Bigfoot Encounters

"Lake Worth Monster revealed?" Goatman?
by E.R. Bills

Forty years later, developments shed new light on the legend of the "Goat Man."

FYI - Camp Carter YMCA is located near Fort Worth, Texas 

A couple of months back, I was filling out an application for two of my kids to attend Fort Worth's Camp Carter this summer. The TV was on, and a rerun of “Friday the 13th” was playing. I recognized the sound effects before I looked up at the screen. 

     Chh-chh-chh. . . ahh-ahh-ahh. . . 

    The moment was a goose-bumpy instance of déjà vu, but it wasn't “Jason” I was remembering. It was the Lake Worth Monster.

     My parents sent me to Camp Carter in 1977. I was 10 years old, and for five days, we hiked and swam and learned how to water-ski. We played capture the flag, staged cabin raids and had massive pillow fights. And on the last night of the session, we camped out in the hills surrounding Lake Worth.

     We ate hot dogs and roasted marshmallows. We played hide and seek. We double-dared each other to sneak farther and farther out into the hills, away from the campsite. And then we sat down around the campfire, which was now mostly just glowing coals, for a few jokes and a ghost story.

     Even at the tender age of 10, I was no lightweight. I'd been scare-weathered by hundreds of episodes of “Night Gallery” and “The Twilight Zone,” and I'd seen every episode of “Kolchak: The Nightstalker” at least twice. As seasoned as I was, I still wasn't prepared for the yarn that came next.

     Our cabin counselor was a masterful storyteller. He admitted that no one knew for sure where “it” had come from, or why “it” was here. He said some folks called it a “Goat Man” and that it had first been spotted a few years back.

     He said people who had seen the “Goat Man” reported it had scales like a fish and fur like a goat, but walked upright like a man. He told us that sometimes you could hear its strange howl at night that it had attacked some teenagers and had even been shot at by the police. Lately, it had been coming out of the hills and wandering around Camp Carter.

     He said a few sessions back, the creature had used the short, broken end of a helicopter blade to slice through a cabin window screen and take a camper around our age. No one had heard a thing. The camp had closed down for two weeks while the police scoured the hills for clues, but the case had never been solved. 

      He told us that we were part of the first session back since the camp had reopened and that he admired our courage. We'd made it through the camp with no incidents so far, but he wanted us to be careful just in case and confine ourselves to lighted areas at all times. He said the Goat Man didn't like being seen, so if we stayed close to the to the well-lit campsite, we'd have nothing to worry about. 

     “It lives in these hills?” I asked. 

     “You never found the missing camper?” another inquired. 

     “We found a pair of glasses,” the counselor said. “And a sock … with specks of blood on it.”

     We were enthralled. We were excited. We were only mildly frightened—until all the lights in the camp suddenly went black and we heard a ghastly, piercing shriek.

     Then, for what seemed like an eternity, the dark was full of as much mayhem and mortal terror as a platoon of 10-year-olds could endure. We screamed and wailed, on the verge of tears, not sure whether to run or hide. Just before we trampled over each other and the camp devolved into utter hysterics, the lights came back on. The joke was on us, but it was over. We laughed about it until it was time to go to bed. Then most of us fell asleep with our flashlights on.

     That was 32 years ago. The real events and the origin of our camp counselor's tale actually transpired eight years earlier. 

Initial Sightings

     Beginning around late June 1969, the Fort Worth Police Department started receiving reports about some “thing” that was frightening folks around Lake Worth. A police dispatcher at the time was quoted as saying that they simply “laughed them off as pranks.”

     Then, in the wee hours of July 10, just after midnight, John Reichart, his wife and two other couples were parked together at Lake Worth, near Greer Island. They were simply taking in the view when something suddenly leapt from a nearby tree onto their vehicle. The thing tried to grab Reichart's wife, but he drove away before it could reach her and immediately contacted the police.

