When I was about 17 years old an animal began knocking over the garbage cans in my family's backyard during the night. It quickly became a regular occurrence and, though we figured out pretty fast that it was a raccoon, I told my little brother it was a Chupacabra. We decided to make a game of it. For the next few weeks, we would camp out in the yard with our flashlights and have stakeouts, waiting for the "Chupacabra" to make an appearance. It was all in good fun. I didn't actually believe the now infamous "goat sucker" was knocking over our garbage cans. But it was a goofy way for me and my brother to scare each other, while simultaneously waiting to catch a glimpse of a nocturnal animal.
Of course, the story of a previously unknown beast that was decidedly not a raccoon and, in fact, was said to be a blood sucking monster that fed on goats and chickens, was just starting to take its hold of popular culture at the time. We had all heard the eyewitness accounts of the Chupacabra, seen an artist's sketch, and otherwise just wondered what in the heck this creature was that had seemingly come from out of nowhere. In Benjamin Radford's latest book, "Tracking the Chupacabra: The Vampire Beast in Fact, Fiction, and Folklore," he aims to answer that very question. And, in my humble opinion, he has done just that.
Granted, I am biased. I count myself as a Ben Radford fan. He is one of a handful of people I regularly credit with having helped turn me from a paranormal true believer to one who exercises much more critical thinking skills when approaching paranormal mysteries I find in my own studies. His case reports have proven valuable enough to me that I can often quickly spot deceptions, or at least equip myself better to test paranormal claims I come across, simply because I have read of various examples in Radford's writings where his problem and solution were similar.
Still, that being said, I think "Tracking the Chupacabra" is a book you will enjoy if you are anything like me and intrigued by mysteries of the paranormal realm. The mystery of the Chupacabra, in particular, was one that has been around for over 20 years, and has baffled people on multiple continents. It is said that, aside from Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster, the Chupacabra is the most famous monster in the world. What an extraordinary claim for Mr. Radford to make, then, when he claims to solve this mystery in his book. Well, folks, I believe he has done it.
The book starts off with a history of the beast itself, including a brief description of the original sighting in Puerto Rico in 1995. Radford also touches on the fascinating aspect of how descriptions of the monster have changed over the years. He then moves into the folklore of vampires, and discusses how the Chupacabra made such a quick transition from something no one had ever heard of before, to one of the bigger pop culture sensations in paranormal lore.
Never one content to provide mere armchair speculations, Benjamin Radford recounts his own expeditions to Puerto Rico in a sincere effort to track the Chupacabra for himself. Along the way he finds out just how many of the locals take the reports seriously, as well as reports on the anti-American and conspiratorial sentiment expressed by many Puerto Ricans - a key aspect to the solving of this case. It was this latter point that I found quite sobering, at times finding that I had failed to breathe for extended stretches while reading because of the sadness I felt in my heart for the Puerto Rican people.
Some of the more exciting chapters in the book for me were his analysis of a variety of "Texas Chupacabra" style cases, wherein mangy dogs or coyotes were held up as proof positive of the mythical beast's existence. Radford reports on the DNA results, scientifically refutes the claims of the mystery-mongers, and does it all while keeping your eyes darting through page after page, wanting to see what happens next as quickly as possible.
Of course, the conclusion of the book is what people want to hear about the most. How was the mystery solved? What is the Chupacabra, really? Though I do not want to reveal too much and spoil the ending for potential readers, I will say that if you read this book with an open mind, you will finish it with your questions answered. Radford deftly applies elements of psychology and scientific investigation techniques, and breaks down original eyewitness Madelyne Tolentino's own testimony, resulting in a definitive and satisfying end to the mystery.
This book has it all, gang. It has legend and lore. It has case studies. It has science and psychology and, at the end of the day, provides a worthwhile conclusion. If you've ever been interested in the Chupacabra, and want to read for yourself a complete investigation report of how the mystery was solved, you can do no better than to pick up this impeccably researched and terrifically written book by Benjamin Radford.