Monthly Archives: June 2013

#17 – El Chupacabras

Most cryptids end up with cool names that end in ‘monster’ or ‘horror’, or begin with ‘beast’ or ‘creature’. The chupacabras sounds cool because it seems exotic to my ears, which are both incredibly English and whiter than Vanilla Ice flailing in a tub of bleach. The literal translation, however, makes them sound like creepy little fetishists that you wouldn’t trust anywhere near a petting zoo.

‘Goat sucker’ sightings are – in the world of cryptozoology at least – a comparatively modern phenomenon, having begun in earnest in 1995. Since then they’ve snowballed to the point that the vampiric chupacabras has been catapulted right up into public consciousness and now probably only trails behind the Big Three (Nessie, Bigfoot and the Yeti/Abominable Snowman) in terms of cryptids that Joe Public would be able to name without straining his brain-muscle. They also win the prize for being Latin America’s weirdest-looking export since Danny Trejo.

I love this man, but it doesn't change the fact that he looks like he was carved out of a haunted tree.

I love this man, but that doesn’t change the fact that he looks like he was carved out of a haunted tree.

The chupacabras first made itself known near the small Puerto Rican towns of Morovis and Orocovis in March 1995. For months the bodies of goats, chickens and other small livestock were found, apparently drained of blood. The suspected culprit wasn’t spotted until September that year, when Madelyne Tolentino looked out of the front window of her house when she heard a car pull up. She immediately saw what had spooked the driver – an odd bipedal little monstrosity with clawed hands, spines down its back and enormous, lidless red eyes, waddling in an odd and robotic way. Tolentino promptly screamed the house down, and her wailing brought her mother running.

The creature hopped off toward the woods in response to all the commotion. The chupacabras was also spotted that night by two church bus drivers, a boy who claimed to have actually grabbed hold of it briefly and another, infinitely less macho boy who simply shat his pants and hurled bottles at it. Soon the sketch drawn up by investigator Jorge Martin was all over the local media, and true ‘Chupamania’ had begun:

jorgechupa

Man, I fucking wish we could get peyote over here.

Reports of further sightings and more slaughtered livestock poured in over the following months. One woman apparently chased four of the creatures out from under her porch with a broom. One local Puerto Rican tabloid even ran with the story that giant vampire bats that had stowed away in African cargo crates were responsible for the animal deaths. In March 1996, the Spanish-language talk show Christina aired a report on the creatures in the States. This was basically the Latin equivalent of Oprah lending the story a little credibility, and a big chunk of the American population promptly shat their minds into their sombreros as a result. Sightings spread into America and began to take place through Miami, Texas and even further north. The chupacabras was also fully embraced by the internet, and the resulting hysteria meant the spiny little bastard rocketed its way into popular culture.

Since the original sighting, the name chupacabras seems to have taken on a life of its own. The cryptid is now often reported as more doglike and seen running on all fours, rather than waddling down the street like a pissed dwarf in a hedgehog suit. The net is awash with pictures and even video, like this one taken by a South Texas policeman from his patrol car:

These sort of sightings are a far cry from Tolentino’s very specific description of the original beast, and many have been explained away as coyotes with severe mange. Other hoaxes have included crude taxidermy jobs and faked photographs. The ‘true’ chupacabras seems unlikely to exist because it’s just so damned freaky and alien-like, but even the weirder aspects of its physiology aren’t unknown in nature:

El Chupacabraaww, more like.

El Chupacabraawwh, more like.

Meet the potto, an African primate that might not drink blood, but does have mean little teeth and loves to shred smaller animals to bits with them. It may not have the bulging eyes or the gargoyle-face of the chupacabras, but it does possess one of its most seemingly alien characteristics. The potto‘s upper vertebrae end in long spines that raise its fur and nearly break the skin; when threatened, they ball up so that predators can’t bite them on the neck without getting jabbed in the mouth.

Admittedly, this only proves that one of the chupacabras’ weirder aspects has a real-life counterpart. The vampirism is also pretty hard to explain, especially for a weird and shuffling little fucker that seems like it couldn’t sneak up on Helen Keller. Nevertheless, the chupacabras is a genuine global phenomenon, and a great example of how new cryptids can still come to light and capture the public’s imagination.