     Four police units responded to the Reicharts' call and inspected the site of the attack. They found nothing except an 18-inch scratch down the side of the Reicharts' car that every witness claimed was caused by the creature's grasping claw. The victims described their attacker as “part man and part goat” and claimed it had been covered with fur and scales. The police, again, suspected it was some kind of prank, but made a serious investigation anyway because, as patrolman James S. McGee observed, the Reicharts and their friends were genuinely terrified.

     Later in the day, the July 10 afternoon addition of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram featured a front-page story on the thing that had attacked the Reicharts. It read “Fishy Man-Goat Terrifies Couples Parked at Lake Worth.”

    Hot off the presses, the “Lake Worth Monster” was introduced to Cowtown, and word traveled fast. By late that afternoon, there were related television and radio reports and, by midnight, several carloads of people had gathered in and around the Greer Island Refuge and Nature Center to see the “Lake Worth Monster” for themselves. They were not disappointed.

     After being spotted just off a park road, the creature appeared on a high bluff just off the lake. There were 30 to 40 witnesses, including members of the Tarrant County Sheriff's Department. According to eyewitness accounts, the creature appeared agitated and hurled a spare tire approximately 500 feet toward the crowd. Subsequently, everyone, including the sheriff's deputies, jumped in their cars and fled.

     The next day, the Star-Telegram ran another front-page story that read “Police, Residents Observe But Can't Identify ‘Monster.'”  The story was accompanied by a photo of the bluff from which the creature was seen hurling the spare tire. In the foreground, witnesses Jack Harris and Ronnie Armstrong stood next to the tire. In the background, the Star-Telegram art department superimposed a dashed line indicating the path of the tire's trajectory.

     Harris confirmed earlier reports, noting that the creature walked like a man but didn't look like one. “He was whitish-gray and hairy,” Harris said. “I might have been scared, but he looked like he was 7 feet tall and must have weighed about 300 pounds.”

     Harris described the creature's howl as a “pitiful cry, like something was hurting him.” He had tried to take a picture of the “monster,” but his flash didn't work.

     Sgt. A. J. Hudson, the officer who investigated the sighting, said he wasn't worried about the creature so much as the small mob looking for it. Apparently, some of the monster hunters had been carrying guns, and Hudson was afraid someone would get hurt.

     Jim Marrs, the original reporter on the story, sought the opinion of two local experts. Helmuth Naumer, the curator of the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, said the creature was probably a cat. Richard Pratt, the naturalist in charge of Greer Island Refuge and Nature Center (now known as the Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge), concurred. Pratt said someone had previously released a pet bobcat in the park, and it might be responsible for the reports, especially since the cat liked people and was accustomed to sitting in tree branches.  

     In the early hours of July 12, carloads of curious seekers once again descended on the Greer Island Refuge and Nature Center, hoping to catch a glimpse of the creature, but this time they had no luck. The monster was a no-show, and the police were relieved. As the Star-Telegram put it in a short blurb entitled “Whatsit Takes Night Off,” the police were still “concerned that somebody might accidentally get shot.” 

     Tarrant County Sheriff Lon Evans told the Dallas Morning News that he didn't think the creature existed. “There may have been a prankster going around out there dressed up like some kind of monster,” he said. “If he is, it's a good way to get shot.” Evans also teased a theory approaching Freud's notion of a communal neurosis.  “There's also the possibility that some people have hypnotized themselves,” Evans continued, “and are convinced that they saw some kind of apparition although they didn't actually do so.”  

     For the next few days, interested parties continued to cruise around Greer Island after midnight looking for the creature, but they saw neither hide nor hair nor scale of it. 

     On July 14, the Star-Telegram featured a short Tarrant Today brief entitled “Ghosts Seen on Greer Island.” The author, Jim W. Jones, reported that a Fort Worth resident named Mike Kinson had, in addition to seeing the Lake Worth monster, also witnessed apparitions that appear in a mysterious mist. Kinson claimed the ghosts were “see-through,” but perceptible. “It's hard to explain,” Kinson said, “and I know it sounds crazy. We thought it was some kind of trick at first.”

