Does the Chupacabra lurk within Puerto Rico’s El Yunque rain forest?
by Nick Redfern
In July 2004, I traveled to the island of Puerto Rico for a week with fellow cryptozoologist, good friend, and director of the British-based Center for Fortean Zoology, Jonathan Downes, and a production team from the Sci-Fi Channel’s new Proof Positive television series. The purpose of our trip was to make a 20-minute segment for Proof Positive on the still-ongoing mystery of the diabolical chupacabras. To say that our excursion to the island was extraordinary would be an understatement.
This was my first visit to Puerto Rico specifically looking for the elusive beast. Jon, however, had undertaken a similar quest in 1998 with a British television crew and had seen firsthand both the horrific, physical handiwork of the creature and the psychological and financial effects that the chupacabras attacks had on the local populace.
Indeed, until a person actually spends time traveling the island and personally speaking with witnesses, government employees, police officers, and ranchers (all of whom have been implicated in the mystery to varying degrees), it is incredibly difficult to appreciate how much the chupacabras mystery has become ingrained in Puerto Rican society. Despite the fact that it was during the mid-to-late 1990s that the chupacabras phenomenon was at its height, attacks are still regularly occurring, even if people are somewhat reluctant to report or discuss such incidents.
We traveled the length and breadth of the island on our weeklong journey of discovery and interviewed numerous ranchers whose animals (including chickens, cows, pigs, and even peacocks) had been found slaughtered and whose deaths had been attributed to the chupacabras. Typically, two small puncture wounds were found on the necks of the animals in question; massive amounts of blood had been drained from their bodies with fantastic speed; and major bodily organs had been removed, sometimes with incredible and disturbing precision.
Locked Cages Opened
In one particularly notable case, we spoke in depth with a farmer whose chickens had been mutilated and killed during the hours of darkness in this precise fashion. What made this incident stand out as particularly unusual, however, was the fact that whatever had killed the chickens had first carefully and quietly opened the complex locks on each of the cages in which the animals were held. This suggested a sophisticated degree of cunning, intelligence, and dexterity at work.
The other case that really stood out involved a lady who lived on a property that overlooked the incredibly beautiful El Yunque rain forest. This woman had what was quite literally a face-to-face encounter with the chupacabras in 1975. She 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 those of a bird, glowing eyes that bulged from a bat-style face, and fingers with sharp, claw-like appendages. Whatever the creature was, it left a deep, lasting impression upon the woman, who recalled the near-30-year-old encounter as if it had occurred only yesterday.
For a week we traveled across Puerto Rico. We headed deep into the El Yunque rain forest and the caves of the island and spoke with countless witnesses to the creature and its deadly habits. At the end of our foray into the world of the chupacabras, I could only come to one conclusion: regardless of the many theories that have been postulated concerning the origin of the creature, the chupacabras is a very real animal—and a very dangerous one, too.
Ironically, what was perhaps the most notable account that I uncovered on the chupacabras mystery came not during the shoot with the Proof Positive team, but a week later. In a lengthy telephone conversation after I had returned home to Dallas, I spoke with a lady named Rosa who had a remarkable tale to tell.
It was 1991 and Rosa (who works in a small restaurant on the island) was driving home with a friend after a night in San Juan. For a reason that to this day Rosa is unable to determine, both she and her friend felt compelled to drive their car high into the El Yunque rain forest—something she would never have normally done, certainly not at 1:00 a.m. on a Saturday.
A Cloaked Creature
Nevertheless, the pair duly headed along the snaking roads that lead up to the forest and were confronted by a horrific sight as they rounded one particular bend: a four-to-five-foot-tall animal that crossed the road in front of them at a distance of about 50 to 60 feet with an awkward, shuffling gait. The creature appeared to be very dark gray in color and had two large wings that seemed to be wrapped around its back, giving the appearance of a long cloak that dragged on the surface of the road as it walked.
Rosa and her friend were terrified and watched in horror as the beast continued to very slowly cross the road. The creature glared at them for a split second with a pair of what appeared to be self-illuminating, glowing red eyes. Too shocked to do anything but stare in awe, the pair continued to watch as the animal shuffled into the trees and bushes and was lost from sight.
Thirteen years after her experience, Rosa spoke in a nervous voice as she related her account to me. Other than her family and several close friends (including a friend of one of the interviewees encountered during our visit to Puerto Rico), Rosa had discussed the encounter with no one. For her, the most bizarre aspect of the encounter was not the sighting itself, but the fact that the creature somehow impelled her (she believes) to drive to the El Yunque rain forest with the express intention of ensuring that she saw it, for purposes that neither I nor she can adequately determine. If nothing else, it demonstrates that the mystery of the chupacabras is a truly strange one.
In early December 2004, no fewer than 11 goats were found slaughtered inside their wooden pen at the Illusion children’s park in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico. The discovery had been made by the owner of the park’s petting zoo, Fausto Radaelli. Radaelli had taken the goats to the park the previous Monday with the intention of recreating “a manger scene for the Christmas holiday.” Two days later, however, the animals were dead.
The Primera Hora newspaper of December 3 stated: “Three of the goats presented large bite marks, dismemberment, and one of them had half of its body devoured; all of its internal organs, excepting its stomach, were gone. The rest of the goats had bite marks and fang marks on the rear of their bodies. The marks resembled the ones found on animals allegedly attacked by the infamous chupacabras.”
