Dr KARL SHUKER

Zoologist, media consultant, and science writer, Dr Karl Shuker is also one of the best known cryptozoologists in the world. Author of such seminal works as Mystery Cats of the World (1989), The Lost Ark: New and Rediscovered Animals of the 20th Century (1993; greatly expanded in 2012 as The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals), In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), and more recently Extraordinary Animals Revisited (2007), Dr Shuker's Casebook (2008), Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times (2010), Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (2012), and Mirabilis: A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History (2013), his many fans have been badgering him to join the blogosphere for years. The CFZ Blog Network is proud to have finally persuaded him to do so.

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Wednesday, 20 October 2010

FROM WAR-TIME VAMPIRE TO MODERN-DAY CHUPACABRA?




Highly-acclaimed graphics artist Andy Paciorek sent me yesterday (19 October 2010) the lower of the two illustrations reproduced above, which has a fascinating if totally mystifying cryptozoological connection. The picture is a war cartoon, entitled 'De Vampyr' and was prepared by L J Jordaan for Der Groene Amsterdammer (an underground Dutch periodical) in 1940.

Yet this claw-footed, long-tailed, gasmask-wearing(!) 'vampire' bears scant similarity to the familiar Draculaesque variety with hypertrophied canines, prominent widow's peak, and a talent for melodramatic cloak-swishing!

Instead, as Andy so rightly pointed out, what it does resemble, and to a remarkable degree, is the chupacabra - a Hispanic mystery beast that did not come to widespread public and media attention until the mid-1990s. Of particular note is the Dutch war vampire's row of long dorsal spines, a very distinctive characteristic frequently reported for the chupacabra but not usually for other cryptids. Wings have also been cited for the chupacabra on occasion, as have powerful hind limbs, and its blood-sucking behaviour, often totally draining of blood the carcases of its animal victims, is well-documented - all features exhibited here by Jordaan's vampire, more than half a century before the chupacabra.

For visual comparison, the painting positioned directly above 'De Vampyr' here is of a chupacabra, produced by celebrated cryptozoological artist William Rebsamen, based upon eyewitness descriptions, and except for the chupacabra's quadrupedal rather than bipedal form, fundamental morphological similarities between the two entities are undeniable.

Just a baffling coincidence, or are the history and public evolution of the chupacabra more complex and of earlier origin than previously thought? Over to you...

8 comments:

  1. As much as I'd like to believe there is a connection here, I think it's most likely a coincidence. I know of no reports of chupacabras pre-1990s and I've never heard any chupacabras reports out of Europe. Claws, bat wings and spines are all 'classic' monster features that an artist might apply to any evil creature. It would be interesting to know the context of the image. The word 'volkskracht' on the banner translates as 'large cracks' or 'popular crashes' based on the context.

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  2. Well, for a start, you'd have to research graphics of "wyverns"--because this is one, a dragon with the forelimbs being wings, and the hindlimbs being a lizard-type. (Someone erudite might object that it is more like some depiction of other of a "cockatrice," but I wouldn't know about that.)

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  3. Just to be clear---in addition to being mentioned on an episode of the old tv western Bonanza shown back in 1960

    There's THIS

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/goat+sucker

    Of course, both on Bonanza and in European folklore the goatsucker sucks milk..not blood. But the word has a history

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  4. I agree re bat wings and claws, but those tall dorsal spines are highly unusual and differ markedly from the more familiar dorsal triangular points that can often be found on illustrations of dragons and suchlike. Only the chupacabra seems to have been depicted with these spines. Equally, wyverns, being dragons, are scaly, and characteristically have a scorpion's tail - the 'vampire' pictured here, convesely, has neither of these attributes and appears mammalian (as does the chupacabra), not reptilian. The cockatrice is even further removed, sporting facial wattles and a coxcomb.

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  5. This looks like a political cartoon to me, with the "beast" wearing an identifiably German Wehrmacht-style helmet. It also looks like it has some sort of gas mask on as well. I don't understand the words on the banner draped across the fallen body, but I imagine that it represents some sort of fallen government or party or perhaps the Dutch nation, which was overrun by the Nazis in May 1940.

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  6. I think the post war picture is more of a coincidence. The chupacabra according to friends of mine is real but now how people draw them to be.

    They describe them more like a mutated dog with large legs on the back with short legs on the front and hop real fast. I heard this story from two separate friends and describe it the same way. It seems to pray on small animals such as chickens pray of their choice.

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  7. I came across Jordaan's image in 'World War II in Cartoons" by Mark Bryant. Grub Street Publishing 1989.
    The description of the image given is as follows
    "Another view of Europe's Economy as arranged under the Nazi 'New Order' policy. Jordaan's powerful vampire image has Germany sucking the very lifeblood out of Holland (note the gasmask and bayonet blade spinal fins)"

    That is the satirical political context,the visual and inspirational context is not so clear-cut. I have not been able to find many Jordaan pieces, but several I have seen reveal a knowledge of painters as one political cartoon is a pastiche of Arnold Bocklin, another of Franz Von Stuck. Whilst Jordaan also executed pieces with no prior artistic reference, it is worth checking out possible art inspirations for 'Der Vampyr' if only to rule the possibility out. Instantly springing to mind are the depictions of Mara by Fuseli and Abildgaard and also a wood engraving from the 1865 edition of Sabine Baring Gould's Book of Werewolves, but the similarity is mainly in composition as the creature depicted by Jordaan, despite being associated, is quite different.

    It may also be reminiscent of a Wyvern but the lore doesn't fit, dragons are generally thought of as utterly carnivorous and not simply sanguinarian. The wings and single pair of fully-formed limbs could equally refer to a bat, which has more connection to vampire myth. The only other political cartoon of WWII, I've seen so far with a vampiric motif depicts the Nazis as a giant mosquito.

    Also of consideration is the media of the time, it would be guesswork to say how much exposure Jordaan had to films such as Universal's Dracula which made use of the bat motif, but either way the vampires in universal films and also in earlier German expressionist movies such as Nosferatu and Vampyr, all depict vampires more strongly in humanoid form, which leaves Jordaan's portrayal an enigma.

    The spinal ridge is explained as representing bayonet-blades, but is it an elaboration of Jordaan's own device or does it refer to some prior description? A feature shared with descriptions of Chupacabras, which alongside other physical features may be total coincidence. Or alternatively Jordaan may have a touch of clairvoyance in his pen, as another image of his depicting a Nazi as a giant cogs and wheels robot which brings to my mind both Ted Hughes' Iron Man and Steampunk art.

    May still be interesting though, to see if there is to be found any historical precedent to the 1990's descriptions of Chupacabras and other associated cryptids.

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  8. I think theres too much resemblance between vampire and chupacabra for a coincidence.


    Meanwhile, one question remains. What IS the chupacabra? Where did it come from? And where will it strike next?

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