Only Fools and Goatsuckers by Jonathan Downes recounts the adventures of Jon, and Graham Inglis and a film crew, in Puerto Rico, Mexico and Miami in early 1998

I wrote the following article in early 1997 and now include it as an introduction to the subject. However, at the time, I had no idea that within a year I would be visiting the areas mentioned. - Jon Downes.

Puerto Rico expedition report

Jon, Chupacabra and Graham


Essentially I am a zoologist, and whilst, much against my better judgement, I have been dragged kicking and screaming as it were into the internecine labyrinths of paranormal research, my first love within the subject is cryptozoology - the study of mystery animals. As I have written previously in these pages, it has become clear that not all the 'creatures' which are reported to me, and other researchers around the world are truly flesh and blood in form, and are not really animate, at least in the conventional sense of the word. These 'creatures' are known as zooform phenomena and are often reported in conjunction with other, sometimes diverse, paranormal phenomena, including ghosts, poltergeists and UFOs.

One of the most interesting of these 'things' (as the legendary UFOlogist Ivan T Sanderson used to refer to them), is the Goat Sucker, El Chupacabra, a winged phantom of the hispanic world which is causing consternation worldwide amongst zoologists, UFOlogists and the farming community alike.

As is so often the case when writing about the more bizarre quasi-fortean phenomena it is very difficult to know where to start. There have been UFO reports in the vicinity of the island of Puerto Rico for many years, and USO reports for even longer. In 1963, for example, a sonar operator on a destroyer taking part in an anti-submarine exercise of the island's coast reported that one of its submarines had chased an unknown underwater object at more than 170 m.p.h. One has to remember, however that the political situation in the Caribbean at the time, with the furore surrounding the events at the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis meant that the interpretation put by the US Military on Unidentified Submarine Objects was inextricably linked (at the time at least) with the Cold War rather than the alien menace.

Puerto Rico is an island in the Caribbean to the east of the island of Hispianiola (which contains both the voodoo republic of Haiti, and the slightly less fearsome Dominican Republic). It was discovered in 1493 by Christopher Columbus and has been a self governing 'commonwealth' of the United States of America since the Spanish-American war of 1898. Although since 1917 its inhabitants have been U.S citizens they are predominantly Spanish speakers of Hispanic or mixed race descent. Both politically and geographically, therefore, it is located mid way between the Houngan led, voodoo infested, high strangeness of Haiti and the long established Colonial ethos of the Brotosh Virgin and Leeward Islands to the East. This has established a sort of cultural schizophrenia which may be important when investigating the quasi-vampiric events chronicled in this article.

During the 1970s there were a series of bizarre and inexplicable events on the island. According to Janet and Colin Bord, writing in Modern Mysteries of The World, nine people were on a mountain called El Yunque one night in 1973. They were looking for UFOs, and two of them saw "...four entities five to six feet tall, with long arms, big eyes, pointed noses and ears. One carried a 'little machine' with lights on it, and they all moved by leaping".

This was only the first of a series of bizarre occurrences in the little Caribbean island. A few years later there were a series of mysterious attacks on domestic livestock in the Moca area. Ducks, geese, rabbits and goats were attacked and there were also UFO sightings in the same locality. It does appear, however, that some of these attacks may have had an interesting but rather more prosaic explanation.

Writing in The Hispanic magazine during August 1996, Lalo Lopez noted:

"In the 1970's the 'Moca Vampire' myth emerged as mauled carcasses of animals were suddenly being found throughout the countryside near the town of Moca. The 'vampire' turned out to be real - sort of. Someone had illegally introduced alligators into the delicate Puerto Rico ecosystem. The alligators mauled animals as they approached watering holes. Because alligators weren't native to the island, residents had never seen these types of maulings and a myth regarding the 'vampires' was born".

The descriptions of the mutilated animals do not sound the work of crocodilians, however. All members of the family crush their prey with their huge jaws, or, conversely rip out chunks of living flesh from larger prey animals. The accounts from Puerto Rico in 1975 (and indeed more recently), have more in common with a more arcane phenomenon, often associated with UFO reports.

Cattle Mutilation, as the phenomenon is usually described, despite the fact that ponies, sheep, dogs, cats and smaller domestic animals are just as likely to be attacked as cattle themselves, is a worldwide phenomenon which, justifiably causes quite a lot of concern to those bodies responsible for animal welfare. The bodies are often exsanguinated (totally drained of blood), but there is seldom any sign of blood on the ground below the corpse, which has also often been mutilated with surgical precision. The tongue and sexual organs are often completely removed and other parts of the body are often attacked, seemingly with a scalpel.

