Mythical Monday: Chasing the Chupacabra by Mae Clair

The chupacabra is a creature said to haunt South America, Puerto Rico, parts of Mexico and portions of Texas. Known for attacking livestock and draining its prey of blood, the chupacabra’s name in Spanish is translated as “goat-sucker.” A mythical creature, the chupacabra is also recognized as a crytpid—a creature that may exist but hasn’t been proven to exist. If you’ve followed my blog for some time, you know I enjoy reading about mythical beasts and those put under the microscope of cryptozoology. It’s interesting when those fields intersect, as in the case of the chupacabra.

This is not a guy I would want to cross while out for a stroll.  A heinous looking oddity, the chupacabra has alternately been described as a winged monkey, a hairless dog with a pronounced spinal ridge or quills on its back, and a rodent or a reptile with grayish-green skin. The beast exudes a ghastly odor, is endowed with sharp fangs, and a forked tongue. Some believe the chupacabra is a coyote infected with mange, others that it is a species brought from outer space, still others that it is the result of a government experiment gone haywire.

Naturally, something this ugly has to have glowing eyes. In the case of the chupacabra, they are malignant red, capable of hypnotizing its victim and freezing them in place while the creature drains the victim’s blood.

Old farmshouse with free walking chickens  in rural surroundingsThe first report of dead livestock occurred in 1995 in Puerto Rico when a farmer found eight of his sheep drained of blood, each with three puncture wounds to the chest. For this reason, some believe the chupacabra is related to the vampire bat. It’s also been known to hiss and screech when alarmed and make an odd sound when feeding (who would want to get that close?).

Throughout the years the chupacabra has been blamed for numerous bizarre deaths in the killing of goats, chickens, pigs and dogs. Though most common to Latin America and South America, it has been spotted as far north as Michigan and Maine and has even shown up in Russia. There are countless videos and websites devoted to the myth of the chupacabra. This infamous crytpid has also made appearances on Animal Planet, and the Discovery Channel. Despite all the debate and discussion about El Chupacabra—including various descriptions from eyewitnesses—its legend continues to grow confounding skeptics, cryptozoologists and the curious in general.

As the debate rages, perhaps it’s best to err on the side of caution. What do you think?

Mae Clair’s Mythical Monday: Robert Johnson and the Crossroads

There are plenty of mythical beasts and legends to rifle through each Monday, always making it hard to choose just one.

This week I’m going to venture off the beaten trail to resurrect the tale of legendary blues guitarist, Robert Johnson. Step back into the dusty days of the Mississippi delta when folklore and music intertwined. When a hardscrabble existence and a hunger for fame, led a young man to bargain his soul for the trappings of success.

According to legend, Robert Johnson was already a moderately successful blues guitarist when he walked down to the crossroads on a moonless night. At the stroke of midnight he recited an incantation to summon the devil (or Legba, depending on the version of the tale). In exchange for his soul, the devil tuned Johnson’s guitar.  From then on Johnson played with amazing skill no other musician could match. When Son House, a friend and mentor to Johnson, was overheard saying “He sold his soul to play like that,” it only served to stoke the fire of superstition.

There was no question Johnson had peculiarities. He lived the life of a nomad, roaming from town to town peddling his music. He had an uncanny ability to pick up tunes at first hearing, and was once taught by a man rumored to have learned music in a church graveyard. He often turned his back to the crowd while playing, but could easily engage a group of listeners. Outgoing in public, he was reserved in private, well-mannered and soft spoken.

Having lost his sixteen-year-old bride and unborn child years before, he became a bit of a womanizer which may have led to his downfall. Legend has it Robert met his end when he drank from an open bottle of whiskey in a juke joint where he’d been playing. Some say a jealous husband poisoned the whiskey with strychnine, others that it was an ex-girlfriend. He suffered convulsions and died three days later. Still others whisper he was shot or stabbed. Whatever the cause, the man who sang “Hellhounds on My Trail” had nowhere left to flee.

Robert Johnson died at the age of twenty-seven on August 16, 1938 not far from a country crossroads in Greenwood, Mississippi.

Among his songs, six mention the devil or something supernatural. “Crossroad Blues” which has been recorded by a number of other musicians is also rumored to carry a curse. Several of those who have recorded, or played it frequently, experienced tragic circumstances–Eric Clapton, The Allman Brothers Band, Lynryd Skynrd, Led Zepplin and Kurt Corbain. I think it speaks volumes that all of these musicians and many others, kept Johnson’s song alive long after his demise.

In 1980 he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. Perhaps most telling of all, on September 17, 1994, the U.S. Post Office issued a Robert Johnson 29-cent commemorative postage stamp.

For Robert Johnson, King of the Delta Blues, his legend along with all of its inherent mystery, lives on!