Nov 122017
 
A few years ago a shark researcher offered a new theory about what might be behind some of the world’s famous lake monsters. Bruce Wright, a senior scientist at the Aleutian Pribilof Island Association, wrote an article for the Alaska Dispatch newspaper that proposed an interesting idea: “For years, legendary tales from Scotland and Western Alaska described large animals or monsters thought to live in Loch Ness and Lake Iliamna. But evidence has been mounting that the Loch Ness and Lake Iliamna monsters may, in fact, be sleeper sharks.” Wright suggests that the sharks, which can reach 20 feet long and weigh more than 4 tons, might migrate through rivers and into lakes and be mistaken for monsters. The Lake Iliamna monster (known as Illie) is said to resemble a whale or a seal and be between 10 and 20 feet long. There have been fewer than a half dozen sightings of Illie since it was first seen in 1942. The best known American lake monster is not said to be in Alaska but instead in Lake Champlain, which forms the border between Vermont and New York. “Champ,” as the creature is called, has allegedly been seen by hundreds of witnesses and is anywhere between 10 and 187 feet long, has one or more humps, and is gray, black, dark green or other colors. The best evidence for Champ—in fact, for any lake monster—was a 1977 photo taken by a woman named Sandra Mansi showing what appeared to be a dark head and hump in the lake. Later investigation by myself and Joe Nickell revealed that the object was a floating log that looked serpentine from a certain angle. While Wright’s hypothesis is interesting, there are many problems with his theory, including the fact that both Ness and Iliamna are freshwater lakes, while Pacific sleeper sharks, as their name suggests, inhabit saltwater oceans. Some saltwater animals can adapt to brackish or fresh water (freshwater bull sharks and dolphins, for example), but there are no known freshwater sleeper sharks. Another problem with Wright’s shark-as-lake monster theory is that, despite his suggestion that “the monsters’ shape and colors usually match that of sleeper sharks,” in fact most descriptions of the monsters in Ness and Iliamna bear little resemblance to sleeper sharks. Many eyewitnesses suggest that the unknown aquatic monster in Loch Ness resembles a long-extinct dinosaur-like marine reptile called the plesiosaur. As for Lake Iliamna, at least one eyewitness reported that Illie had a prominent (3-foot-high) dorsal fin, while sleeper sharks have very low-profile dorsal fins, barely a bump on the back. Researcher Matthew Bille interviewed Illie eyewitnesses for his book Shadows of Existence: Discoveries and Speculations in Zoology, and believes that the most likely explanation for the monster is not a sleeper shark but instead a white sturgeon, which can grow more than 20 feet long: “the appearance of the White sturgeon-gray to brown in color, with huge heads and long cylindrical bodies—appears to match most Iliamna accounts.” Indeed, it would not be the first time that sturgeon have been mistaken for monsters. Bille notes that “Iliamna has 15 times the volume of Loch Ness. At the same time, it must be admitted there is no physical or film evidence for unknown creatures of any kind.” Such conclusions do not deter Wright; in fact he plans to organize field expeditions to Lake Iliamna and Loch Ness, hoping to find and tag any sleeper sharks he may find there. You can find more on me and my work with a search for "Benjamin Radford" (not "Ben Radford") on Vimeo, and please check out my podcast Squaring the Strange! 
Oct 302017
 
Episode 27 of Squaring the Strange is up! To begin our creepy Halloween lineup, Pascual and I talk about the world's best-known cryptozoological vampire, el chupacabra! The beast has lost its bite over the years, but we go back to the late 1990s when it terrified many in Puerto Rico and elsewhere...

Chupacabra illustration by Benjamin Radford

We also talk briefly media coverage of the Vegas shooting, and as usual, a two-minute skeptical fortune cookie! You can listen to it HERE.  You can find more on me and my work with a search for "Benjamin Radford" (not "Ben Radford") on Vimeo, and please check out my podcast Squaring the Strange! 
Sep 152017
 