During the summer of 1977, a small helmeted entity dressed in green was seen. It was described as having a tail and as it flew away red and blue lights in a box on its back lit up. According to Janet and Colin Bord, "Witnesses watched the lights amongst the trees, and they were joined by another set of lights as if another entity were there."

It was not really to anyone's great surprise when, nearly twenty years after the events chronicled above, the madness started again.

The recent series of events began in November 1995 and was reported widely. The Aberdeen Press and Journal (21.11.1995) for example reported that a 'mysterious blood-sucking beast' known as 'Chupacabras' or 'Goat-Sucker', is causing uproar in Puerto Rico. Police state the animal is responsible for the deaths of dozens of goats, cats, dogs, turkeys and rabbits, and even horses and cows. It is said to rip out the organs of its animal victims. In November attacks were being reported daily on news radio, and in the newspaper El Vocero.

A witness from the city of Canovanas described the animal as about four feet tall, and resembling a monkey with no tail. The beast was said to have attacked thirty five times in the city during the autumn months, despite being hunted by a posse led by the mayor every Sunday.

In Caguas the beast was said to have entered a house through a bedroom window, destroyed a teddy bear, and left 'a puddle of slime and a piece of rancid white meat on the window sill'. The householder described the Chupacabras as having huge red eyes and hairy arms. (No description of the Teddy Bear was available). In an early morning raid on a junkyard in the same city, five sheep, four geese and a turkey were reportedly killed. A vet from the Agriculture department investigated and concluded that the animals had died from natural causes, and that none had bled to death. Local sceptics claimed that wild monkeys had attacked the livestock. There are no indigenous simians on the islands, but UFO researcher Terry Hooper tells me that Rhesus Macaques (an Asian species widely used in medical research) have been liberated on the island and have quickly become established. Ironically, as I write this, the latest wave of Chupacabras attacks have been on these monkeys themselves, and so the high strangeness continues.

Chupacabras fever hit the island and the mystery beast was also described as being like a giant bat and even humanoid in form. Early in 1996, however, similar incidents were being reported on the mainland in the Republic of Mexico. On February 16th 1996, Professor Noe Montoya, a UFO researcher told a colleague of mine that outlying communities of the city of Puebla were reporting strange deaths amongst their farm animals. These losses were reportedly blamed on a creature resembling the Puerto Rican Chupacabras.

On March 4th 1996 Armando Gutierrez of Tampico, Tamaulipus State telephoned my colleague. He mentioned the puzzling attacks on dozens of hens, four goats and fifteen chickens in the tiny village of Altamira, located about 2km from Tampico. The animals had wounds on their necks and had been left completely drained of blood.

Teodosio Mendez Menza, owner of the Amecuaca Ranch, lost sixteen sheep, while at the same time, Bernadino Rodriguez of La Barranca de San Miguel experienced a further four from their pen. Barragan remained unmoved, repeating that some natural cause, (pumas, feral dogs etc), was behind these incidents.

The death list continued to rise, particularly in Tlalixocoyan, Veracruz. On May 3rd six dead sheep were found with marks on their necks and in the vertebral region. According to a witness from El Nido, a dog like creature harassed his flock, and when he attempted to shoot the intruder, it crossed a barbed wire fence without either wounding itself or making a noise. This is frighteningly reminiscent of certain attacks on sheep in Cornwall during 1978 which are chronicled in my book, The Owlman and Others.

Townspeople armed with rifles and machetes took to the countryside the following day in the hopes of finding the predator. No trace was found, but some witnesses claimed to have seen an enormous bat flying at a low altitude. Humberto Cota Gil, chief investigator for the Universidad Autonoma de Sinaloa claimed that the killings were the responsibility of a tiny Brazilian vampire bat and conveniently ignored all the eyewitness testimony to the contrary. In Los Mochis, Topolobambpo, forty sheep were killed at Rancho La Remolacha This prompted a massive mobilisation of soldiers and armed police equipped with infrared lights, shotguns, electrical equipment, helmets and riot shields.

Another report says that thirty sheep were slain by a Mandrill-like creature in the state of Hidalgo.

One strange evening the village of La Loma, Jalisco suffered a series of strange attacks. Ten sheep were killed and a local man called Jose Angel Pulido claimed to have been attacked by the 'Chupacabras'. He described the strange predator as a monster, over 80cms tall, and weighing some 30kg, with ashen-dark 'feathers' and sizeable wings.

A pattern is beginning to develop. We have a monkey, a baboon, a giant bat, and a bird winged creature from hell. All killing domestic livestock and mostly appearing in conjunction with UFO reports.

In the spring of 1996 the first killings were reported from the mainland United States. A goat was killed in Donna, Texas on May 15th and at about the same time 69 goats, chickens, geese and ducks were killed in the heavily Hispanic Sweetwater district of South Miami.

By this time it was no longer possible to treat the chupacabras within purely zoological or UFOlogical terms of reference. It had become the subject of pop records (El Chupacabra - to the tune of that awful La Macarena song), another called El Pajaro del Robe (translated as The Crazy Bird of Robstown), and even a spoof on Mary Poppins entitled Chupacabrafragalisticexpialiditious. It was the basis for several books and a video game and was the source for a thriving T Shirt and souvenir industry across its geographical range. Cartoon images looking like a slightly sinister analogue of Sonic the Hedgehog appeared everywhere and everyone (including me) who was able to make a few quid out of the situation did so. However, there was a more sober side to the phenomenon.

Writing in 1996 Professor Rafael A Lara-Palmeros drew comparisons between the Mexican chupacabra and political terrorism in the country:

"Since its first appearance in the national media, the 'Chupacabras', has captured the attention of everyone, from musicians to intellectuals. Numerous references to the creature have appeared in Mexico's printed media presenting an entity which has been variously linked to Subcomandante Marcos of the EZLN, with the myth of 'La Llorona' and to the poverty and lack of education affecting the country. The real 'Chupacabras', so to speak - is the drought and the hunger affecting the country, along with the current political crisis, unemployment and lawlessness. Delirious minds have created their own myths and legends as a result of the penury which has engulfed Mexico as a nation".

In a similar frame of mind Professor Richard Grinker of George Washington University wrote:

"There are a certain number of these legends of bloodsucking animals in South and Latin America. They are usually analysed as anti-capitalist, an unconscious means of rebellion by country people who believe that capitalism is sucking dry the earth and their entire being".

Dr Neftali Olmo-Terron MD, the Director of the Puerto Rican State Psychiatric Hospital noted,

"Chupa cabras. Female-got sucker. In spanish, the female goat is a name for promiscuous females, prostitutes included. In a time of AIDS, herpes, chlamydia, warts and other sexually transmitted disease even erotic fantasy could be considered dangerous.

There really is no safe sex. The only acceptable way to chupar la cabra, and accomplish it with certain degree of primitive excitement is for someone else to do it..."

The Chupacabras. A denizen of intergalactic space-craft? A symbol for the sexual repression of one Roman Catholic country? An equally potent symbol of political repression in another? The work of terrorists? An unknown animal from the dark swamps of Puerto Rico? A zooform phenomenon? Something else entirely?

The truth, to my mind at least is a complex mixture of all of the above interpretations. Firstly it is obviously something peculiarly Hispanic.

Marvette Perez, curator of Hispanic History at the Smithsonian Institute notes the similarity between the chupacabras and the garadiablo a mythical and devilish creepy-crawly from the swamplands of Puerto Rico:

"This seems to be a very Caribbean phenomenon, especially of the Spanish-speaking islands. It's part of our folklore. It's interesting that the chupacabras has not been found on the English speaking islands, but has migrated only in places where people speak Spanish".

Since writing that in May 1996, the phenomenon has, as we have seen, invaded the other Spanish speaking parts of the New World. There have since been reports from Argentina and Venezuela as well as other parts of mainland South America. There have even been a few reports of what sound suspiciously like chupacabra attacks from Spain and its offshore islands in the Atlantic and Mediterranean.

But what is it? It is certainly linked with UFO activity, and whilst I feel that it would be simplistic to assume that the chupacabra is actually an inhabitant of UFOs which for some reason only visit the Spanish speaking world the connection is undeniable, as are the parallels with such entities as the Cornish owlman and the West Virginia Mothman. The connections and the lexilinks are many and various, but only serve to confuse an already abominably confused subject even further. The chupacabras files present an unwinking visage of high strangeness, which stands out fearsomely even against the rest of what is, after all, a spectacularly strange science. Ultimately this article, like the chupacabras itself raises more questions than it answers.... but no-one said that it was going to be........

report on the CFZ Puerto Rican expedition...