Radford Takes A Hike

Posted by: Loren Coleman on January 27th, 2010


Ben Radford.

What has become of Fortean Times? They have Ben Radford penning an article that is nothing more than what you might find on someone’s website about a short hike taken on a vacation with their dad and a friend. And guess what? That’s exactly what this so-called “expedition” was.  A couple hikes in the rainforest, in habitat not associated with the traditional Chupacabras reports of Puerto Rico, and Radford writes an article.  What has become of Fortean Times?

The complains are frequent that some of the reality television programs are throwing people out in the woods with some trailcams and three days of shooting, and calling it an “expedition.”  I don’t hold just Radford to the wall about this. “Bigfooters” that go out on a “camping trip” for the weekend are hardly going on an “expedition.”  But to have the print media support this is uncalled for.

A “five-day expedition” becomes three or is it four days of hiking in the rainforest? Or less? Is it just one? What a confusing account.

To see Radford’s vacation elevated to an “expedition” report in what use to be one of the proudest Fortean magazines on Earth is just downright appalling. Sad, even.

To read Radford continually using the word “chupacabra” throughout the article is totally insensitive to the Spanish speakers who use the right term, Chupacabras. Incorrect, oddly enough, too. Perhaps this isn’t even Radford’s fault? Maybe the editor of this piece, besides changing American words into the King’s English spelled words (e.g. “gaffs” become “gaffes”), deleted an “s” from the proper spelling of Chupacabras? Maybe the FT editors should have corrected Radford’s “chupacabra” to “Chupacabras,” or maybe they changed it from the right spelling to the wrong one. Who knows?*

FT’s debunking tendencies are firmly established now. Their cultural blindness is also.

Just to make a point, I actually very much like Ben Radford, and this is not a personal attack at the man, his father, and his friend. I rather think it is a great idea to go on vacation with your parents, if possible. However, enough is enough with calling minor investigative treks, weekend excursions, and camping vacation a true “expedition.”

P.S. As to Radford’s one comment about past pieces of “evidence,” all one has to do is look at that readily available 1995 “Chupacabras print” from Miami (which I first obtained in 1995 and have here in the museum) to see it is no jaguar. It’s a canid print.


*In a late update from Ben Radford, he writes (placed in bold so as to retain his original italics):

As for the spelling of chupacabra(s), I assure you I’m well aware that you and others prefer chupacabras. Chupacabra is also a common usage, as I noted elsewhere:

Note on the spelling of chupacabra: Some researchers (such as Scott Corrales, Loren Coleman, and others) insist that the correct spelling of the goatsucker is chupacabras. Others, however, disagree. As one researcher noted, the name chupacabras is “Incorrectly pluralized, its name evokes the speech of the lower classes in the Hispanic Caribbean who are prone to eliminate the ‘s’ form from everyday speech, but then tend to hypercorrect pluralization in the presence of interlocutors especially status superiors, sprinkling s’s in their speech indiscriminately” (Derby, Lauren. 2008. Imperial secrets: Vampires and nationhood in Puerto Rico. In Past and Present, Supplement 3, p.298). While many native Spanish speakers do indeed use chupacabras, others use chupacabra (including Rudolfo Anaya, the “grandfather of Chicano literature”), in two of his books. Maybe this multiple award-winning, native Spanish speaking author doesn’t know how to spell?

If you want to criticize the spelling you are certainly welcome to. Whether you and Scott like it or not, chupacabra is a widely used and accepted spelling… I did not misspell the word, I simply chose one widely-used variant over another.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

30 Responses to “Radford Takes A Hike”

  1. MrInspector responds:

    I agree Loren, just driving an Expedition doesn’t mean you’re undertaking one.

  2. cryptidsrus responds:

    I agree with the above poster.
    And I agree with FT becoming more sceptical over the years. Although they are NOT debunkers, they certainly have “tendencies.”I still read the magazine for its informative stories and its willingness to deal with little-reported phenomena or cryptids, but I get what you mean.

  3. Benjamin Radford responds:

    Ah, I see I have managed to rile MEC (“My Esteemed Colleague”) Loren with my recent expedition to Nicaragua in search of the chupacabra. I suspect he enjoys “stirring the pot” with misdirected criticisms, and I’m happy to add my corrections to the kettle.

