For more than three decades, Puerto Ricans have reported frightening encounters with a wolflike creature known as el chupacabras, the "goatsucker."
This fearsome, nocturnal beast has reportedly killed hundreds of domestic animals, including horses, cattle and what appears to be its favorite food, goats.
Mutilated remains are usually found drained of blood and missing body organs. No humans have been attacked, but those who have encountered the creature say it changes colors like a chameleon and emits a strange hissing sound and offensive odor that sickens many.
Witnesses say the creature is about 5 feet tall, with a furry body and glowing spines that run from the crown of its head down its back. It is said to have large slanting eyes (sometimes said to glow orange or red); long, thin arms; muscular legs; and three clawed toes on each foot.
In the fall of 1995, the goatsucker allegedly killed 11 goats in the town of San German. Townspeople said they chased the creature away as it was attempting to steal some roosters.
In Canovanas, the epicenter of chupacabras activity with more than 150 animal slayings reported in 1995 alone, Mayor Jose Soto ordered paramilitary patrols to hunt the monster.
Jaime Torres's encounter with a chupacabras, included in a 71-page report by Scott Corrales called The Chupacabras Diaries, is a typical account of a sighting. According to the booklet, Mr. Torres was walking through a field containing a flock of sheep when he saw a chupacabras in a tree.
"It had a round head, dark gray face, elongated black eyes, delicate jaw and small mouth," Mr. Torres said.
As he approached, the creature's head began to rock from side to side and it emitted an eerie hissing sound. Mr. Torres became dizzy and almost fainted.
"Losing no time, the creature dropped from the tree and rapidly disappeared through the undergrowth, leaving its queasy observer far behind," Mr. Corrales wrote.
The legend of this livestock-slaughtering beast has spread to Mexico and Hispanic communities in the United States. By the late 1990s, the chupacabras was more popular than Bigfoot among cryptozoologists-scientists who study strange and unusual creatures unknown to science.
Some say the creature was brought to Earth by a UFO. Others suggest it is the grotesque byproduct of genetic engineering. Most scientists, however, say there's no such thing. They contend monkeys are to blame for most of the sightings and grisly deeds.
Karl Shuker, a leading cryptozoologist who has interviewed dozens of witnesses, takes issue with that assessment. "Monkeys do not suck blood," he noted. "They do not change color, and they certainly cannot render people physically ill simply by gazing at them."
Author and syndicated columnist Randall Floyd's latest book is 100 of the World's Greatest Mysteries: Strange Secrets of the Past Revealed. He can be reached at Rfloyd2@aol.com.