Oct 05, 2022 I Nick Redfern

Possibly One of the Most Bizarre Conspiracy Theories Ever: From Governments to Cryptozoology

Puerto Rico is a place that is as enchanting as it is mysterious. 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 the mid-1990s that the phenomenon of the chupacabra exploded all across Puerto Rico. So far as can be determined, the menacing creature first surfaced in March 1995. 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.

(Nick Redfern) My own study of what the Chupacabras could be

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? Now and again, I find myself on the receiving end of a conspiratorial story that is so unbelievable, so downright bizarre, and so utterly implausible that I actually wish it could be true, even though it isn’t. Well…it probably isn’t. Or is it? I still can’t be sure. In terms of the chupacabra, I was in just such a position in September 2013. That was when, on the 3rd of the month, I received the first of around twenty emails from a man I’ll call Ed. It transpires that Ed, who lived in Utah, and who claimed to work at the ultra-secret Dugway Proving Ground, had seen the 2004 episode of the SyFy Channel’s Proof Positive series – not when it was first aired, but when it was uploaded to YouTube in 2012, and where it can still be viewed to this day. Ed said he could tell me exactly what the chupacabras were, and so I said words to the effect of: “Please tell me.” He certainly did that and much more, besides.

According to Ed, the creatures that have become known as chupacabras amount to nothing less than relic populations of thylacines. And, what you may well ask, are thylacines? Well, I’ll tell you. Their correct title is Thylacinus cynocephalis, which translates as pouched dog with a wolf's head. They are dog-sized, striped marsupials, with jaws that have the ability to open to almost 180 degrees. There is, however, a problem with this theory. Actually, there are two (at least!): thylacines are believed to have become extinct back in the 1930s, and they were native to New Guinea, Australia and Tasmania, none of which is anywhere remotely near the island of Puerto Rico. That was okay, though: it didn’t have a single bearing upon Ed’s engagingly odd scenario.

(Richard Freeman) Many thanks to good friend, Richard Freeman, for the use of the cover of his book, In Search of Real Monsters

As you'll see, it has a great cover showing two Thylacines

Before I get to Ed’s story, a bit of background on the thylacine is very much in order. Although, as I noted above, mainstream zoology is of the opinion the creature is now extinct, it most certainly had a good run: fossilized examples of the creature have been found, demonstrating that it lived as far back as the Miocene period. That’s to say, around 23 to 5 million years ago. While the thylacine is generally accepted to have died out in Australia thousands of years ago, history has shown it clung on in Tasmania – roughly 150 miles from Australia - until quite recently. Not everyone, however, is so sure the creature is completely gone. How do we know? All thanks to the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service, and the Australian Government’s Freedom of Information Act, that’s how. Both the TPWS and the Australian government have declassified their files and records on the creature; they are filled with credible sightings of thylacines in Tasmania, and all of which post-date the 1930s; in some cases significantly so. In the TPWS’ own website-based words: 

“Since 1936, no conclusive evidence of a thylacine has been found. However, the incidence of reported thylacine sightings has continued. Most sightings occur at night, in the north of the State, in or near areas where suitable habitat is still available. Although the species is now considered to be ‘probably extinct,’ these sightings provide some hope that the thylacine may still exist.” As for the Australian Government, it notes at its official webpage on the thylacine: “Australia is home to some of the world's most unusual and mysterious wildlife. Our native animals, such as the platypus, the koala and the kangaroo, have been a source of wonder and surprise to people the world over. But perhaps our most mysterious animal is the thylacine, or Tasmanian Tiger. There are many reasons why people are fascinated by this animal. Perhaps it is its name and the romantic notion of Australia having its own ‘tiger.’ Perhaps it is its sad history since European settlement, or the fact that there are many people who claim they have seen a Tasmanian Tiger and believe it may not be extinct after all.”

And as Australian government officials also state: “Although commonly called the Tasmanian Tiger or Tasmanian Wolf, the thylacine has more in common with its marsupial cousin the Tasmanian Devil. With a head like a wolf, striped body like a tiger and backward facing pouch like a wombat, the thylacine was as unbelievable as the platypus which had caused disbelief and uproar in Europe when it was first described. “The thylacine looked like a long dog with stripes, a heavy stiff tail and a big head. A fully grown thylacine could measure 180cm from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail, stand 58cm high at the shoulder and weigh about 30 kilograms. It had short, soft fur that was brown except for the thick black stripes which extended from the base of the tail to the shoulders.” Well, that’s all very fascinating, but the Puerto Rican chupacabra is almost exclusively described as being a bipedal beast – it walks on two legs, not four. Surely a creature that looks like a wolf, and which gives the impression of having been crossed with a tiger and a kangaroo, couldn’t walk on two legs as well as four…could it? Rather amazingly, yes, it actually could, and it did. It’s time for a further examination of the Australian Government’s thylacine files:

(Nick Redfern) Puerto Rico's massive El Yunque Rain-Forest

“The thylacine was said to have an awkward way of moving, trotting stiffly and not moving particularly quickly. They walked on their toes like a dog but could also move in a more unusual way - a bipedal hop. The animal would stand upright with its front legs in the air, resting its hind legs on the ground and using its tail as a support, exactly the way a kangaroo does. Thylacines had been known to hop for short distances in this position.”  All of this brings us right back to the weird words of Ed. Let’s begin with his supposed place of work: the Dugway Proving Ground. In February 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a piece of legislation that gave what was then called the War Department complete jurisdiction over more than 120,000 acres of land in Utah. It wasn’t long before the DPG was up and running. And it’s still doing exactly that today, but, now, with the benefit of almost three-quarters of a million acres of heavily-guarded and near-inaccessible land. The best way to describe the base is as an Area 51 that, instead of allegedly researching crashed UFOs and autopsying dead aliens, focuses its top secret research on deadly viruses and exotic diseases. In other words: those pesky things that usually provoke catastrophic zombie outbreaks in the likes of The Walking Dead and Night of the Living Dead.

As our email exchange progressed, Ed opened up – and significantly so, too. He claimed that, back in the 1980s, staff at the Dugway Proving Ground got its hands on thylacine DNA and secretly decided to try and resurrect the creature from the clutches of the Grim Reaper, Lazarus-style. High-tech gene-splicing and cloning were reportedly the other of the day. According to Ed, it all worked very well. The beast, both incredibly and amazingly, walked – and hopped - yet again. Not in Australia, New Guinea, or Tasmania, but right in the heart of Mormon country.

As for why the creature was resurrected, this is where it all got really controversial. According to Ed, the military wanted to create an army of savage beasts that could be unleashed on the battlefield and tear the enemy apart, rather than take them out with conventional bullets and the like. The thylacine was seen as the perfect beast – chiefly because of its immense, powerful jaws. There was something else, however: mad scientists at the Proving Ground had created a terrible virus that plunged the infected into manic states of homicidal rage – which was very much the scenario in the 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later movies, and which I find very suspicous. Those same scientists weren’t using their nightmarish virus on people, however. The targets of experimentation were those resurrected thylacines, as if you couldn’t guess. But, long before the animals could be let loose in war zones, test-runs had to be undertaken, to see how deadly these creatures, infected with a mind-altering virus, really could be. And which place was chosen for the tests? Yep: Puerto Rico.

A pack of frenzied, resurrected thylacines, causing mayhem and havoc on Puerto Rico, and being responsible for spawning the legend of the chupacabra: is that really what happened? It was hard to say. Ed assured me that he was speaking one hundred percent truth. He was even careful to comment on the fact that, as the Australian Government confirmed, the thylacine had the extraordinary ability to walk like a wolf at one moment and then in a fashion akin to “a bipedal hop” in the next instance. This was why, Ed assured me, some people claimed the chupacabra appeared to resemble a large dog, and other said it walked on two legs. That the thylacine could walk in both fashions was the clincher, he said. Admittedly, that did make a coherent degree of sense. I still don't know if Ed's story is true. But, there's no doubt it was a story that was put together well!

Of course, there are more than a few theories for what goes down in Puerto Rico. I've heard time and again that the Chupacabras are really giant bats - hence the alleged blood-sucking that many people have described. And, the Puerto Rican creature is often noted as having wings. There's another theory, too: that the Chupacabras are extraterrestrials. I have to admit that a lot of people have seen UFOs in the skies over Puerto Rico. Many of them are the black "Flying Triangle" type of craft. And I have a few reports of classic Flying Saucer type vehicles. On top of that, I have several reports of Men in Black threatening people who have spoken about their UFO encounters - something that involves alien abduction, too.

Another scenario that has been wshipered is that of man-sized lizards prowling around the El Yunque Rain-Forest. Moving on, there is the paranormal side of things: that the Chupacabras are beings brought into our world from other realms; supernatural dimensions and so on. So, all of this demonstrates that clearly we can't have a huge bunch of very different creatures, and all on one island. So, who do you go with? That's a good question. Admittedly, the whole thing is puzzling. And, most of the scenarios have at least some degree of possibility. Albeit when they are stretched to the max! So, I leave the rest of the story to you to ponder on the matter of Chupacabras or Thylacines - something that I thought I never would have to deal with! My own view of all this? I think Ed was a great story-teller. He still might be.

Nick Redfern

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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