Benjamin Radford is an American writer, investigator, and deputy editor of the skeptic magazine Skeptical Inquirer. He is also a co-host of MonsterTalk, a podcast, which critically examines the science and folklore behind cryptozoological (and legendary) creatures such as Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster and werewolves. MonsterTalk won the 2012 Parsec podcast award for the “Best Fact Behind the Fiction” category.
Benjamin Radford has authored, co-authored, or contributed to twenty books and written over a thousand articles and columns on a wide variety of topics including urban legends, unexplained mysteries, the paranormal, critical thinking, mass hysteria, and media literacy. In his position as Research Fellow with the non-profit educational organization Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, Radford characterizes himself as one of the world’s few science-based paranormal investigators, and has done first-hand research into psychics, ghosts and haunted houses; exorcisms, miracles, Bigfoot, stigmata, lake monsters, UFO sightings, reincarnation, crop circles, and other topics. He regularly speaks at universities and conferences across the country about his research, and presented at the American Folklore Society’s 2011 annual conference on Folklore of the Chupacabra. Radford’s books and investigations have been incorporated into several college and university courses on critical thinking, including at Western Washington University and the University of New Mexico.
Radford has appeared on Good Morning America, CNN, The History Channel, The National Geographic Channel, the Learning Channel, CBC, BBC, ABC News, The New York Times, and many other outlets.
Education and career
Radford holds a Bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in professional writing from the University Of New Mexico, and holds a Master’s degree in Education from the University at Buffalo, New York with a focus on Science and the Public, where he was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa society in 1993. He was managing editor of the science magazine Skeptical Inquirer from 1997 until early 2011, when he was promoted to deputy editor. Until its suspended publication in 2009, he was editor-in-chief of the Spanish-language magazine Pensar, published in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Radford is also a regular columnist for Skeptical Inquirer magazine, Discovery News, LiveScience.com, and the Skeptical Briefs newsletter.
Radford has conducted hundreds of investigations into “unexplained” phenomena; these are some of his best-known cases.
Pokémon panic (1997)
In 2001, Benjamin Radford investigated the mysterious 1997 incident in which thousands of Japanese children seemingly suffered seizures while watching “Denno Senshi Porygon”, an episode of the Pokemon cartoon. Though many doctors advanced theories including photosensitive epilepsy, Radford demonstrated that the incident was rooted in mass hysteria. The resulting article, co-authored by Robert Bartholomew, was published in the February 2001 Southern Medical Journal and some believe it to be the definitive explanation for the bizarre case. There has yet to be a theory put forward that is widely accepted as a true definitive cause.
Santa Fe courthouse ghost (2007)
In 2007, Radford solved the mystery of the “Santa Fe Couthouse Ghost,” a mysterious, glowing, white blob that was captured on videotape June 15, by a security camera at a courthouse in Santa Fe, New Mexico. While the court personnel who first saw the baffling image didn’t know what to make of it, others soon offered their own explanations, and a ghost was among the most popular. The “ghost video” became a nationwide hit and has been viewed over 85,000 times on the YouTube web site. What started as a local curiosity soon spread internationally, as CBS News, ABC News, and newspapers across the country from The Boston Globe to the San Francisco Chronicle carried the story of the “courthouse ghost.” Radford did several days of on-site field investigations at the courthouse, and after several experiments duplicated the “ghost” effect, proving the image was not a ghost.
The Los Angeles UFO / mystery missile (2010)
In November 2010, a UFO was sighted and recorded in the sky over Los Angeles by a news helicopter cameraman. The object created a rocket-like contrail rising like a pillar in the sunset approximately 35 miles off the Californian coast. The U.S. military claimed no knowledge of any military missiles or commercial satellite launches, fueling a mystery that made international news. Theories ranged from alien spacecraft to Chinese missiles to top-secret U.S. military experiments. Many experts appeared in the news media suggested that the UFO was probably a missile of some sort, including retired United States Air Force Lieutenant General Thomas G. McInerney and Michio Kaku, a physics professor at City University of New York (who later reversed his opinion). In a column for Discovery News, Benjamin Radford was one of the first journalists to critically analyze the video and correctly identify the UFO or “mystery missile” as an airplane contrail.
The white witch of Rose Hall (2007)
Rose Hall is a mansion near Montego Bay in Jamaica, once the center of a sprawling sugar plantation covering over a thousand acres (4 km²). It was built in the 1770s, and has a reputation as “one of the most haunted places in the Western Hemisphere,” home to the feared White Witch of Rose Hall. Rose Hall is said to be haunted by a woman named Annie Palmer, who killed three husbands, knew black magic, and was known for her cruelty and sadism. Legend says she was killed in 1831 by a slave, and buried in a tomb not far from Rose Hall. Today, psychics and tourists at the site claim to find evidence of Annie Palmer’s spirit in the form of “orbs” and “ghost photographs.” In 2007, Benjamin Radford went to Rose Hall and investigated the story behind the White Witch of Rose Hall. Through careful investigation and analysis, he showed that the stories about Annie Palmer’s ghost could not be true, because she was a fictional character. In Fortean Times magazine and his book Scientific Paranormal Investigation, Radford published his re-creations of the “ghost photos” taken at Rose Hall, showing that they were instead camera artifacts and reflected flashes, not ghosts.
Kansas City gym ghost video (2008)
Radford investigated and solved the mystery of an alleged “ghost video” taken at Anytime Fitness, an all-night fitness club in Overland Park, Kansas in 2008. Surveillance cameras caught glowing, fuzzy light apparently in a workout area, meandering around the weight benches and fitness machines. The video circulated widely on YouTube before Radford found the solution to be merely an insect.
The “Champ” (Lake Champlain monster) Mansi photo (1995)
The most famous photograph of a monster in Lake Champlain was taken in 1977 by a woman named Sandra Mansi. The photo sparked the modern age of Champ investigations and renewed national interest in the creature. Mansi’s account of her family’s encounter with Champ is the most complete and fully documented of any lake monster sighting in history. The Mansi photo stands alone as the most credible and important photographic evidence for a lake monster in Champlain—or anywhere else. John Kirk, in his book In the Domain of the Lake Monsters, writes that “The monster of Lake Champlain . . . has the distinction of being the only lake monster of whom there is a reasonably clear photograph. It . . . is extremely good evidence of an unidentified lake-dwelling animal”. Joe Zarzynski, author of Champ: Beyond the Legend (1984), calls the photo “the best single piece of evidence on Champ.”
Benjamin Radford and Joe Nickell went to Lake Champlain, interviewed Mrs. Mansi, and re-created the Champ photographs. After examining the original, rarely-seen photograph, Radford and Nickell proved that all of the previous estimates of the object’s size were dramatically overstated. Detailed analysis proved that the “monster” in the photograph is almost certainly a floating log or tree trunk. The Champ and Mansi photo investigation were the most complete done to date, and the results were published in the book Lake Monster Mysteries, as well as in Skeptical Inquirer magazine and Fortean Times magazine. Radford and Nickell re-enacted their experiments and investigation for the Discovery Channel in 1995.
Benjamin Radford spent five years investigating the mysterious monster el chupacabra, and solved the mystery of the creature’s origin in his 2011 book Tracking the Chupacabra: The Vampire Beast in Fact, Fiction, and Folklore. The investigation included eyewitness interviews, forensic and folkloric research, and “a field expedition to the jungles of Nicaragua” in search of the legendary monster. Tracking the Chupacabra was a Finalist for two books awards including Book of the Year. According to Outside Magazine, Radford came to the conclusion that the chupacabra “was nothing but a cinematic fever dream.”