Date: Thu, 16 May 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for May 16, 1996 nn nn AAN

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Date: Thu, 16 May 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for May 16, 1996 from: AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net Reply-To: aanews@listserv.atheists.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #39 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 5/16/96 In This Edition... * A Special Report on CHUPACABRAS, Goat-sucker South 'O The Border! MEXICO'S CHUPACABRAS ~~ SUCKING BLOOD OR HUMAN CREDULITY? (Part One of Two) You can add yet another artifact of pre-millennium absurdity to the popular consciousness in Mexico, and now even the United States; along with alien abductions, peek-a-boo visits of the Virgin Mary and other religious or pseudo-science revelations, chalk one up for the infamous "Mexican bloodsucker" (or Chupacabras) now said to threatening cattle, goats and terrified people. "Myth or reality?" mused CNN throughout the day as the story about a mysterious creature stalking the countryside terrorizing men, women and beasts, took on all of the dimensions of an Orson Welles broadcast. Except, in this case, the reports seem to be quite serious. "Legend has it that the chupacabras -- Spanish for 'goat sucker' -- has fiery eyes and resembles a cross between a giant dog and a lizard. The creature is said to walk upright on two feet, sink its fangs into its victims and kill them by drinking their blood." News reports add that claims of "sightings" are pouring in from all over Northern Mexico and Puerto Rico and that even police have launched hunts for the mysterious creature. Indeed, a kind of "Chupacabras Fever" seems to sweeping the cultural terrain of Mexico, and could even spread to the United States. What's really going on, though? Satanic, Alien, Blood Suckin' Cattle Mutilators At Work Medical experts note that thorough examination of the "victims" of the chupacabras reveals something considerably more prosaic than some bizarre, blood drinking creature that has eluded anthropologists, residents, photographers, pathologists and others. The "goatsucker" is probably a wolf or coyote. A considerable amount of media attention involves the fact that blood is supposedly "missing" from the victims, and that puncture wounds are evident. All of this is consistent, though, with normal predation of farm animals, especially in rural areas. Many agricultural regions in the United States are relatively free of predators like wolves, so such reports seem to us a bit exotic and exciting; in Mexico, though, wolves, coyotes and other predators are fairly common. The carcass of most animals, especially if dead for some time, can appear to exhibit a lack of blood. Blood flows to portions of the body nearest the ground, and often congeals or dries, especially in hot weather. In crucial respects, though, the reports about the chupacabras echo earlier accounts tracing back into the 1970's and 80's of so-called "cattle mutilations." These reports came mostly from rural areas of the United States, and involved claims that cattle were being killed and surgically dissected; often, the reports insisted that the cattle had been drained of their blood. There were a variety of theories to explain this phenomenon, but critics were quick to point out that nothing unusual was going on -- except the persistent interest of news media, and some outrageous, unverified claims. Again, it was observed that the "dissected" cattle had simply been attacked by natural predators, whose sharp claws, beaks and teeth often left precise cut-like tears in the prey. Many of the "mutilated" cattle had been dead for long periods, and often a thorough autopsy on the remains was difficult, if not impossible. There were no bullet holes, tire tracks or other evidence of foul play. And the cattle mutilation phenomenon often existed as a media event; news organizations paid considerable attention to the reports at first, but then failed to follow-up on the less glamourous results of official investigations, autopsies (when possible) and other probes. A number of scenarios were invented, however, to explain the cattle mutilations. Originally, they were seen as evidence of a mysterious government operation which required organs, tissue and blood; the lack of tire tracks led some mutilation enthusiasts to posit that helicopters were being used for the purpose of either locating or dumping the animals. By the 1980's, two new groups of villans entered the picture. Some claimed that the cattle mutilations were the work of secret, satanic cults which used helicopters or extended-life "cherry picker" vehicles so as not to leave tracks. Body parts were ostensibly used in devil worship ritual; it was claimed that the removal of specific parts such as the eyes, lips and ear were "proof" of this, although critics noted that these organs were generally softer and more accessible to predators. Besides, why would "satanists'' go to all the trouble of buying or renting helicopters and large, cumbersome utility vehicles? Why not just start a cattle ranch, or -- better yet -- buy the cattle outright? A second group, though, was soon blamed for the alleged mutilations. Harvesting of cattle organs, including blood, was associated with UFO appearances. The possible interest of aliens from space in cattle anticipated the later development of alien curiosity about HUMAN anatomy. Aliens crossed billions of miles of space, using enormous emounts of energy and technological expertise, purportedly to engage in some mysterious "genetic experiment." The object of that experiment eventually shifted from cattle to human beings, as bizarre accounts of alien abduction, sexual experimentation and genetic manipulation began to emerge in the American pop-culture. Critics, though, saw the cattle mutilation, alien abduction