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Digital Subscriptions > Skeptic > 24.3 > JUNIOR SKEPTIC




Today we’ll investigate a mystery as gruesome as it is creepy. Hair-raising stories claim that a vampire beast stalks the shadows—stealthy, silent, and thirsty for blood. According to these tales, the chupacabra—or “goatsucker”— is rarely seen. It strikes farms in the night, feasting on blood from goats, sheep, chickens, and other helpless prey. These stories first terrified people in Puerto Rico, then spread to many other places. Some claim it is an unknown animal. Others say it is an alien predator or secret experiment gone wrong. What is the truth behind this modern vampire legend?

Let’s find out!

Bloodthirsty Rumors

We’ll begin our story with a warning. The trail of the chupacabra is a dark path indeed. We must bravely face monster claims, horror movies, and the grim realities of death.

The chupacabra legend began with the mysterious deaths of farm animals. On numerous mornings in 1995, in various places across the U.S. island terrority of Puerto Rico, farmers woke up to shocking sights. They stared in horror at the remains of farm animals killed during the night. Farmers and neighbors struggled to explain what happened. These animal deaths seemed… strange. Unnatural. In many cases, the animals were not eaten. Instead, witnesses said that the animals appeared to be drained of blood. Terrified people began to whisper a word from ancient folklore: vampire! It may sound weird for modern people to be scared of vampires. And yet, similar rumors have spread many times in many places throughout history. Often they start when people or animals sicken or die for no obvious reason. Unexplained deaths make people feel afraid. “Why is this happening?” survivors ask. “Could we be the next victims? How can we keep ourselves safe?”

JUNIOR SKEPTIC No. 72 (2019)

If people are unable to find a natural cause or enemy to fight, they may leap to the conclusion that some hidden supernatural threat is to blame. “Witches are harming people with black magic!” rumors may claim, or “Vampires are attacking in the night!”

The Power of Blood

Weakened spirits scramble to drink sheep’s blood in the ancient Greek saga the Odyssey. (Image courtesy rijksmuseum, Netherlands

Modern fictional Dracula-type vampire stories have been told for two hundred years. These were inspired by vampire folklore that goes back centuries more. But the blood-drinking idea is much older still. Long before the vampire legend was born, ancient stories spoke of other blood-drinking monsters, demons, and spirits. Vampirelike stories are probably as old as language itself.

For thousands of years, people have known that there is a connection between having blood and being alive. “There is great vitality …in the blood,” said the ancient Roman writer Pliny the Elder. When creatures lose their blood, “it carries the life with it,” Pliny explained.

People in Pliny’s time did not know that blood carries the oxygen and nutrients that our muscles and organs need to function. Instead, many guessed that blood must be filled with some sort of mysterious, mystical life force. Ancient people therefore imagined that drinking blood might allow one creature to absorb life energy from another. After all, leeches and biting insects remain alive by sucking blood for their food. Some falsely believed that drinking a strong person’s blood could restore a sick person to health.

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About Skeptic

PINKER ON POST-TRUTH & REASON Steven Pinker on “Why We Are Not Living in a Post-Truth Era: An (Unnecessary) Defense of Reason and a (Necessary) Defense of Universities’ Role in Advancing it” COLUMNS The SkepDoc: Coconut Oil: Health Food or Health Hazard? by Harriet Hall, M.D. • The Gadfly: The Persistence of Memory… and of the Memory Wars, by Carol Tavris ARTICLES The “Lost” Tribes of Israel • The Pentagon’s UFOs How a Multimedia Entertainment Company Created a UFO News Story • The Problem with the Walking Dead And How They Flummoxed Science for Centuries • The Enigma of Stephen Jay Gould • Why the Human Brain Did Not Evolve to Accurately Represent the True Nature of Reality • Homeopathy’s New Clothes: Release Active Drugs • Pressured Apologies, False Confessions, and Witch Hunts • Two Kinds of Progressive Atheism • Surfing for Truth in All the Right Places: An Empirical Test of the Backfire Effect and How the Internet Can Reduce Anti-vaccination Attitudes REVIEWS Reviews of “A review of Whiteshift: Populism, Immigration, and the Future of White Majorities” • “Spectacle of Illusion: Deception Magic and the Paranormal” • “The Apparitionists: A Tale of Phantoms, Fraud, Photography and the Man Who Captured Lincoln’s Ghost” • “Supernatural Entertainments: Victorian Spiritualism and the Rise of Modern Media Culture” JUNIOR SKEPTIC The Chilling, Changeling Chupacabra!