Dear Straight Dope:
I have heard reports of a reptile-like creature called chupacabras amidst the coast of Puerto Rico. Some claim this creature is capable of sucking the blood out of mammals and birds. Is there any truth behind this mystery?
SDStaff DavidB replies:
There is almost certainly as much truth behind chupacabra (Spanish for “goat sucker” — sometimes it has an “s” at the end, sometimes not) as there is for Bigfoot, Yeti, the abominable snowman, vampires, aliens, and Elvis sightings. In fact, all except Elvis have been put forth as an “explanation” at one time or another, by one paranormalist or another. And who knows, maybe the King is in on it too.
According to the Chupacabra Home Page (www.princeton.edu/~accion/chupa.html), “For the non-Puerto Ricans among us, the chupacabra is a creature that is currently rampaging through the island, relieving farm animals of their blood.” Scary, eh? It gets worse: “As of yet, the chupacabra has not attacked humans, although no one can say for certain that this will not happen in the future. The origin of its name comes from its earliest attacks, where goats were found with their blood drained and with two peculiar puncture marks on their necks. There have been reports alleging that particular organs were missing from some of the victim’s bodies, without any visible way for those organs to have been removed. Sightings have increased as the months go by, fueling paranoia and fear.”
Of course, the government (which is probably conspiring to keep this all quiet) doesn’t see it that way. The Skeptic’s Dictionary (skepdic.com/chupa.html) says, “Puerto Rican authorities maintain that the deaths are due to attacks from groups of stray dogs or other exotic animals, such as the panther, illegally introduced in the island’s territory. The director of Puerto Rico’s Department of Agriculture Veterinary Services Division, Hector Garcia, has stated that there is nothing unusual or extraordinary about the cases they’ve observed.” Sure. More likely these guys have agreed to feed the chupacabra farm animal blood so they can get rides in the mothership.
Descriptions of the creature vary wildly. The Chupacabra Home Page says, “Speculation has placed the chupacabra as a resident of another galaxy or a half-man, half-beast vampire who roams the countryside terrorizing farm animals. Others say that the chupacabra hops like a kangaroo and leaves a sulfur-like stench. Still others say that the chupacabra is a panther-like creature with red eyes and a long snake-like tongue.” The Skeptic’s Dictionary adds, “Some have seen a small half-alien, half-dinosaur tailless vampire with quills running down its back . Some think it may be a type of dinosaur heretofore unknown. Some are convinced that the wounds on animals whose deaths have been attributed to the chupacabra indicate an alien presence. However, they do not attribute the ‘mutilations’ to the aliens themselves, but to one of their pets or experiments gone awry.” I thought they were kidding about that last part, but they’re not. According to the Dictionary, Jorge Martin, a Puerto Rican journalist, says the government has captured a couple of these things, and another has been killed and been analyzed. He suggests that it might be “the product of highly sophisticated genetic manipulations by human agencies.” One sketch of the beast can be found at www.princeton.edu/~accion/ccabra.jpg . To me it looks like the Grinch, although the Grinch’s eyes are smaller. Maybe it’s a Grinch-alien hybrid.
Another description, found at www.princeton.edu/~accion/chupa10.ht ml, says the creatures are somewhat intelligent and can become undetectable. This is logical. If we can’t find evidence for them, this proves they can make themselves invisible. The same source says it only drinks the blood of animals, not humans. Um, aren’t humans animals?
The claims of bloodless animals and animals with missing organs are similar to the “cattle mutilation” stories favored by the UFO folks — for more, see Cecil (www.straightdope.com/classics/a2_28 1.html) and the Skeptic’s Dictionary (skepdic.com/cattle.html). One aspect of the Skeptic’s Dictionary entry that deserves mention in connection with our friend the goat sucker is the description of what happens to blood in a dead body, since one of the main characteristics of the supposed animal victims is a lack of blood: “Blood settles, the heart does not pump when an animal is dead, insects devour the blood that does spill out, etc.” In other words, the fact that you don’t see blood doesn’t mean it’s all disappeared or been sucked out of the corpse.
Chupacabra sightings have been reported in Florida and Mexico. Dr. Neftali Olmo-Terron, a psychiatrist in San Juan, Puerto Rico, argues that this shows the whole thing is a myth spreading to different areas (www.princeton.edu/~accion/chupa8.html ). However, believers say the creature’s apparent spread around the world, unlike a real animal’s habitat, proves that it’s an alien’s pet. Nothing will convince these folks that farm animals aren’t having their blood sucked dry by the Grinch.
That reminds me. Time to take a closer look at Dr. Seuss. This guy knows too much.
SDStaff Jillgat comments:
Re: “the government (which is probably conspiring to keep this all quiet)”: Jesus, David, would you shut the f**k up?
SDStaff DavidB, Straight Dope Science Advisory Board
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