In the autumn of 1973 a tragic incident took a turn toward the terrifying when a search for a missing child turned up, instead, a terrifying entity that seems to have emerged from the bowels of hell itself.
Sprawling over 28,000 acres in the north eastern portion of Puerto Rico, El Yunque National Forest is a biologically diverse subtropical rain forest harboring hundreds of rare amphibians, reptiles, birds and flora, many are which are indigenous only to the region. There are those, however, who believe that this foreboding forest may also be the domain of an unspeakable horror; one that might even be responsible for the disappearance of a child… or worse.
During the waning days October 1973, at approximately 9 p.m., José Alemar Sr. and the mother of his children, Ana Dominguez, drove down the rugged, unpaved roads toward El Verde, a densely forested area in the northern region of the El Yunque National Forest. They were accompanied on this journey by their daughter and some additional unnamed friends.
The group was not on a sightseeing expedition; their task was far more solemn. Just three months earlier, Dominguez and Alemar’s youngest child, José Alemar Jr., had vanished without a trace in this densely forested area.
José Jr.’s family and friends were returning yet again to the scene of the potential crime no doubt praying for a breakthrough in the search or perhaps even an outright miracle.
The disappearance of José Jr. was as tragic as it was mysterious; tragic due to the overwhelming anguish that afflicts any family following the sudden disappearance of a child. Mysterious not only because the whereabouts of the child was unknown, but also because the circumstances surrounding José Jr.’s unexplained exodus have yet to be fully explained.
For reasons undisclosed, José Sr. pulled in front of an isolated (possibly abandoned) ranch house and began searching the grounds accompanied by his friends. One has to assume that this was the site of their son’s disappearance or perhaps a location where some had reported seeing José Jr.
Either way, Ana and her daughter had either requested, or been commanded to, remain in the car, which was parked near the roadside. The mother and daughter huddled together inside the vehicle as the men disappeared from view.
Exhausted and despondent, Ana rested her head against the glass of the passenger side window. That was when she heard the voice of her missing son calling from the darkness beyond the glass.
Startled, and almost certainly elated, Ana peered into the inky void, but was unable to find the source of the sound. The voice of José Jr. emanated again, this time from the left side of the vehicle. Ana and her daughter clearly heard him repeat his request:
“open the car door, I’m back.”
Instinctively, Ana reached for the lock, but before she disengaged the mechanism she noticed her daughter’s eyes expanding in unmistakable terror. With a trembling finger the little girl pointed outside the window. Ana followed her child’s gaze and gasped in horror.
Looming over the windshield was a 7-foot tall, shadow shrouded and impossibly thin nonhuman entity, which Ana described as having:
“…a huge egg shaped head, long pointy ears, and two huge, black oval shaped eyes.”
Ana would further state that no other facial features were visible as the unusual entity’s visage was cloaked almost entirely in darkness.
The terrified pair stared silently at the unblinking eyes of the ebony fiend, when it suddenly lunged forward, placing its large, three fingered , chicken claw-like hand flat against the windshield.It was then that Ana’s maternal instincts took over and she began slamming on the car horn and shrieking for her boyfriend to come and save them.
Just when it seemed as if their fates’ had been sealed, José Sr. and his makeshift posse came running from around the back of the house, but by the time they arrived at the car, the thing, whatever it may have been, had vanished.
The panicked women told the men about the creature they had seen. Most disturbingly, they both swore that the voice they had heard was that of José Jr., however, Ana was unsure if they had actually heard the voice audibly or if the sound had been implanted in their minds telepathically.
It is unreported and difficult to imagine what José Sr.’s reaction was to his family’s unbelievable tale, but he was likely swayed toward sympathy simply by the sheer terror in the eyes of his common-law wife and daughter.
So ends the only officially recorded run-in with the El Verde Entity, but that leaves us with the question of what in the name of all that is holy did Ana Dominguez and her daughter encounter that night in October of 1973?
There are some who assume that based on the fact that it was able to communicate to the women, that this was not a traditional animalistic cryptid, but an intelligent being… but what kind of intelligent being?
Based on its’ disturbing appearance, as well as the implied cruelty of speaking to the women using the voice of a missing loved one, there are those who have (perhaps understandably) speculated that the El Verde Entity is clearly of demonic origin.
This hypothesis often further implies that the creature’s intention was to lure the women out of the vehicle in order to abscond off with them in the same way that it likely did with José Jr. three months before. As to what purpose this thing might have had in wanting access to this woman and her child one can only speculate… and shudder.
