El Chupacabra: The FULL Story of New Mexico's Vampiric Goat Sucker TAP TO GET PODCAST
According to New Mexico residents, a florescent flying lizard spends many a night in Albuquerque partying it up in the pasture with goats. Sadly, I hear he’s pretty sucky company to spend an evening with.
Some of the earliest alleged sightings of mysterious beasts roaming the night, silently awaiting to drain the blood of their next prey, date back to the 1950s. If you’re a regular listener of ours, you might remember the story of The Beast of Bladenboro, where a monstrous feline hunted both creatures and humans alike in North Carolina. But unlike a vampiric cat-bear hybrid, an entirely different species may be roaming around—one with a more bipedal stance and alien-like features rather than one resembling a mountain lion. While most of our stories in this episode take place stateside in New Mexico, I must first preface with one from Puerto Rico to set the stage with the sighting that quite possibly started it all.
After all the 4th of July summer barbecues and poolside banter, fans of horror, science fiction, and action movie buffs alike found themselves lining the box office in anticipation of the latest Dennis Feldman movie. Of course, not without first grabbing their extra-buttery movie theater popcorn, their favorite sweet tooth treat, the Buncha Crunch, and balancing the largest, fizziest Coca-Cola they could find. After last-minute bathroom breaks, standing in long concession lines, and grabbing several napkins on their way out, viewers finally made it to their seats just in time to see the opening credits for Species.
If you’re familiar with the various alien movies from Hollywood, such as Ridley Scott’s 1979 cult classic, Alien, or even Steven Spielberg’s 1982 family favorite, E.T., this film has probably been on your radar. And while we might be familiar with the idea of aliens terrorizing earth or friendly extraterrestrials just trying to find their way home, the movie, Species, takes a different approach.
While yes, in this film, aliens are coming down to terrorize our planet, they go about it a bit. Differently… This movie takes a more primal approach, using the all too familiar trope of a seductive looking alien coming to mate with humans and possibly creating another race of lifeforms. While Species was met with mixed reviews from critics, it was still a relatively successful movie that eventually led to a franchise. But no matter how well this sci-fi flick did at the box office, perhaps this film may not have been the only extra-terrestrial story buzzing around during the summer of 1995.
Madelyne Tolentino and her mother had been watching the local news in their home in Canóvanas, Puerto Rico, one mid-August morning. News reporters warned families to keep an eye out and lock up their pets safely inside as local farmers had lost many of their livestock to a peculiar death. One farmer claims they woke up to find eight sheep lying dead in their yard with nothing but three puncture wounds on the chest and completely drained of blood. As other farmers chimed in to share their own experiences, nearly 150 livestock and family pets had all succumbed to the same fatal death—puncture wounds in the chest or neck and utterly void of a single drop of blood. Unsure of what to make of these strange sightings, Madelyne and her mother turned off the tv and went about their day. Only their entire lives would completely change after what they witnessed just a few hours later.
While Madelyne was napping on the living room couch, her mother startled her awake. Foggy from her afternoon nap, Madelyne seemed a little disoriented until she saw her mother point to the figure standing outside their big-picture window. Nearly 4 feet tall, a dark, gray figure was standing on its hind legs, staring right back at them. According to Madelyne, it had black eyes that “were damp and protruding, running up to its temples and spreading to the sides,” which resembled a typical depiction of an alien drawing. She also described its stature as a kangaroo without a tail and its “arms drawn back in an attack position, as though it were a T.V. monster”, with long arms and “three, long skinny fingers” on each side. According to Madelyne, the mysterious being before them also had “long and skinny legs,” and its feet were “similar to goose feet,” having “webbing between its three toes.” But what might have been most peculiar was the row of spikes on its back when it finally turned away and ran off into the distance.
Completely dumbfounded, they had no idea what they had just witnessed. Could this be the elusive beast everyone was talking about? Could this be the very monster that’s thought to have an affinity for blood? Once the initial shock wore off, Madelyne and her mother quickly went to the local news station to share their strange experience. After describing it in detail, the newspaper later printed a mock-up of the being. Soon after, the piece had been the talk of the town not just in Canóvanas but all over Puerto Rico, Latin America, and even making its way to the states. Stories upon stories had been told of farmers from around the world experiencing similar livestock deaths. Ones were like a thief in the night, sheep, cattle, goats, and the like were all found with minor puncture wounds, and blood ran dry. Only this time, the mysterious beast had a name: El Chupacabra, which translates to “goat-sucker” in Spanish.
