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Mistaken Memories of Vampires: Pseudohistories of the Chupacabra

As well-known monsters go, the chupacabra is of very recent vintage, first appearing in 1995. However, some writers have created pseudohistories and claimed a false antiquity for the Hispanic vampire beast. These examples provide a fascinating look at cryptozoological folklore in the making.

Most people assume that the chupacabra, like its cryptozoological brethren Bigfoot and Nessie, dates back many decades or centuries. However, as discussed in my book Tracking the Chupacabra: The Vampire Beast in Fact, Fiction, and Folklore and in the pages of the Skeptical Inquirer, the origin of the mysterious vampire beast el chupacabra can be traced back to a Puerto Rican eyewitness who saw the 1995 film Species, which featured a nearly identical monster. Though both vampire legends and “mysterious” animal predation date back many centuries, there seems to be no evidence of any blood-sucking “chupacabra” before the 1990s.

The beast turned twenty last year, and its recent vintage poses a thorny problem for those who wish to claim it exists, because any evolutionary provenance for these unknown monsters is glaringly absent. Real animals don’t simply appear out of nowhere; all animals are subject to the same evolutionary pressures and must have descended from earlier, equally known animals. The tree of life simply doesn’t have a branch for the chupacabra, any more than it does for Bigfoot, Nessie, dragons, or the Jersey Devil.1

When forced to account for this conspicuous lack of historical record, proponents often co-opt native myths and legends of supernatural spirits, taking them out of context and mischar-acterizing them as actual eyewitness accounts of encounters with unknown corporeal creatures. (For more on this process, see Daniel Loxton and Donald Prothero’s Abominable Science! Origins of the Yeti, Nessie, and Other Famous Cryptids; and Michel Meurger’s Lake Monster Traditions: A Cross-Cultural Analysis; as well as the book I coauthored with Joe Nickell, Lake Monster Mysteries: Investigating the World’s Most Elusive Creatures.)

The chupacabra has two origin stories invoked to help explain its sudden appearance: the first is that the creature is an extraterrestrial brought here by visiting aliens; the second is that the chupacabra is an escaped entity created in a top-secret U.S. government genetics laboratory experiment gone wrong—essentially a classic conspiracy-laden Frankenstein scenario. Not coincidentally, these two origin stories are identical to those of Sil, a chupacabra-like monster in the film Species (see Figure 1 and Radford 2014).

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About Skeptical Inquirer

The ‘Lie Detector’ Test Revisited: A Great Example of Junk Science Trends in Scientific Knowledge, Education, and Religion The Science of Meaning Mistaken Memories of Vampires: Pseudohistories and much more.