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Tracking the Chupacabra: The Vampire Beast in Fact, Fiction, and Folklore

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Among the monsters said to roam the world's jungles and desolate deserts, none is more feared than the chupacabra---the blood-sucking beast blamed for the mysterious deaths of thousands of animals since the 1990s. To some it is a joke; to many it is a very real threat and even a harbinger of the apocalypse. Originating in Latin America yet known worldwide, the chupacabra i Among the monsters said to roam the world's jungles and desolate deserts, none is more feared than the chupacabra---the blood-sucking beast blamed for the mysterious deaths of thousands of animals since the 1990s. To some it is a joke; to many it is a very real threat and even a harbinger of the apocalypse. Originating in Latin America yet known worldwide, the chupacabra is a contradictory and bizarre blend of vampire and shapeshifter, changing its appearance and characteristics depending on when and where it is seen. Rooted in conspiracy theory and anti-American sentiment, the beast is said to be the result of Frankenstein-like secret U.S. government experiments in the Puerto Rican jungles. Combining five years of careful investigation (including information from eyewitness accounts, field research, and forensic analysis) with a close study of the creature's cultural and folkloric significance, Radford's book is the first to fully explore and try to solve the decades-old mystery of the chupacabra.


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Among the monsters said to roam the world's jungles and desolate deserts, none is more feared than the chupacabra---the blood-sucking beast blamed for the mysterious deaths of thousands of animals since the 1990s. To some it is a joke; to many it is a very real threat and even a harbinger of the apocalypse. Originating in Latin America yet known worldwide, the chupacabra i Among the monsters said to roam the world's jungles and desolate deserts, none is more feared than the chupacabra---the blood-sucking beast blamed for the mysterious deaths of thousands of animals since the 1990s. To some it is a joke; to many it is a very real threat and even a harbinger of the apocalypse. Originating in Latin America yet known worldwide, the chupacabra is a contradictory and bizarre blend of vampire and shapeshifter, changing its appearance and characteristics depending on when and where it is seen. Rooted in conspiracy theory and anti-American sentiment, the beast is said to be the result of Frankenstein-like secret U.S. government experiments in the Puerto Rican jungles. Combining five years of careful investigation (including information from eyewitness accounts, field research, and forensic analysis) with a close study of the creature's cultural and folkloric significance, Radford's book is the first to fully explore and try to solve the decades-old mystery of the chupacabra.

30 review for Tracking the Chupacabra: The Vampire Beast in Fact, Fiction, and Folklore

  1. 5 out of 5

    Tokoro

    3.5 There are some annoying repetitions concerning witnesses and sources mistakenly identifying their attacked animals as being drained of blood when they weren't medically knowledgable enough to properly tell, neglected to check, or assumed it because of little or no blood found around or on the animal's body. besides that it was informative on localized culture, fears and anthropology, psychology, inference, zoology, biology, seeking out veterinary corroboration or explanation on genetics, the 3.5 There are some annoying repetitions concerning witnesses and sources mistakenly identifying their attacked animals as being drained of blood when they weren't medically knowledgable enough to properly tell, neglected to check, or assumed it because of little or no blood found around or on the animal's body. besides that it was informative on localized culture, fears and anthropology, psychology, inference, zoology, biology, seeking out veterinary corroboration or explanation on genetics, the difference between mangy dogs and coyote and the goat-sucker, &c., and the phenomenon of media exposure which subconsciously puts ideas in the mind which are appealed to when unexplained occurrences are reported in close proximity to it. Quotes, identifications, fallacies selected from the text may soon follow.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    I mean, it's like he didn't even want to find a chupacabra :) Solid research in a topic that I knew almost nothing about. I learned a lot and enjoyed the read. I mean, it's like he didn't even want to find a chupacabra :) Solid research in a topic that I knew almost nothing about. I learned a lot and enjoyed the read.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Clayton Morris

    Excellent piece of journalism that answers one of the great modern day paranormal mysteries. Case closed.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Morgan

