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El Chupacabra

This bizarre creature is an import to Florida in the past decade. The chupacabra actually made its debut on the world’s weird list in 1975 after a series of farm animal killings in Puerto Rica. Rural villagers came forth with claims that an unidentified creature was killing their animals in the early morning hours by biting their necks. Whatever it was left strange puncture-like wounds on its victims that were inconsistent with any known species. Witnesses reported hearing screeching noises and flapping sounds like made by the wings of a large bird. Eye-witnesses who claimed they had actually seen the creature, generally described it as an unknown animal about three or four feet tall, gray in color, over-sized head with big oval eyes and a mouth full of teeth. Another characteristic common in chupacabra report is the “sulfuric smell” emitted by the creature. Some descriptions offered by witnesses seemed to imply the beast was a gargoyle-like being or a Tasmanian devil with webbed-wings.

The rash of unexplained killings was first centered around Orocovis in the mountainous interior of Puerto Rica where the mutilated remains of sheep, cows, goats, dogs, chickens, and other animals were being found almost daily over a period of two months. One account has two-hundred cows being killed by the mysterious entity. In a high number of allegations involving mutilated goats, people claimed the creature had literally “sucked the insides out of its victims through the eye-sockets” leaving only carcasses of skin and bones. Since the bizarre beast was lacking a name, locals dubbed it “the goat sucker,” or as translated in Spanish, “el chupacabra.”

Several prominent and credible citizens of Canovanas came forward with sightings of an entity that “stood five feet high, with powerful hind legs like a kangaroo, big slanted eyes, and a ridge of fins or spines running down its back.” One man claimed to have chased the thing, briefly catching it long enough to look in its mouth and see long fangs before it broke free and disappeared down a street. Chupacabra reports became so frequent that authorities could no longer ignore them. Police led search parties looking for whatever was killing so many animals. Canovanas’ mayor, Jose Soto, a former police investigator, even launched his own unsuccessful quest to try and capture a chupacabra. The authorities, for the lack of any other explanation, blamed the animal deaths on feral dogs while rumors began circulating that chupacabras were some kind of mutation resulting from a secret government experiment, or even more bizarre, something with an extraterrestrial connection. By 1996, chupacabras had gained international attention in the press and were spreading like new found folklore throughout Latin America, including among Florida’s large Hispanic population. 

The first suggested chupacabra report I could find in Florida appeared in a March 1996 newspaper concerning sightings in Sweetwater. Since there are four “Sweetwaters” in the state, I should explain that the subject one is a community of mostly Hispanics located on Route 41 west of downtown Miami. The first report was made on March 10th, when a woman said that an “inhuman thing” had crossed her property. This was followed by two more reports about a strange animal killing two goats and twenty-seven chickens. That was enough to start the ball rolling toward chupacabra hysteria.

On July 23, 1996, the evening news on most Florida television stations carried a story about a strange beast killing people’s pets in South Florida that left behind a “sulfuric smell.” Although, The “C-word” was never mentioned, rumors began circulating through the Hispanic neighborhoods that this was the work of a chupacabra. One man said “It’s the same thing we called the goat sucker in Puerto Rico.” In one incident the devilish beast was blamed for tearing its claws into a luxury car, leaving deep scratches in the paint job. Dade County law enforcement agents set out traps in hopes of snaring the creature but since there are no follow-up reports we are left to wonder if they ever captured one.

In Tampa, two men reported that a chupacabra had killed some chickens and claimed to have seen the creature on two different nights. There is a definite cultural connection to chupacabra incidents in Florida since all have allegedly occurred in predominantly Hispanic areas. I think we are left with three explanations for chupacabras in Florida; the first is that they were imported from the Caribbean, perhaps on a cargo ship, or secondly, it is mere folklore, or thirdly, the infamous “Jersey Devil” has retired to South Florida. But before making any judgments, read what others have said about Florida’s chupacabra.

Weird Florida

 

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