It was the summer of sixty-nine. The United States was about to send a man to the moon. The Mets and Orioles were winning their way to the World Series. New York dairy farmer Max Yasgur was preparing to host a little music festival called “Woodstock.” President Nixon, meeting with President Nguyen Van Thieu, announced that twenty-five thousand American troops would be withdrawn from South Vietnam by September. Popular movies included Easy Rider and Alice’s Restaurant. Popular songs included “Good Morning, Starshine,” “Oh, Happy Day,” and “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In.”
But out at Lake Worth, Goatman was in a mood.
He jumped out of a tree onto a car, he tried to pull a woman from a car, he scratched the side of a car, he hurled a tire at folks, he lifted a man in a sleeping bag into the air and swam off with the man’s barbecued chicken, he terrorized lovers lane couples who wanted only to steam up a few windows. He squalled, and he howled, and he cried.
Jeez, Goatman, listen to some 5th Dimension and mellow out.
A police artist attempting to draw a composite likeness of Goatman would scream at his or her own handiwork. Goatman, witnesses said, had a short humanoid body with a long neck, the head and hooves of a goat, and was covered with fur (and scales!) but walked upright on two legs, conjuring images of a satyr, the half man-half goat of Greek mythology. Some witnesses said he had a horn in the middle of his head. He weighed three hundred pounds. His hands/paws had long claws.
Oh, and he smelled bad.
The first reported Goatman sighting occurred on the night of July 9, 1969 near Greer Island, which floats in the northwest corner of Lake Worth but is connected to the “mainland” by a road.
The next day the Star-Telegram reported that three “terrified” couples who had been parked near Greer Island told police that they were “attacked by a thing they described as being half-man, half-goat and covered with fur and scales.” Around midnight, witness John Reichart said, “someone or something leaped from a tree onto their car. Reichart said the thing tried to grab his wife but he drove off before it could touch her. . . . Reichart showed officers an eighteen-inch scratch down the side of his car which he said the thing made with its claw-like hands.”
Police suspected pranksters but “did make a serious investigation because these people were really scared,” said patrolman James S. McGee. “That’s a dangerous way to pull a prank. Someone is liable to get themselves shot.”
The late Jim Marrs, the reporter who broke the story, would go on to make a career of writing about cover-ups and conspiracies concerning subjects such as the JFK assassination, 9/11, telepathy, secret societies, and aliens. (Photo from Wikipedia.)
The next night someone else saw Goatman. A local radio station reported the sighting, which naturally caused carloads of people to rush to the lake that night to look for themselves. One of those people was Jack E. Harris, who told reporter Marrs that he saw the creature and heard it “squall,” “howl,” and “emit a pitiful cry like something was hurting him.” Harris said, “We watched him run up and down a bluff a while and other cars arrived. There must have been 30 or 40 people watching him.” Then “it got hold of a spare tire with a rim in it and threw it at our cars. . . . He threw it more than 500 feet.”
Marrs wrote that witnesses said the creature was “big, hairy and white looking.” “Harris said the thing walks like a man but didn’t look like a man. He was whitish-gray and hairy. . . . he looked like he was 7 feet tall and must have weighed about 300 pounds.”
The caption of this Star-Telegram photo of July 11 indicates that Goatman leaped from the bluff before tossing the tire. The photo shows the trajectory of the leap and the five-hundred-foot tire toss.
The shiver that Goatman was sending up Cowtown’s collective spine was the town’s goose bumpiest since 1954, when Pete the python went AWOL (absent without legs). In fact, Goatman was in some ways a rePete: In both cases theories were plentiful, interest was acute, but the duration of the excitement was brief.
Just as people in 1954 had beat the bushes looking for Pete the python, during the summer of sixty-nine every night people drove out to Lake Worth to look for Goatman. Fort Worth police even stationed an officer near Greer Island to direct traffic.
“I’m not worried about the monster so much as all those people wandering around out there with guns,” a police sergeant said. People were patrolling roads around the lake with shotguns, rifles, and pistols.
And alcohol. Rick Pratt, who was director of the Greer Island Nature Center, later recalled that folks went out to the lake with whiskey, wine, and beer to have a good time while hunting for Goatman.
“Here was a Sasquatch, our very own,” Pratt said. “It was a party, what the hell, let’s go.”
Guns, liquor, darkness, and a three-hundred-pound half man-half goat in pain. What could go wrong?
The local headlines kept coming. And the Goatman mystery became news elsewhere. Film crews and reporters came from New York and Los Angeles. The story was carried in newspapers around the world. Suddenly Goatman knew what it must be like to be a Kardashian.
Even when Goatman took a night off, he made headlines.
And the dead, not to be outdone, got in on the act.
