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Have You Seen the Toucan Man?

Benjamin Radford is a research fellow at the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and author or coauthor of seven books, including Mysterious New Mexico: Miracles, Magic, and Monsters in the Land of Enchantment.

Q: “I’m a student at a college in Illinois. I’m contacting you about a personal experience with an urban legend that haunts me. Do you know anything about the Toucan Man, a sinister figure who abducts children in Costa Rica? I may have encountered him.”

A: This query was originally sent to the eminent folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand, who due to an illness was unable to fully respond and forwarded the email to me for any insight. I replied to her requesting more details and soon got the following response:

When I was thirteen, I went on a summer trip with my middle school to Costa Rica. At one point we stayed at the Cloud Forest Lodge in Monteverde. It was beautiful and totally remote. That night, while trying to fall asleep, I kept hearing what sounded like a flute coming from my back door. My bunkmate was asleep and I would periodically wake her up and ask her if she heard it too. She never heard anything. This flute playing happened three or four times, and I thought it was extremely odd, but a girl on my trip had bought a wooden flute that day so I figured it was her, despite the late hour. The flute periodically continued very late into the early morning. I was getting very scared. I was too afraid to get out of bed and open the door to see what it was. I finally started to drift asleep and had a horrible vision of this tall dark figure appearing from the corner of the room, approaching me, and then strangling me. I woke up screaming. I had never had a dream this vivid before. I actually felt the pressure on my chest.

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