Ben Radford lectures at CFI West on Paranormal Investigations, June 18, 2011
October 2, 1970 |
New York, NY
|Education||B.A. in Psychology|
|Alma mater||University of New Mexico|
|Occupation||Writer, Investigator, Podcaster, Research Fellow|
|Known for||media and science literacy educator, scientific paranormal investigation, MonsterTalk podcast|
Benjamin Radford (born October 2, 1970) 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.
He has written seven books and 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.
Education and career
Radford holds a bachelor's degree in psychology and a minor in professional writing, both from the University of New Mexico, and is completing a Masters degree in Education at the University at Buffalo focused on Science and the Public. He was managing editor of the science magazine Skeptical Inquirer from 1997 until early 2011, when he was promoted to deputy editor. Until it 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.
In 2001, Radford investigated the mysterious 1997 incident in which thousands of Japanese children seemingly suffered seizures while watching "Dennō Senshi Porygon", an episode of the Pokémon 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
In 2007, Radford solved the mystery of the "Santa Fe Courthouse 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 2010 Los Angeles UFO
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, 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
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, 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
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) photo
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.
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."
In addition to his skeptical work, Radford has written and directed several animated short films. In Sirens (2009), "A young boy in a small-town library avoids his math homework and is instead drawn into the world of the mythological Sirens, beautiful women who lured sailors to their doom." Radford's 2007 feature, Clicker Clatter, is a satire described as "an animated short that exposes television and TV journalism for the wasteland that it is. From scare-of-the-week programming to Katie Couric's stupid interview questions, inane drug ads, randy rhinos, 'boob terrorism,' and the frustration of scrambled porn, nothing is safe in this sharp satire."
Both films screened at film festivals around the world, and Clicker Clatter won the “Best Traditional Animation” award at the 2007 California International Animation Festival. Clicker Clatter has an online distributor and can be seen at SnagFilms.com.
In 2008 Radford released Playing Gods: The Board Game of Divine Domination, a satirical board game he created based on theme of gods warring over the control of believers. The game is described as a "theological version of Risk" and contains figures based on Jesus, Moses, Buddha and many other religions including satirical religions like the Flying Spaghetti Monster and J. R. Bob Dobbs. The game made its World Premiere at the New York Toy Fair in March 2009 and debuted at Dragon*Con in Atlanta, Georgia. Playing Gods is produced through Radford's company, Balls Out Entertainment. The game was released by "Balls Out" Games.
In 2013, Radford released plans for a followup to the Playing Gods board game, entitled Undead Apocalypse: War of the Damned.
- Bartholomew, Robert E.; Radford, Benjamin (2003), Hoaxes, Myths, and Manias: Why We Need Critical Thinking, Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, p. 229, ISBN 1-59102-048-4
- Radford, Benjamin (2003), Media Mythmakers : How Journalists, Activists, and Advertisers Mislead Us, Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, p. 324, ISBN 1-59102-072-7
- Radford, Benjamin; Nickell, Joe (2006), Lake Monster Mysteries : Investigating the World's Most Elusive Creatures, Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky, p. 184, ISBN 0-8131-2394-1
- Radford, Benjamin (2010), Scientific Paranormal Investigation: How to Solve Unexplained Mysteries, Rhombus Publishing Company, p. 312, ISBN 0-936455-11-X
- Radford, Benjamin (2011), Tracking the Chupacabra: The Vampire Beast in Fact, Fiction, and Folklore, University of New Mexico Press, p. 288, ISBN 0-8263-5015-1
- The Martians Have Landed! A History of Media-Driven Panics and Hoaxes (with Robert Bartholomew)
- "Monster Talk". Skeptic Magazine. 2008-10-28. Retrieved 2011-07-22.
- "2012 Parsec Awards Winners & Finalists". Parsec Awards. Retrieved 9/5/2012.
