HORIZON CITY -- The legend may be back, just as mysterious and dark, to stalk the unsuspecting.
Until last weekend, Cesar Garcia and brother-in-law Juan Miranda saw their life near Horizon City as secluded and peaceful.
They moved to the area from Chicago three years ago, but have suddenly been beset by strange and unexplained occurrences.
Their rabbits went into hiding, their cat spent the weekend on the roof of their house, their roosters didn't crow, and their dogs didn't bark.
And at least 30 of their chickens were killed by an unknown interloper.
The brothers are hesitant to say what they think spooked their animals or killed their chickens.
But when pressed, they said it: El Chupacabras.
The legend of El Chupacabras has been part of border folklore since stories of the creature's existence in Puerto Rico emerged in the early '90s. The creature has rarely, if ever, been seen, but it leaves dead animals behind. Its name comes from the animal's reported habit of attacking and drinking the blood of livestock, especially goats.
But El Chupacabras is very real to Cesar Garcia, who came out of his house Saturday morning and found 20 dead chickens.
"I saw the chickens were dead, but there was no blood around the sheet metal" in the coop, Garcia said. "All of them were just dead in one big pile. But, really, I don't know what it was because there was no blood.
"If it had been a dog, there would have been blood everywhere because a dog tears them apart."
Garcia was puzzled by the wounds on some of the chickens, which he described as "two pokes."
"We looked it up on the Internet -- the Chupacabras," he said.
On Sunday morning, Garcia's brother-in-law, Miranda, found 10 more dead chickens in a different coop. Sheriff's deputies responded both mornings to investigate, Miranda said. El Paso County sheriff's spokeswoman Chris Acosta confirmed that deputies went to the house in the 15600 block of Slippery Rock.
Miranda said he could not figure out why the family's three dogs did not bark either night. "Nobody heard anything. Nobody saw anything," he said.
Miranda said whatever got the chickens left tracks that included a paw and a heel, and looked like Chupacabras tracks they found on the Internet. "We followed them all the way past the trailer over there, then over the fence. We walked about four blocks and then the footprints vanished."
Tracks from whatever killed the chickens. Could they be of a Chupacabra?
Henry Flores, director of the Paso Del Norte Paranormal Society, said his group in the past has searched for El Chupacabras in far Northeast El Paso and in Chaparral. The group may now expand the search to the Horizon City area.
"Chupacabras ranks right up there as one of the creatures that has supposedly been seen," Flores said. "It's something we want to try to hunt down when we get a chance."
On their past hunts, Flores said, the group has never glimpsed El Chupacabras, but has found fresh carcasses drained of blood.
"We do see some trails of remains that we think could be the Chupacabras, but we just don't know," he said.
Tony Zavaleta, a professor of anthropology at the University of Texas-Brownsville and an expert in border folklore, said the story of El Chupacabras is kept alive by Spanish-speaking media.
"The Chupacabra is a mythical creature," Zavaleta said. "I reserve the right to say that until someone produces one."
Zavaleta said belief in El Chupacabras has become something of a game to people. Belief is widespread in Latin America and the American Southwest because any mention of the creature quickly gets picked up in the Spanish-speaking media and feeds the craze.
"I don't like to use the word 'hysteria,' but I'll use it with a small 'h.' " Zavaleta said. "Usually, the stories start when a small mammal is killed by a possum, coyote, mountain lion or something. Suddenly, people create an association with the Chupacabras."
The Chupacabras craze was biggest in El Paso in 1995, when T-shirts with images of the goat-sucker, based on "witness accounts," were hot items.
Chupacabras stories made the rounds in El Paso-Juárez that year, but one story stood out. A woman in the Juárez area told reporters that she was bitten by the creature on her neck. Her claim was debunked later as a ploy to divert attention from a lover's hickey and her supposed marital infidelity.
El Chupacabras even stumped TV FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully in a 1997 episode of the "X-Files" that starred Ruben Blades.
But Garcia was left to wonder whether his trouble is over and whether it could have been worse: Until three weeks ago, there was still a herd of goats -- allegedly El Chupacabras' favorite food -- on his property.
"Now I'm left with no chickens. Thirty chickens -- gone," Garcia said. "Imagine if we still had the goats."
Original story can be found here.