Between 1995 and the mid-2000s, Chupacabra sightings ran rampant. Many farmers worldwide claimed the Chupacabra took the lives of their most prized cattle in the middle of the night, while others shared their first-hand encounters in broad daylight. And that’s exactly what happened to Trey Rogers.
In September 2006, right before the promise of cooler weather for Autumn, Trey Rogers, a local rodeo roper, was enjoying an afternoon in the woods. While practicing shooting games with his paintball gun in the town of High Rolls, about 3 hours away from Albuquerque, he noticed something moving off in the distance. Upon a closer look, it was like nothing he had ever seen before. Standing on its hind legs, staring right back at him, was a 4-foot-sized, reddish-brown figure.
At first, Trey brushed it off as an abnormally large red fox. Only red forest foxes don’t have spikes down their back. And they most certainly don’t have wings. Struck with fear, Trey finally managed to lift his paintball gun and take aim. But as quick as he pressed the trigger, the red-winged creature took off completely unscathed. According to Trey, this creature ran faster than the fastest rabbit he had ever seen. If you ask me, maybe Trey would have had a better advantage if he had traded his new paintball gun for his tried and true trusty lasso.
While this isn’t the only story where the Chupacabra was spotted in broad daylight, the following two stories are a bit wild in comparison. A few short weeks after this event, Valerie Pauls found herself in a similar situation. However, this time, the vampiric beast took on a whole new meaning of the phrase “flying colors.”
Valerie Pauls, an early morning hotel shift worker, was on her way to work in Albuquerque. As she hopped into her car, the clock read 6:30 a.m. Mulling between swinging through a drive-thru to grab a coffee on the way out or simply making a cup at the hotel when she clocked in at 7:00 a.m., she ultimately decided to save the few dollars to grab lunch on her way home later that day. But Valerie couldn’t have known that if she had instead driven through the local Starbucks or McDonald’s for a quick breakfast, she might have never witnessed the hideous creature waiting for her at the hotel.
Pulling in around 6:50 a.m., Valerie began to roll up her windows just before she heard a strange hissing noise. Unsure if this noise was coming from inside her car or a spooked cat sitting in the parking lot, she looked around but didn’t initially see anything. As she stepped out of her car, hitting the lock on her key fob, she heard the strange hissing noise once more. But this time, there also came a putrid sulphuric smell. Again, not seeing any feral cat in the parking lot or a rambunctious raccoon near the surrounding dumpster, she decided to look up at the 6th floor’s balcony. Piercing down at her with glowing red eyes was a gargoyle-sized creature sizing her up. Like Trey’s encounter, this being also had pointy spikes descending on its back. Only this time, the beast was also flashing neon colors as bright as the Las Vegas strip.
Feeling disoriented and fearful for her life, she instinctually got back in her car and locked all four doors. That’s when this gargoyle creature jumped down onto her car, cracking her entire windshield. Terrified at what this thing might do to her, she shielded her face and moved away. After the strange hissing sound and the sulphuric smell dissipated, she slowly peeked through her fingers. But there was no evidence of this beast atop her car. This Chupacabra, or whatever it was, seemed to have lept off her vehicle, flown back to the top of the hotel, and vanished into thin air.
Shortly after this incident, another Albuquerque resident experienced something all too similar. In mid-afternoon, 42-year-old Rebecca Tuggle was heading down the elevator at her corporate job to clock out for the evening. Thinking about what to make for supper and excited about her upcoming weekend plans, Rebecca was a bit absent-minded as she walked out to her car on the ground floor. That’s when she heard a strange hissing noise and an overpowering smell of rotten eggs. But instead of swooping down from the 6th floor, this creature was standing directly behind her. As she turned around to see what was making all the commotion, she eyed a 4-foot-tall creature that resembled something out of a horror film. With the spiky spines down its back like a lizard, its stature like a kangaroo, and its teeth sharp and glowing red eyes like a bat, if you can imagine. And once again, this same creature emitted a hypnotic, rainbow-colored glow that left Rebecca feeling so nauseated she passed out. When she eventually came to, she was lying next to her parked car in an empty parking garage. With her keys in one hand and her purse crumpled beneath her, she got up, shook off her pencil skirt, and got into her car, wondering if she had dreamed up the entire situation.