     Kinson indicated that he and others had encountered the monster and the ghosts on several occasions, but only when visitors were sparse and the park was quiet. When Jones asked Kinson how the ghosts responded when they were spotted, Kinson said he and his companions never “stuck around long enough to find out.”

     A few days after the July 10 sightings, a local artist named Joe Pack came forward with a sculpture of the creature, which he had created after listening to the details he had gathered from eyewitness accounts. The Star-Telegram ran a short story and an accompanying photo of Pack and the plaster rendering on July 17. The AP wire picked up the image and it appeared in the Dallas Morning News on July 20.

     On July 18, the creature made the Star-Telegram editorial page. In a piece entitled “Lake Worth Monster A Jolly Good Sport,” a newspaper staffer relegated it to a paranormal phylum of “sportive apparitions” whose “purpose is to amaze, sometimes shock, but seldom to cause lasting anguish.” And, as far as proof of the creature's existence, the article concluded that “the Loch Ness monster has existed for generations on evidence neither so well-documented nor half so entertaining.”

     The creature's trail grew cold after Jones' Tarrant Today mention, and it didn't reappear again for almost four months. Then, on Nov. 7, Charles Buchanan reported that the creature attacked him while he was asleep in a sleeping bag in the back of his truck in the hills across from Greer Island. Buchanan claimed he made his escape by pushing a bag of chicken toward the beast, which it promptly stuffed in its mouth before returning to the lake and swimming back to the island.

     With the '60s coming to an end and local and national headlines being dominated by U.S. astronauts landing on the moon, documented sightings of the creature became scarce. In late 1969, Fort Worth resident Sallie Ann Clarke self-published a 119-page book on the subject entitled The Lake Worth Monster of Greer Island. In it, she provided several eyewitness accounts and photos identifying witnesses and last -known whereabouts of the creature and many of the aforementioned newspaper clippings. Ronnie Armstrong re-emerges and figures prominently in an amateur investigation indicating that the creature had been wounded at some point and one photo depicts Armstrong identifying a blood sample taken from a pool of blood and blood splatters leading to the water's edge. The caption below the photo claims that several large tracks were also found in the area and that Armstrong and Clarke believed they belonged to the creature. Another photo identifies Fort Worth resident Gary Stanford and several teenagers from Diamond Hill, noting that the boys had originally referred to the creature as the “Mud Monster” and that they'd been chasing it for more than three years. 

      The book also identified Fort Worth residents Mr. and Mrs. James Bramlett and a Linda Gilliam of Palm Springs, California, all claiming they had heard the monster in the area and discovered dead, mangled sheep that they believed to be its handiwork.

      The creature then appeared to take an easterly sabbatical. In 1971, a group of hunters reported seeing a “Goat Man” in Marshall, Texas. Then, it resurfaced in Tarrant County, but appeared to “pond” jump. On the evening of March 13, 1973, Mark Fricke, a 19-year-old security officer at Carswell Air Force Base, was approached by a 7-foot-tall “creature which looked like a large bear” at Benbrook Lake. Fricke had been relaxing at Holiday Park, listening to the radio and enjoying a soft drink. He reported he heard a scream and turned to see an unidentifiable creature splash through the shallows and disappear into the surrounding brush. Fricke phoned the Benbrook Police Department and they responded with a search party, but no trace of the creature was ever found. The incident made the March 14 edition of the Dallas Morning News under a headline that asked “Has ‘Monster' of Lake Ended Hibernation?”

     In 1975, the Lake Worth Monster appeared again, but this time on a stage at the Fort Worth Art Museum rather than prowling around Lake Worth or splashing through the shallows at Benbrook Lake. On this occasion, Johnny Simons, a co-founder of Fort Worth's nationally acclaimed Hip Pocket Theatre, wrote and produced a stage version of “The Lake Worth Monster” and submitted it as partial fulfillment of the requirements for his master of fine arts at TCU.

