Monday, October 15, 2007

Stick-Signs and the Goat-Man

Over at the Blogsquatcher there is an interesting new story concerning so-called stick-signs and their connection to the Bigfoot mystery.

For those unaware of this intriguing puzzle, on many occasions strange formations of twigs, sticks and even tree branches have been found in the direct vicinity of Bigfoot activity - which has suggested to some researchers that perhaps these formations are territorial markers, or perhaps even some rudimentary form of communication on the part of the hairy beasts.

In addition to that, over at The Reporter there is a story on Scott Francis' new book: Monster Spotters Guide to North America. The book focuses on countless mystery beasts, including the infamous Goat-Man of Lake Worth, Texas.

Well, in one of those synchronistic moments that seem to bedevil those of us with Fortean pursuits, it turns out that there is a direct connection between the Goat-Man that appears in Scott Francis' book - and the accompanying Reporter feature - and Blogsquatcher's article.

But what, you may ask, is the Goat-Man? Well, let me tell you...

It was in the early hours of the morning in the summer of 1969 that six, terrified Fort Worth residents headed for the safety of their local police station and told a remarkable tale. John Reichart, his wife, and two other couples were parked at Lake Worth, at the witching hour, no less, when an unholy beast that sounded like it had emerged from the foul, stinking depths of some Lovecraftian nightmare leaped out of the buckling branches of a nearby tree.

Covered, curiously, in both fur and scales, it slammed with an almighty bang onto the hood of the Reichart’s vehicle and tried to “grab” the hysterical Mrs. Reichart, before bounding off into the endless darkness and the cover of the thick woods. Its only telltale calling card: an 18-inch-long scratch along the side of the car.

Although this particular incident quickly gathered widespread publicity and was taken very seriously by the police – no less than four units were dispatched to the scene – it was not the first time that the authorities had heard dark tales of weird things lurking within the heart of the woods of Lake Worth.

Not at all: for no less than eight weeks, sightings of a strange animal had been quietly discussed among the superstitious locals, and the police kept a careful watch on the unfolding drama, preferring to attribute the reports to the work of juvenile pranksters, rampaging around in ape costumes. Not an impossible scenario; but, having come to know how gun-happy the residents of little Texan towns can be, any practicing prankster must have had a real death wish.

Patrolman James S. McGee admitted that the report filed by John Reichart was treated with the utmost seriousness because “those people were really scared.” Indeed, such was the interest that the case generated, it became the subject of a high-profile article in the Fort Worth Star Telegram written by none other than Jim Marrs, who would find fame in later years with his numerous books on such subjects as UFOs, the JFK assassination, and 9-11.

Fishy Man-Goat Terrifies Couples Parked at Lake Worth was the headline that jumped out of the pages of the Telegram. And, of course, it made the Goat-Man a household name in the closely-knit neighborhood. Perhaps inevitably, within twenty-four hours the Goat-Man was seen again.

Once more, it was around midnight and a report came in of the beast crossing a road near the Lake Worth Nature Center. Notably, the witness, Jack Harris of Fort Worth, said that as he tried to photograph the animal, his camera-flash failed.

As seasoned crypto-zoologists will be aware, even if it is something that many of them prefer not to talk about, malfunctioning cameras are a staple part of encounters with mysterious animals; reinforcing the theory that at least some of these entities may have paranormal origins or abilities.

The creature was then seen to quickly make its way to the top of a nearby bluff, with thirty to forty people in hot pursuit. In fact, the scenario eerily paralleled that of the old Frankenstein movies of the 1930s and 1940s that saw the unfortunate creation pursued by torch-wielding maniacs from some isolated European town.

But the Goat-Man had a surprise for them: looming over them at a height of about thirty feet it threw a large tire at the crowd that sailed through the air, or bounced along the ground, depending on which version of events you accept as genuine, for an astonishing distance of no less than 500 feet. Perhaps not surprisingly, at that point, said Jack Harris, “everybody jumped back into their cars” and fled the area. That fine Texas spirit of shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later had abruptly and curiously vanished.

Additional reports poured in: some described the animal as having dark-colored fur; others said that its coat was white, and that it appeared to weigh in the region of 300 pounds. One group of thrill-seekers claimed that they saw the beast break the thick limb of a huge oak tree; and there were even those that were said to have heard its “pitiful cry.”

More tales of the beast’s apparent liking for jumping onto car hoods surfaced, along with reports of sheep having been mutilated and killed in the same area under very weird circumstances. And then there were the theories that the creature had made its lair on a small piece of land on the lake called Greer Island that was connected to the mainland by a small pathway.

The controversy was reaching fever-pitch level when Helmuth Naumer, of the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, surfaced with the theory that the Goat-Man was something else entirely: a decidedly down-to-earth pet bobcat that someone had released into Lake Worth Park, and that had a particular fondness for jumping onto cars.

Precisely how the bobcat was able to propel a tire through the air for 500 feet was never quite explained, however. And Naumer’s theory, that could perhaps have been the answer for some of the reports, at least, did not explain the truly bizarre photograph taken by local dress-shop owner, Allen Plaster, who caught on film a large, white-colored creature with a body that almost looked like it was made of hundreds of cotton-balls, and atop which sat a ridiculously small head.
And while rumors circulated to the effect that the police had caught some pranksters parading around in ape costumes, ultimate verification for this theory was not forthcoming at the time, and the matter was never really resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.

And, therefore, it was inevitable: thirty-six years later it was time for a new investigation.

Thus it was that in the summer of 2005, myself and fellow monster-hunters Ken and Lori Gerhard headed out to Lake Worth to check out the area for ourselves. And while it's fair to say that we didn't really anticipate finding anything truly unusual, we were very surprised - and pleased, to say the least - to find a classic stick sign out at Greer Island, where the beast was seen back in the 60s on more than one occasion, and that looked eerily similar to some of those shown in the pictures at the Blogsquatcher's article.

One of those pictures is reproduced above. I apologize for the poor quality of the scan, as well as its slightly off-balance angle; it was scanned in haste a couple of years ago on an old and now defunct machine, and the original photo is buried beneath a mountain of items in a wardrobe in our tiny and cramped Dallas apartment.

What was notable about the Lake Worth stick-sign was that next to it we found a large area of flattened ground, where it looked like something large and heavy had sat down, as well as the remains of a large fish that had been partially devoured.

Were the stick-sign, the ground-marking and the half-eaten fish evidence that some form of cryptid was still roaming the woods years after it first burst forth from the darkness all those years ago?

Your guess is as good as mine; but if nothing else it's most definitely food for thought. The full story of the expedition to Lake Worth that I embarked on 2 years ago with Ken and Lori can be found in my new book, Memoirs of a Monster Hunter.

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