It seems like the 90s-era chupacabra legend is getting a comeback, once again pushed into the collective conscience by upcoming Netflix movie “Chupa.” While the Jonas Cuarón-directed film reimagines the beast as a cuddlier, cuter, E.T.-like creature, the O.G. chupacabra was nothing of the sort. First seen in Puerto Rico in 1995, with earlier sightings later attributed to the blood-thirsty animal going back to the 1970s, the chupacabra was reported as an alien-like, vampire dog with spines. Just a few decades ago, it’s safe to say the possibility of the chupacabra’s existence was no joke. Well, at least for goats.

The chupacabra legend got its start in Moca, Puerto Rico in the 1970s

Okay, so gather ’round the fire— it’s time for a scary story. Let’s go all the way back to 1975, in Moca, Puerto Rico, where farmers reported their livestock being mysteriously slaughtered. A dead cow was found with wounds on its skull and strange scratches, while more than 90 animals were killed. At the time, it became known as The Moca Vampire, reportedly because it sucked the animals’ blood. Curator of Hispanic history at the Smithsonian Institution’s American History Museum, Puerto Rican Marvette Perez, agreed with how talked-about it was. “This seems to be a very Caribbean phenomenon… It’s part of our folklore.” It’s true— the legend spread like wildfire.

While some people attributed the Moca killings to Satanic cults, if the perpetrator was a beast— its appearance was terrifying. Reports at that time described it as an upright-standing creature, like a kangaroo, with red eyes. Others said it was reptile-like, almost like an alien sighting, with spines all the way down its back. Even more people reported that it had wings, similar to a bird. Later sightings would change the depiction of the chupacabra to a hairless dog.

While always scary, as you can see, the chupacabra morphed and remorphed depending on who was looking at it. One thing stayed the same, though: it was a vampire-like creature that sucked animals’ blood.

But the creature’s first official sightings didn’t happen until the mid-1990s

By 1995, the world got its first official chupacabra sightings in Orocovis and Canóvanas, Puerto Rico. On the island, eight sheep were found dead overnight with wounds on their chest… and were completely bloodless. That year, Puerto Rico amassed more than 200 reports of chupacabra sightings, and about 150 inexplicably dead animals. While these numbers of course included goats, farmers also reported the deaths of their chickens, sheep, rabbits, and more, all allegedly at the hands of some sort of vampire.

There were so many sightings, that news outlets began to pay attention— and often reported on them. The New York Times reported how Canóvanas’ mayor, alongside police, searched for the chupacabra… with a goat in a cage as bait. There was so much commotion, that Puerto Rican comedian Silverio Pérez coined the “chupacabra” name— and it stuck.

Were chupacabra sightings a product of the 90s film “Species”?

By the mid to late 1990s, the chupacabra myth had spread throughout Latin America and the U.S., with reported sightings in Mexico, Chile, Southern Texas, Florida, and more. But researchers began to notice an eerie similarity between the 1995 movie “Species”— and the descriptions of the first reported chupacabra sightings.

In fact, writer Benjamin Radford researched the subject for years for his book “Tracking the Chupacabra,” finding that the accounts of the chupacabra’s physical features were strangely similar to the movie. “Species” famously features an alien-like creature named Sil, with spines all the way down its back.

Director of the International Cryptozoology Museum Loren Coleman told the National Geographic, “If you look at the date when the movie ‘Species’ opened in Puerto Rico, you will see that it overlaps with the first explosion of reports there.” They continued, “Then compare the images of… Sil, and you will see the unmistakable spikes out the back that match those of the first images of the chupacabras in 1995.” Hm.

Was the chupacabra actually a monkey? Or a coyote?

There might be an even stranger explanation for the chupacabra legend. As per National Geographic, the “chupacabras” might have actually been rhesus monkeys that escaped from scientific “blood experiments” in Puerto Rico at the time.

A more probably theory, though? Considering that the grand majority of chupacabra sightings from the 2000s on reported on seeing dog-like creatures, that might be exactly what they are. With places like Texas reporting on several chupacabra sightings— including one by the Amarillo Zoo in 2022— these “beasts” might just be run-of-the-mill animals with severe mange.

Texas A&M Wildlife Specialist John Tomecek explained to CBS, “What looks like a terrifying beast of legend is actually a pretty sad sight to see… Most of the time when folks report a Chupacabra, it’s actually a coyote with very advanced stage mange.”

The skin disease caused by mites means these animals lose their hair, and they need easy prey— A.K.A., livestock. Meanwhile, other farmers have reported on “chupacabras” that ended up being dogs, which may also have lost their fur to mange.

It’s safe to say these alternate explanations don’t exactly give much credit to the chupacabra myth. Still, we don’t exactly know what happened in Puerto Rico in the 70s— maybe those were real.