     In the production, which premiered on April 24, 1975, Simons drew from his childhood experiences while growing up on Watercress Drive near Lake Worth. Though the play was not based on Lake Worth Monster lore, the creature itself appears as the main character's alter ego. After its Fort Worth Art Museum debut, the production was performed at TCU, the Scott Theatre, The Hop (now the Aardvark) and The Speakeasy (now defunct) right off the 6300 block of Camp Bowie Boulevard. It also had a Hip Pocket Theatre run in 1989.

     Also in the 1980s, perhaps after pond-jumping once more, a “Goat Man” began being reported around White Rock Lake in Dallas. Witnesses claimed the creature was 7 feet tall and had the body of a man but the hoofs and horns of a goat.

     In 1993, the Dallas Morning News published a top 10 list demonstrating why the Pentagon should continue to buy F16 fighter jets. The No. 10 reason was a “bomber plant is the ideal obstacle to keep the Lake Worth monster from attacking White Settlement.”

     In July 1999, the Star-Telegram published a 30th anniversary piece entitled “Thirty Years Ago, a Strange Whatever Terrorized Lake Worth.” It simply rehashed most of what the newspaper had already published about the monster and noted that Jim Marrs had recently indicated that a group of teenage pranksters from Brewer High School were rumored to have been behind the creature and that they'd given up their antics to avoid prosecution.

     In the October 2003 edition of Texas Parks and Wildlife, Larry D. Hodge again reworked most of the Star-Telegram clippings, but added a new and startling twist: Richard Pratt had given him the name of a local teenager who actually confessed to his participation in the July 11, 1969, Lake Worth Monster “appearance.” According to Hodge, Pratt said the “Lake Worth Monster” and his accomplice raised a ruckus on the bluff above the curious onlookers and law enforcement officers, and then pushed a tire down the side of the bluff toward the crowd. Hodge indicated that Pratt gave him the name of the kid and that he was still living within a few miles of his wily exploits, but incognito and off the proverbial grid.

     In October 2005, an unconfirmed and little-documented sighting of the creature occurred again at Holiday Park on Lake Benbrook. An anonymous witness claimed the monster surprised him during an early-morning swim. “It was pushing through a stand of reeds about 200 yards from me,” the source said. “The reeds came up to my chest, but only reached the animal's waist. It appeared to walk upright, grunting in a belabored manner.”

     The anonymous witness was reportedly never spotted by the creature, and he quickly and quietly returned to his truck on the shore and watched it disappear into the woods.

     On June 8, 2006, the Star-Telegram revisited the subject once again, in a piece entitled “Thirty-seven Years after Snapping Photo, Bigfoot Talk Get's Man's Goat.” In it, staff writer Bud Kennedy spoke with Allen Plaster, the only man ever to get a picture of the creature.

     Plaster, the owner of the House of Allen women's boutiques at the time, said he snapped a Polaroid of the monster when he was driving with friends along the shore one night during what Kennedy terms the “monster fever.” Plaster indicated that something furry stood up alongside the road, and a female companion screamed: “Look! Look! Look! There it is!” And he captured an image of it as it ran away.

     The photo wound up with Sallie Ann Clarke and now appears on Bigfoot Web sites all over the Internet. As indicated by the title of Kennedy's piece, Plaster now distances himself from the authenticity of the picture because he believes the “monster” he captured with the Polaroid “wanted” to be seen. When Kennedy contacted Clarke about Plaster's misgivings, she said Plaster was now dismissive about the photo simply because he was embarrassed. “We all saw that thing at the lake that summer,” Clarke said. 

Monster-sized Curiosity

     Here, I have to insert myself in the narrative. For years, every time I drove past Lake Worth on Jim Wright Freeway, I stared out at the water and was filled with a corny mixture of wonder and awe. I hadn't made the connection between the “Goat Man” and the monster until I was older and, for a kid who spent his early teen years fascinated by the Bermuda Triangle, the Abominable Snowman, Bigfoot and “Chariots of the Gods,” I was thrilled and amazed that evidence of a real “monster” actually existed in my own community. I decided to investigate the stories myself.