    Yes - this is a book about an animal that doesn't exist and which the author concludes does not exist. And yet it is amazing! Why did the author write this book about a nonexistent creature? "Why, then, write this book? Why pend considerable time, effort, and money to disprove something that skeptics never believed existed in the first place, and which believers will ignore? There are two answers. The first is that this book was written for people with open minds, not those closed with certainty on Yes - this is a book about an animal that doesn't exist and which the author concludes does not exist. And yet it is amazing! Why did the author write this book about a nonexistent creature? "Why, then, write this book? Why pend considerable time, effort, and money to disprove something that skeptics never believed existed in the first place, and which believers will ignore? There are two answers. The first is that this book was written for people with open minds, not those closed with certainty on either end of the spectrum. I've done my best to research, understand, and explain the entire chupacabra phenomenon using logic and scientific analysis, and ultimately readers will make up their own minds. The more important answer is that my research is not really about the chupacabra, for the vampiric beast almost certainly does not and cannot exist. This book is about folklore made "real", about how ancient superstitions inherent in the human mind gave the European vampire a fearsome new face at the end of the twentieth century. It is about how sincere, respected eyewitnesses who claim to have seen monsters can be completely wrong. It is about careful investigation and science can solve mysteries created by rumor, speculation, and sloppy research. It is about how rumor combined with sensationalized news reports helped create a monster, and about how the chupacabra label fills the gap between what laypeople guess and what scientists know." (p 176). The author thoroughly explores the entire phenomenon - first report in Puerto Rico, reports in other countries, every carcass that has ever been recovered. Music, art, news media, movies. Cultural antecedents and influences. The science of vampirism - and how all of these animals are actually just mangey canids. This is a clear and thoughtful book that demonstrates just how useful scientific investigation can be, as well as how folkore can become realized by so many people.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Boyer-Kelly

    I picked this book up at a Popular Culture Conference and, honestly, was quite excited to see it sitting on the table. I love the Cupacabra. Who wouldn't love mangy dog-like creature that attacks its prey and drains them of their blood? (Hold up: there's a different type of Chupacabra that has spikes down its back and was released from a government lab... okay... not sure what to do with this information!) Radford, in short, goes to great lengths to explain why all prior Chupacabra 'research' is I picked this book up at a Popular Culture Conference and, honestly, was quite excited to see it sitting on the table. I love the Cupacabra. Who wouldn't love mangy dog-like creature that attacks its prey and drains them of their blood? (Hold up: there's a different type of Chupacabra that has spikes down its back and was released from a government lab... okay... not sure what to do with this information!) Radford, in short, goes to great lengths to explain why all prior Chupacabra 'research' is basically bunk and has very little research value. He isn't wrong. Most of the 'research' is someone writing down someone else's account of what they saw and then that's it. This person saw this, it must be true... no we do not have the time or resources to send a search party out. So, again, a great deal of this book just explains how bad the current research is. Enter the US Chupacabras where there were bodies to test... well, we all know those are all coyotes with mange (if we believe extensive DNA analysis and the experts that returned these results -- which, I think we do). Honestly, it was a fun read that I think would be great for students needing to learn what methodological approaches to research questions look like. The more Radford explains why the research of "XXX" is useless, the more I did get to see why that research was useless. I thought it was a good way to delve into what 'bad' research looks like. Overall, a fun read! I still think there are mangy Chupacabras out there, and even if they aren't a secret government experiment and are just mangy coyotes, they're still pretty cool.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jason Gemmill

    Spoiler alert- The Chupacabra is not real. I has hoped this book would be be more about the eccentrics that believe or claim to have evidence. Although interesting, the focus on mass hysteria wasn't quite what I was hoping for. Spoiler alert- The Chupacabra is not real. I has hoped this book would be be more about the eccentrics that believe or claim to have evidence. Although interesting, the focus on mass hysteria wasn't quite what I was hoping for.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Orin Bellizio

    An examination of the chupacabra myth and why it is total BS. Did not realize that it dated back only to 1995. Enjoyed the bit where the most cited description of the cryptid exactly matched the creature from an SF movie.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jay Koester