    1) “A couple hikes in the rainforest, in habitat not associated with the traditional Chupacabras reports of Puerto Rico…”

    Two errors here: First, the original Puerto Rican chupa was said to have come from the El Yunque jungle– EXACTLY the same habitat as the Nicaraguan jungle. Second, I was not looking for the Puerto Rican chupacabra, I was searching for the Nicaraguan chupacabra, which (as I note in the article) was seen in 2000.

    2) MEC Loren complains that my “vacation was elevated to an ‘expedition’,” essentially suggesting that it was a glorified day hike or two. I can see how he might think that, if he is unaware of all the research and preparations that went into the expedition. Tracking down alleged footprint casts, creating potential chupa tracks, researching previous reports, arranging logistics and supplies, interviewing potential eyewitnesses, hiring an expert tracking guide, etc.

    I wonder if MEC Loren was as dismissive of earlier expeditions, such as those mounted to search for Bigfoot, or the Mongolian Death worm, or Nessie. I invite readers to compare my expedition with others published in Fortean Times, Skeptical Inquirer, the ISC newsletter, the BCSCC newsletter, and elsewhere.

    Loren, more than most people, should be aware of the very limited funds and resources available to cryptozoology researchers. The expedition was paid for completely out of pocket, and I did the best I could with the time and resources I had available.

    More to the point, how about some support? Shouldn’t we all applaud anyone willing to spend the time, money, and effort making a serious search for these creatures? When’s the last time MEC Loren or Mr.Inspector was out in the field (much less the Central American jungle) looking for a cryptid?

    Skeptical investigators like me are in a no-win situation: We get criticized as armchair debunkers if we don’t go out there and do on-site investigation and field research. And when we do field research (as I have many times searching for lake monsters, Bigfoot, etc.), we get criticized for not doing enough, for glorifying a vacation hike into an “expedition.” Just can’t win, can I?

    But on this particular subject, I will win. This expedition was one piece of the puzzle, and I believe I have finally solved the complete mystery of the chupacabra. My book on the topic is slated for later this year.

  4. Loren Coleman responds:

    I appreciate Ben’s reply, of course, and our good-natured logomachy. I consider most of his rebuttal quite on target, and he answers my concerns nicely.

    Of course, I was not letting any cryptozoologists or Bigfooters off-the-hook during this age of instant online celebrity. Those who attempt to make their weekend excursions into the wild more than they are certainly were whom I was talking about too.

    I do support thoughtful exploratory trips that come back with reasoned, critical thinking, open-minded results, as Ben knows.

  5. Benjamin Radford responds:

    …And that’s why I consider Loren to be an esteemed (or is that “a-steamed”?) colleague!

  6. Loren Coleman responds:

    Actually, as those that know me well can testify, I am extremely grounded, and am not one to fly off the handle. Calm but passionate, mostly. I think the only thing that gets me “steamy,” come to think of it, are certain women. But that’s another topic entirely. 🙂

  7. bigdaddy responds:

    I think FT has been awful for years now which is why I stopped buying it. Probably since the early 90’s actually when it seemed to switch it’s focus to freakshow articles and sensationalism rather than concentrating on serious crypto and related mysteries.
    Brad, I think you should continue as we need a skeptical opinion and I think you do a good thorough job of that while trying to remain symapthetic to believers and eye witnesses. My belief is I think any investigation is better than none. Period. I don’t care if it is a simple camping trip with a bit of looking around or a full blown expedition. You ain’t gonna find nothin if you sit in your house. I’m afraid you won’t win Brad but please don’t stop because even if I don’t believe some of your conclusions, I still still respect your research and effort because it makes me think more about my own beliefs in these mysteries.

  8. korollocke responds:

    Funny to see this right now as I just saw a clip from Ghostbusters where Ray is telling the guys “You’ve never worked in the private sector, they expect results!” With that qoute Brad so do we. A little boonie stomp is not an expediton nor are fantastic well told tales with out proof to back them up evidence. Loren is one of the most centered and non bias people I have ever known.

