Author’s Note 2019: This is one of the first web pages I ever created. It was first made on 9/8/2001, before many of you were born, I’d guess, before there were “blogs” and at least three years before Facebook existed. I had the idea to write a book about strange ideas back then. I never wrote that book, but I shared a few sketches for chapters as web pages. I hope you will agree that it is still an interesting story today.
The Goat Legged Creature of Calavaras County
Created 9/8/2001 – Updated Several Times Over A Few Years – by Xeno
In this third chapter of the Reasonable Person’s Guide to Strange Ideas we present a true story about a strange creature seen by multiple people in Calavaras County, California. If you thought Rods and Bigfoot were strange ideas “you ain’t seen nothin yet.”
- California Caverns
- Skeptical but Curious
- ZORK, The Underground Empire
- Cave Tour
- Tour Guide Cave Art
- Evil Goats and Masons
- Cave Temperatures
- Cave Pictures
- Human Bones Found
- Mewok Indians
- Strange Local Creature
- Pre-Christian Symbols
- Chupacabras and Goats in Calavaras
- Chupacabra’s Spiny Back and the Potto
- Xenophilia at the True Love Coffee Shop
- Chupacabras and Cattle Mutilation
[ END Part I ]
On a misty holiday weekend I, Xeno, went “caving” for the first time at California Caverns (formerly Mammoth Caves) at Cave City in Calavaras County, California.
The facts below are real. I had no idea when I set out with a digital camera and a pad of paper that I would be writing a story about the mythical Chupacabra. Remember as you read this that until 1802 people thought the Platypus was a hoax or a bad joke.
Skeptical but Curious
For the record I am a serious and skeptical person, a scientist by trade, but I also have an open mind. I’ve been curious about the unknown from an early age.
In a few hours I was a few hundred miles from Sacramento waiting for the next California Cavern cave tour.
ZORK, The Underground Empire
As I waited I thought about the first computer game I ever played, ZORK. In it one discovers an underground empire. Over the years I’ve often been amused to think that there might be massive hollows where unknown creatures, perhaps even entire civilizations, dwell.
Image from NeverWinter, added 2019. Captures the feeling of Zork well, I think.
The idea of an underworld is ancient.
As the tour was about to begin, we walked a short distance from the ticket counter to the cave entrance. Our guide used a faster method. Most people visit State Historic Landmark #956 because “the crystalline beauty of this natural cave … has been delighting visitors for 150 years.”
As luck would have it, however, my group’s guide was probably the most expert caver in the county. As it turns out he had stories that were as amazing as the caves themselves.
Tour Guide Cave Art
Art, “Cave Art,” and his friend hold a record for discovering 75 new caves never before seen by human eyes. Art claimed to know the real story behind some strange tales of the caves.
As we picked out our hard-hats at the entrance, Art told of the Freemasons who met secretly in this cave.
Evil Goats and Masons
Concerning goats and masons, someone wrote “Early caricatures in the previous century almost invariably included the presence of a goat in the lodge upon which the candidate was required to ride at his initiation. – The goat is of course a Satanic symbol.”
Whatever. I just wanted to see some cool rocks. Descending a few steps, we entered another world…
One interesting thing that most people do not know about natural caves is that they have a very constant temperature. The temperature inside a cave is the average temperature above ground over one or more years.
At California Caverns the caves stay around 53 degrees year round.
There are no words to describe the detail and beauty of natural caverns.
Human Bones Found
During the tour Art told of many bones found inside the cave, human bones. He said other guides will tell you they were the bones of local Indians who fell in, but he knew the real story. The Indians thought the idea of falling in this well known hole by accident was absurd.
Everyone knew where the hole was. Besides, it was protected by an overhang. You’d have to climb up into the rock, then squeeze down inside. Was it used for burials?
The Miwok Indians (also Mewok), according to Art, had never used the cave for burials. Instead legend has it that there was a creature inside the caves, a rock man, who would grab humans from the surface, bring them below and eat them.
Strange Local Creature
After the tour, I asked Art about other strange creatures or legends of creatures in the area. Art said that A local man once saw something VERY strange, up close and personal.
The man heard something scratching around his back porch. He thought it was a stray dog. When he opened the door he was face to face with THIS:
It was about four feet tall, standing erect on two legs. It was disproportionately muscular in its upper body. It had glowing red eyes, a little bit of a snout like a dog, it was hairy all over and it had long claws. It’s legs bent backwards, like a goat’s.
He stood, frozen in fear. It stared at him then hopped away over his fence.
From the description this thing sounds like a living gargoyle. Might gargoyle statues be based on a real creature? According to one site the word gargoyle comes from the French word “gargouille” which means “throat” or “pipe”.
The original purpose of gargoyle carvings on buildings was to drain water from the sides of the structure.
St. Bernard of Clairvaux in the 12th Century wondered this same thing:
“What are these fantastic monsters doing … ? What is the meaning of these unclean monkeys … ?”
