Folklore Friday: Chupacabras from Space
The human mind is designed to pick out patterns in nature. At the advent of our species, it was our ability to differentiate between a predator and their surrounding camouflage that kept us from being eaten more often than not. This predilection for finding patterns doesn't stop at the edge of the jungle; no, we see patterns in everything, even events. We make connections between the separate patterns to form spectacular interrelated webs of phenomena that may or may not have anything to do with each other; perhaps nowhere is this more common than in the realm of the paranormal. Using one unexplained event to explain another is a common way of trying to make sense of something we don't understand. So, it comes as no surprise that when UFOs were reported over Puerto Rico around the same time as the supposed Chupacabra attacks, speculation ran wild around the possibility of an extraterrestrial explanation.
Eyewitness Madelyne Tolentino claimed to have seen the creature in Canóvanas, Puerto Rico, after as many as 150 farm animals and pets had been mysteriously killed. In a 1996 interview, Tolentino said the beast walked on two legs, like a man, and its dark, black eyes “were damp and protruding, running up to its temples and spreading to the sides,” similar to how some alien contactees describe the eyes of a 'grey.' The creature stood about four-feet-tall, and had three long, skinny fingers at the end of similarly long arms; it's legs were also long and skinny, with three webbed toes. A distinctive ridge of spikes ran the length of the thing's back. The similarity between Tolentino's description and that of alien abductees' depictions of traditional 'greys' has some people saying that perhaps the Chupacabra shares its genes with aliens--whether due to extraterrestrial experimentation or otherwise--but skeptics instead claim that she had merely misidentified a mundane animal, and applied her own preconceived notions of what she thought an alien would look like to an ordinary predator.
UFOs were first associated with the Chupacabra phenomenon during the 1975 'Vampire of Moca' attacks. Strange lights in the sky over Puerto Rico had locals worried that perhaps the creature responsible was some sort of alien. The UFO reports often came from the same area as the attacks, and the frequency of both phenomena seemed to increase simultaneously. An enormous, cigar-shaped object was seen hovering in the air over the suburb of Cupey; it reportedly shined yellow light from its rectangular portholes. In May, three star-like objects flew over the town of Fajarado, and witnesses swore that the objects were neither natural nor man-made. Later that month the skies over Rio Piedras and San Juan were filled with large, glowing balls of light, house-sized craft, and a dark object with a red light on top; they performed strange maneuvers before retreating into the night sky.
Similar reports took place later, in the 1990s, during the rash of sightings that gave us the Chupacabra as we know it today. Witnesses reported luminous oval and pyramidal shaped UFOs in the vicinity of the animal mutilation sites, in towns like Cabo Rojo, Canovanas, Ponce, and Naranjito. The Rojas family observed a UFO in Barrio Hato, shortly before a horse and several goats were found dead of an apparent Chupacabra attack. It's little wonder that a connection was drawn between the two events.
There is, however, no proven link. Perhaps people were just in a heightened state of awareness, due to the animal attacks. It's easy to imagine keeping one's head on a swivel after some mysterious creature had slaughtered so much livestock. Noticing more UFOs doesn't necessarily mean that an unusual amount were present. And the panic and speculation following the attacks would certainly lend itself well to misidentifying mundane objects; in their need to find the pattern here and thus protect themselves from this unseen predator, perhaps the narrative of extraterrestrial interference was applied to otherwise explainable phenomena. It's difficult to tell. We do know that plenty of UFO reports are submitted every year that have no attached animal mutilations, and since we don't even know what is behind the UFO phenomenon, all we can do is speculate as to the cause of that phenomenon itself, let alone its potential relationship to the Chupacabra. And while speculation in the face of the impossible is perfectly natural, and a necessary step in discovery, it's important to never allow easy supposition to replace difficult deductions in our search for the truth.