A Sick Varmint
However, Ernesto Marquez, a biologist and a specialist in exotic animals, concluded that the goats were attacked by “a wolf, a coyote, a hybrid, or very large feral dogs…these are regular fang marks. Canids kill animals by the rear, seizing them to hold them down and eat them. The animal leaped; it is an agile animal, attacking from the rear. It’s astute and knows human beings. This is vicious. The animal isn’t psychologically well.”
The site was also examined by Julio Diaz of the Animal Control Solutions Company and veterinary technician Herman Sulsona of the San Juan Animal Control Center. Although Marquez was convinced that the killings had a down-to- earth explanation, there were no signs of forcible entry in the pen; more intriguingly, no prints or hairs were found of any other animal aside from the goats themselves.
Moving away from the world of fact to the realm of fiction, a new movie on the chupacabras that is scheduled to appear later this year is already making big waves and is sure to further intensify the debate surrounding the mysterious beast.
Monsters on Film
Titled Cabras, the movie is the first in a trilogy of productions on the chupacabras to be made by Polania Pictures. Thanks to the assistant producer, Monica Polania, in December 2004 I was able to conduct an exclusive interview with the director, producer, cinematographer, and editor of Cabras, Fredy Polania, who stated that: “If I were to classify the movie in a short description, I would say that it is The Exorcist meets The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”
Polania added: “I was born of Colombian parents who resided in Napa, California, for 18 years, and the world of cinema has inspired me ever since I was a child. And I guess what really got me involved in filmmaking was the director Francis Ford Coppola, who also lives in Napa. His way of making movies really taught me a true sense of what I call guerilla filmmaking.”
And what was it that prompted Polania to cross paths with Puerto Rico’s notoriously ferocious beast?
Polania explained: “The unknown has always intrigued me. The mysteries behind such things as crop circles, spirits, and paranormal activities led me to look at the chupacabras. There are so many questions: Is it a beast? Is it a demon? Does it have an alien source? Or, is it even possibly the devil himself? And how can one entity cause so much havoc and never get captured? For the past 15 years, the mutilations and deaths have terrorized us. And so our story begins.”
Polania expanded further on his desire to document the mystery of the chupacabras:
“Let me ask you this: When you stare in a dark room and you see things, you ask yourself: ‘Is it really there?’ And to most people, the mystery behind the chupacabras is in their minds. But the proof is here. The animal mutilations alone are proof—to me—that this is something extraterrestrial. Personally, I believe it’s real. I think it’s waiting to reveal itself. But why it hasn’t already, I don’t know. But there is something out there far beyond what we can even imagine. My belief is that the chupacabras is extraterrestrial; but I also believe that there is something much higher to this—maybe spiritual, maybe biblical, even. And it is said that at the end of time a beast would walk the earth.”
Intriguing words, indeed.
Movie Casted Itself
Polania had equally intriguing comments to make on the way in which the cast and crew came together on the movie:
“Before a single shot was ever even captured, I had put together a crew; but not by the usual way of placing ads in newspapers. It had to be something much more special and I put together the crew through my own intuition. And what we found was that the movie started to manifest itself. I call my crew my research team, as they are something much more than just a crew. Beginning in the summer of 2000, we traveled to different parts of the world and took eyewitness accounts and collected stories from people. What we found shocked us. I can tell you that the world has been going about this the wrong way. If people knew what was really going on out there, they would not treat the chupacabras as a joke.”
In similar vein, Polania stated: “The cast feel like they’ve done this already and it’s almost as if we’ve all met before and as if we were brought together by fate. [It] was almost as if we were brought together by something greater.”
I asked Polania how he thought the movie would be viewed and interpreted by those with an interest in the chupacabras mystery as well as by the general public and the media. Would it be perceived as just another horror movie? Polonia was unequivocal in his views:
“I think this movie is going to be an eye-opener. I want to stress that Cabras is not a movie about death. It’s a movie about something that lives amongst us. I think that with our movie the public will find a new perspective on what the paranormal is really about.”
“Is this going to be shown in theaters or is it going to be a movie for people to buy or rent as a video or DVD?” I inquired.
“The movie’s trailers have already been seen in over 120 countries worldwide,” Polania revealed. “The response has been astronomical. Even before it’s been officially released, the movie is becoming almost like a cult: the truth, the legend, the beginning. I feel this movie is too complex for it to go straight to DVD. We are currently negotiating a domestic theater release. This is actually a three-movie series and I want the beginning of the story to be shown the right way.”
Polania added: “The official website of the movie is online right now—at www.cabrasmovie.com—and people can learn more about it there. But in a few months’ time—and closer to the release date of the movie—we will unleash behind-the-scenes footage, interviews, eyewitness accounts, and an interactive forum. Regarding the release, it will be towards the end of 2005. You’ll find that the next few films to be released by Polania Pictures will all be supernaturally based.”
Closeness and Trust
On the subject of Polania Pictures, he explained to me that: “Our crew is quite small. Our philosophy is that you don’t need a million dollars to make a great film. The company is based on the trust of friends and it is the love of movies that brought us all together. We all dedicated four years of our lives with no pay to make this movie. The movie could never have been done without the closeness and trust we had in each other. Cabras is the first film from this group of friends and family.”
Fredy Polania stated in closing: “This is something I was born to do. The unknown and the mystery of it is something I have to tell. And what better way than in a movie?”
What better way, indeed? Look out for Cabras at a theater near you later this year. Whatever the true nature of the chupacabras, both off-screen and on-screen it seems that the exploits of the creature are certain to continue.
Nick Redfern’s latest book is Three Men Seeking Monsters (Paraview-Pocket Books, March 2004). He lives in Dallas and can be contacted at www.nick redfern.com.