Thought I'd share a minor victory: A man who e-mailed me last week saying "My employee and myself spotted a Chupcabra yesterday afternoon in Vacaville, CA, a hairless cat/dog with a stubby tail and narrow body and head. A friend later that day showed me on the internet this Chupacabra and I recognized it as the same critter." I diplomatically suggested that he seemed to be describing a mangy animal, expecting to be ignored in favor of a sexy mystery. This morning he followed up: "I spoke with a local critter guy who told me that what I saw was probably a Bob cat or Lynx with mange. That is why I saw no hair or fur on the critter. It still looked very creepy." Indeed; if these animals were easy to identify, there wouldn't be a mystery...   BigChupaCover-682x1024   You can find more on me and my work with a search for "Benjamin Radford" (not "Ben Radford") on Vimeo, and please check out my podcast Squaring the Strange! 
Jul 202017
 
Along with mermaids and dragons, unicorns are among the world's best-known mythical creatures. From early artistic representations by Albrecht Durer and medieval tapestries to kitschy New Age posters and kids' T-shirts, unicorns are universally beloved. We all recognize the striking image, but the story behind the magnificent beast is equally enchanting. The unicorn did not spring fully formed in the popular imagination; instead, it gradually evolved from numerous early sources. First reports of the unicorn date back to the fourth century when Greek physician Ctesias recorded exotic tales he'd heard from travelers: "There are in India certain wild asses which are as large as horses, and larger. Their bodies are white, their heads dark red, and their eyes dark blue. They have a horn on the forehead which is about a foot and a half in length." The horn, he added, was said to be white, red, and black. The legends spread, and different cultures spawned various versions of the unicorn. The ki-lin of Chinese lore — which had a 12-foot-long horn on its head and a coat of five sacred colors — was renowned for bringing good luck. Though modern images tend to assume unicorns are horse-sized, the Physiologus (a 12th-century bestiary) described it as "a very small animal, like a kid." The comparison is to a baby goat instead of a preteen human, but in either event the unicorns described wouldn't stand much above knee height. You can read the rest of my LiveScience.com piece HERE.  You can find more on me and my work with a search for "Benjamin Radford" (not "Ben Radford") on Vimeo, and please check out my podcast Squaring the Strange! 
May 262017
 
Soon after my recent appearance discussing folklore of the chupacabra (the topic of my book Tracking the Chupacabra: The Vampire Beast in Fact, Fiction, and Folklore), I got the following e-mail from a listener named James: “I thought your appearance on The Folklore Podcast was very interesting and informative. It inspired me to search about chupacabras. One thing I came up with was about ‘Goat suckers’ and chotacabras. Too bad that I only have the 1997 version of the 1985 book The Jealous Potter by Claude Lévi-Strauss, but it sounds like there were a lot of myths/folklore about goat suckers in the folklore. Is there a reason you did not reference this in your book?” I replied, “Thanks for reaching out to me, it’s good to hear from you. I’m glad you liked the Folklore Podcast interview, it was fun! Your question is a good one. I actually do briefly discuss the goatsucker bird in the first chapter of my book Tracking the Chupacabra (see page 4).   Tracking the Chupacabra cover JPG The chupacabra monster is very specifically a vampire: it sucks blood from its victims. The "goat sucker" bird that shares its name instead sucks milk from goats, which is a very different theme (there are few if any reports of surviving chupacabra victims, as the monster's actions are said to be lethal). Also the word chupacabra (as specifically describing the subject of my book) was, from all indications, coined in 1995 and referred specifically to rumors of goats being killed and drained of blood in rural Puerto Rico, not to the milk-drinking whippoorwill bird. The main reason I didn’t go into much discussion about it is that as Levi-Strauss notes, stories about the bird are very diverse and difficult to classify (involving deities, marital jealousy, etc.). Other than one passing reference to a Tunuka Indian myth, there’s little or no vampiric aspect to it. As far as I know that’s the only reference to such blood sucking in The Jealous Potter, and in the quoted passage the attack is done by ghosts (souls of the dead), not the flesh-and-blood animal said to live on the island. Ghost folklore is interesting but not really relevant to the chupacabra I researched. The coining of the word is, from my research, almost certainly a coincidence (chupacabra is an obvious coinage to describe anything said to prey on goats, regardless of its origin or nature). I suppose I could have added a few more sentences about the goat milk-drinking bird myths but since it wasn’t directly relevant to the chupacabra I was writing about (a supposedly real terrifying blood-sucking monster), I didn't want to take the reader too far off track. I hope that answers your question, and I appreciate The Jealous Potter reference, which I missed!”
May 022017
 