tales in a somewhat different light. The widespread popularity of such claims, and the media interest they evoked, spoke a great deal about the credulity and gullibility of the culture, as well as the profound lack of understanding in science, and even the ability to evaluate unusual claims. Social scientists observed that the cattle mutilation reports, like the "satanic panic" of the late 1970's, was essentially a kind of "urban legend" which had gotten a new steroid-boost thanks to the electronic media. Credulous -- some say cynical and greedy -- talk show hosts provided a ready platform for the most outlandish claims. Critics rarely had an opportunity to ask questions, or point to more prosaic and realistic explanations of what was going on. Talk show "guests" told stories about being impregnated by aliens, abused by cults, used as "satanic baby breeders" whose children were to be sacrificed to the devil -- and millions were watching, and believing. Fears of devil cults, sex-crazed aliens and cattle mutilating extra-terrestrials often were exhibited against a backdrop of social anxiety and uncertainty about the future. Many "cattle mutilation" claims were made in economically depressed regions. Similarly, fears of satanic cults appeared to thrive in small communities, and often reflected deeper realities such as generational conflicts, or the anxieties of certain religious groups prone to apocalpytic scenarios. In some cases, reports were exaggerated by un-critical news organizations; for a while, Satan made "good copy," especially when ratings were being measured. Of Jersey Devils and Puerto Rican "Vampires" Reports of unusual beasts which appear to defy known anatomical descriptions are not unusual. Sea mariners at one time described incredible creatures; in fact, the saying "Here be monsters" was simply a cartographical description of uncharted waters. Creatures such as mermaids and even the giant Kraken may have had some basis in fact, the latter perhaps being a giant squid. Similarly, reports of creatures assembled from parts of other animals can be found in everything from the apocalpytic literature of the bible, to folk claims about regional mythological beasts like the Jersey Devil. In the mid-1800's, reports throughout New Jersey, and later even Pennsylvania, told of a demonic creature which attacked people, chickens, goats and other farm animals. In the book "The Jersey Devil" by James McGloy and Ray Miller, the creature "is said to prowl the lonely sand trails and mis-shrouded marshes of the Pine Barrens, and emerge periodically to rampage through the towns and cities...In its wake it has left many communities in near hysteria. Schools, factories and theaters have closed, armed men have 'ridden shotgun' on public transportation, and innumerable posses have been formed to track the monster." Reports of the "Jersey Devil" seem to have peaked in the early 1900's. McGloy and Miller, perhaps using literary license, note that "thousands of people saw the Devil, or his footprints." They called him "kangaroo horse," "flying death" and even "woozlebug." One observer claimed: "Its head resembled that of a ram, with curled horns, and its long thick neck was thrust forward in flight. It had long thin wings and short legs, the front legs shorter than the hind. Again, it uttered its mournful and awful call -- a combination of a squawk and a whistle, the beginning very high and piercing and ending very low and hoarse..." Reports of "Devil sightings," or claims that his tracks had been found, were surprisingly frequent. The Philadelphia Record, though, exposed at least some of the legend as an outright hoax, especially when the beast was supposedly caught and put on exhibit at a local museum. The "Devil" portrayed by the Record had bat-like wings and resembled a mythical dragon; the hoax equivalent, though, was said to be a heavilly painted kangaroo shown to the public for only the briefest moment in dim light. Like the Jersey Devil and other folk-creatures, the chupacabras is a Frankenstein-like amalgam . Reports claims that it "jumps like a kangaroo", and "smells like sulfur." It has been described as being "4 or 5 feet tall and had huge elongated red eyes." "A pointy, long tongue came in and out of his mouth. It was gray but his back changed colors. It was a monster." The legend of "El Chupacabras," though, seems to come not from Mexico but from Puerto Rico, where the "goatsucker" was sometimes portrayed as a kind of half-man, half-beast vampire. There have been reports of other blood-drinking creatures, though, which some suggest were fueled by sensationalist media. The "vampire of Moca" was reported in the 1970's, about the time the "cattle mutilation" fears were starting in the United States. According to Mireya Navarro (N.Y. Times News Service), fears of the chupacabra have "both alarmed and mused this U.S. commonwealth of 3.7 million people, inspiring theories, satire and T-shirts." One account suggested that the "goatsucker" was, in fact, an alien attracted to Puerto Rico by the giant Arecibo Observatory, site of the world's largest radio telescope. Others suggested hoaxers, or even the involvement of "people involved in bloody reituals," highly descriptive of the "satanic cults" said to have been responsible for cattle mutilations. End Of Part One (Of Two) ********* AANEWS is a free service of American Atheists, a nationwide movement founded by Madalyn Murray O'Hair for the advancement of Atheism, and the total, absolute separation of government and religion. For information about AA, send e-mail to: info@atheists.org. Be sure to include your name and mailing address in the message body. For information about this list, send e-mail to: aanews-request@listserv.atheists.org, and put "info aanews" in the message body. Edited and written by Conrad F. Goeringer, The LISTMASTER

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