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#16 – The Ningen

I’ve made a point of retelling most of the anecdotal evidence in this blog without questioning its credibility. I’ve done so for the simple reason that I’m not out to debunk or criticise, and instead just want to have a laugh with some of the stories – however, even I have to hold my hands up every now and then and go “oh fuck off, this one’s got to be nonsense”.

I lean towards at least wanting to believe a cryptid encounter story when there are real, accountable people behind it. In order to tolerate the ridicule involved with cryptid sightings you have to be either a very committed hoaxer or genuinely believe that you saw something unusual. If you’re willing to put your head above the parapet and take the inevitable ensuing shitstorm of publicity right in the eyes and mouth, then I’ll give you the respect you deserve and listen to your story. Provided, of course, that you rinse your face and use a little mouthwash first.

The stories of the Ningen have no such accountability – reports are vague, with no specific names involved, and all the evidence comes from artists’ interpretations and clearly photoshopped pictures. However, the creature is still somewhat of an internet sensation, presumably because the Ningen has got to be one of the creepiest suggestions for a big unknown sea monster going:

This, kids, is why you should never going diving on LSD.

This, kids, is why you should never go diving while off your tits on LSD.

Admittedly, that’s one of the most extreme and exaggerated examples of a Ningen picture out there, but that doesn’t stop it being it the utterly ridiculous brainchild of a mouthbreathing spoonbanger who presumably attempts to eat trifle with his forehead.

Although all are entirely vague, most accounts of the Ningen date from around 2007 at the earliest. The crews of Japanese whale research vessels (knowing Japan, these are presumably just researching which whales are the most delicious) have apparently had several encounters with the strangely humanoid Ningen in the Antarctic Ocean. Described as ghostly white and 20-30 metres in length, the most striking features are the human-like faces and ‘arms’, which in the most absurd accounts even end in five-fingered hands. Five-fingered hands, of course, being the most efficient form of locomotion to possess in the fucking sea, which is why all humans can outswim sharks and not one of us has ever been eaten by one.

Less extreme anecdotal evidence for the Ningen seems to suggest a giant ray or manta, which would at least explain the human-like face if seen from beneath. Others have explained them away as a combination of iceberg sightings and overexcited human stupidity, which seems to be a distinct possibility for this picture from Google Earth that a Japanese magazine apparently ran while discussing the creature in 2007:

ningen2

I’m so convinced right now.

There are lots of factors that count against the Ningen when weighing up its potential credibility. The fact that it’s such a comparatively modern sensation and the lack of specificity in the anecdotal evidence are just two of them, but it’s also not helped by the pictures people keep making of the damn thing:

Latin name: Giantsideways Bellendus.

Latin name: Giantsideways Bellendus.

There’s a possibility that there’s some truth in the stories, but if there is, the reality of the animal behind them is likely to be far less absurd than any of the accounts it’s inspired. In the meantime, the Ningen looks set to continue inspiring ridiculous phallic photoshop jobs and the occasional less absurd faked Youtube video:

Of course, if they do turn out to be real, I’ve no doubt that fairly soon the Japanese will put a harpoon through one in order to show it to the world. Y’know, for ‘research’.

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#15 – The Nakani & The Valley Of The Headless Men

There are lots of theories as to why we are yet to conclusively prove the existence of even one variety of Bigfoot-like cryptid. The explanations range from their natural fear of man to their wily cunning in deliberately avoiding us right through to their simple lack of numbers. The inaccessibility of their terrain can also hamper efforts.

Ooh, and one more possibility – in the case of the Nakani, one of the reasons they’ve never been killed or captured is their tendency to brutally behead any and every silly fucker stupid enough to come looking for them. After all, it’s hard to drag a corpse back for the scientific community to analyse when you’re a little preoccupied being dead yourself.

Also known as the Nuk-Luk, these hairy neanderthal-like ‘bushmen’ are said to inhabit the Nahanni Valley, an area of one of Canada’s most unpopulated and spectacular national parks. Fed by hot springs and sulfur geysers, the valley is often shrouded in mist and would make an absolutely badass spot for a supervillain’s hideout:

This was a long way to go for a bit of dogging.

This was a long way to go for a spot of dogging.

