El Chupacabra is believed to be a sort of vampire/alien/dog hybrid that spends its time roaming the South American countryside in search of livestock to suck the blood out of. This belief can be traced back to Puerto Rico in the late 1990’s with the findings of livestock, like lambs, who had appeared to have been drained of their blood and killed. The original report of the chupacabra came from a woman named Madelyne Tolentino, a housewife living in Puerto Rico. From there, it erupted in popularity in South American nations, and even made its way to the southern part of the United States, in states like Texas and New Mexico. Recently the belief has migrated as far as Russia! It is not empirically known how many people actually still believe in this monster, but it is without a doubt that the chupacabra is still a beast that is a topic of conversation. Honestly, the only reason I heard about it was because of Scooby Doo! and the Monster of Mexico from 2003.
Belief in the chupacabra is interesting because there is no dispute that something exists and was killing animals in Puerto Rico, where it started. Yet, the question is if it is a murderous vampire beast, or just a normal animal. One key piece of evidence that the chupacabra exists is the presence of victim bodies that appear to have been sucked of their blood. The livestock that were killed had two puncture wounds on their necks and were supposedly absent of blood. There’s no doubt that these were killed by something, and the chupacabra has been blamed for it. As well, other evidence for the chupacabra is the presence of dead “chupacabra” bodies. These were mainly from Texas and other southern US states, but only some were from South American countries. They appear to be hairless, with nasty skin and a horror-like, skinny figure. They have sharp teeth as well.
Despite these two convincing facts, there is less evidence that it is a vampire beast, and more evidence that it is actually a dog that is the culprit. DNA tests run postmortem on the “chupacabra” bodies showed that they were either dogs, coyotes, or raccoons, depending on the body that was found. They were not all scientifically identified as the same species, yet they were all identified by people as the supposed chupacabra because they were hairless and gross. Scientists have attributed this hairlessness to a type of scabies, called sarcoptic mange. This is a type of mite that finds its home in the skin of dogs and other animals, causing a horrific itch that results in self-caused wounds, stripping away the hair and creating a hairless, scarred body. As for the puncture wounds on the necks of the deceased livestock, researchers have explained this just by the nature of dogs – it is pretty normal for a dog to bite another animal in the neck. Finally, pertaining to the apparent drainage of blood from the livestock, scientists have explained this as the natural process of lividity, in which the blood from the body seeps to the lowest point and clots, which gives the illusion that all the blood has been taken from the body.
A crucial cognitive contribution to this belief is the availability heuristic. This belief was able to be traced back to Madelyne Tolentino from Puerto Rico. In her report she said that the beast she witnessed had dark eyes, no hair, little arms, and tiny holes for nostrils. She also mentioned that the creature closely resembled an alien from the movie Species, a movie that she had watched right before the alleged sighting. It brings up an interesting question about the nature of Tolentino’s report: would her report have been as alien-like if she had not have seen an alien movie right beforehand? Since aliens were more readily available in her mind from the movie, I would argue that her report of the animal she saw was heavily influenced by that availability. From that point, mass hysteria was caused by the flooding of alleged “chupacabra” sightings being posted to the internet. If the internet had not been around, I would guess this creature would not have grown in the popularity that it did.
As well, it is important to look at the cultural context within which the chupacabra originated, as this may play a key role in the maintenance of the belief. As mentioned before, the chupacabra was first “sighted” in Puerto Rico, and whether it was actually a “chupacabra” or not is up for debate. However, the explanation that was created by locals for how this beast came to exist is that the United States was conducting experiments within a forest in Puerto Rico that created the monster. Paranormal investigator Benjamin Radford explained that this belief in US experiments still exists in the face of refuting evidence because of anti-US sentiments in some Puerto Ricans. Since there were already beliefs that the US was up to no good, it was not too much of a stretch to believe that the US was also behind a beast that was hurting livestock in the area as well. Overall, the chupacabra can be explained with a little bit of cultural context and a whole lot of science. It is less likely these livestock attacks were at the hands of a deadly vampire beast, and “…Instead, the whole story is a perfect storm of scientific misunderstanding, misidentification of animals, media hype, cultural anxiety and mass hysteria, all potentially resulting from one woman’s viewing of a film,” (Gabbattiss, 2016). I couldn’t have said it better than myself.
Delsol, C. (2012, August 06). El Chupacabras: Tracing Mexico’s most infamous monster. Retrieved from https://www.sfgate.com/mexico/mexicomix/article/El-Chupacabras-Tracing-Mexico-smost-infamous-2331802.php
Gabbatiss, J. (2016, November 10). The truth about a strange blood-sucking monster. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20161109-the-truth-about-a-strange-blood-suckingmonster