    My review of this book originally ran in the El Paso Times. Here it is: El Paso and Juárez have a long, sordid history with El Chupacabra, from stories and alleged sightings during the height of the craze in 1995 to mysterious chicken deaths last year near Horizon City. Believers see the chupacabra (Spanish for goatsucker) as a bloodthirsty monster that attacks at night, sucking the blood out of chickens, sheep and, of course, goats. Some believe chupacabras are a U.S. government experiment gone w My review of this book originally ran in the El Paso Times. Here it is: El Paso and Juárez have a long, sordid history with El Chupacabra, from stories and alleged sightings during the height of the craze in 1995 to mysterious chicken deaths last year near Horizon City. Believers see the chupacabra (Spanish for goatsucker) as a bloodthirsty monster that attacks at night, sucking the blood out of chickens, sheep and, of course, goats. Some believe chupacabras are a U.S. government experiment gone wrong. Others see something alien in nature. Now along comes Benjamin Radford to spoil all the fun. But Radford's book, "Tracking the Chupacabra: The Vampire Beast in Fact, Fiction, and Folklore" (University of New Mexico Press, $24.95), is an enjoyable ride. The legend doesn't hold up well under Radford's scientific microscope, but the curious will still love this tour through the tall tales. Radford is the managing editor of Skeptical Inquirer science magazine and lives in Corrales, N.M. He starts with a short history of the chupacabra, delving into the history of vampire tales and chupacabra folklore. In one entertaining section, he goes on an old-fashioned monster hunt, exploring the jungles of Nicaragua in an attempt to track down the elusive beast. On Day 3 of the expedition, Radford writes, "Our hikes and searches had not yielded any sightings, but I had prepared another strategy. No matter how shy or well hidden any chupacabras might be, there was one piece of evidence that would be impossible to hide: their tracks." After the expedition, Radford goes systematically through all the well-known chupacabra sightings and carcass findings. A little research explains each case as something less than paranormal. The chicken deaths near Horizon City get a section in the book as well. (Full disclosure: I was interviewed by Radford for that section.) After exploring the chicken deaths near Horizon City, Radford asks, "Why do chupacabras seem to appear more often in Texas than in any other state? One answer is that the state's geography, culture and ecology combine to create excellent conditions for manufacturing chupacabras." One problem for anyone studying chupacabras is the variety of descriptions the beast is given. The first alleged chupacabra sighting, in 1995 in Puerto Rico, offers researchers the most well-known description: A beast that stands on two legs, with spikes on his back, big red eyes and long, thin arms. But alleged chupacabra carcasses found throughout the American Southwest are always four-legged animals that often look like a hairless dog. Radford delves into the histories of these competing visions. One of the more fascinating parts of "Tracking the Chupacabra" is his theory of how the original description came about. I won't play spoiler here, except to say that popular culture and chupacabra stories often go hand in hand. Anyone who loves a good Texas tale, but also enjoys scientific inquiry, will get a kick out of "Tracking the Chupacabra." Although Radford does a thorough job of slaying the beast, the author points out that true believers will see his book as just another part of the government cover-up. As he writes in the end: "The chupacabra is dead. Long live the chupacabra." Jay Koester still owns the chupacabra shirt he bought in 1995 in Juárez. He reported on the Horizon City chupacabra story for the El Paso Times. He may be reached at [email protected]

  9. 4 out of 5

    Darwin

    Exceptional investigative journalism...on a topic not many wish to do serious professional research on. That being said, this book made me realize how the paranormal community truly lacks a touch of professionalism, which we gain from skeptics as an alternative, the ones who truly do know how to look at things outside of the box, but are unfortunately, like the believers, motivated by their own agenda. At times, Radford's writing seems snarky, snobbish, even bullyish. He uses all his vocabulary Exceptional investigative journalism...on a topic not many wish to do serious professional research on. That being said, this book made me realize how the paranormal community truly lacks a touch of professionalism, which we gain from skeptics as an alternative, the ones who truly do know how to look at things outside of the box, but are unfortunately, like the believers, motivated by their own agenda. At times, Radford's writing seems snarky, snobbish, even bullyish. He uses all his vocabulary might to make the point how these witnesses were mistaken and wrong, which they were, but Mr. Radford fails to realize that the witnesses are the storytellers, the instigators of new mythologies, keeping folklore and mythology alive...which is a good thing. Does the chupacabra truly exist in the physical world? Heck no! But it does exist within the abstract, the social conciousness, as a concept which spreads throughout society and adapts with each person it touches. Like art, language or mythology, It is a living concept which lingers on as it spreads throughout the social environment, a new form of abstract existence not requiring the material world to ingrain itself into reality, but utilizing us to conjure it into the abstract and maintain its existence in the abstract...like all paranormal phenomena, it is a tulpa. Though I do not agree with what seems to be Radford's overall attitude towards the value of mythology and folklore (as it seems skeptics wish to limit the human condition to just the lower plane of material, objective, physical reality) I love the investigation he has conducted and meticulous research and presentation of all the side elements which birthed this interesting little urban legend. And I love listening to him on podcasts...so keep on doing what you do Benjamin, we absolutely need someone in the paranormal world willing to dig deep and objectively explain how these amazing distractions came to be 😁

