It must be terrifying to have it happen, to wake up one morning and find your animals – livestock, but perhaps pets too – completely exsanguinated, three puncture wounds on each carrion, evidence of vampiric occurrence. You would test your gun and say your prayers, tell your neighbours, and little by little the mythology of the creature that did this would grow, as would its trail of carnage.
They say they’ve found it: the chupacabra. But then, they’ve always been finding it, then second-guessing that they have. A fortnight ago, not one but two strange beasts were shot dead in North Texas, and it seemed, not for the first time, that the mysterious “goatsucker” of contemporary Latin legend had been found. And, not for the first time either, these claims were invalidated.
One news report said: “the DNA test showed that the animal was a canine-coyote hybrid and not a chupacabra.” As if they had the DNA of a chupacabra to compare it with and be able to say, conclusively, that it was not one. As if the chupacabra wasn’t exactly that: a canine-coyote mongrel with mange and a bad reputation.
I’m not particularly invested in proving the existence of the chupacabra. I am sure that, to people who’ve seen it, or had it wreak its terror on their farms, it exists indeed, no less than the phenomena I’ve encountered are real to me. I will believe this without a grain of salt, but I fall into that category of people who aren’t affronted by the paranormal. What intrigues me, then, is how scientific efforts to classify this creature are so quickly nullified. For a creature of a relatively short recorded history, dating back to just 1990, it should be rather satisfyingly easy to catalog it as an unfortunate crossbreed and be done with it, putting us unenlightened freaks in our place.
Yet the chupacabra evades once again. And this is what makes me think that it isn’t that the chupacabra, with such a dramatic approach, doesn’t want to be found, but that we do not really want to find it. As with all things stripped of their mystery, it would immediately lose its draw. And we all enjoy a little mystery.
Relative to the cryptids I have known, I feel sorry for the chupacabra. It’s less pretty than a fox, shyer than a vulture, a disadvantaged predator. It hasn’t, thus far, been known to touch babies. I’m not saying I’d like to have one in my life, but having consorted with at least one incubus, turned from my door many more, and jousted with trickster gods and ordinary sleight, I think the poor thing deserves a break.
And then I remember some less supernatural, but equally scary, beings I have learnt (from much experience) to spot on sight, and I understand better: under the decoy of mythology, under the cover of night, those with no quintessential magic of their own perform as all parasites do. Perhaps, like an unconvinced scientist, I too have miscatalogued. What I may have maligned as vampiric might only be chupracabric – miserable, misunderstood, maybe delusional, and profiting from the gullibility of people like me, partial to the profound. I wonder what might happen if I name the next chupacabra I see as counterfeit, and rescind its enigma…
An edited version appeared in The New Indian Express. “The Venus Flytrap” is my column in the Zeitgeist supplement. Previous columns can be found here.