Cryptids and Legendary Creatures

The Lerdo Monster, a New Chupacabra?

In late August of 2023, a cluster of small ranches in the northern part of the Mexican state of Durango were visited by a strange creature that killed over 20 animals and injured others over the course of a week in three separate instances. This alleged creature attacked goats, sheep and chickens and limited its attacks to a small rectangular zone in the north central part of the Municipio – or county – of Lerdo just south of the city of Gómez Palacio near Durango’s border with the state of Coahuila. The closest small town to the attacks is a place called San Luis del Alto. The sparsely populated area is mostly high desert with some hilly places and contains ranches ranging in size from a few acres to several hundred acres. Immediately to the west of San Luis del Alto, in the same Municipio of Lerdo, is the Cañon de Fernández State Park, an untouched and mostly unexplored wilderness of sheer-cliff canyons and cypress forests that contain trees that are over 1,400 years old.

On August 30, 2023, a family on a small ranch in Lerdo woke up to find 10 of their animals dead in a very strange way. People living on these ranches are no strangers to the occasional predator going after their livestock, but what this family experienced was beyond anything they had ever been through. Some of the animals were still in their corrals and cages and there was no blood on the ground, track marks around the dead animals or any evidence of a struggle. The dead sheep, goats and chickens appeared to have their blood drained out of them by deep puncture wounds, in some cases, these wounds went in over a foot deep.  Sheep had these puncture wounds on their necks, while goats had the wounds on their torsos between their front legs.  The chickens had their chests punctured. All wounds appeared to have been cauterized and burned shut with heat, as if to minimize blood loss.  Additionally, some of the carcasses had strange circular, suction cup marks on them, like a scene out of the “Star Trek” episode “The Man Trap” featuring the shaggy, hideous-looking salt vampire that sucked all the salt out of its victims before killing them.  What killed the animals was not a wild dog, a coyote or a bobcat. And how did the animal killer get into the corrals and cages unnoticed and without leaving a trace behind?

Ross Cantú and other investigators, including veterinarians from the city of Gómez Palacio, went to Lerdo to try to figure out what was going on. When touring the sites, they asked a lot of questions. Cantú was specifically wanting to know if there were any witnesses to these attacks or if anyone in the area saw or heard anything out of the ordinary on or around the days these instances took place. A few locals mentioned “luces malas,” or “bad lights” associated with the early evenings in late August.  What were these luces malas? No one was certain, but it seemed as if they were some sort of atmospheric phenomenon seen coming off the nearby hills. Also, from those low hills a few people claimed to have seen a gigantic birdlike creature which they called an “hombre-pájaro” or, simply translated “bird man.” These sightings, these witnesses claimed, were not just restricted to late August, but have been occurring off and on throughout the years in the area.  The possibility of a gigantic bird/humanoid creature existing in northern Mexico was investigated in Mexico Unexplained episode number 311. According to some of the locals, the nearby hills have been the setting of many strange things happening, with legends from local indigenous groups going back to a time before the Spanish Conquest.  On the night of one of the attacks, a teenage boy claimed to have seen a feline creature on its hind legs, walking like a human, near one of the animal corrals.  When the animal sensed it was being watched, it ran off into the desert. No one took any photos of the bird man or the upright catlike creature and no one thought to take pictures of any tracks that may have been in the dirt the day after these sightings. Many people in and around the ranchos were very reluctant to talk about these killings. Some claimed that they didn’t want to draw attention to the area and others were afraid their sanity would be questioned. Unlike other places in Mexico where paranormal activity has allegedly been experienced, the people of Lerdo did not want curiosity-seekers to come poking around their corrals and cages. The conclusion here is that sightings of the Lerdo Monster were not talked about with the intent to draw tourists to the area. Far from it.

An interesting aspect of this whole series of incidents had to do with a lingering smell at the sites of the attacks. Paranormal investigator Ross Cantú said that it smelled like a combination of blood and bleach. A veterinarian at one of the sites who was present when Cantú was conducting her investigations claimed that the distinct odor smelled like oxindole. Oxindole is an amino acid derived from tryptophan, formed by gut bacteria. Oxindoles are used in anti-fungal and anti-microbial treatments in animals.  An excess of oxindole can cause muscle weakness, sedation and coma. Was oxindole used on the animals to sedate them before the strange incisions were done on them, or was that bleach smell an aftereffect of the clean-up process for the scene of the crime?

The researchers involved in trying to figure all of this out are left scratching their heads wondering what the supposed Lerdo Monster could be.  Veterinarians have completely ruled out natural predators such as coyotes or wildcats. Nothing was eaten and there was not the characteristic mess left behind as would have been consistent with a wild animal attack. Without any physical evidence of a creature, researchers and locals are left with a lot of speculation. The default go-to explanation is that these are the attacks of the semi-mythical chupacabra, which literally means, “goat sucker.” The chupacabra grew in popularity in the late 1990s, but there have been less and less reports of this creature since the beginning of the 21st Century.  For those unfamiliar with this Mexican monster, the chupacabra has been described in two ways:  It can be a hairy canine creature that is larger than an average dog or a combination of a reptile and a mammal with scaly skin and spikes on its back.  The chupacabra is said to suck the blood out of barnyard animals much like what happened at the ranchos of Lerdo.  For more information about the chupacabra, please see Mexico Unexplained episode number 4:  Some ranch hands thought that the hombre-pájaro, or bird man discussed earlier, could have flown down from the nearby hills and shape-shifted into a smaller, fully land-based feline or doglike creature. A few used the term “nagual” to describe this mystery animal.  The belief in the nagual as a real entity goes back thousands of years in Mexico and is said to come from early central Mexican civilizations. Essentially, a nagual is a sorcerer who has shapeshifted into an animal that is big and hairy and has the snout of a dog or sometimes the face of a cat. It makes growling or howling noises.  For more information about the nagual, please see Mexico Unexplained episode number 36: Researcher Ross Cantú believes that the Lerdo Monster is a completely new species that has not yet been identified. Perhaps, she has speculated, that it comes from inside the earth or that the creature can slip in and out of different dimensions. It is possible, she claims, that this unknown being whisked away the ranch animals to some other place, performed the incisions and drained their blood, and returned the animals back to where it found them, whether in a cage or in a corral. When asked if this creature was natural or man-made, Cantú stated that some locals speculated that this monster was created in a nearby lab ala “The Island of Doctor Moreau,” the HG Wells story of a mad scientist who combined animals and humans. This alleged lab is a series of buildings in the desert just south of the town of San Luis del Alto. The residents of the surrounding ranches have long suspected these buildings as being a center for clandestine and possible illegal activities. Some have witnessed what they have called “gringos” coming and going from these facilities. A person interviewed believed that the people working there were, “either Americans, Russians or British.” Local officials dismiss the mad scientist lab theory as nonsense and fanciful thinking.

The people of Lerdo are on the alert for future attacks and possible sightings of this strange monster. There was talk in San Luis del Alto of organizing a vigilante group to hunt down the creature, but no one is sure exactly what they would be looking for, so that plan never crystallized. Locals are left with not much to go with. Perhaps if these strange animal mutilations happen again, the scared people of northern Durango may be closer to having their questions answered.


Gracias a Yohanan Diaz Vargas

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