by Scott Corrales

While Latin America has always a steady source of information on UFOs and encounters with nonhuman creatures. Creatures tentatively classified as Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Yeti, and a host of other denominations are usually associated with the planet's temperate zones and even the Arctic regions. However, more and more reports of such creatures are emerging from the lands comprised between Cancer and Capricorn, providing even more eyewitness accounts concerning such entities.

Puerto Rico and Mexico have reported an increase in reports about the Sasquatch's tropical cousin, which has not yet been given a name of its own, aside from comical monickers created by the press (such as the untranslatable "cangodrilo," which conveys the same humorous ring as "jackalope"). The tropical manimals are described as human-sized, covered in abundant brown or black hair, and with glowing eyes. Their habits are largely nocturnal, as in the case of their North American counterparts, and they have also shown a propensity toward appearing in places where UFO or paranormal events are taking place.

In 1992, as word spread of the miraculous apparition of the Blessed Virgin at Montaña Santa, a hilltop located near San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico, a number of unidentified artifacts were reported in the hill's vicinity and even captured on film, while other witnesses reported brilliant, disk-like objects flying overhead. One of these witnesses, Delia Flores, told the following to UFO investigator Jorge Martín: during a daytime trip to the religious sanctuary located on the hill, she and other worshippers were surprised to see a beige van (resembling those used by SWAT teams) parked in the area. Its occupants wore orange fatigues with NASA insignia, and the vehicle's Spanish-speaking driver had no qualms about telling the religious pilgrims that the van contained a most unusual cargo--a simian creature captured in Carite State Forest. According to Ms. Flores, she and the others were able to see a covered cage that contained something which was "struggling to get out."

The driver added that the creature was being taken to a secret primate research lab located somewhere on the island, where investigation on this sort of being was being conducted. Two primate research centers exist on the island: one of them on Cayo Santiago, an islet of Puerto Rico's eastern shore, and the other in the Sabana Seca Naval Base. The heavy tarpaulin covering the cage was never removed, and the witnesses were distracted from showing further interest in the van and its contents by the insistent ringing of the sanctuary's bell, announcing the beginning of the morning's services. Martín, Jorge. "Encuentros con Ovnis y Yetis en Montaña Santa, San Lorenzo, P.R." (Ovnis Confidencial, WSKN, San Juan, 1994.)

Ms. Flores' testimony is hardly unique. An area farmer discovered one morning that a number of plantain trees in his property had been destroyed by an unknown creature that left a number of deep footprints, attesting to its massive size and weight. According to his neighbors, all the dogs in the vicinity had either barked furiously or stayed home, huddled in corners as if frightened by something. When the farmer had gone down to gather some plantains, he discovered his crops had been torn to shreds as if by powerful claws. The sad scene of destruction affected him so deeply that he refused to leave his house again for the rest of the day. An agronomer from the Caguas office of the Puerto Rico department of Agriculture declared that he had never seen such a sight, nor could he speculate as to the kind of beast that could cause such damage. Other residents indicated that they had seen a "hairy figure" run away from the area in the darkness, but could not describe it in detail.

Gerardo Rosario, another resident of the Maracal sector, was weeding his property at dusk when he had a startling encounter. "It was getting dark and I was almost done with the weeding when I heard a noise over to the side, and I moved toward it. I looked up and noticed that it was a hairy creature climbing up the hillside. It was some 5 feet tall, hairy...and it was accompanied by a smaller hairy creature just like it. I couldn't make out its face, because it was climbing sideways, but I noticed that there was hair covering its features, except around the eyes and cheeks."

There were other witnesses, including a 12 year old boy on his way to school. As he walked down the road by his house, his attention was distracted by odd sounds, which he described as "a mute trying to speak." When he went over to the roadside to take a closer look, he discovered two creatures sitting on a large boulder in a mountain stream at the bottom of a ravine. The larger creature walked around the top of the boulder, as if keeping watch, while the smaller figure remained seated. The larger creature emitted the moan that had drawn his attention in the first place, causing the frightened schoolboy to flee.

