Review: Tracking the Chupacabra by Benjamin Radford

Tracking the Chupacabra is an investigation into the Chupacabra mystery by skeptical author Benjamin Radford. The book takes us through a brief history and exploration of the infamous “goat sucker,” followed by a thorough examination of the core cases that helped entrench it in modern mythology. The author interviews witnesses, revisits old documentation, speaks to various experts, examines the relevant local cultures, and even conducts his own brief trip into the jungle. By the conclusion, Radford finds the evidence for the existence of a Chupacabra to be sorely lacking.

Fans of forteana should not be turned away by the negative outcome. Some skeptical works come off as abrasive, particularly in fringe subjects where “believers” are prone to be ridiculed for their claims. Correctness aside, I find that such an approach detracts from the readability of what may otherwise be a credible argument. Thankfully, Radford avoids appearing unfairly biased in his writing. He makes his case based on first hand investigation, including direct interviews with supposed witnesses and experts in relevant fields such as wild game and veterinary medicine. He even treks deep into a Nicaraguan jungle in search of the creature, which serves to further distance his efforts from those any “armchair skeptics.” My impression after reading was that this work was balanced and open minded, regardless of outcome. Rather than simply rejecting witness claims out of hand as implausible, each case is explored and only invalidated once it can be conclusively shown to be based on false assumptions, incorrect data, or inaccurate reporting. Some of the cultural connections he makes to the earliest sightings are particularly inspired, and are definitely are worth a look.

I don’t believe that I’ve ever so thoroughly enjoyed a debunking as I did reading Tracking the Chupacabra. It’s always a bit sad to see a popular cryptid being taken down a few pegs (the mystery tends to be at the core of the enjoyment), but it’s only fair to give credit where credit is due. The research and presentation here were so complete and seemingly conclusive, that it really is hard to find fault with this book. Radford addresses everything from the local culture that helps birth and promulgate tales of monsters, to regional vampire lore, to the relevant biology and zoology, as well as the role of the witnesses and media. In some form or another, all facets of the mystery seem to be covered.

All in all, possibly the most definitive work on the Chupacabra available, and well worth a read for anyone with interest in the topic.

Rating: 5/5

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