I recently stumbled across this photo on Twitter depicting an African Cultural Studies professor referencing my investigation into the skeptic-raping monster popobawa-- and my "Fortean Times" cover article on the topic...   18055827_10210586125583617_6055774251713405045_o You can find more on me and my work with a search for "Benjamin Radford" (not "Ben Radford") on Vimeo.
Dec 022016
 
A new article on BBC-Earth discusses my five-year investigation into the mysterious vampire beast El Chupacabra; if you're interested in how I solved one of the world's best-known monster mysteries, check it out HERE!   You can find more on me and my work with a search for "Benjamin Radford" (not "Ben Radford") on Vimeo.
Aug 122016
 
There's a YouTube video that's been around since 2014 about my chupacabra research, though I only recently got around to watching it. It's a little slow and amateurish, but a decent and concise summary; you can see it HERE. Of me he says, "I think [Ben Radford's] done a great job and as far as I’m concerned he has solved the chupacabra mystery.”   You can find more on me and my work with a search for "Benjamin Radford" (not "Ben Radford") on Vimeo.
Chupacabra illustration by Benjamin Radford

Chupacabra illustration by Benjamin Radford

Jul 232016
 
My mystery-solving investigation skills were praised a recent issue of "The New York Times Magazine," which notes that I "thoroughly debunked" a famous eyewitness encounter with a monstrous Lizard Man. To the best of my knowledge--and despite many articles and even a whole book on the creature--I'm the first person to have debunked that sighting. An excerpt: But when it investigates the paranormal, Fortean Times brings painstaking research and analysis to bear on topics that most sensible observers would dismiss immediately. Consider our mutual friend the Lizard Man. The November cover story traced the South Carolina legend’s roots to a 1988 sighting by a Lee County teenager. This young man claimed that he stopped on his way home from work to change a flat tire when he spotted the seven-­foot-tall creature, which jumped atop his car, curling its long green fingers around the roof. Later, deep scratches were found in the paint. It’s a silver-­screen-­ready scene, recounted in seductive detail. But just when you’ve been sold on the legend, the pendulum swings back to skepticism. Yes, it’s cinematic — “suspiciously cinematic,” the writer Benjamin Radford warns, while thoroughly debunking the story. And I mean thoroughly: “Any bipedal creature running and jumping on the roof of a car would land with its head, hands and fingers toward the front of the car and its windscreen,” Radford noted. But “somehow this acrobatic Lizard Man ended up with its fingers on the rear windshield.” Yeah, right. You can read the piece HERE. FT blurb     You can find more on me and my work with a search for "Benjamin Radford" (not "Ben Radford") on Vimeo.
Jul 182016
 
I'm mentioned, flatteringly, in a recent "New York Times Magazine" for an investigation and article I wrote. You can read it HERE. "But when it investigates the paranormal, Fortean Times brings painstaking research and analysis to bear on topics that most sensible observers would dismiss immediately. Consider our mutual friend the Lizard Man. The November cover story traced the South Carolina legend’s roots to a 1988 sighting by a Lee County teenager. This young man claimed that he stopped on his way home from work to change a flat tire when he spotted the seven-­foot-tall creature, which jumped atop his car, curling its long green fingers around the roof. Later, deep scratches were found in the paint. It’s a silver-­screen-­ready scene, recounted in seductive detail. But just when you’ve been sold on the legend, the pendulum swings back to skepticism. Yes, it’s cinematic — “suspiciously cinematic,” the writer Benjamin Radford warns, while thoroughly debunking the story. And I mean thoroughly: “Any bipedal creature running and jumping on the roof of a car would land with its head, hands and fingers toward the front of the car and its windscreen,” Radford noted. But “somehow this acrobatic Lizard Man ended up with its fingers on the rear windshield.” Yeah, right."   You can find more on me and my work with a search for "Benjamin Radford" (not "Ben Radford") on Vimeo.
Jul 032016
 
Here's an insightful piece by Sharon Hill from 2014 about attending a paranormal-themed conference; it mirrors my own experiences in many ways. You can read it HERE. You can find more on me and my work with a search for "Benjamin Radford" (not "Ben Radford") on Vimeo.
Jun 102016
 
A few years ago when I was speaking at a Bigfoot conference in Idaho, I took a few of my books to sell. This is Cassie, who asked me to tell her about some monsters. She begged her parents for $10 to add to her allowance and bought my Lake Monster book. She was so excited and said it was the first book she'd ever had autographed to her. She asked how she could look for monsters and I told her to stay in school and go into science. Hopefully 15 years from now she'll track me down and tell me she's a molecular biologist!  
Cassie and my book!