  9. JMonkey responds:

    I have to admit that I truly then both Benjamin and Loren are fine researchers, and since I am riding the fence, as usual, I will say that Chupacabras means sucks goats. Now while we are talking about proper usage, it should be known that this is a compilation of two words “Chupa” or to suck on and “cabra(s)” goat(s). This compilation was a slang word that is indeed not proper in any form. I would argue, like Loren that it should retain the s at the end due to “Chupa” being the form used. Chupa means “To suck on”, so in my mind it makes more sense to say “to suck on goats” rather than “to suck on goat”. But I will admit that I am no native speaker of the Spanish Language.

    As far as your “Expedition” well you can call it what you want, and I am sure that I will view your book if I can con either the ladies at the Library or my Wife into getting it for me.

    Have a great day, I must go and prepare for a winter storm.

  10. Benjamin Radford responds:

    thanks, bigdaddy, appreciate the thought. I’ll keep up the good work.

    I wasn’t suggesting that myself (or the skeptical position) would win by disproving the existence of Bigfoot or other cryptomysteries, since that’s not my goal, is unscientific, and impossible anyway.

    I just meant that in regards to the chupacabra specifically, I believe I have finally solved the mystery of this particular monster for good, and if someone takes the time to read my research and conclusions with an open mind, they will find that all their questions are answered, and the mystery vanishes. When the book is out, I’ll be happy to debate this with anyone and at length.

  11. korollocke responds:

    Brad, Loren was injured recently in the field looking into supposed lake monster footage that was being seriously debated a short while back. I good heartedly ribbed him about it saying “Loren your suppossed to be on the track not crashing of it!”

  12. FodderButWiser responds:

    It seems that the field of the Fortean has become somewhat of an armchair sport. Sometimes research means field research, and if you’re committed to finding answers, than you’ll put up or shut up.

    With the internet (which is NOT research), too many water-down, or dumb-down, efforts, blog about it, and expect a f’ing parade.

    Now, Burton. He knew how to do a right proper expedition.

    While others like Byrd, Slick, Heuvelmans, Vilhammer Stefansson, and many contemporaries of ours walk the walk, I’m afraid the serious field researchers are rare.

  13. mantis responds:

    So….. say that I plan to go on an expedition to search for the Holy Grail, and I secure enough resources for a one-year trip. However, on the first day of searching I discover the Grail and tell the world about my find. Can I still tell the papers that I discovered it while on a year-long expedition?

  14. korollocke responds:

    Brad come on now, What do you mean solved? If you cracked the case then it would world wide huge news and all over the media! Youre getting to be a little to much like ole tommy b for my taste. To have credibility with me you have to do more than go on a weenie roast and put a few speculative musings on paper.

  15. Benjamin Radford responds:

    If you find the Holy Grail, you can say whatever you like…

  16. Benjamin Radford responds:

    Brad come on now, What do you mean solved? If you cracked the case then it would world wide huge news and all over the media! Youre getting to be a little to much like ole tommy b for my taste. To have credibility with me you have to do more than go on a weenie roast and put a few speculative musings on paper.korollocke

    First of all, it’s Ben, not Brad.

    Second, the book in which I lay out the entire solution to the chupacabra mystery (in 54,000 words) is at the publisher, and won’t be released until later this year. As I noted, the Nicaragua expedition is only a small part of it…With all due respect to MEC Loren, Scott Corrales, Jon Downes, and my other cryptocolleagues, I have done more research on the chupacabra than anyone else alive (not bragging, just statement of fact).

    As for whether my solving the chupa mystery will make national news, possibly but I doubt it. It’s a complex solution with many facets, and doesn’t really lend itself to sound bites. All I ask is an open-minded reading of what I have to say, and if anyone really thinks there are unanswered questions, I’m happy to address them.

  17. tigwip responds:

    I also (reluctantly) gave up on Fortean Times a few years ago. Once Rickard and Sieveking left their editorial posts things became tacky, with the new editorial tone becoming rather more debunker-ish. A real shame. They should have kept it as a more thoughtful, small print quarterly. I’d have paid more!

  18. korollocke responds:

    I still don’t buy it. A lot of people have writtens books making all manner of claims and discoveries that are nothing more than wishful thinking or blatant fantasy. Nonfiction fiction perhaps? This ranks up there with Monster quest and other media pushes claiming definitive evidence just to get you to watch, or in your case get us to read. This is nothing more than a viral campaign and a 15 min of fame money grab. In closing put up or shut up.

