It was the summer of ‘69. New York farmer Max Yasgur was preparing to host a little music festival called “Woodstock.” Popular movies included “The Love Bug.” Popular songs included “My Cherie Amour.”
Yes, love was in the air.
But out at Lake Worth, pitiful cries and an automobile tire were in the air.
Goatman was in a mood.
The first reported sighting of Goatman (aka the Lake Worth Monster) occurred on the night of July 9, 1969. The Star-Telegram reported that three “terrified” couples who had been parked near Greer Island told police they were “attacked by a thing they described as being half-man, half-goat and covered with fur and scales.”
The next night, witnesses at the lake again encountered Goatman, whose weight they estimated at 300 pounds. Jack E. Harris told a reporter he heard the creature “squall,” “howl” and “emit a pitiful cry like something was hurting him.”
Then the creature, Harris said, “got hold of a spare tire with a rim in it and threw it at our cars. … He threw it more than 500 feet.”
And thus began Goatmania. During the summer of ‘69 people drove to Lake Worth every night to look for Goatman. Fort Worth police even stationed an officer near Greer Island to direct traffic.
A police sergeant said, “I’m not worried about the monster so much as all those people wandering around out there with guns.”
And alcohol. Rick Pratt, who was director of the Greer Island Nature Center, later recalled that folks went out to the lake with wine and beer to have a good time while hunting for Goatman.
Guns, liquor, darkness and a 300-pound half man-half goat in pain. What could go wrong?
Goatman quickly became a celebrity. A local sculptor carved his likeness. A woman wrote a book about her encounter with Goatman. (She later admitted she had not really seen him at the time but later did see him — four times.)
The Goatman mystery wasn’t news just locally. Reporters came from New York and Los Angeles. The story was carried in newspapers around the world. Goatman’s every move was news. He was a cryptid Kardashian.
In all, more than 70 people claimed to have seen Goatman.
But Goatman sightings decreased sharply by September — just about the time school started.
So. What is the explanation for Goatmania?
Some folks said the creature was a really big bobcat. Or an ape that had been burned in a circus fire. Other folks whispered that students from Castleberry, North Side or Brewer high school were the hoaxers.
Heck, maybe multiple persons were out at Lake Worth hoaxing up a storm that summer of ‘69. Copycat Goatmen. Maybe now and then they bumped into each other in the dark and scared the scales off each other.
Fort Worth police investigator Dale Hinz had another theory. Located near Greer Island was the New Liberty Mission Rehabilitation Center for men who abused alcohol. The center was known as the “Goat Farm” because its residents raised goats for consumption by animals at the zoo.
One of the residents of the center, Hinz said, was Foots Fowler. “Foots,” Hinz said, “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.’”
Hinz said Foots told other residents of the center how he would sneak off at night, covered with goat skins, and prowl Lake Worth’s parks, scaring people parked in cars.
Mike Nichols blogs about Fort Worth history at www.hometownbyhandlebar.com.