     I looked up a few things on the Internet and then wound up getting busy with something else. Another year went by, and then I realized 2009 would be the 40th anniversary of the original sightings.

     I recommitted myself to the research. I poured over microfiche, examined Clarke's book and researched all the documented sources. I decided to try to contact some of the folks listed in the original eyewitness accounts. I ran into several dead ends and then located one witness and spoke with his grown-up son. The son told me his dad had mentioned seeing the Lake Worth Monster, so I left a message and my number. After a day or two, I called back and the number was disconnected. I found another witness, and he simply said he was “not interested” and hung up.

     I remembered that Hodge claimed to have gotten the name of the prankster masquerading as the Lake Worth Monster from Richard Pratt. I found Pratt's number and gave him a call. He was jovial and accommodating and turned out to be a big help. Now living in Port Aransas, he confirmed miscellaneous details in Hodge's story and laughed about the 40 years that had passed since the first sighting. I asked him about the general comings and goings of the Nature Refuge while he was helming it, and then I popped him the unavoidable question. Who was the kid who confessed to being the Lake Worth Monster? He laughed and gave me the name. He spelled it for me and said the boy had been a good kid of humble means who used to hang around the Nature Refuge a lot. He said the kid talked about being a nuclear physicist someday, but he didn't think he had gotten that far. He said he was pretty sure the guy was still living in Fort Worth somewhere, but had no idea how to reach him, but if I did reach him, to say, “hello.” I told him I would and began a feverish people-search.

     I flipped through old and new phone books and got online to check people searches. No luck. Then, I remembered Hodge's conclusion to the Texas Parks and Wildlife piece: “the Monster is apparently living incognito, sans telephone, just a few miles from the scene of his exploits ...I have his name, and I know where he was last seen. Am I going to look for him? No way. Like lost treasure, mythical monsters are a lot more interesting as unsolved mysteries.”

     I weighed Hodges conclusion and, for the most part, agreed. But it also occurred to me that he may never have had any luck finding the boy. And even if the kid was responsible for what happened July 11, 1969, he probably had nothing to do with the original sighting on July 10, and it was extremely doubtful he was responsible for the attack on Nov. 7, much less the Marshall sighting in 1971, the Benbrook Lake sightings in 1973 or 2005 or the 1980s reports at White Rock Lake.

     I resolved to continue my search because even if the July 11 sighting was a prank, there were enough other incidents and sightings to keep the core of the Lake Worth Monster and/or “Goat Man” lore intact.

     Problem was, the guy was nowhere to be found. After a few days, I decided the last name didn't look right and contacted Pratt again. He confirmed the spelling, and I trudged on. I tried to reach a few other eyewitnesses and some of the original responding police officers but, again, no luck. On a lark, I started looking under the last name alone, thinking maybe I could try to locate him through one of his relatives. And BINGO. He popped up in Tarrant County with an unlisted phone number. His first name was actually spelled onomatopoeically instead of traditionally.

     It was a Saturday, and I immediately headed to his listed address.

     His place was out in the sticks, and it made sense. Growing up near the Greer Island Refuge and Nature Center, I imagined it would be hard to live in the city. I knocked on the front door, and there was no answer. There were cars out front, so I gave it a minute.

     I began to think I could hear a dog's tags clinking together and prepared to make a dash back to my car. Then the “Lake Worth Monster” appeared around the corner.

     He didn't match his 1969 descriptions. He was around 5'9” and had short black hair that was going gray. For 50-something, he was surprisingly fit but probably never strong enough to toss a spare tire 500 feet. I introduced myself and told him why I was there. He smiled as if it came as no surprise.

     He offered me a chair, and we discussed the Lake Worth Monster sightings and some of the stories. He confirmed my belief that the only incident he was involved in occurred on July 11. He said I could use his last name only, which was Vinzens. And he said there were two other guys with him on the bluff that night and gave their names, but neither wanted their identities made public. He recalled that frequent merry-making went on in and around the bluffs back then, and said that he and the others had simply wound up on the bluff above the curious monster seekers looking for a party. They hadn't found a party, of course, just a large crowd below, searching for signs of the creature.

