Mythical Creatures: Don't Dangle Feet off Bed
Mystery Casebook By Ina Hughs

Thursday, September 13, 2007

I learned two new words this week: "exsanguinating" and "chupacabra."

The first I probably would've figured out, thanks to a good ninth-grade Latin teacher, but "chupacabra" had me stumped. Even my spell-check registered "no suggestions."

I have a woman hunter in Texas to thank for increasing my vocabulary. Phylis Canion lives, aptly enough, in a little Texas town called Cuero and has been plagued in recent weeks by what she says is a mythical creature with vampire-like fangs that sucks the blood out of chickens.

She and her neighbors have suspected something bad is on the loose because it has been creeping up on their chickens and exsanguinating them in the dark of night.

Now Canion has solved the mystery, having come across the evil beast lying dead in the road. Probably hit by a car. "I've seen a lot of nasty stuff in my life," she told the Associated Press. "I've never seen anything like this."

She's pretty sure it's one of those mythical blood-sucking chupacabra.

She's saving its head so she and others can research the DNA, proving it is not, as some veterinarians have suggested, just an extraordinarily ugly coyote.

It's a mammal, has big ears, large fanged teeth and grayish-blue, mostly hairless skin, and weighs something like 40 pounds. Frankly, so far, it sounds to me like an Arkansas razorback. My son-in-law is a "go-Hawg" loyalist, and I had the honor of making the groom's cake at his and my daughter's wedding. He requested a chocolate razorback cake. Maybe if we'd called it a chupacabra cake, people would've been less squeamish. Who knows?

Mythical creatures have always fascinated me for some reason.

As a child I loved stories about the Loch Ness Monster, Big Foot and the Abominable Snowman, only I thought it was an Abdominal Snowman and wondered how a snowman could ever be, well, ingested.

Wouldn't he just melt?

When my kids were in middle school, we took a trip to Scotland and gave each child the choice of a place to visit. They were to research it and act as tour guide. Our son chose Loch Ness. As we rowed a little johnboat across those dark waters, he took full advantage of his theatrical talents, telling the story as a young Stephen King might have. By the time we got back to shore, his sister was under the gunnels saying her prayers.

My own brothers were into mythical creatures, too. They had me convinced there were exsanguinating wolves, fangs and all, living under my bed. At night, if I let anything hang off the edge - an arm, a leg, even a head - wolves would bite it off.

When I got older, I tried to reason that wolves couldn't really live under my bed: There was too much other stuff under there because, like any normal kid, that's how I cleaned up my room. Shove everything under the bed.

My brothers explained patiently, even kindly, these were not normal wolves. They were mythological. My brothers' wolves were as real to me as the Texas chupacabra is to Canion, though I never could document an actual sighting.

There are lots of so-called mythological monsters out there who have a faithful following: the Minnesota Iceman, the Florida Skunk Ape, the New Jersey Devil - just to mention a few. Some of these beasts have names that might well be from Sesame Street, like Gitchie Goomie Skookum and the Blue Beings from Inner Earth.

My favorites are the Massachusetts Mann Hill Globster, which weighs 19 tons and looks like a camel without legs, and the West Virginia Flatwood, which glows in the dark and has a head like the ace of spades.

I don't know what exactly to make of Canion's mythological road kill, those pesky exsanguinating chupacabras, but I'm glad I don't have any tasty chickens in my back yard. Don't get me wrong. I'm not making fun of all this, though I lean toward the notion that such creatures exist only in ghost stories and trick photography.

But, just in case, I still don't let anything hang off the bed at night.

Ina Hughs is a retired News Sentinel staff writer. She may be reached at 2007, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.

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