  19. Benjamin Radford responds:

    This ranks up there with Monster quest and other media pushes claiming definitive evidence just to get you to watch, or in your case get us to read. This is nothing more than a viral campaign and a 15 min of fame money grab.korollocke

    I didn’t post this. I was simply responding to comments about my Nicaragua chupacabra expedition by MEC Loren. I’m not interested in 15 minutes of fame or money, I’m interested in solving mysteries.

    In closing put up or shut upkorollocke

    I’m not sure what that even means. I can’t “put up” a 54,000 word book that’s not out yet. Even if I wanted to, I’m prohibited from doing so by the publisher. As for shutting up, I don’t appreciate the hostility. When the book is out, you are welcome to decide for yourself if my book is “full of wishful thinking and blatant fantasy.”

    (If you don’t want to buying my book, you can always wait for a library copy. But I personally make it a point to buy just about every book on cryptozoology, not only because I want to be informed about the subject, but because I want to support other researchers– even those who I may disagree with).

  20. Matthewcardier responds:

    I first stumbled across FT in the early 90’s, and it is the only (commercial) periodical that still deals sensibly with cryptozoology and other unexplained phenomena. Via it’s pages I’ve been introduced to some great Cryptozoologists, from Karl Shuker and Loren himself, to Michael Meurger and the CFZ team, as well as many other great Forteans like Peter Brookesmith, Jay Lake, Mike Dash (to name a few) and the inestimable Bob Rickard and Paul Sieveking. It’s not perfect, but then what is, especially in this field? The psycho-social viewpoint is as relevant to cryptids as it is to UFO’s and other “occult” phenomena.

    I’ll be interested to see what Ben Radford has to say on the Chupacubra(s) given that it seems to be another “phenomenal” creature that appears to be part of a cultural mindset and perhaps more than one unknown or misidentified creature… a body that isn’t a mangy dog may be a huge media campaign, but I can’t see that a well researched and argued, non sensationalist approach to the subject is likely to turn anyone into teh Dan Brown of the Crypto world… (Thank God).

  21. glendoor42 responds:

    I don’t see what the big deal is about the Chupacabra is anyway. Anyone who knows anything knows they taste like chicken.Well,…. more like a cross between chicken and duck actually.

  22. bigdaddy responds:

    But I personally make it a point to buy just about every book on cryptozoology, not only because I want to be informed about the subject, but because I want to support other researchers– even those who I may disagree with).Benjamin Radford

    Best comment I have seen in ages Brad Renjamin! 🙂 Right on the mark. I do exactly the same thing.

    Maybe korollocke can provide some of the book titles they have written so we can see where the right to say put up or shut has come from.

  23. seesdifferent responds:

    Face it, nobody can mount an expedition outside the US without funding and that usually means a television crew a la MonsterQuest, with all the hoopla and demand/pressure for drama/results. Science becomes the first victim.

  24. korollocke responds:

    What it meant was simple, quit being so “purposefully mysterious” and prove you have the answers or as some say, put up or shut up. Anybody can ramble 54,000 words and still say nothing substantial, Diablo Cody comes to mind (cheese and fries!). There have been a lot of utterly pointless books written about cryptids and a lot brilliant ones as well; I just don’t see your campout diaries to be compelling reading.

  25. vampchick21 responds:

    First off, I still love reading Fortean Times, and eagerly haunt my local bookstore waiting for the shipment from England to come in (and dang it, we get it a month behind here in Canada). I don’t personally see the increased tendency to be skeptic in FT, but then, I’ve only really been reading it the last few years, and when I do finally take my full day to go to the Lillian H. Smith branch of the Toronto Public Library (where they have all the back issues), maybe then I’ll be able to ‘see’ the complaint. Until then, I can only go by the last few years that I’ve been reading the magazine.

    That said, after reading the article in question, Loren’s post and Ben’s reply, I have to say I do understand the difficulties in trying to locate this creature in a region that does not have the richness of sightings as the more ‘traditional’ locations under less than ideal circumstances. And yes, I was a bit disappointed in the article, but please do not take that as a reflection on Ben Radford! It’s my view that he did the best he could with what he had at the time.

