Silence of the Lambs, Quite Literally.

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

Gabbatiss, J. (2016, November 10). The truth about a strange blood-sucking monster. Retrieved from

Slender Man: Mystic Figure Turned Murderous Motivator?

The belief I chose to research is Slender Man, who is supposedly a spooky figure who takes the form of a pale man with no face and tentacles as arms who stalks and haunts people. This is a myth that was formulated through online forums that slowly grew in popularity and belief, particularly among teenagers. Information on this belief can easily be found on different news sources due to the crime that occurred because of it, and Slender Man can also be traced back to the original fictional posting on an online forum. This belief was popular in the early 2010’s, and it is important to know about because it was a widespread belief that caused two young girls to attack their friend in 2014.

There is much evidence this belief is based on a legend, and almost no evidence that Slender Man is an actual being. The evidence against the belief is that the original source of Slender Man can be found on a site called “Something Awful”, when users were prompted to use their Photoshop skills to come up with paranormal images. A man named Victor Surge created the first image of what is now known as Slender Man, and this image gained popularity as other users created new content such as fake newspaper articles and images about Slender Man. The further this fictional figure got from its original source, the more people started to believe he was an actual figure. The only evidence for the belief is the crime that occurred in Wisconsin as a result of this legend. Two 12-year-old girls claimed Slender Man commanded them to drag their friend into the woods and kill her. They believed that they were hearing Slender Man in their heads and that he would appear to them after their friend’s death. Since then, one of the girls has been diagnosed with schizophrenia.

As the fictional character gained popularity and moved further from its original post, the origins of this character grew murky, and people began to believe that Slender Man may actually exist. Although there is no evidence this figure actually existed, people believed he did because of the sheer prominence of the character online, or an argumentum ad populum. Another reason for this belief is our tendency as humans to desire explanations for things, and in this case, spooky feelings and happenings could easily be blamed on the existence of a figure like Slender Man. This is an example of confirmation bias, and can be clearly seen in the attack that occurred in Wisconsin. There is no doubt that at least one, if not both of the attackers were dealing with dark thoughts, and all they had to do was log in on their online forum and stumble upon Slender Man content in order to find an explanation for what they were feeling.

This was a belief in the United States, where believers were bred through the internet. With the popularity of the internet in America growing at this time, the belief was cultivated rapidly, particularly among adolescents. This also takes into account the fact that Slender Man was only popular on the internet, and nothing else (such as the news or in movies). This creates an aura of spookiness and urban folklore that perpetuates the idea that it could, in fact, exist despite disconfirming evidence.

In conclusion, the belief in Slender Man that existed in the early 2010’s and even caused an attack in 2014 is based on a fictional character from the internet. However, this does not mean that the people who believed in Slender Man were crazy for believing it. The combination of popularity, confirmation bias, and the sheer growth of the internet during this time created an online culture that was perfect for breeding a belief in a legendary figure. Unfortunately, the belief in this figure did cause harm in the attack in 2014. Since then, there have been many media outlets who have clearly disproven this belief, and it is rare to find someone who still believes in Slender Man today.

Dewey, C. (2016, July 27). The complete history of ‘Slender Man,’ the meme that
compelled two girls to stab a friend. Washington Post. Retrieved from

Gabler, E. (2014, June 02). Charges detail Waukesha pre-teens’ attempt to kill classmate. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved from