Part 1 of this post details the phenomenon of Goatman at Greer Island during the summer of sixty-nine: sightings of and theories about the furry, scaly, seven-foot-tall, three-hundred-pound, bad-smelling, barbecued chicken-eating, tire-tossing half man-half goat.
The late Fort Worth police investigator Sergeant Dale Hinz told me yet another theory.
We can take up this theory at this modest house. No, it’s not the home of Goatman and the missus, Goatwoman. This house is on the East Side on Hampshire Boulevard. It once was the home of Reverend Henry F. Cooper Sr. (1913-1993) and wife Opal.
Cooper had been a conductor on the Texas & Pacific railroad in 1952.
Then, about 1953, Hinz told me, Cooper borrowed $100 from a bank and rented a vacant building in the 1400 block of Main Street and opened Gospel Rescue Mission, which provided accommodations to men experiencing homelessness and other at-risk men. The mission was located in a block of small hotels, pawn shops, and theaters.
In 1955, after twenty-six years on the railroad, Cooper gave up his T&P job and founded the New Liberty Mission in the building that had housed the New Liberty Theater at 1107 Main Street. Both missions were located in lower downtown, the former site of Hell’s Half Acre.
In 1958 Cooper leased from the Fort Worth Parks and Recreation Department four hundred acres in Broadview Park, located a half-mile west of . . . wait for it . . . Lake Worth’s Greer Island just north of Jacksboro Highway. At Broadview Park Reverend Cooper established the New Liberty Mission Rehabilitation Center for men who abused alcohol. The rehabilitation center was known informally as the “Goat Farm” because its residents raised goats for consumption by animals at the Fort Worth Zoo.
Cooper marked the center’s first anniversary in 1959.
This 1939 map of Lake Worth shows Broadview Park one-half mile west of Greer Island. Note that the 1939 map shows the island to have no connection to the “mainland.” (From Pete Charlton’s “1000+ Lost Antique Maps of Texas & the Southwest on DVD-ROM.”)
This 1968 aerial photo shows the rehabilitation center. The residents of the center cleared the land and built the compound themselves. In the beginning the compound consisted of one two-story building, which served as the mess. The residents slept on the ground outdoors as they built more buildings. They also grew their own food on the land.
The resident population of the rehabilitation center, Hinz told me, would eventually consist of a secured section with one hundred residents and an unsecured section with two hundred residents. The unsecured inmates paid rent. The compound had a medical office, barber shop, and chapel. Alcoholics Anonymous meetings were held in the chapel, and, as an incentive, each resident received a packet of Bull Durham tobacco for attending.
One of the residents of the secured section, Hinz said, was a man known as “Foots Fowler.” “Foots,” Hinz told me, “was strange looking, well over six feet tall with arms that hung down past his knee, a very narrow head, and extremely large feet. Because of his abnormally large feet he picked up the moniker ‘Foots.’”
Foots, Hinz said, would sneak off the compound at night. Foots told other residents of the “Goat Farm” how he covered himself with goat skins and prowled Lake Worth’s parks, scaring people parked in cars at night.
So, there you have yet another theory.
Whether Goatman was a hoax or not and whether the hoaxer/hoaxers included Foots Fowler, various unnamed teenagers, “Vinzens,” et cetera, forty-eight years after Goatman’s summer of celebrity, his legend lives on. A few years ago Fort Worth native Robert Hornsby, a New York City sculptor, sculpted a likeness of Goatman that was displayed at the Fort Worth Central Library. A Monster Dash 5K race has been held at Casino Beach southeast of Greer Island. The Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge at the lake has hosted a Lake Worth Monster Bash festival celebrating the famous cryptid.
In 1975 the Fort Worth Art Museum presented Johnny Simon’s folk-rock opera about Goatman, The Lake Worth Monster. Later the opera was presented at Hip Pocket Theatre.
In 1989, twenty years after the summer of sixty-nine, the Star-Telegram commemorated Goatman with a retrospective by writer Chris Evans.
And, yes, today Goatman has his own page on Facebook.
You know what they say about imitation and flattery. Apparently jealous of Cowtown’s Goatman, Denton and Dallas claim their own Goatman at, respectively, Lake Ray Roberts and White Rock Lake.
Perhaps the title of Top Goatman of the Tri-County Area should be determined by some sort of competition among the three legendary mansters.
I suggest a tire-tossing contest.
If all this Goatman palaver has left you hungry for more lore of Lone Star wild men: