Over a decade ago, farmers in Calama, a mining town in the heart of Chile's harsh northern desert, awoke to find their goats and sheep dead in their pens. An unidentified predator had mutilated the animals' necks. By the time the television cameras arrived, the rumor of a Chupacabra attack, Chile's first, was spreading fast through the slender Pacific nation.
Bigfoot With Teeth?
A mix of vampire and marauding, furry lizard, the Chupacabra has become one of the most common beasts studied under the general heading of cryptozoology, the study of animals that may or may not be real. No one has ever caught a Chupacabra, though plenty of eyewitnesses claim to have seen one. Descriptions vary. Eyewitness accounts during a rash of alleged attacks in 1995, many in Puerto Rico, described the animal as having a "reptilian body, oval head, bulging red eyes, fanged teeth and long, darting tongue," according to a report at the time in the daily San Juan Star.
That same description has weathered decades of scrutiny. First appearing in the late 1960s, alleged Chupacabra attacks picked up markedly in the mid-'90s, moving America's leading cryptozoologist, Loren Coleman, to term the animal "the single most notable cryptozoological phenomenon of the past decade." Coleman is the author of Cryptozoology A to Z.
"What's unique about the Chupacabra is that it's crossing languages, which I think shows how small our world is getting," says Coleman, reached by phone from his home in Portland, Maine. "It's sort of like Jennifer Lopez, kind of cross-cultural."