothing but fresh blood. To a pair of English vampire hunters, it all sounded great; it was precisely the sort of thing me and Jon Downes and I were looking for. That didn’t mean it was true, however. Or did it? Well, let’s see. It has been my experience that behind just about every controversial legend or rumor there is usually a nugget or several of truth, even if it is somewhat distorted. We asked our storytellers to expand on what they knew of this infernal tribe of bloodsuckers. They were happy to do so. The picture their words painted was notably unsettling. None of the people of the village exceeded four and a half feet in height, we were told. Their heads were larger than normal and were marked with prominent, blue veins. They were completely lacking in hair. Some of them had nothing less than six fingers on each hand. Their noses were almost beak-like. They had skin that gave them a leathery, wrinkled, aged look. As for their voices, they were oddly high-pitched. They walked with a stiff, robotic gait. And they dined voraciously on human blood. So the story went, at least.
On hearing all of this, Jon Downes and I looked knowingly at each other. The symptoms that were described to us (aside, that is, from the blood-drinking) were not those of vampirism at all, but of a distressing, and extremely rare, condition called progeria; a tragic, genetic affliction that affects children. In fact, it’s so rare that, officially at least, only one case exists per every eight million people on the planet. Progeria provokes rapid aging and a physical appearance near-identical to that of the so-called vampires that dwelled on the Canovanas River. In some cases, those with progeria show signs of polydactylism: an extra digit on the hands and/or feet. Life spans are usually short: from early teens to (at the absolute extreme) the twenties. Of course, given the rarity of progeria, this instantly made both of us wonder: how was it possible that an entire village could be affected by this genetic disorder and across what we were told were, at least, several generations? The answer we got was as amazing as it was controversial.
Among those we spoke to, opinion was split between a meteorite and a craft from another world: a UFO. Whatever the culprit, it had let loose in the area nothing less than a strange alien virus, one that wormed its way into the water supply of the village and, in no time at all, infected the population of thirty or forty. The result was disastrous: each and every subsequent newborn displayed the awful symptoms of what, to me and Jon, sounded acutely like progeria. As startling as it may seem, the threat of an alien virus surfacing on our world is one that NASA – the National Aeronautics and Space Administration - takes very seriously. According to the text of Article IX of The Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies that was collectively signed at Washington, D.C., London, England, and Moscow, Russia on January 27, 1967, and that was entered into force on October 10 of that year: “In the exploration and use of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, States Parties to the Treaty shall be guided by the principle of co-operation and mutual assistance and shall conduct all their activities in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, with due regard to the corresponding interests of all other States Parties to the Treaty.”
Most significant of all is the next section of the document: “States Parties to the Treaty shall pursue studies of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, and conduct exploration of them so as to avoid their harmful contamination and also adverse changes in the environment of the Earth resulting from the introduction of extraterrestrial matter and, where necessary, shall adopt appropriate measures for this purpose.” It must be stressed that the main concern, as described in the document, revolved around the fear that a deadly virus would be released into the Earth’s atmosphere, a worldwide pandemic would begin, and an unstoppable plague would escalate, ultimately killing each and every one of us. But what if that same alien pandemic didn’t kill us, but provoked progeria-style symptoms and a craving for human blood? Such a possibility sounds manifestly unlikely in the extreme. It’s worth noting, however, that the so-called extraterrestrial “Grays” of “alien abduction” lore – those dwarfish, skinny, black-eyed, and gray-skinned creatures that are so instantly recognizable to one and all and made famous on the likes of The X-Files – do, admittedly, display far more than a few characteristics of progeria.
I chatted with Jon about this and I had to wonder: was it feasible that a strange, extraterrestrial plague – or, perhaps, futuristic gene-tinkering linked to the alien abduction phenomenon - had provoked a disastrous outbreak of something that manifested in a combination of progeria and vampirism, and all among the population of a small Puerto Rican village? It seemed incredible and outlandish to even give the matter serious thought. Certainly, when all attempts to verify the story came to absolutely nothing, and even the exact location in question could not be identified, we came to a couple of tentative conclusions. First, perhaps what was being described was not progeria, after all, but the results of decades of in-breeding in a village that was in dire need of new blood (no pun intended). Second, the idea that these unfortunate people were vampires was almost certainly born out of superstitious fear of their curious appearances, rather than hard, literal proof that they thrived on human blood – which they almost certainly did not. Unfortunately, and regardless of the truth of the matter, everything was against us in this investigation. No-one was able to point us in the specific direction of the village. To the best of everyone’s knowledge, no photographs of the villagers existed. And, the tight schedule we were on meant that there simply wasn’t time to pursue this admittedly fascinating tale. While a down to earth explanation was probably the likely one, try as we might, neither I nor Jon could fully dismiss from our minds the dark notion that Puerto Rico might harbor a band of unholy vampires of the outer space kind, a band with a voracious need for human blood. It was a chilling thought. It still is.