Mar 12, 2023 I Nick Redfern

If You're Looking For Monsters, Go to Puerto Rico. It's Teeming With Strange Creatures

If you're looking for monsters (or the posh word, "Cryptids") I recommend you head out to Puerto Rico. I've been there eight times now, and on each expedition I've come across stories of a different creature. So, with that said, let's take a look at the island that's teeming with monsters. Of course, I'm going to begin with the Chupacabra. 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. More than 100-billion gallons of precipitation fall each year, creating the jungle-like ambience of lush foliage, sparkling leaves, spectacular waterfalls, shining wet rocks, and shadowy paths that really have to be seen up close and personal to be appreciated. The Forest contains rare wildlife, too, including the Puerto Rican Parrot, the Puerto Rican boa snake, a multitude of lizards, and crabs, not forgetting the famous coqui frog, so named after its strange and unique vocalizations.

(Nick Redfern) Puerto Rico: home to the legendary Chupacabra.

As for the Chupacabra: well, its predations and appearance are as legendary as they are feared. And the stories coming from the locals are as notable as they are disturbing. Some years ago, while on one of my now-many expeditions to Puerto Rico, 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.

(Nick Redfern) Many say that the monsters of Puerto Rico live in the deep caves of the island.

Now, let's take a look at the Moca Vampire that surfaced in the 1970s and that still surfaces from time to time. Since 1995, Puerto Rico has been the domain of a deadly, bloodsucking creature that has infamously become known as the Chupacabra. Long before the now-legendary beast was on anyone’s radar, however, there was another vampire-like monster roaming around on the island. It was known as the Moca Vampire – its name taken from the municipality of Moca, which can be found in the northwest of the island, and which is home to around 40,000 people. Unlike the Chupacabra – sightings of which continue to this very day – the “Vampiro de Moca,” as it was referred to on Puerto Rico - was a monster of a definitively “here one minute and gone the next” kind. 

The controversy all began in late February 1975. That was when the population of Moca was plunged into a collective state of fear. And it was hardly surprising. Numerous ranchers reported how their farm animals were being violently slaughtered under cover of darkness and systematically drained of massive amounts of blood. The first area targeted was the Barrio Rocha region, where several goats, at least four pigs, numerous chickens, and more than a dozen cows, were all found dead, with puncture marks on their bodies, and deep claw-like wounds on their skin, and all missing one vital ingredient: blood. Villagers and farmers were as outraged as they were terrified. Local authorities, and chiefly the police, tried to diffuse the controversy by attributing the attacks to nothing stranger than the work of packs of wild dogs – a theory that, almost inevitably, was received with nothing but scorn, skepticism, and disdain.

By the end of the first week in March 1975, the death count was close to three dozen. It was in this same week that an important development was made: the blood-sucking culprit was finally seen, up close and personal, so to speak. The witness was a woman named Maria Acevedo, who caught sight a monstrously-sized, screaming and screeching winged beast that landed atop her home, and which clambered about her zinc roof, making an almighty racket in the process. And it was clearly no normal bird: around four to five feet in height, it was described as being similar in appearance to a pterodactyl, a presumed-extinct, flying reptile of the Jurassic era. Whatever the true nature of the monster, it quickly took to the skies and vanished into the starry darkness.

Less than forty-eight hours later, a farmer named Cecilio Hernandez contacted the police after more than thirty of his chickens were killed in a fashion that was quickly becoming attributed to the predations of the Moca Vampire. It was at the same time that Hernandez’ story was widely being reported on Puerto Rico that a potential answer to the puzzle was uncovered: two huge snakes were killed in Moca, just before they were about to attack a cow belonging to a rancher named Luis Torres. Of course, this didn’t explain the winged monster that Maria Acevedo reported only days earlier. And, it didn’t resolve the many and varied additional killings that continued to plague the people of Moca. In addition, while snakes will typically take down and devour – whole, no less - significantly-sized animals, they will not, and cannot, suck blood in either small or large proportions. In other words, while the snake theory might have been a small component of the saga, it most certainly didn’t explain everything.   

On March 18, 1975, the monster struck again. On this occasion, the victims were a pair of goats owned by Hector Vega, of Moca’s Barrio Pueblo. Once again, the culprit had struck in its typical fashion of draining the goats of their blood – and, in this case, of all the blood. The creature was not done with Vega, however. On the following night no less than seventeen animals were attacked, of which ten were killed, due to deep, penetrating wounds, trauma, and massive blood loss. Five days later, a pig was found dead by farmer Felix Badillo. Blood was removed in significant amounts, and there was a hole in the head of the animal, which gave every appearance of something powerful being violently thrust into the skull. On top of that, one of the pig’s ears was missing – in a fashion that, rather intriguingly, was attributed to a surgical procedure. No wonder the people of Moca were as puzzled as they were alarmed. Forty-eight hours later came the most astonishing development: Juan Muniz was attacked by a huge, bird-like animal that swopped down upon him from above, as he walked through Barrio Pulido. He struggled and fought as the winged nightmare did its very best to force Muniz to the ground. In his panicked, adrenalized state, Muniz managed to escape and alert the authorities. 

(Nick Redfern) The best place to see a strange creature on Puerto Rico is the El Yunque Rain-Forest.

Then, as April began, the Moca Vampire began to expand its hunting ground: attacks began to be reported all across the island, with farm animals again drained of blood, of rumors of attacks on people, and even of a police cover-up of the facts to prevent a public panic exploding. The attacks continued into May – and then into June, too. By this time, hundreds of animals were said to have fallen victim to the blood-drinking monster, and with barely an answer to the problem in sight. As it transpired, however, matters came to a sudden, inexplicable halt. Shortly before the end of June, the sightings, encounters and attacks were no more. Whatever the true nature of the Moca Vampire, it vanished as quickly as it originally surfaced. Such was the terror is provoked, however, the creature is still discussed, in hushed tones, in Moca to this very day.