Sallie Ann Clarke of Benbrook became fascinated with Goatman, interviewed witnesses, and self-published The Lake Worth Monster in September. In her book Clarke recalled her own encounter:
“It was not bobcat nor was it a sheep skin. It wasn’t a person dressed in a Halloween costume. It was really the terrorizing monster. It stood on its hind feet and ran like a man. It had white hair over most of its body and scales, too. It was a goat-fish-man.
“I’m sure it stood about six feet and nine inches tall and was undressed (It didn’t have any clothes on). It looked like it weighed 250 or 260 pounds. . . . It was the most pathetic sound I have ever heard. It went Grrrrrr, Brrr, Yeeeepe, Yuuuuuuuuuuu, and sounded almost as if it would cry any minute from the great pain it was in.”
The book, Clarke said later, sold 280,000 copies. But Clarke later admitted that she wrote the book before, she claimed, she actually did see Goatman—four times!
“If I’d seen it before I wrote the book, the book would have been quite a lot different,” she told the Star-Telegram in 1989. “It wouldn’t have been semi-fiction. It would have been like a history.” Clarke published perhaps the only photograph of Goatman, taken by Allen Plaster about 1 a.m. in October 1969 near Greer Island.
Richard Lederer, Clarke’s husband, said that after his wife actually saw Goatman she became even more convinced that Goatman was not a hoax.
Lederer said, “She offered a $5,000 reward for any person who could pass a polygraph that they were the monster.”
In July Joe Pack, a local sculptor, carved a likeness of Goatman based on witness descriptions. On July 17 the replica Goatman shared the front page with Wernher von Braun, Lady Bird Johnson, and Neil Armstrong, who was moonbound.
In all, more than seventy people claimed to have seen Goatman in the summer of sixty-nine. Some even took lie-detector tests. People saw Goatman running through the woods, found tracks too big for a man, reported mutilated sheep. Goatman was always seen between midnight and 4 a.m., always in the densely wooded, isolated area of Greer Island.
But Goatman sightings decreased by September—just about the time school started.
Then, after school started, on November 9 the Press detailed one of the last reported sightings of Goatman. On Friday, November 7 (which was not a school night), Charles Buchanan had been fishing on the lake near Greer Island. “I was asleep in my sleeping bag in the bed of my pickup. . . . I woke up when my pickup tipped. Something was lifting it.”
Then, the Press wrote, “a hair-covered face heaved itself over the side of the pickup, and two long, hairy arms grabbed Buchanan—sleeping bag and all—and hoisted him in the air and then dropped him.
“Almost overpowered by the critter’s stench, Buchanan said he did the only thing he could think of—he grabbed for the barbecued chicken he’d bought earlier and thrust it, sack and all, at the monster’s head.
“The monster, Buchanan said, took it in his mouth, and with guttural noises, loped off through the trees, splashed into the water, and began swimming with powerful strokes toward Greer Island.”
Buchanan said Goatman looked “like a cross between a human being and a gorilla or an ape,” was about seven and a half feet tall with long arms and short, stubby, deformed fingers. Buchanan estimated Goatman’s weight at “between 700 and 1,000 pounds” and measured one footprint at eighteen inches.
So. What is the explanation for Goatmania?
Some folks said the creature was a really big bobcat. Or an ape that had been horribly burned in a circus fire. Or an escaped macaque monkey.
Reporter Marrs in 1989 said police had told him that officers had questioned several Castleberry High School students who were found with a headless gorilla suit and a homemade mask. But others have said that the hoaxers were North Side High or Brewer High students.
In 2005 the Star-Telegram received an anonymous letter: “One weekend, myself and two friends from North Side High School decided to go out to Lake Worth and scare people on the roads where there were always stories of monsters and creatures who would attack parkers.”
The writer claimed to have used tinfoil to fashion a mask to scare a truckload of girls.
And Allen Plaster, who took the photograph of Goatman, also attributes the whole affair to pranksters, saying, “Looking back, I realize that when we drove by, it stood up. Whatever it was, it wanted to be seen. That was a prank. That was somebody out there waiting for people to drive by. I don’t think an animal would have acted that way.”
Fort Worth, Texas magazine wrote that a man identified as “Vinzens” claimed to have taken part in the tire toss. He said the tire flew into the air only because it hit a bump after the conspirators rolled it down the bluff.
Another person claimed that the hoaxers propelled the tire with a giant slingshot.
Heck, maybe multiple persons or groups of persons were out at Lake Worth hoaxing up a storm that summer of sixty-nine. Copycat Goatmen. Maybe now and then they bumped into each other in the dark and scared the scales off each other.
But some people believe that Goatman was the real deal. Craig Woolheater of the Texas Bigfoot Research Center said, “I personally think it’s an undiscovered, uncataloged primate species that walks on two legs.”
Ready for yet another theory?
Goatman’s Summer of Celebrity (Part 2): Reverend Cooper and Foots Fowler
Thank you for the memories. When I was 12, our very own local lake monster was far more riveting than the coverage of the moonshot that dominated the news
Thank you, Sharon. It was a memorable summer.