    I also look forward to Ben’s book, as I simply love books on Crypids, the paranormal, the occult and other Fortean subjects. Just one more reason to haunt the bookstores in Toronto, as if I really needed one!

    korollocke, I find that you are being unnecessarily beligerent here. Clearly you have next to absolute zero grasp about the publishing industry. Once a manuscript reaches a certain stage in the publishing process, the author is generally advised to maintain a degree of silence about the contents of the book, be it a Harlequin drugstore romance novel, the latest in the flavour of the month tween garbage series, a tome on the life of Ghengis Khan, or a book about the Chupacabra. If Mr. Radford is not presenting you with what you feel you deserve to know (?) it’s not because he’s being all Mr. Purposefully Mysterious, but simply because the book is in that damn stage that ALL books go through. For Mr. Radford to give you what you are demanding right now would be a breach of contract for him.

    If you want to base your opinion on a book that hasn’t even hit the bookshelves yet and hasn’t even had the blurb on it’s back cover finalized on a brief article in a magazine and a couple of blog comments from the auther, that’s your call. But do try to drop the snark, and stop demanding that someone breach contract, ok?

  26. red_pill_junkie responds:

    “Maybe this multiple award-winning, native Spanish speaking author doesn’t know how to spell?”

    Well, that certainly seems to be the case in this regard. Just because some Latin American accents tend to ‘cut off’ the S at the end of some words —e.g. the Cuban accent— it doesn’t mean we should be allowed to cannibalize the language.


    Miguel Romero

  27. mystery_man responds:

    I very much appreciate Loren’s concerns on the matter of this expedition, and I think Ben’s response was thoughtful and answered some of the questions some of us might have had. I was satisfied with that response and think that both Loren and Ben could come to maybe a better understanding of what’s going on.

    I’m under the impression that this excursion was not a waste of time. I think in this field, we have to take what we can get, with the time and resources we are allotted, since there isn’t a whole lot of grant money floating around for these sorts of excursions. I appreciate Ben’s efforts, especially since it seems that this was more than just a “camping trip” after all. I support any efforts to sincerely get to the bottom of these mysteries.

    I don’t have as much of a problem with Ben Radford as many here seem to have. He is trying to get to the truth of the same mysteries that we all are, and it is nice to have input from all sides of the argument. You can’t really be scientific if you are not open to the possibilities other than what your own notions of them are. I think the balance between skeptic and proponent is crucial in that they keep each other honest with their research and conclusions. A sort of peer review process if you will.

    As for the ongoing discussion here on Radford’s book, all I can say is that it seems a little premature to be throwing out criticisms and judgments on its quality before the book has even been released. I for one think that one should read the book before making such statements.

    I for one think that whether Radford’s book solves the mystery or not, it will most certainly bring up new points of discussion and can only bring us closer to understanding the mystery. But let’s at least read it first before pointing fingers or making accusations.

    Anyway, Ben, your efforts and the time and effort you’ve taken to compile your book are appreciated by me.

  28. Loren Coleman responds:

    An author is always bound to exclaim to the heavens that their next book is the best thing since sliced bread, understandably so. However, to bash a writer’s unread work before the printing ink hits the page, it would seem, is a greater sin to author and the future readership.

  29. korollocke responds:

    I’ve read some of his stuff on other topics already. I’m feed up with having carrots of definitive proof of various cyrptids dangled infront of me and then being let down. If this is for real and he has the proof and answers then why publish a book that will be largely unseen by the general populace? Go to the televised media get your discovery out there and then write your book or even better get a solid documentary of film. With your expertise on the subject it should be easy as pie for you to get a grant. Then again you’ve tried pretty hard defend yourself against my comments, did I touch a nerve or am on to something? If it turns this is for real and your spot on then I will offer my humbelist and sincere apologies. Just my thoughts.

  30. Benjamin Radford responds:

    @ vampchick21: Thanks for the kind words…you have a very good grasp of the situation, especially regarding publication. FYI, I’ll be presenting two talks at a ghost/paranormal conference in St. Catharines May 14 to 16 on ghost investigations. Maybe I’ll see you there!

    @ mystery_man: Thanks also, I really am doing my best on this. I think in a real way we all really are on the same side; we’re all trying to understand these things. I take this subject seriously, I spend a lot of time and effort trying to solve these things.

    To you all and everyone else, I think your trust will be rewarded.

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