  10. 5 out of 5

    Frank

    When I went to the library as a kid I would come away with either a baseball bio or something about Bigfoot, Nessie, or aliens. Now, while I would love for a genuine cryptozoological oddity to be discovered, my interest is more in the debunking aspect of the genre. I picked this book up because one, it was written by the managing editor of Skeptical Enquirer, and two, because the chupacabra is the new Bigfoot (or at least its hot Latin cousin). Radford gives a historical perspective on the role When I went to the library as a kid I would come away with either a baseball bio or something about Bigfoot, Nessie, or aliens. Now, while I would love for a genuine cryptozoological oddity to be discovered, my interest is more in the debunking aspect of the genre. I picked this book up because one, it was written by the managing editor of Skeptical Enquirer, and two, because the chupacabra is the new Bigfoot (or at least its hot Latin cousin). Radford gives a historical perspective on the role of vampiric creatures in Latin American folklore, as well as that of conspiracy theories (did you know one of the leading beliefs about the chupacabra is that it was created as a U.S. weapon experiment?). Most fascinating insight came when he picked apart the "case zero" eyewitness account that started the Chupa craze in Puerto Rico in 1995. Turns out, and Radford really puts in the research here, that the woman who first described the creature most likely based it on the alien in the movie "Species" which she had just seen. Seriously.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    A thorough tour through the examination of a cryptozoological creature. Radford approaches the subject with a rational mind, examining it from all angles. He traces the history of the creature— which is incredibly recent—enters the jungles, and interviews various people, from witnesses, to animal control staff, to biologists. He examines the historical context of the first report to find an astounding coincidental entertainment event, and looks at social and conspiratorial angles. If anything, th A thorough tour through the examination of a cryptozoological creature. Radford approaches the subject with a rational mind, examining it from all angles. He traces the history of the creature— which is incredibly recent—enters the jungles, and interviews various people, from witnesses, to animal control staff, to biologists. He examines the historical context of the first report to find an astounding coincidental entertainment event, and looks at social and conspiratorial angles. If anything, the book may get a bit repetitive in its attempt to be thorough and accurate, but as the author points out, he's the first one to actually investigate the sightings and carefully question the witnesses. Very complete and satisfying in an academic way.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Holden Attradies

    I was amazed at how fast and easy of a read this was. And honestly I was blown away by how well Radford was able to lay out the Chupacabra myth, where it came from, how it became what it is and why it IS a myth. I think the biggest mind blower for me was how simple most of his research was. Not necessarily easy, but simple, and how few other people took those simple steps. I highly recommend this to any one interested in cryptids and seeing how to properly go about researching them. and even thou I was amazed at how fast and easy of a read this was. And honestly I was blown away by how well Radford was able to lay out the Chupacabra myth, where it came from, how it became what it is and why it IS a myth. I think the biggest mind blower for me was how simple most of his research was. Not necessarily easy, but simple, and how few other people took those simple steps. I highly recommend this to any one interested in cryptids and seeing how to properly go about researching them. and even though the Chupacabra isn't real the reality behind it was just as cool: the biology of mange, how we know what we know, the mythology and cultural factors that went into creating this myth. All of it was in a lot of ways more exciting than the myth.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    This was book #1 in my personal "One from Each Shelf" project. (At my public library, I'm choosing one book to read from each non-fiction shelf, in order.) The research behind this book is impressive, and the author has an interesting anthropological story to tell behind the chupacabra legend. I was particularly interested in his ideas about why the legend persists. This was book #1 in my personal "One from Each Shelf" project. (At my public library, I'm choosing one book to read from each non-fiction shelf, in order.) The research behind this book is impressive, and the author has an interesting anthropological story to tell behind the chupacabra legend. I was particularly interested in his ideas about why the legend persists.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jewels

    Nicely put together research, conducted by the writer himself. There's a logical progression to his premise, and I find that even though I like to believe there's a little bit of mystery left in this old world, I'm more skewed to skepticism on this topic. Nicely put together research, conducted by the writer himself. There's a logical progression to his premise, and I find that even though I like to believe there's a little bit of mystery left in this old world, I'm more skewed to skepticism on this topic.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    Now, onto Bigfoot and the Mayan Apocalypse, right?

  16. 4 out of 5

    Patty

    There is a lot more to this story than is covered by this book. The author chooses to link all cases to one claim and pushes his theory to fit. Disappointed.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Science For The People

    Featured on Skeptically Speaking #120 on July 10, 2011, during an interview with author Benjamin Radford. http://skepticallyspeaking.ca/episode... Featured on Skeptically Speaking #120 on July 10, 2011, during an interview with author Benjamin Radford. http://skepticallyspeaking.ca/episode...

  18. 5 out of 5

    Susan Ferguson

    Very thorough investigation of sightings and evidence of the chupacabra.

  19. 4 out of 5

    kat

    With a distinct paucity of factual information to impart about the chupacabra, the author reealllly padded this book out with a lot of filler. It had interesting bits though.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Melanie H

    Scientific exploration methods applied to a mythical creature. Interesting but odd.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Shane Brady

    This is the best book I've ever read on a cryptozoological topic. You may never read another book as well researched as this. This is the best book I've ever read on a cryptozoological topic. You may never read another book as well researched as this.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jack Thompson

  23. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ann Beej

  25. 5 out of 5

    Nick Busby

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Krcmarik

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Cruz

  29. 4 out of 5

    Cuniculus Potterton

  30. 5 out of 5

    VampAmber

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