When you think of flying humanoids, it's likely you think of the red-eyed Mothman, famous to the people of Point Pleasant, West Virginia - and which created havoc between 1966 and 1967.`There are, however, numerous types of such monsters that fall into the flying humanoid category. And, today, I'm going to share with you such a story. 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. The story came on the fourth day of my trek with monster-hunter Jon Downes, who was with me in Puerto Rico in 2004. 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 we devoured our breakfasts fit for a king – in the open courtyard of the Wind Chimes Inn - 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.
The worst event itself was actually the culmination of a series of disturbing, horrifying attacks on domestic animals in the area in which Norka lived. Tragically, this included an assault on one of Norka’s pet dogs, which was found dead, outside the perimeter of her hillside home. It was also found lacking each and every one of its bones, including its skull, no less. How the bones had been savagely removed was something that not even local veterinarians were able to explain. Other families in the area reported their dogs missing, too. They, also, were left with nothing but tears, anguish, presumed dead pets, and a mountain of unanswered questions. As circumstances would have it, and only a couple of weeks later, Norka had an encounter of a kind that would have made horror-maestro H.P. Lovecraft nod approvingly. It was dusk, on a stiflingly hot, weekday night in August 1975. 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.
Norka’s observations - that the animal she was unfortunate enough to encounter on a lonely, winding road late one night back in the summer of 1975 - was very much bat-like in appearance, led me and Jon to give serious consideration to an intriguing possibility. It was a possibility that suggested the chupacabra was exactly what it appeared to be: a form of giant bat, one not acknowledged to exist by mainstream science and conventional zoology. Well, neither Jon nor I could ever be considered even remotely conventional or mainstream, so thinking definitively outside of the box was fine by both of us. And by “giant bat” we were talking mega-sized. Or, as Jon memorably preferred it: Batzilla; so christened by Jon, and paying homage to the world’s most famous, city-destroying monster, Godzilla. That Puerto Rico is home to a large population of bats is not a matter of any doubt at all. In fact, “large” is an understatement of epic proportions. For example, Cucaracha Cave alone – which is situated south of the city of Aquadilla, in the Cordillera Jaicoa – is home to quite literally hundreds of thousands of bats. Roughly seventy-five percent of them are Jamaican long-tongue bats, while the remainder is comprised of the imaginatively and colorfully named sooty moustache bats and Antillean ghost-faced bats.
Taking into consideration the huge number of additional caves that exist throughout the island, one soon begins to realize just how incredibly widespread the bat is on Puerto Rico. Problematic is the fact that the bats of Puerto Rico are nowhere near the size of the beast encountered by Norka, all those years ago. But, was it possible, I wondered, as we drove back to the Wind Chimes Inn after the working day was finally done, that Puerto Rico had in its midst other kinds of bat, ones of a truly monstrous type that had yet to be formally classified? That was the controversial question dominating my mind. Sweat-soaked and grubby from a day clambering through the depths of the El Yunque rain forest, Jon and I both took very welcome showers on our return to the inn. Then, having freshened up, we hit the bar for the evening. It was a night spent hanging out, drinking beer - with tequila chasers - and devouring our plentiful meals of good, solid Puerto Rican cuisine. And it was all courtesy of a rapidly-growing tab that was due to be picked up by the SyFy Channel at the end of the week - or so we earnestly hoped and prayed they were going to pick it up. (For those who may be wondering: yes, they did, thankfully.)
Over dinner we mused further upon the Batzilla theory. Whether it had any merit to it or not, the idea that Puerto Rico had a resident population of grossly oversized, unfriendly bats was so engaging that I could not afford to dismiss it. As we chatted, Jon and I agreed on two things: Puerto Rico clearly was swarming with bats; and the island’s network of caves was gigantic. On this latter point, and as just one example of many, the Camuy River Cave Park (so named after the municipality of Camuy, situated north of mountainous Lares) is comprised of almost eleven miles of caverns, and more than 200 caves. Rather significantly, and as I learned to my great surprise, even at the dawn of the 21st Century, the cave system was barely explored and mapped. Certainly, skilled cavers conclude to this day that the park is home to hundreds of additional caves which very likely still remained untouched, and uninvestigated, by anyone. That other portions of the caves were, and still are, closed to the public – thanks to the actions of Puerto Rican authorities – led the conspiratorial side of my mind to wonder just what savage things might be lurking in those out of bounds, underground realms.
But what of the possibility of an unknown type of bat, one with a body-length somewhere in the region of four to five feet, living, breeding and feeding in distinctly stealthy fashion on Puerto Rico? Was it truly feasible? If so, might occasional sightings of the beasts be responsible for the legends of those deadly creatures that had become known as the chupacabras? Could there really be a Puerto Rican Mothman on the island of Puerto Rico? I don't see why not. The reason is simple: Norka was not the only person who had seen flying humanoids over Puerto Rico's El Yunque rain-forest. In other words, there very might be an entire colony of the things.