- Radford, Benjamin (January 29, 2004), Investigating a Haunted House – Amherst, New York, GhostVillage.com, retrieved March 26, 2009
- Radford, Benjamin; Bartholomew, Robert PhD (February 2001), "Pokémon Contagion: Photosensitive Epilepsy or Mass Psychogenic Illness?", Southern Medical Journal (Birmingham, AL: Southern Medical Association) 94 (2): 197–204, ISSN 0038-4348, OCLC 1766196, PMID 11235034, retrieved March 26, 2009, "We studied a reported illness outbreak occurring on December 16, 1997, involving more than 12,000 Japanese children who had various signs and symptoms of illness after watching an episode of a popular animated cartoon, Pokémon. While photosensitive epilepsy was diagnosed in a minuscule fraction of those affected, this explanation cannot account for the breadth and pattern of the events. The characteristic features of the episode are consistent with the diagnosis of epidemic hysteria, triggered by sudden anxiety after dramatic mass media reports describing a relatively small number of genuine photosensitive-epilepsy seizures. The importance of the mass media in precipitating outbreaks of mass psychogenic illness is discussed."
- SFNM: What was it at the Santa Fe Courthouse? on YouTube
- Radford, Benjamin (Sept/Oct 2007), "Santa Fe ‘Courthouse Ghost’ Mystery Solved", Skeptical Inquirer (Committee for Skeptical Inquiry) 31 (5), ISSN 0194-6730, retrieved October 23, 2010
- Radford, Benjamin (June 21, 2007), "EXCLUSIVE: Courthouse 'Ghost' Video Mystery Solved", LiveScience, retrieved March 26, 2009
- "General Mcinerney: "I am absolutely certain that is not an aircraft"". Infowars.com. Retrieved 8/7/2012.
- "Examining Official Explanation of the Mystery 'Missile'". Discovery News. Retrieved 8/7/2012.
- Radford, Benjamin (September 2008), "The White Witch of Rose Hall", Fortean Times (239), ISSN 0308-5899
- Jill Stefko, "The White Witch of Rose Hall", Suite101.com (site blocked)
- Radford, Benjamin (October 14, 2008), "Kansas Gym Ghost Mystery Solved", LiveScience, retrieved March 26, 2009
- Radford, Benjamin (Jan/Feb 2009), "Kansas Gym Ghost Video Mystery Solved", Skeptical Inquirer (Committee for Skeptical Inquiry) 33 (1), ISSN 0194-6730, retrieved March 26, 2009
- Kirk, John (1998), In the Domain of the Lake Monsters, Toronto: Key Porter Books, p. 133, ISBN 1-55263-010-2
- Radford, Benjamin (April 2004), "Lake Champlain Monster", Fortean Times (182), ISSN 0308-5899, retrieved March 26, 2009
- Radford, Benjamin (Jul/Aug 2003), "The Measure of a Monster - Investigating the Champ Photo", Skeptical Inquirer (Committee for Skeptical Inquiry) 27 (4), ISSN 0194-6730, retrieved March 26, 2009
- Benjamin Radford (January 2011). "HR Giger's Reel Alien". Fortean Times. Retrieved 2011-03-10.
- Radford, Ben (May/June 2011). "Slaying the Vampire: Solving the Chupacabra Mystery". Skeptical Inquirer (Committee for Skeptical Inquiry) 35 (3): 45.
- "BOTYA 2011 Finalists in Social Sciences (Adult Nonfiction)". Retrieved 8/7/2012.
- Heaney, Katie. "Monster Hunt: The Chupacabra". Outside Magazine. Retrieved 3/12/2013.
- Sirens at the Internet Movie Database
- Clicker Clatter at the Internet Movie Database
- Radford, Ben. "Clicker Clatter". Retrieved 8/7/2012.
- Playing Gods - The Board Game of Divine Domination, retrieved March 26, 2009
- Grossman, Cathy Lynn (November 18, 2008), "'Playing Gods' satirizes religious violence", USA Today, retrieved March 26, 2009
- "Undead Apocalypse — The Board Game". Retrieved 9 June 2013.
- Benjamin Radford's Website
- Scenes from Clicker Clatter
- Benjamin Radford at the Internet Movie Database
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