Those of a more secular predisposition also acknowledge that this being’s evident intelligence separates it from traditional cryptids, but are less inclined to think of this thing as devilish and are more disposed to believe it is of extraterrestrial origin.
These theories are less likely to ascribe specific motives to the El Verde Entity’s actions, though one would not be going out on too treacherous a limb to assume its ultimate intention was likely to be the abduction of the two women.
One must also consider the possibility that this creature, despite its horrific appearance, was actually attempting to communicate to Ana that it knew of the whereabouts of her child and, perhaps unable to speak, inserted the voice of José Jr. into her mind in order to get her to accompany it to his location. This theory may seem absurd on its face — in all likelihood this whole encounter will make most skeptics cringe — but, in the best tradition of Rod Serling-esque irony, one must always remember that just because something is ugly (at least by our standards) doesn’t necessarily mean that it is evil.
There’s still another hypothesis inspired by the finest tradition of 1950’s atomic-made monster movies and Marvel Comics irradiated mutants.
A theory further cultivated by yours truly and my partners in wonderfully wild speculation on the Cryptonaut Podcast which contends that the El Verde Entity was spawned — much like the winged, reptilian, porcupine spined, blood sucking CHUPACABRA of local lore — by overzealous U.S. government scientists experimenting with the effects of gamma radiation on rainforest flora.
The origin of this admittedly fanciful conjecture began formulating when, while researching this report, I stumbled across the existence of a 1970 scientific paper by Howard T. Odum — an American ecologist with a Ph.D. in zoology from Yale University, known for his pioneering work on ecosystem ecology and controversial proposals for additional laws of thermodynamics — and Robert F. Pigeon titled:
“A Tropical Rain Forest; a Study of Irradiation and Ecology at El Verde, Puerto Rico, United States Atomic Energy Commission”
Included with the citation information was the note:
“Results of the Atomic Energy Commission Rain Forest Project, 1963-1967.”
This intrigued me, so I looked deeper and discovered the U.S. Department of Energy Legacy Management fact sheet concerning the El Verde site. Here are some an excerpts:
“El Verde site is situated in Study Area 4 of a facility known as El Verde Field Station… the El Verde Field Station began operations as El Verde Rainforest Project in 1963.
The U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, a predecessor agency of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), sponsored the project through the Puerto Rico Nuclear Center, later renamed the Center for Energy and Environmental Research, at the University of Puerto Rico. The project emphasized research on forest ecosystem processes, such as nutrient cycling, energy flow, and response to gamma radiation.
Radioactive isotopes were applied to soil and vegetation at El Verde during the next several years to conduct a variety of projects related to the effects of gamma radiation on rainforest vegetation, measurement of the cycles of radioactive fallout elements in the rainforest system, and metabolic processes of forest ecosystems.
After 1970, the only documented event involving the use of radioisotopes at El Verde facility was a 1972 injection of an unknown amount of phosphorus-32 into a giant tree fern.”
This “giant tree fern” is a Matayba Tree to which very specific experiments were performed:
“The tree, a Matayba domingensis.had been injected with 0.46 millicurie of cesium-137 in 1968 and required periodic monitoring and access controls… Radioactivity in the tree is concentrated at the base of the trunk and in the root system. During the radiological surveys, the University of Puerto Rico removed about 43 kilograms of contaminated soil from around the roots of the Mataybaand disposed of the material offsite… by 1996, decontamination and cleanup efforts had removed all contamination from the site except for a tree in Study Area 4.
The surveys indicated that the cesium-137 in Study Area 4 is limited to a radius of about 10 feet around the injected tree. The radioactive half-life of cesium-137 is about 30 years, and currently more than half of the original cesium has decayed away.”
Whether or not this radioactive patch of jungle, or this tree in particular, had any impact whatsoever on the local fauna (or an evolutionary effect on the flora) is a matter of pure (and totally awesome) speculation, but it’s fun to imagine that just maybe something got exposed and gave birth in the early 60s to a heretofore unknown, hyper-intelligent monstrosity that eventually grew to terrorize (intentionally or not) a woman and her daughter on an isolated road way back in 1973… one that may be, tragically, responsible for the disappearance of a small child.
Rob Morphy is an artist / journalist / filmmaker / graphic designer / crypto historian / podcaster / co-founder of American Monsters, Cryptopia and Cryptonaut Podcast