When you think about these different occurrences, the Chupacabra certainly seems to have a few discrepancies and creates room for skepticism. I mean, does the Chupacabra have reddish-brown fur? Or does it have color-changing, flashing neon skin? And what about its body? Does it resemble a fox, a kangaroo, or a lizard? And is it really a vampiric beast, or is it just a mangy animal so hairless you can mistake its spine for bony spikes?
While we don’t know entirely which story is to be believed and which account is an imaginative rendering to spark the interests of news reporters, we do know that the film Species wasn’t the only thing that was met with extreme criticism.
Benjamin Radford, an American writer, investigator, and self-proclaimed skeptic, has a knack for debunking ridiculous claims. Anything regarding paranormal, unexplained mysteries, and urban legends, he seems to have scientific reasoning for every creepy thing that goes bump in the night. So when stories began circulating again just a few years later about various Chupacabra sightings, he put on his investigator’s hat and got to work.
Curious as to what people were actually seeing, Benjamin went on a 5-year investigative journey to see if he could pin down the infamous El Chupacabra. After years of tracking down eyewitness accounts, researching folkloric legends, and using forensic science, Benjamin remained an unbeliever in the strange and mysterious. To Benjamin, there are two obvious scientific reasons behind this global legend. For starters, he believes that they aren’t vampiric monsters at all due to DNA tests and technological advancements. These Chupacabras are none other than wild dogs or coyotes suffering from extreme mange. And his reason for the uptick in sightings? Global warming.
According to Benjamin, these wild canines cannot survive long, harsh winters because they don’t have coats to keep them warm. To Benjamin, with global warming causing warmer temperatures than average, they can live longer even while struggling with mange. But don’t let Benjamin’s skepticism fool you. Although he believes there is scientific reasoning for urban legends, he would love to be proven wrong. In an interview with local New Mexico T.V. station KOB 4, he shared, “When people say skeptics are debunkers – that’s mean, evil, and gloomy. I would love to find a chupacabra; I would love to find a Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster.” “If they’re out there, I want to be the first person there. I want to poke at it and sniff it.” In another interview, he says, “If in the next month or next year somebody finds El Chupacabra that’s sucking blood from animals, I’m happy to eat my crow and add a chapter to [my] book.”
But there’s still another reason Benjamin doesn’t believe in the validity of the Chupacabra. Instead of an altered physical embodiment, it’s more of a Psychological aspect that re-writes people’s actual experiences. Namely, false memories. Particularly false memories from the 1995 film, Species. And that’s precisely what he believes Madelyne saw that same summer.
During one of his Chupacabra investigations, Benjamin was able to track down Madelyne Tolentino for the whole, true story of what happened that late August afternoon. Unsure of who he’d have the pleasure of meeting, Benjamin was skeptical of Madelyne’s story. Hearing how she described the initial sighting, he wanted to seek the truth for himself. But after meeting with Madelyne, he realized she wasn’t some loony individual looking for any way to get featured in the news.
Upon meeting Madelyne, he realized that the woman in her 40s was just as sharp and quick-witted as ever. Sticking with her original story and never straying from the details, she didn’t seem crazy at all. She never claimed it was some government conspiracy hiding alien lifeforms. She didn’t even say it was extra-terrestrial at all. She simply believed that whatever she and her mother witnessed that day, she had no idea what she was looking at. But no matter how much she held firm in her original sighting, Benjamin still had a logical explanation behind her story.
When asked if she had seen the film before her encounter, she said, “I believe that the creatures and events I saw in Species are really happening in reality in Puerto Rico all the time.” According to Madelyne, what she saw that day was an exact replica of the creature in the movie. To Benjamin, this completely invalidated any truth to what she was saying. While he doesn’t think she was making up a ridiculous story to get on camera, he did believe that she simply had a false memory engrained in her mind after watching the movie, resulting in a skewed version of events that day. Maybe she did see something strange outside of her big-picture window. But to Benjamin, it definitely wasn’t the infamous El Chupacabra because, in his words, “the most important chupacabra description cannot be trusted.”