Gargoyles appear on churches because Pre-Christian symbols were incorporated into the rituals of the Catholic Church to encourage the conversion of pagan peoples to Christianity. Like all religions, Paganism helped its practitioners cope with fear of the unknown. Perhaps strange carvings with combinations of different creatures (part goat, part bat, part man) were just plain scary. Were they early man’s version of the horror movie? Perhaps a physical representation of man’s fear at not understanding life? Or were they real? Real human-line hybrid creatures?!
Hybrid Animals and Xenotransplantation
Can a real creature be part goat and part man? Pan, of Greek mythology, was a “god of fields and woods and shepherds and flocks. Represented as a man with goat’s legs and horns and ears.” Quetzalcoatl, an ancient god, was depicted as a feathered snake man with three toes.
Did ancient men have “relations” with animals, feel odd about it and as a result make up bizarre myths? Scientifically, although such unions can spread diseases, by definition any two creatures of different species cannot naturally produce offspring even if they mate. Of course with technology we can do many things that are unnatural.
Our current technology can (or can almost) grow human organs in pigs and other animals. This is called xenotransplantation. A recent NewScientist article states:
“adult pigs that had received human stem cells as fetuses were found to have pig cells, human cells and the hybrid cells in their blood and organs. What we found was completely unexpected. We found that the human and pig cells had totally fused in the animals’ bodies,” said Jeffrey Platt, director of the Mayo Clinic Transplantation Biology Program.
Might past civilizations ( visitors?) with genetic tricks surpassing our own have really created human-animal hybrids of ancient legends: the Minotaur, sphinx, etc.? Knowing we humans anything that can be done eventually will. At this writing, some claim to have already cloned the first human and we have or will soon create life (bacteria) from scratch with synthetic DNA.
Human cloning uses animal eggs (such as cow November 1998, Rabbit? ) with the DNA from the nucleus removed and human sperm. Since 1% of DNA from a union of egg and sperm comes from the mitochondria in the egg, a human born from this method would have some animal DNA. Like it or not, our technology is becoming more and more God-like.
Chupacabras and Goats in Calavaras
Back to our story: Could the creature of Calavaras be a Chupacabra (pronounced chew-paw-CAH-bra), the legendary blood sucking animal responsible for killing goats? In Spanish, “Chupa” = “sucker” and “Cabara” = “Goat”. There were plenty of goats around and only three of over 300 caves in Calavaras County are open to the public. There would be plenty of places for an animal to hide.
Some basic facts about Chupacabras: According to howstuffworks.com, “Eyes: very large, often red. Build: quasi-simian-kangaroo-reptile. The first reported case in North America was in Arizona sometime around 1956. … incidents have been reported in Arizona, Oregon, Michigan, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, Florida, and parts of Chile, Brazil and Mexico, the majority of activity has occurred in Puerto Rico.”
They may want to add California.
Chupacabra’s Spiny Back and the Potto
Although not mentioned in this Calavaras sighting, a feature commonly described of the Chupacabra is a row of spines on the back that may be raised and lowered. There is, in fact, a real species of primate (although it is only the size of a cat) with spines. The Periodicicus potto has eight bony nuchal spines which project from the back of its neck vertebrae.
They are mostly hidden by fir and much shorter than those described by Chupacabra witnesses, but they do exist. Other interesting correlations are the potto’s muscular upper body, large redish eyes and index finger which has shrunk to almost nothing. In other words, this species of primate looks like it has three fingers. The potto eats fruit, sap and insects … not goats.
Xenophilia (my old band) at the True Love Coffee Shop
[Historical note: I had a band named Xenophilia (Love of the Strange) and we once played a show with Jason Mraz (before he got super famous) at the True Love Coffee House in Sacramento, California. We played there several times and the owners brought in some great crowds and musicians. One owner was Kevin Seconds of the band 7Seconds, a great singer/songwriter as well.]
At a Xenophilia show a few days later at the True Love Coffee Shop, Sacramento (Friday April 6th, 2001), we had the audience do some art as we played music. I told the story and they made the following drawings:
Chupacabras and Cattle Mutilation
The Xenophilia audience who drew the above pictures, did so only from a verbal description. The pictures in Part II of this story (stay tuned), however, are from purported eyewitnesses.
Cave Art told this story, but never mentioned the word Chupacabra. In a follow up interview (California Cavern at Cave City,) Xeno learned that Art does know about Chupacabras.
In fact, Art believes there are several different kinds and that some are responsible for cattle mutilations. Had the man who told Art the story ever heard of this creature before or after he saw it? This is unknown. Art did not know the man’s name. He moved to Santa Cruz and does not have a phone, but he does come around once in a while. Art said he knew the location and he’d take me out for some pictures of the property. What else am I going to do on a Sunday afternoon? Off I went.
This story continues in The Goat Legged Creature of Calavaras County – Part 2.