Cassie and my book!

  You can find more on me and my work with a search for "Benjamin Radford" (not "Ben Radford") on Vimeo.
May 202016
 
I'm quoted in a recent Spanish-language article for "Clarin" on the search for monsters... you can read it HERE (as long as you understand Spanish).   You can find more on me and my work with a search for "Benjamin Radford" (not "Ben Radford") on Vimeo.
Apr 282016
 
I am quoted in a chapter on werewolves in a new book about horror writing and Stephen King! I haven't seen it yet, but that's what The Google is telling me! I'll have to check it out soon!   12973342_10207611920350345_5432320824697601930_o     You can find more on me and my work with a search for "Benjamin Radford" (not "Ben Radford") on Vimeo.
Mar 182016
 
I was recently guest on The Edge of the Unknown Radio show with Joshua Gregory, talking about my various investigations and miscellaneous weirdness. Check it out HERE!   You can find more on me and my work with a search for "Benjamin Radford" (not "Ben Radford") on Vimeo.
Feb 252016
 
How did a photo of a dead eel turn into a viral sensation about a "lake monster" earlier this month? I explain it in my new article for Discovery News, you can read it HERE!  You can find more on me and my work with a search for "Benjamin Radford" (not "Ben Radford") on Vimeo.
Jan 272016
 
Late last year I recorded about a dozen short (1-2 minute) segments for a NPR station on various skeptical subjects. Here are five of the audio segments now available on YouTube, on the subject of the chupacabra. You can find them HERE. You can find more on me and my work with a search for "Benjamin Radford" (not "Ben Radford") on Vimeo.
Jan 222016
 
My brilliant zoologist friend Darren Naish wrote a retrospective piece for Scientific American about various interesting zoology-related news stories from last year--including a "monster mystery" I played a role in revealing. It's a fun read, check it out, you can find it HERE. You can find more on me and my work with a search for "Benjamin Radford" (not "Ben Radford") on Vimeo.
Jan 122016
 
My not-entirely-resume-building appearance on the Swedish-language show "Jimmy's Sick World" discussing the chupacabra is now out, for those who are interested... you can find it HERE. jimmy world You can find more on me and my work with a search for "Benjamin Radford" (not "Ben Radford") on Vimeo.
Dec 202015
 
A few weeks ago a sixth grader named Hailey e-mailed me asking for information about dragons. What she asked, and my response, are the topic of my CFI blog... You can find more on me and my work with a search for "Benjamin Radford" (not "Ben Radford") on Vimeo.
Nov 222015
 
Last month a blogger for NJ.com shared a photo of a bizarre, somewhat goatlike silhouetted winged form in the sky. Despite several obvious signs that the anonymously submitted photo is faked, it went viral and has been widely shared on social media as long-sought evidence of the mysterious Jersey Devil. My Discovery News article on the Jersey Devil is HERE. You can find more on me and my work with a search for "Benjamin Radford" (not "Ben Radford") on Vimeo.
Sep 202015
 
I'll be giving a presentation on my chupacabra investigation to the Albuquerque SciFi Society on October 9 at 7:30 PM; the origin of the chupacabra has interesting origins with H.R. Giger and the film "Species." You can find out more HERE.    You can find more on me and my work with a search for "Benjamin Radford" (not "Ben Radford") on Vimeo.
Sep 122015
 
Ian Harris is a Los Angeles based comic who has performed at the Center For Inquiry-Los Angeles and at CSI conferences. Blending comedy and skepticism is nothing new--it's been done on The Simpsons, South Park, and in Penn & Teller acts and TV shows for years--but a standup comic doing explicitly skeptical material on a regular basis as part of his act is unusual. Amid his busy schedule of touring, conference calls with Daily Showproducers, training UFC fighters, and auditioning for a dwarf sidekick, Harris agreed to answer some questions in a March interview.   You can find more on me and my work with a search for "Benjamin Radford" (not "Ben Radford") on Vimeo.
Sep 052015
 
My new blog on eyewitness testimony and how we can all be fooled...   Dennis Plucknett and his two sons, along with a friend, went hunting at a camp in northeast Florida in 2004. It was early morning, and the group had gotten separated. His fourteen-year-old son Alex was sitting in a ditch about 220 meters away from his father when someone yelled, "Hog!" The elder Plucknett grabbed his .308-caliber Ruger rifle with scope, steadied his aim, and fired one round at a boar in the distance. Within minutes, Alex was dead of a massive head wound, killed by his father's shot....
Sep 022015
 
