CLASSIC CRYPTID REVIEWS II: THE CHUPACABRA
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Our second cryptid since our mothman post has become such a staple of monster mythology, you might be forgiven for assuming it's at least been around longer than, say, A Goofy Movie or The Macarena, but alas, the very first "eyewitness account" of the legendary goatsucker was reported in Puerto Rico in only 1995, during a rash of allegedly unexplainable animal deaths. Sheep, cattle, pigs, chickens, and goats, of course, were said to have been drained almost entirely of blood with only minor puncture wounds, almost as though they'd been attacked by some gigantic mosquito...
...Or a hairy martian with a sweet hairdo and chicken hands, according to that first eyewitness, Madelyne Tolentino. For a while, this was the version of the Chupacabra that stuck, alleged to possess intensely red eyes, green fur or scales, a needle-like tongue and sometimes even gliding membranes, like a flying squirrel.
The world fell in love with this parasitic kangaroo-lizard pretty quickly, especially after comedian Silverio Perez dubbed it the "goatsucker." I was personally introduced to the monster by an episode of Unsolved Mysteries later the same year, while other kids I knew would first meet the chupacabra in a 1997 Dexter's Laboratory episode.
But, just as quickly, the outlandish space-goblin interpretation faded from the public consciousness. "Sightings," mind you, only escalated and continue to trickle in decades later, but pretty much all of them began to sound more like emaciated, mangy dogs than devilish monsters, and a weird, hairless dog now stands as both the most commonly agreed-upon description and the most commonly demonstrated explanation for monster.
But damn it, what's not to love about the Chupacabra as a buggy-eyed hopping vampire? Cryptozoologists and other "paranormal investigators" were actually willing to entertain this thing for a very, very, very brief period, proposing everything from an undiscovered species to an escaped extraterrestrial genetic experiment.
Slightly more down-to-Earth monster hunters offered their share of just slightly less goofy explanations, of course, such as giant, mutated insects or some undiscovered species of huge vampire bat, and many interpretations of the monster have incorporated aspects of these as well. For a while, the presence of full-blown bat-wings even seemed to take over as one of its most identifying features.
Unfortunately, it seems as though Madelyne's original Chupacabra was just a little too silly for virtually anybody else to even lie about having seen quite the same thing, bat-winged or otherwise, and Madelyne herself would later admit to having only just seen the movie Species before her sighting, which is...pretty damning, actually. It would have broken my heart to admit it as a kid, but this one's explanation is pretty cut and dry.
People weren't sure what was killing their animals and it was really just dogs but some lady thought that maybe it was Natasha Henstridge. I can't argue with the obvious.
...So does any of this make the chupacabra less "legitimate" as a monster?
If your love of cryptids hinges entirely on the possibility that they are possibly really out there, then I guess I can't help you. There was a time I'd have fiercely insisted, with no evidence or reason other than hope, that the world was truly home to exactly what Madelyne described and countless other, weirder things reported around the globe.
But does that really matter? However "mundane" the truth may be, the chupacabra has value as a concept, like any other monster in folklore new or old, which I guess is why I still lean more toward its most absurd interpretations. That's not to say I don't appreciate the idea of a hairless, ghoulish, vampiric canine as well, and there's certainly room for both extremes, but when we already know something is probably pure fantasy, I see no reason to restrict it to the realm of plausibility. The chupacabra is lovable BECAUSE it's an outrageous hodgepodge of characteristics people cooked up to explain a bunch of dead sheep, arising similarly to any classic "vampire" in the wake of puzzling but ultimately explainable sickness and death.
I may not at all really believe in the goatsucker as an adult, but that doesn't mean it can't be one of my favorite things that, at one time, I really did believe in with all my heart.