How about the Bigfoot of Puerto Rico? It’s a little known fact that the chupacabra is not the only weird beast rumored to haunt the island of Puerto Rico. Although certainly not on every occasion, but during at least two excursions to the island, I have uncovered fragmentary reports and accounts of encounters with what can only be described as Bigfoot-style creatures, as amazing, or as unlikely, as such a thing might sound. Without doubt, the most fascinating body of data on this curious issue came my way in 2013. It’s important I note, from the very outset, that many might think that talking about the Puerto Rican Bigfoot in a book about the island’s chupacabra is far too much of a stretch to make a connection. In reality, the exact opposite is the case. As will become apparent very soon, the connection is all too real and ripe for scrutiny and comment. It revolves around two things: mistaken identity and the controversial, supernatural, phenomenon of shape-shifting. That’s right: the chupacabra and the Bigfoot of Puerto Rico, according to some, at least, may be one and the same – which is why I feel it’s an important story to tell.  But, before we get to that thorny matter, a bit of background as to why, exactly, I was yet again on the island.

It was August 1, 2013 and I was there to make a show with Galafilm Productions of Canada. It was titled National Park Mysteries. The premise was an intriguing and original one: each and every episode of the series would focus its attention upon a paranormal mystery tied to a specific U.S. national park. And, since Puerto Rico’s El Yunque National Forest is the only rain forest in the entire United States National Forest System (USNFS), the plan was to make a show that focused on its infamous, resident vampire.To say that this trip was a brief one is an understatement. I flew out of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport early on the morning of July 31, caught (with barely minutes to spare) a connecting flight in Florida, arrived at my San Juan hotel around 8.00 p.m., was filmed – during a downpour of epic proportions – in the heart of El Yunque the following morning, exited the rain forest around noon, and flew back to my Arlington, Texas home around 7.30 p.m. that night. In between the end of the filming and the time of my departure, however, I had the good fortune to conduct an interview with a guy whose theories pushed the chupacabra mystery down previously uncharted pathways. They were pathways dominated by nothing less than the world’s most infamous, hairy wild-man: Bigfoot.

(Nick Redfern) Deep in the forest.

I have to say, although I was on Puerto Rico looking for the deadly sucker of goats and of other equally unfortunate animals, it was a welcome and refreshing diversion to find myself on the receiving end of something totally different. Peter was, primarily, a ghost-hunter and paranormal investigator, also there to be filmed for the world of on-screen entertainment. Originally from Berlin, Germany, he had moved to Puerto Rico to live in 1996. Peter was someone whose accounts of Bigfoot activity on Puerto Rico were as fascinating as they were controversial. By that, I mean the reports had far less to do with what one might call unknown animals, and far more to do with what might justifiably be termed downright paranormal anomalies. It’s important, at the very outset, that I stress Peter was not someone whose files on Bigfoot in Puerto Rico were overflowing. In fact, quite the opposite was the case. The number of reports in his archives was less than twenty and they spanned the mid-1970s to 1998, with a spate of reports dating from 1985. Typically, the beasts closely resembled the North American Bigfoot. That’s to say they were large, humanoid, covered in dark hair, and solitary. While most of the reports emanated from – or around – the island’s huge El Yunque rain forest, two were, rather incredibly, reported from the fringes of Puerto Rico’s capital city, San Juan.

But, Peter’s Puerto Rican reports were filled with anomalies. He explained to me, as we chatted in the pleasant confines of the St. Germain Bistro and Café in Old San Juan, there were reports of the Puerto Rican Bigfoot seen in conjunction with anomalous lights in the sky – although not structured flying saucers, it must be noted. And, by in conjunction, I mean both time-wise and location-wise.There were also reports of the creatures seemingly being impervious to bullets, which is an often-reported, curious aspect of North American cases. Certainly, the most controversial cases of all – of which, granted, Peter only had three examples - were of the creatures seemingly vanishing into nothingness. Again, that “here one minute and gone the next minute” angle of the Bigfoot mystery is not unknown in the United States, even though many researchers of the phenomenon much prefer to ignore such hard to define cases. I, however, do not ignore them. In fact, I do the exact opposite: I embrace them. And there was something else, too; something amazingly weird – even by my standards. Peter had come to the conclusion – based on two specific reports – that the Puerto Rican Bigfoot and our old friend the chupacabra were one and the same. How could such a thing be? Well, by engaging in a bit of shape-shifting.

The resident of a small village that was home to a cool-looking church, one which rather reminded me of an old English castle, our source had an encounter in early 2005 with…well…something. It clearly wasn’t your average chupacabra, but it did end with multiple animal mutilations; so, in that sense, the story has relevance. The month, the man thought, was February, and the time, definitely late evening. He was walking past the old church when an ear-splitting roar filled the air. It came from an area dominated by tall, thick trees and barely fifty feet away. Frozen rigid in his tracks, he stared intently at the woods. Suddenly, something terrifying happened: a huge, feathery beast burst through the trees and took to the skies. Whatever the creature was, it was no ordinary bird; the incredible size of it, somewhere in the region of a man, made that abundantly clear. The man could only stare in awe as the infernal thing flapped its mighty wings and vanished into the distance. One of the days I'll share with you at least another five types of strange creatures on Puerto Rico.

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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