On a recent podcast discussion with my friends Seriah Azkath and Joshua Cutchin recorded last Friday night, we inevitably started talking about the current situation we’re living in: how surreal it feels on a daily basis, how scary it might actually get before it’s over, and how unprepared we were for it, given our unrealistic expectations of societal collapse informed by Hollywood disaster movies –even ‘Contagion’ writer Scott Burns admits he’s perplexed by the “ignorant, misguided and full of dangerous information” response from the American federal government.
At one point of the conversation I might have gone hyperbolic with my thoughts, because for some reason I wouldn’t be able to explain I ended up mentioning werewolves. Both of my friends bursted out with laughter for taking this COVID-19 thing a little too far: there’s one thing about comparing the pandemic with the Zombie Apocalypse, but a Werewolf Apocalypse?? I mean, really…
And yet, that’s exactly what the citizens of a little town in the Southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas called Ocozocuautla de Espinoza (also known colloquially as ‘Coita’) are claiming, if we are to believe in the information provided by the Twitter account of @saulzenteno on April 11th:
According to Zenteno, the citizens of Coita (total population, less than 40,000 inhabitants) have not been able to get any sleep recently, due to the sound of ‘howling’ they hear at night along with shots fired into the air. The fear among the public seems to have grown so large the local parishioner asked the people to calm down and to light a candle outside their homes for spiritual protection.
Some of the locals who have claimed seeing the creature say it’s over two meters tall and endowed with great agility. A Facebook page (“Coita Milenario”) posted the account that a man living in the El Caracol neighborhood saw the purported lycanthrope going over a fence of around 9 feet high with a single jump. Other witnesses allegedly fired upon the being but, as it would be the case with these sorts of stories, the bullets didn’t have any effect on it. The reports also mention a “putrid smell” emanating from the supposed lycan.
Among the townsfolk there are those who are convinced this entity was originally a man living in a nearby village (Ocuilapa) who was a ‘nahual’ –a ‘brujo’ or shaman capable of transforming his body into that of a wolf or a coyote; those who adhere to this folkloric interpretation, also believe the ‘nahual’ lost his ability to return into his discarded human skin, because someone cursed it by pouring salt over it.
José María Rincón, a content creator associated with the Facebook page Coita Milenario, who has uploaded some videos about the werewolf story –including one recorded in a location near mount Meyapac close to the El Caracol neighborhood, where the neighbors pointed Rincón to some large prints they had found the night before when they went in search of the beast– is a part-time astrologer, and as such he sides with a more ‘metaphysical’ interpretation of the phenomenon plaguing his community: he thinks the reason the creature’s activity seems to be centered around the Villa de Allende area –a supposedly protected forest reserve which has suffered its function for natural conservation, due to the invasion of illegal trespassers over the years– is because mankind is destroying Nature. He therefore views the so-called werewolf as a forest elemental.
A more plausible explanation is that we are facing a rather peculiar case of collective hysteria incensed by the current pandemic situation. Such is the professional opinion of Gestalt psychotherapist Dulce Bonifaz, who was interviewed by the news website Alerta Chiapas. It is because the people of Coita are in such a high state of tension, she said, that they are noticing noises in the night which would have been overlooked under normal circumstances. She also considers it is easier for the human psyche to fear a visible threat –say, a supernatural monster– than an invisible one such as the COVID-19 coronavirus. Which is all well and good, but how to explain the tracks found by Rincón at the Meyepac mount, or the alleged testimony of a patrolman identified as “Alfonso N.N.” who apparently observed the creature on Friday night?
…Assuming any of that is true, obviously. So far there doesn’t seem to be any valuable material evidence, aside from the alleged footprints –which frankly don’t look too convincing– and wouldn’t be so hard to fake. Ditto for the howlings at night, which could be just pranksters looking to have a much-needed distraction amid the dread of the ongoing pandemic. The news, which by now has attained national attention, is certainly fertile ground for all sorts of funny memes.
And yet, even if this is just a case of “the boy who cried (were)wolf,” it’s interesting to perceive certain elements in this story which are replicated in other paranormal cases. The claim that the being is capable of leaping to considerable heights is ressemblant of the old Springheeled Jack accounts; ditto with the putrid smell, which is also very common in Bigfoot sightings, or even the imperviousness to bullets, similar to some of the high strangeness cases investigated by Stan Gordon in Pennsylvania.
But perhaps the most interesting little detail in this saga, is also the most tragic one: 2 children were found drowned inside an open well at the local ecological park last Sunday. Quite possibly a coincidence, yet I doubt that neither José María Rincón nor the potential pranksters gaslighting the Coita neighbors are familiar with the Missing 411 material gathered by David Paulides, in which bodies of water are almost always associated with the finding of bodies of the people who get regularly lost in American national parks. And of course, my pal Joshua Cutchin would never forgive me if I fail to point out the rich fae lore also associated with bodies of water.
Personally I’m not sure if I agree with Rincón’s esoteric view of the werewolf as a ‘Nature elemental.’ But neither I believe that Bonifaz’s psychiatric explanation manages to explain the totality of what’s going on in Coita. Certainly there must be hoaxers involved by now, due to the notoriety the story has received; but I’m the type of Fortean who is interested in the way psychic tension gets liberated during times of extreme social anxiety. Could an innocent urban myth of a werewolf manifest true paranormal activity under the right circumstances?
Real or fake, there’s no doubt this little Doomsday scenario of ours has turned a whole lot more interesting, and I for one welcome our new therianthropic overlords.