     Vinzens insists that the hooting and hollering and decision to roll a tire down the bluff wall was never meant to frighten the crowd below or run them off. It was just he and his buddies' way of firing up the festivities. They had simply wanted to impress some girls, but instead they petrified the whole crowd. He says the rolled tire looked like a toss because there was a “bump” toward the bottom of the bluff wall that served as a ramp and sent the tire airborne.

     Vinzens says that when the incident made the papers the following day, he and his friends decided to lay low. Even if they had been interested in an encore, the curious monster seekers had become monster hunters and the entire area was crawling with folks who were carrying guns.

     Harking back to Jim Marrs' comment that he'd heard rumors about the police catching teenagers responsible for pranks involving the creature, Vinzens claims that, to the best of his knowledge, neither he nor his friends were ever approached or threatened by the police in connection with the July 11 incident. Vinzens also says he, himself, had looked for a monster in the area but mostly in the “mud flats” region where a ghost and a gnome reportedly haunted passersby. He admits his searches were unsuccessful.

      Today, Vinzens still lives in the greater Fort Worth area and is something of an artist. He specializes in “lithic” flint-knapping and creates axes and fantasy implements, stuff the creature himself might have fashioned if it were a step or two higher up the evolutionary ladder. 

Continued Campfire Tale

     Solving the July 11, 1969, sighting of the Lake Worth Monster does not dispel the myth or seriously challenge the lore surrounding this elusive creature. There have been dozens of documented sightings in the last 40 years, and it remains a tantalizing enigma.

     Then, as now, theories and explanations abound. Pratt remembers a local fire and brimstone reverend who moonlighted as a shameless hustler and ran a wino's camp on city land up on one of the bluffs. The Tarrant County Sheriff's Department would round up drunks and turn them over to the reverend for “rehabilitating” labor. Pratt says that one of the tasks the reverend assigned to the winos was to tend to a herd of goats. Pratt and Vinzens recall hearing that the “Goat Man” was the unsavory product of wino bestiality.

     Some say the Goat Man was a runaway macaque monkey that had reportedly gotten loose back then. Others claim the creature was an ape that had escaped after being severely burned in a local circus fire. And some say it was an infamous “mud man” who had reportedly haunted the Lake Worth area for years.

     In the end, it doesn't really matter if the Lake Worth Monster was a monkey, a teenage prankster, a bobcat, a pond-jumping primordial beast or a member of a troupe of nomadic, migratory goat-gnomes. As our own minotaur, jabberwocky and unidentified “whatsit,” it served as a boogeyman who reminded us there were things in the dark that we still didn't understand. And it filled our imaginations with possibility and our community with lore.

     Today, 40 years after the first sightings, there are Lake Worth Monster bike races and fun runs. He's got a blog online and you can purchase T-shirts based on Sallie Ann Clarke's book cover rendering of his likeness. If he's around, I'm sure he's ringing his hands or paws about urban encroachment and cursing the gas rush that's resulted from the discovery of the Barnett Shale.

     When my children go to Camp Carter this summer, I hope he's still a fixture around the campfire. I hope they camp in the bluffs near Greer Island, their counselors tell the story well and my kids come home with an expanded sense of mystery. Because that's what the Lake Worth Monster remains. Even after a puzzle piece like Vinzens finally turns up.

Fort Worth Magazine, Texas
Story courtesy Stan Flahaut, Ft. Worth Texas July 4, 2009
Older information on another page, click here...

Back to Creatures?
Back to Bigfoot Encounters Main page
Back to Newspaper & Magazine Articles
Back to Bigfoot Encounters "What's New" page

Portions of this website are reprinted and sometimes edited to fit the standards of this website
under the Fair Use Doctrine of International Copyright Law
as educational material without benefit of financial gain.
This proviso is applicable throughout the entire Bigfoot Encounters Website.