Maybe Benjamin is on to something here. I mean, we can’t even fully agree on what the Chupacabra looks like, let alone if the allegations are even factual. We saw the discrepancies in the aforementioned stories. But what’s more is that if you Google El Chupacabra, there are various reports all describing completely different beings altogether. Some say it walks on all fours like a canine and has mangy, matted fur. Others say it’s a bipedal cryptid, much like a kangaroo but with spikes protruding from its back. And then there are those who claim it can fly.
People even argue the cryptid’s color ranges from a dark grey like an alien, green like a lizard, reddish brown like a fox, or even an array of ever-changing neon colors. It kind of starts to make sense why Benjamin isn’t too keen on the validity of this legend. In Benjamin’s words, “By the mid-2000s, anything weird was being called El Chupacabra. Mangy coyotes. Dead raccoons. Even a dried fish in New Mexico, which looks nothing like El Chupacabra.”
Yet still, people worldwide have claimed to see the Chupacabra, or at least what it leaves behind. Or rather, what it doesn’t leave behind. So who are we left to believe? Is it possible science just hasn’t caught up to these undiscovered beings? Do these cryptids even want to be found? Maybe we want to believe in cryptids so badly that we fabricate our own versions of these stories to keep the spirit alive. It’s entirely possible it’s a blend of all three in that there are things we can’t explain, but some theories are just too wild to follow. But no matter what the truth actually is, I believe humans will stop at nothing to find it. And if you stick around, I have one more story to share with you that shows the great lengths people go to just to sell a narrative.
The year was 2005. New Year celebrations had just worn off at the turn of a new month, and this breezy February afternoon was the perfect day to practice some shooting. Steve Garcia, an Albuquerque resident, was excited to pull out the new shotgun he had received as a Christmas gift a couple of months before. It was only a half-day at work, so he had the entire afternoon to himself. As Steve drove up to some abandoned clay mounds near the woods, he parked his truck, loaded his shotgun, and locked the doors behind him. Finding a few clay mounds off in the distance, about a mile ahead, Steve checked his watch and knew he had a couple of hours to kill before being home in time for dinner.
After about an hour of shooting, Steve was starting to get bored. There really weren’t any squirrels in the area at the time and no one to share a competitive bout of kill-the-can. He gave himself about five more minutes of practice, and then he would head home. On the walk back to his truck, he suddenly had the urge to pee. Knowing that home was still about a 20-minute drive away and not wanting to stop off at a gas station, he decided to take a leak there. After loading his gun into the truck’s back seat, he looked around to ensure no one was watching. But when he looked up, he noticed something peculiar a few feet ahead of him on the other side of his truck. He bent down to check out what it was, and to his shock at what he saw, he instantly knew he needed to call… someone! Knowing that his wife would probably dismiss his discovery, he decided to call his childhood best friend instead. Pecking away at his Nokia flip phone, he gave Robert a ring.
When Robert Wheeler picked up the phone after the first ring, Steve was excitedly yelling into the phone. “You’ll never guess what I just found. I was out shooting and stumbled across a mummified Chupacabra! You need to come to meet me and take a look for yourself!” And that’s precisely what Robert did. About 10 minutes later, with all-terrain tires throwing dirt, Robert quickly put his truck into park and hopped out to see the infamous cryptid remains for himself. After examining the mummified Chupacabra, Robert was at a loss for words. “I can’t believe you found this right in our hometown! You know what we have to do, don’t you? We have to call the news right away. This is incredible.”
The next day, KOB-TV news interviewed Robert and Steve about their newfound discovery. When handing the subject over to the news reporter, Steve shares the description as looking “like a gargoyle” with “sponge-like lips.” In agreement, Robert shared that while many people wouldn’t initially know what the creature was, to those of Spanish heritage, it’s none other than “El Chupacabra,” or the “goat sucker.” To Robert and Steve, they felt victorious in finding physical evidence of the elusive stalking vampire many farmers’ livestock had fallen victim to.