Of course, most supervillains have death rays, or laser sharks, or weaponised panda armour or something equally ridiculous. The Nakani seem to be remarkably advanced, but only in terms of their Bigfoot cousins – they make do with tools and primitive clothes.

In 1964, a naked Nakani was spotted by John Baptist and several other trappers at the junction of the Liard and South Nahanni rivers. It growled at them and fled into the woods. Two months later near Fort Simpson, a fourteen-year old boy and his father encountered a similar hominid, this time dressed in a deerskin and carrying a stone axe. Both parties described the hairy body, pointed back of the head, flowing beard and facial features remarkably similar to those of a typical Neanderthal.

Oh look, it's Ron Perlman in his pyjamas.

Oh look, it’s Ron Perlman in his pyjamas.

Encounters are still reported to this day and range from glimpses of the creature itself to hearing its odd whistling call, or passing hikers suffering stones thrown at them and their camps by unseen things in the bush. Some claim to have left hunting kills out on their properties overnight, only to find them neatly stripped of their skins the next morning. Given the track record of other areas of the Nahanni Valley, these encounters are tame – after all, you don’t give areas nicknames like The Valley of the Headless Men or The Funeral Range if they seem like the perfect places to build a series of candy factories staffed by puppies.

Although they weren’t the first disappearances in the valley, the legend began in earnest with the deaths of prospectors Willie and Frank McLeod, whose headless corpses were found at the height of the gold rush in 1908. Since then two other headless bodies have turned up in the Nakani’s apparent home turf, with at least a dozen or so other people vanishing completely (less conservative estimates put the figure at nearer 50). Although the established wildlife of the Nahanni Valley means it isn’t the safest place in the world at the best of times, neatly ripping off heads isn’t particularly bearlike behaviour. We can also rule out an insanely committed serial killer due to the 100-year span of the disappearances. At between five and six feet tall, the Nakani isn’t the biggest hominid in cryptid folklore, but it certainly seems to be the most murderous.

RUN! IT'LL KILL US ALL!

RUN! IT’LL KILL US ALL!

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#14 – The Montauk Monster

In these crazy neon robot future-times we live in, you’d think that the ease of accessing information through the Internet would make it all too simple for the cynics and debunkers to merrily poop all over any and all modern cryptid sightings that come to light. To an extent that’s true, but the beauty of conspiracy theorists in general is that they tend to be less than thorough about researching their sources before gleefully spreading rumours faster than your mum can spread her legs.

oh-snap

All sorts of silly photographs of unknown animals make their way on to the web every year, often lifted and reposted without mention of their origin countless times. The stories at the source of the pictures become blurred and exaggerated through repetition in exactly the same way they always have done – the only thing that’s changed is the sheer speed at which cryptid stories now ping around the world.

Of course, most of these photos are little more than photoshop jobs ranging from careful hoaxes to hilarious extremes like putting the face of an ocelot at the end of a whale’s dick. But every now and then the Internet picks up on a genuine story and sends it worldwide, as it did with the case of the globster that washed up on a beach in Montauk, New York in 2008:

OHMYGOD HE'S SO CUTE WHERE CAN I GET ONE?

OHMYGOD HE’S SO CUTE WHERE CAN I GET ONE?

Yeah, enjoy that beauty in all its modern high-def glory.

The Montauk Monster turned out to have a perfectly rational explanation – although the remains disappeared fairly quickly, plenty of zoologists and smart alecs stepped forward to identify them as a partially decomposed raccoon, left bald and missing part of its jaw as a result of spending several days bobbing about in the sea. In fact, the very first article in the local paper put forward this explanation, but not before lightheartedly suggesting that the monster could have been the result of experimentation at the nearby Plum Island animal research facility.

The joke was lost on the internet, which quickly picked up on the suggestion and blindly farted it about so much that in most accounts the experiment theory had entirely replaced the actual explanation by the time most people around the world got a chance to read about the case. Proof, then, of two things; firstly, that the wonderful rumour mill of cryptozoology still functions perfectly well with the introduction of the internet, and secondly that a worrying number of Americans still have a tendency to get depressingly overexcited at the possibility of a dead [ABBREVIATION CENSORED ON THE GROUNDS OF RACIAL SENSITIVITY]

Well that's at least one joke that won't make it in to the live show.

Well that’s at least one joke that won’t make it in to the live show.

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