“Chupacabras”: Mystery Solved?

Posted by: Loren Coleman on January 31st, 2007

Chupa Gaff

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.

Higley's Sideshow Gaffs

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.

Titanis walleri

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
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.

11 Responses to ““Chupacabras”: Mystery Solved?”

  1. kittenz responds:

    Tops on my wish list for replicas is the complete skeleton of Smilodon fatalis from Bone Clones. I want the disarticulated one that I can assemble myself. They have a great selection of replicas of both fossil and modern animals.

    I have a reproduction Smilodon fatalis skull from Skullduggery. It is really nice, but unlike resin replicas, it is made of gypsum and so is very fragile and prone to chipping. Any future purchases that I make along this line will be either the real thing (yeah dream on) or resin.

  2. mystery_man responds:

    This all harkens back to the day of the Fiji (or FeeJee) mermaid and I find it very interesting how this sort of sideshow stuff is still going on today. Although it is too bad a lot of people probably accept these gaffs as real specimens, I guess it doesn’t hurt in that it creates a very real interest in cryptozoology. On the other hand, you then get people like Biscardi and their “hand of unknown origin” which end up giving the field a bad name.

    The Biscardis of the world certainly don’t help cryptozoology. But if this poor guy is out with his little chupacabra doll trying to put food on the table, I guess I’d pay the buck to see it. As long as it is taken with a grain of salt.

  3. ladd responds:

    Reminds me of Frank Hansen’s traveling “Minnesota Iceman” exhibit.

  4. Mnynames responds:

    Somebody tried to pawn off a photo of a Jenny Hanniver as an alien corpse on the C2C site not too long ago, which actually seemed to have generated some buzz amongst their devotees before the obvious was pointed out to them…

    For those who don’t know, a Jenny Hanniver is a gaff made from a strategically cut, folded, and dried skate, giving it the appearance of something more humanoid.

  5. Alaska-boy responds:

    While traveling in Japan a few years ago I happened across the coolest gaff museum on earth! Seriously, these artists are the best living gaff creators I know of, and their displays are downright creepy. Here’s their website tour of the museum (just click on the links in the left column). Enjoy!

    Oh, and here’s a link to the second floor of the Gaff museum for those of you who can’t read Japanese.

  6. Remus responds:

    Years ago, as a teenager in Newport, RI, I made many a Jenny. Dried them on the roof outside my apartment window. I could sell one or two a day to tourists for $25 a pop. Beat working for a living!

  7. mystery_man responds:

    Alaska Boy, it’s cool that you put that up!I live in Japan and have actually been to that museum before! Japan has some of the strangest museums you have ever heard of.

  8. stonelk responds:

    This is the kind of thing I would like to have in a box under my bed.

    When I finally go to the happy hunting ground the poor sap that gets stuck going through my stuff will have a fright and I will have one last laugh. I know it’s warped. I blame it on watching to much Creature Feature when I was a kid.

  9. Mnynames responds:

    Remus, the C2C Jenny might have been yours then! Not too many people still make them, and it looked like it was in good condition.

    I feel like I could kick myself now. I’ve always liked Jenny Hannivers and I work at a bloody aquarium! We’ve had a few skates in our tanks die over the years, and even if they were too far gone for the purpose, there’s a seawall outside crowded with fishermen, all cursing their luck at not catching much else besides skates.

    Ahh well, it’d just be one more thing my wife wouldn’t let me display in the house…

  10. Remus responds:

    The first Jenny I saw was in a tourist shop/museum in Florida. I was about 8 years old. It was called a “sea devil” and try as I might, I couldn’t get my Dad to buy it for me. Later, my Grandfather told me what it really was and showed me how to make one. The trick is to get a fresh skate, make the cuts, mount it on a wooden jig and leave it somewhere in the sun with a warm breeze blowing around it. They lose most of their smell after a year or so…
    Give me the link to that site if it’s available and I can tell you if it’s one of mine. They were pretty di-stink-tive!

  11. Truth Seeker responds:

    My first impression was that it was a painting. A very good painting, I have seen some VERY lifelike paintings in my time! It was way too posed to be thought as real, but understand, I have been wrong before. I’m open to others that see what I do. I really hope I never see one dead or alive! Especially ALIVE.

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