Tracking the Chupacabra: The Vampire Beast in Fact, Fiction, and Folklore. By Benjamin Radford. (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2011. Pp. xiii+ 202, acknowledgments, introduction, photographs, illustrations, appendixes, notes, references cited, index. $24.95 paper.)
Stories about the mysterious beast known as the "chupacabra" began surfacing in March of 1995 in Puerto Rico. Various attacks on farm animals, which left them completely drained of blood, were blamed on the chupacabra, and within a year the sightings and reports about this creature quickly spread to the United States and across the world. Folklorists, the media, and the general public were fascinated by witnesses' sensationalistic descriptions of a semi-humanoid creature with varying combinations of wings, fangs, piercing or glowing eyes, claws, and spikes down its back (7-8). Investigations and reports led to several books, providing information and speculation about what the chupacabra was and where it came from, but Benjamin Radford's Tracking the Chupacabra is the first to provide a thorough analysis of the chupacabra legend by first exploring the belief system that created and perpetuated it and then by using scientific methods to examine the tangible evidence attributed to the chupacabra. Radford goes beyond recording and reporting information, giving readers a fascinating analysis of how society and culture work together to create, shape, and develop folklore, as well as why people create and believe in creatures like the chupacabra despite the lack of indisputable proof of its existence. Tracking the Chupacabra leads readers on an informative, enlightening, and entertainingjourney through the mysterious landscape of the chupacabra complex while enabling readers to draw their own conclusions about the mysterious, vampiric beast.
Radford states two reasons for writing this book; the first is to present a thorough examination of the chupacabra legend "for people with open minds," thus enabling readers to draw their own conclusions about the stories, sightings, and physical evidence supposedly left by the chupacabra, such as animals drained of blood, footprints, and purported chupacabra carcasses. He does this by organizing the book into four parts, each of which provides information and analysis necessary for readers to understand the chupacabra and draw their own conclusions.
Part 1, "The Short History of the Chupacabra," familiarizes readers with the different descriptions of the chupacabra and focuses on several of the more wellknown sightings and attacks. This provides readers with a solid basis for appreciating the chupacabra complex.
Part 2, "Folklore of the Chupacabra," examines the origins of the chupacabra and how it spread around the world, particularly by showing how it was influenced by traditional vampire lore and embraced by pop culture. The chupacabra is a vampiric creature, and so Radford argues that understanding the cultural aspects of vampiric folklore and the psychological influences of "magical thinking" (25) are useful in examining the chupacabra. When individuals or a society experience "something bad that they do not understand," they "search for possible causes," and these causes can be attributed to supernatural creatures, such as vampires or witches (25). This aspect of magical thinking relates to Radford's second reason for writing this book, which is to explore how folklore can become "real" when it is used to explain odd or mysterious events. …