Posted by: Loren Coleman on January 31st, 2007
Over at Coast to Coast AM with George Noory, our Cryptomundo friend and C2C webmaster Lex Lonehood posted a photograph (above) from Ben Poledna, who had a story to tell. Poledna has given his permission for me to post it here, as I know a bit about the story behind the “thing” in the gentleman’s photograph. Poledna wrote:
On January 27th, I attended the Ft. Worth Stock Show And Rodeo. There was an Old Man standing next to this small white tent claiming to have a real Chupacabras and admission was only $1, so I payed and went in and looked at something I have never seen before in my life!
I looked at this dead creature to see if I could find any stiching to see if it was put together but I could find nothing! I managed to snap one photo before my digital camera died “of course.” But the Old Man explained to me that this creature was killed in Mexico and brought here. If anyone knows what this is please let me know. Thanks! –Ben Poledna
This, of course, is not a real Chupacabras, but a gaff, an object created by the sideshow genius artist Doug Higley, and a respected collectible. Higley’s site is filled with examples of exactly this “specimen.” Indeed, on Higley’s page, you will see his “Chupacabras” via better photographic detail than shown above.
Cryptozoologists are lax to not be aware of such items, so as not to confuse them with “real specimens.” However, at some level, these gaffs should be appreciated as popular cultural expressions of the impact of cryptozoology. Some people enjoy these sideshows, just as audiences have enjoyed Grade B monster movies in the 1950s. Creating gaffs is a dying art, except among a few famed artists such as Higley.
Within the select trade, it is acknowledged that Doug Higley was the originator of the Chupacabras being exhibited on the Carnival Midways of America and even in Puerto Rico. Higley, however, is not out to lie to anyone, and teaches people who show such items to merely tease the crowds with them being “strange things” – to create the wonder in his audiences. The guy at the Ft. Worth Stock Show apparently dreamed up his own “story,” which does happen, as each sideshow owner, struggling as they are to make a living, devise their own methods to entice the public who choose to be entertained in this fashion. These sideshow owners, needless to say, are not becoming millionaires at a dollar per look, and most live an existence void of an office to have the freedom of the open road in front of them.
The Chupacabras first appeared in the sideshow in the 1980’s, after it had become legendary in Central and South America. The connection to the sideshow was made through the work of Doug Higley who introduced the Chupacabras exhibits into the sideshow scene. The first Chupacabras that Doug created was sold to a showman in Florida many years ago who took it to Puerto Rico.– Sideshow World Magazine
Higley also supports and sells authentic fossil replicas. His museum quality fossil reproductions includes one that is on my wish list, that of the Phorohacos, or Terror Bird. Maybe someday I’ll add that piece to my collection. We all can find the appeal in such items, at some level.
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.