Chupacabras 1951


Aug 24, 2007

Kenneth F. Thomas, editor of the Steamshovel Press and Missouri university archivist, shares an old reference to what seems like a new occurrence of “Chupacabras” in a sinister context, which he found on August 23, 2007. Thomas writes that he made the discovery while….

…watching the 1951 movie Bride of the Gorilla with Raymond Burr and Lon Chaney. Burr gets poisoned by a witch and either starts becoming a gorilla or it’s all in his mind and he’s running around naked at night in a South American jungle. The natives are convinced that it’s a legendary beast called something like a “sucaris.” (It was hard to tell from the dialect.) When they describe the legendary beast they are quite clearly describing a Chupacabras. The verbal descriptions were a match. When they decide to set a trap for it, they use a live goat as bait. They do bring a goat to the trap they set for the creature.

Is this another historical footnote about the blood-sucking four-feet-all bipedal hair-covered Chupacabras - in 1951? Well, yes it is. Is it another building block in understanding the previous history of the use of the word Chupacabras over 50 years ago? Yes, again. Could it all be traced to the confusion with the use of the word for the birds called “goatsuckers”? Perhaps.

Whip-poor-wills and Chuck-will’s-widows are members of the so-called ‘nightjar’ or ‘goatsucker’ family of birds whose scientific name is Caprimulgiformes. Other family members you might see or hear in Indiana are the Poor-will and Nighthawk. The Nighthawk is probably the most commonly seen and heard member of the family these days. There are 67 family members around the world.

I’ve written before of an early discovery of the use of “Chupacabras,” as a creature that usually is noted to kill goats and suck their blood. In the previous case, the term “Chupacabras” was employed in 1960, in an episode of the famed TV western, “Bonanza.” The word “Chupacabras” was said by a Mexican character who was talking with one of the Cartwright family characters, about a creature that sucked the milk from goats. On the show, it was thus linked to being one of the “goatsuckers,” and was related to the birds, the whippoorwills. Zoologically, night jars and whippoorwills are members of the Caprimulgiformes (goatsuckers) and thus are called “Chupacabras” in Spanish.

In folklore, the birds were said to suck milk from goats. It seems a natural extension of this usage that a cryptozoological creature, a relatively new cryptid sucking the blood from goats, would also be called a “Chupacabras.” (The form is both singular and plural; see “Chupawhat?”.) A close historical look at why Chupacabras “exploded” onto the Hispanic-Anglo scene in 1995, from the bipedal blood-sucker incidents of that year in Puerto Rico and where it “evolved from,” is a massive research project waiting to be undertaken. I hope to see it funded and conducted by cryptozoologists, zoologists, and folklorists at a Latino university someday. In the meantime, it is the individual work of you and others.

For example, Hispanic cryptozoologist Scott Corrales is well-aware of Chupacabras reports back to the 1970s, and working on those. But the more help looking into the past, the better. I thank Kenn Thomas for sharing this new early mention of the aura of Chupacabras in cinema. Another hear of others? Can anyone add to the Bride of the Gorilla mention with a proper spelling of the creature?