Not far from the San Juan metropolitan area, the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin at Monte Santo, in the suburban location of Lomas Verdes, also involved UFOs and manimals. One night, while worshippers fervently prayed in the heavily wooded area, a muscular figure, some 5 feet tall and covered in brownish hair, raced between the trees in a zig-zag pattern. While the religious apparitions were in full swing, sightings of large-headed "Greys" were also reported.

El Yunque, one of the peaks located in the Luquillo Experimental Rainforest, has been a focal point of UFO and paranormal rainforest since the days of the Taino indians, who considered the cloud-enshrouded mountain the dwelling place of their deities. Since the late 1800's, reports of strange lights flying over El Yunque have suggested that some sort of non-human activity has been taking place. Persistent rumors of an extraterrestrial base beneath the rainforest have been compounded by a number of cases which have been at the forefront of UFO research on the island.

In December 1993, a group of National Guard reservists camping at the summit of Mt. La Mina, on the rainforest's southern end, had an encounter with an frightening creature: man-sized,hairy and with glowing eyes. The reservists abandoned their camp and descended the mountain in pitch darkness, terrified by the encounter. Their superiors allegedly told them not to discuss the matter with anyone, but the bemused guards had already told their story to local residents, who in turn discussed the matter with local researchers. (Martin, Jorge. "Encuentros con seres extraños en El Yunque," Ovnis Confidencial, WSKN, San Juan, 1994.)

In all the above cases, the common element appears to be either Marian apparitions, of which there have been many over the past decade, or bona fide UFO sightings involving both craft and occupants. That a link between manimals and the latter can be established is without question--case histories from all over the Americas have often involved hairy ape-like creatures standing outside landed vehicles, being led by ufonauts, and in one case, seen drifting across the skies in a bright orange ball. The connection to religious phenomena is more tenuous. During the spectacular Puerto Rican UFO wave of the early Seventies, manimal sightings coincided with bleeding and weeping statues of the Virgin, Christ images seen in churches, and "Men-in-Black" activity. One of the more memorable cases involved an elderly woman who ventured into her backyard attracted by the frantic barking of her watchdogs: to her astonishment, she saw the dogs were barking at a simian figure with glowing red eyes which had climbed to the top of a palm tree in her yard. The manimal turned into a ball of orange fire and rose upward into the skies, disappearing from sight.

Many authors on paranormal matters have suggested that apparitions create an "instability" of sorts which attracts other phenomena that may not be so benign, or of an entirely different nature. Mutilations play a role in this scenario, particularly the mysterious deaths of household animals such as cats and dogs, followed by a sudden rise in manimal sightings. The is exemplified by the incidents surrounding the Bray Road Beast (Strange Magazine 10, 11), a werewolf-like entity reported in Wisconsin, have included similar canine slayings. In 1991, a man going for a walk stumbled upon the mutilated corpses of twelve dogs and seven cats, less than two miles from the crossroads where the "Beast" was being sighted. Could these sacrifices have been part of a black magic ceremony designed to "summon" these parahuman entities into our reality? Some authors think so: John A. Keel suggested the possibility in his classic The Mothman Prophecies. A string of local pet disappearances could have supplied the blood needed by a "local sorcerer" to bring a parahuman creature--the infamous "Mothman" in this case--into existence. An epidemic of domestic animal disappearances is currently taking place in Vancouver, B.C.. It will be interesting to see if manimal sightings and encounters will follow.

Dr. Rafael Lara Palmeros, research director for Mexico's CEFP (Centro de Estudios de Fenomenos Paranormales) is currently heading his organization's investigation into that country's own manimal, the creature known as "Hombre Oso" ("Bearman"), who has gone largely unnoticed, living in wilderness areas all over Mexico, ranging from the arid, desertic state of Chihuahua to Veracruz on the Gulf Coast.

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