Chupacabra! The real story behind the legendary creature


A creature that pounces on hapless victims, rips out their throats and drinks their blood. Millions across the Americas and many in New Mexico truly fear the Chupacabra. Others think it’s a joke, a hoax. How did the Chupacabra story start? And why is it so powerful? An expert on the subject talks to investigative reporter Larry Barker of News 13 in Albuquerque in this report from 2011.

MYSTERY WIRE — It’s a mysterious vampire beast of mythical proportions, right up there with the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot and the Abominable Snowman.

It’s the Chupacabra.


Everyone knows the name, but no one knows where they live or what they look like. The legend of this vicious monster is as elusive as the beast itself.

Ben Radford is a creature hunter of sorts. He’s researched Bigfoot, lake monsters, aliens and ghosts. Now he’s taking on Chupacabra.

“Among the monsters said to roam the world’s desolate deserts and dense jungles, perhaps none is more feared than the bloodthirsty Chupacabra,” Radford reads from one account of the legend.

“For some people it’s a joke. To many people, it’s a very real creature,” he says.

Chupacabra author
Ben Radford, author of “Tracking the Chupacabra.” (KRQE)

Radford is managing editor of a science journal, the Skeptical Inquirer. He is known internationally for his science-based investigations. Now, after a five-year search, Radford has uncovered the secret of the Chupacabra.

Larry Barker: Did your grandfather tell you the story about Chupacabra when you were a little kid?

Radford: My grandfather did not tell me that story. In fact, he couldn’t have because the Chupacabra only dates back to 1995.”

According to Radford, the entire Chupacabra phenomenon — the monster, the books, documentaries, the whole legend — was created in August, 1995, from a single confused incident on a sun-drenched Caribbean island.

“I can tell you exactly where the legend was born,” Radford says. “It was born in the suburb of Canovanas outside of San Juan, Puerto Rico. It all traced back to one woman named Madelyne Tolentino who saw this bizarre creature outside her house.”

Madelyne Tolentino Chupacabra
Madelyn Tolentino of Puerto Rico is believed to be the source of the legend surrounding the Chupacabra.

During the week of Aug. 7, 1995, Tolentino spied something out of this world.

“She saw this weird thing. It was about 3 to 5 feet high, it had spikes down the back, had either black or red eyes — sort of alien-like,” Radford says. “She saw it for a few minutes and it skittered off into the woods. And from that point, the Chupacabra was born.”

The creature she described had three fingers, grayish skin and skipped like a kangaroo, but had no tail. The local newspaper dubbed the beast “El Chupacabras.”

Chupacabra drawing
A drawing of the Chupacabra as described by Madelyne Tolentino.

Nevermind that in 1995 there was no such thing as a monster called a Chupacabra. Back then, the name referred to a nocturnal bird called a whippoorwill, which some believe sucked milk out of goats. However, once the tabloids got ahold of Madelyne Torentino’s beast, there was no stopping the story of a blood-thirsty menace on a rampage.

Whippoorwill Chupacabra
A bird known as the whippoorwill was also called the Chupacabra.

Did Madelyne spot an alien critter that night? No one had reported seeing this creature before. But hold on … we have seen it before.

Madelyne Tolentino’s Chupacabra bears an eerie resemblance to Sil, the terrifying beast that ran amok in the movie, “Species.”

Call it coincidence or call it the invention of a legend, but just weeks before she spotted a strange creature beside her driveway, Madelyne Tolentino admitted, she sat in a movie theatre and watched the science fiction thriller, “Species.”

Ben Bradford interviewed her.

“I think she genuinely believes that she saw this,” Radford says. “I don’t think she’s a hoaxer. I don’t think she’s a liar. I think she simply confused a monster she saw in a film with real life.”

Radford calls Tolentino’s story dubious, nonsensical and contradictory.

Scary monster stories never really die, they just get, well, scarier. And that’s certainly true in the case of Chupacabra. Out in these parts, legendary tall tales are just part of the western lore.

Even though the creature Tolentino described was never seen again, Chupacabra hysteria has gone global.

“People write songs about the Chupacabra,” Radford says. “There’s Chupacabra figurines. There’s Chupacabra board games. There are people who spend their lives looking for the Chupacabra.”

The remains of animals are shown in photos that people connected to the Chupacabra legend. (KRQE)

Today, you hear about Chupacabra sightings all the time. When the carcass of a dead fish was found on Albuquerque’s west side, some speculated it was the blood-sucking monster. “In the last 10 years, Chupacabra just means anything weird,” Radford says. “It means some dead animal of some sort that we can’t identify.”

Find a diseased dog or coyote and you’ll find someone who says it’s the Chupacabra. But in every case, DNA tests show these strange dead creatures are just dead animals.

Chupacabra fish
A dead fish that some believed look like a Chupacabra. (KRQE)

“The media had a very, very active role in promoting the Chupacabra lore and still does to this day,” Radford says. “Hardly a year goes by when someone doesn’t find some dead dog somewhere in Texas and calls it the Chupacabra. Until the tests come in.”

Radford calls it “the beast that never was.”

Yet the myth continues.

Barker: Aren’t you a bit of a spoiler? Come on?

Radford: I don’t think so … You have this creature that’s so well known all around the world, this vampire creature, and to be able to definitively solve it, to sort of encapsulate it and say this is all the elements to it, I think is more fascinating than the myth.

Despite the evidence, there is still a part in all of us that wants to believe in an elusive blood-sucking vampire beast that lurks in the shadows.

“I would say it is no more and no less real as Santa Claus,” Radford says.

The Chupacabra is dead. Long live the Chupacabra.

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