Perhaps due to millennial paranoia, the 1990s of our youth were a heyday for paranormal speculation and our 9-to-12-year-old selves were caught up to our eyeballs in it. The X-Files was the best (drama) show on TV, alien abductions seemed to be a legitimate national concern (particularly thanks to popular and terrifying shows like Unsolved Mysteries and Sightings), crop circles and cattle mutilations were a legitimate thing-in-the-news, and all the while black helicopters churned threateningly and allegedly overhead.
The Goat-Sucker Cometh
While gray aliens were by far the most prominent figure of the era, the Chupacabra was a close second. When it came time to decide which monster would occupy the C spot for our Monster ABC children’s board book, there wasn’t much of a debate. For us, Chupacabra is and forever will be on the Mt. Rushmore of monsters. There’s no creepier monster and no monster more quintessentially of the ‘90s.
Chupacabra literally means “goat-sucker.” First reported in 1995 in Puerto Rico, Chupacabra reports and sightings popped up throughout the 90s all over Central, South and North America, mostly in Puerto Rico, Mexico and the southern US. Despite this region serving as a hotspot, Chupacabra have been sighted all over the world in places like Maine, Chile and even Russia. And while the Chupacabra’s physical descriptions had a range as large as its geographical domain, there were a few mainstays: dog-sized, reptilian, large eyes, spines going down its back and, of course, claws.
Clearly not a Vegan
But the Chupacabra is remembered not as much for its appearance as for what it does: suck goats. Or, at least, suck livestock of various kinds. Reports of cattle mutilations were widespread during this time period, but they were mostly blamed on aliens. With the Chupacabra, the cattle mutilation phenomenon received its very own not-so-cuddly star. During the initial livestock attack report, eight sheep (oddly not goats) were found dead and drained completely of blood. More livestock attacks followed (over 200 in the first year alone) and were initially blamed on Satanic cults. Satanic cults, though, were very much a 1980s thing-to-be-afraid-of. The ‘90s needed its own thing, and that thing became Chupacabra.
We Want to Believe
While the original Chupacabra sighting is reported to have been due to the witness confusing the silly and boob-centric sci-fi movie Species with reality (oopsie!), the way in which the legend spread and begat new sightings all over the world is demonstrative of where we were collectively in the 90s. With Chupacabra, alien abductions, reptilians and Y2K mania, we were all clearly in agreement with Fox Mulder and the poster hanging in his FBI basement office—for whatever reason, we wanted to believe.
“Do they exist?” is the question we spend most of our time investigating in relation to so many of the monsters we can’t shake (Sasquatch, aliens, Yeti, Nessie, etc.). It might make more sense to investigate another question that is less central to the monsters and more central to ourselves: “Why do we so badly want them to exist?” We’ll never understand the cultural preoccupations of the 1990s until we begin to unpack that answer.