Oct 24, 2006
To lure kids into learning about real animals, the museum features a mythical one.
SANTA ANA - Word traveled fast in Salvatierra, Art Guevara's hometown in Mexico. A chupacabra, a bloodsucking monster, slaughtered a neighbor's farm animals.
Children who played on the farms and in the fields at night would be next, parents warned. But Guevara, then about 7 years old, and his friends planned to catch the menacing chupacabra with a net.
"It was scary. We stayed out the whole night and when we caught it, we called everyone to see the chupacabra," said Guevara, 56. "And then we realized it actually was a coyote."
The half-man, half-beast monster has never been photographed, but the Discovery Science Center is offering insight into the mythical creature through an exhibit that runs until Nov. 5. The display is part of Discovery's Spooky Science program, which uses monsters to explore aspects of science.
To understand the chupacabra, children can learn about real creatures that share its traits. The exhibit features leeches and mosquitoes, other bloodsucking organisms. And it looks at specimens such as fleas, which share the hind-leg features that the chupacabra purportedly uses to pounce on its prey.
"What we like to do at the Discovery Science Center is offer something to spark a kid's interest and then show them the science behind it," said spokeswoman Julie Smith.
But Discovery leaves the mystery of the chupacabra to its guests. There are no images or figures of the creature, which is said to have razor-sharp fangs, scaly skin and haunting red eyes.
Some Orange County residents thought they spotted a chupacabra in Santa Ana in 1996, according to news reports. A construction worker who fell asleep near his apartment window said he woke up to see a large, shadowy figure of the legendary beast.
Guevara said the stories may have been a parental tactic to keep mischievous children like him home at night. But, despite his chupacabra hunts, he has never stopped believing the urban legend.
"They would prefer little kids over grown-ups and animals, they would tell us," he said. "We couldn't help but be scared."
The first chupacabra “sighting” was in Puerto Rico in 1975. Goats had been killed and their blood drained. Chupacabra, a Spanish word, translates as “goat sucker.” Sightings span from South America to Michigan.
The chupacabra's origin is disputed. Some say they are pets left behind by aliens, animals from another dimension or creatures that have gone unnoticed since the time of the dinosaurs.
The creature has never been photographed, but people describe it as such:
• Half man, half beast
• 4 to 5 feet tall
• Leaps up to 20 feet with its powerful hind legs.
• Spikes stretch from the head to bottom of its back.
• Reptilian skin changes colors.
• Red eyes
• Long fangs
Source: The Discovery Science Center