And for the rest of the week, their discovery was the talk of the town. But this tall tale was only short-lived when the species was sent over to the Department of Game and Fish the following week. According to game wardens, this was no Chupacabra at all. What they had found the previous week wasn’t a coyote or even a lizard-kangaroo hybrid. It wasn’t even remotely close to a vampire. No, it was later identified as a dried-out sea skate, which is a relative of a stingray and a far cry from the supposed El Chupacabra. But you may ask yourself, how does a dried-out sea skate make its way into such a dry climate when Albuquerque isn’t anywhere near the ocean? And to that, I’d say you have a point. If it isn’t a Chupacabra, then how did a stingray variant get buried in old dirt mounds?
There is one possible explanation for this strange finding. Throughout the city, Albuquerque had plenty of seafood restaurants to pick from. Many of which skate is commonly found on various menus. It’s entirely possible that someone grabbed a quick bite to eat on their lunch break and drove out to get some peace and quiet before heading back to work. Once done with their meal, they could have easily thrown out the leftovers as they drove off. But members of the Game and Fish still didn’t buy into this theory. Why? Because of the specific way the skate had been mummified. Dried-out stingrays don’t look this menacing. That’s when they realized that this mummification was something else entirely. A tale that goes further back than the initial first sighting in 1995. For this specimen, we must travel back in time, all the way to the 1500s. But community members then had a different name for this dried-up fish: “Jenny Haniver.”
A Jenny Haniver, or devilfish, is a heavily disfigured mummification made out of stingrays and snakes dating back to 1558. At the time, individuals would rearrange the mouths and nostrils of these washed-up carcasses to create a haunting, monstrous-looking face. But Swiss Scientist Conrad Gessner wasn’t a believer in the strange and unusual.
Being a Physician, Naturalist, Bibliographer, and Philologist, he believed there were scientific explanations for even the most bizarre phenomena. His most famous works include the Bibliotheca Universalis, “the first truly comprehensive “universal” listing of all the known books printed in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew,” as well as the Historia Animalium, an inventory of all renaissance zoology. In Vol. IV of Historia Animalium, Conrad shared the first historical evidence of a Jenny Haniver and warned individuals not to be persuaded by its looks. At that time, legends about mermaids, dragons, and sea monsters were passed down, and people used these mock mummifications as “proof.” But to Conrad, no matter how menacing and other-worldly it may have looked, there was no such thing as dragons or monsters. Just heavily altered dried-up fish to make a quick buck.
But not everyone headed his advice. Centuries later, when traveling circuses and side shows started sharing the world’s most peculiar curiosities and oddities, the Jenny Haniver was still a central selling point. Ringleaders paraded around in their fancy jackets and top hats, marveling at guests at the strange discovery. They made-up stories of long-lost mermaids and aquatic beasts and showcased their “foolproof” evidence. And people fell for it. If we’re being honest, people still fall for these gimmicky schemes.
But nowadays, we don’t need traveling circuses and side shows. Many of us just need a good tourist trap on the beach, fancy umbrella drinks, and dockside gift shop novelties to hand off as Christmas presents. It seems that through the test of time, we’re still as gullible as ever, willing to believe in urban legends like washed-up mermaids or Chupacabras running amuck.
But there’s still one thing I can’t quite comprehend. While sure, there are flaws in the various retellings. Sometimes our memories fault us, fabricating new experiences. It’s easy to blend reality with movies we watched years ago. All of this can easily expel the myth behind the elusive El Chupacabra. Great, we can all agree on these things.
But the one thing I still have a question about after all this time is if the Chupacabra isn’t real, then what exactly is killing hundreds of livestock while we’re sleeping in the safety of our own homes? If legendary vampiric cryptids aren’t real, then how do you explain the pinholes found on several goats’ necks? How is all the blood completely drained from various deceased large cattle? And where does this creature, whatever it is, go when it’s in hiding? If there’s one thing we can truly sink our teeth into is that the El Chupacabra, whatever it really is, is always looking for new blood.
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Thanks for touring Cryptids Across the Atlas. Until next time, keep your eyes open. You never know what you might see just on the edge of the road.