Had a great time speaking at this year's Bubonicon as this years guest Science Speaker discussing my chupacabra research (which, if you're familar with it, you know has an interesting link to H.R. Giger and a certain science fiction/horror film). A good turnout, interested and intelligent crowd, and good questions. Always fun!
Sep 022015
 
When adventurer Steve Fossett went missing Sept. 3, 2007, Web users were enlisted to help in Fossett's rescue from the comfort of their own homes. Using a program called Mechanical Turk, high-resolution satellite imagery of the search area was collected from a company called Digital Globe. Participants were shown a single satellite image and asked to note any objects or wreckage that could be a plane or its debris. Though Fossett and his plane remain missing, the satellite technology used to search for him could theoretically be applied to other searches, and may finally verify the existence of large, mysterious creatures reputed to inhabit the globe. Unknown animals such as Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster, for example, might be easily located and captured--if indeed they exist. While satellites would be of limited use in heavily wooded areas, Bigfoot creatures have been reported in many areas with relatively little forest, including Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Texas, and Arizona. A single twelve-foot Bigfoot may or may not be hard to spot, but a family of them surely would be easier to find. Furthermore, there cannot be only one Bigfoot; there must be a breeding population of them, by some estimates 6,000 to 10,000 in North America alone. Surely a coordinated, close inspection should reveal dozens, if not hundreds or thousands, of Bigfoot in remote areas at any given time. The search could include bodies of water as well. Many lake monsters and sea serpents are reported to be fifty feet or longer, and surface regularly where they are seen. If armchair investigators are up to the task, it should be possible to organize a team to monitor monster-inhabited lakes such as Scotland's Loch Ness, Canada's Lake Okanagan, and America's Lake Champlain using Google Earth technology. Monster buffs don't need to dip their toes into cold lakes or brave the wilderness to search for their quarry; they can scan a dozen square miles over cup of hot coffee at their leisure. Of course, if such searches are done and still reveal no solid proof of the monsters' existence, few minds will be changed. Diehard believers can always claim that all the monstrous beasts somehow hid undetected, or are masters at camouflage. Or the searchers didn't look long enough, or in the right places. It only takes one live or dead Bigfoot or lake monster to forever prove that they exist, but nothing will ever prove they don't... You can find more on me and my work with a search for "Benjamin Radford" (not "Ben Radford") on Vimeo.  
Aug 272015
 
I'm finishing an interesting article on the pseudohistories of the chupacabra: The Hispanic vampire turns 20 this month and was created in large part by the 1995 film "Species." However those who believe the monster exists have offered a wide variety of completely fictional "true" histories of the chupacabra... Look for it in an upcoming issue of Skeptical Inquirer magazine!
Jul 222015
 
A new study finds that self-described vampires are, not surprisingly, reluctant to disclose their sanguine ways to mental health professionals. My closer look at people who claim to be (and sometimes believe themselves to be) real-life vampires can be found HERE. 
Jun 282015
 
Several foot-long lampreys have apparently fallen out the sky recently in Fairbanks, Alaska. They’ve been found in a shopping center parking lot and on lawns, and residents are unnerved by the creepy, toothed eel-like fish. You can read my analysis about it HERE. 
Jun 182015
 
I was a guest on the "After Dark Radio Show" recently, talking about everything from ghost hunting pseudoscience to the 1967 Patterson Bigfoot film to the nature of skepticism. Check it out, you can read it HERE. 
Feb 282015
 
My appearance earlier this week on Albuquerque NBC affiliate KOB talking about my chupacabra research is now online. Overall it's a pretty good piece, I did my best to summarize my book and 5 years of research into 3 minutes... You can watch it HERE. 
 
Feb 182015
 
From a story I wrote in 2014: Dozens of environmentalists in Iceland have staged a high-profile protest against a road scheduled to cut through an area of volcanic rock because of elves... You can read the story HERE. 
Feb 012015
 
A Chilean farmer recently found a pair of partly mummified animals in a wine cellar. Of course the obvious explanation is "chupacabra," though as I explain it's almost certainly not... yes, the little vampire beastie just won't die. You can read the story HERE.