Oct 1992 - Fate Magazine
The Lake Worth Monster
By Mark Chorvinsky, October, 1992
When the six residents of Fort Worth, Texas, appeared at the police station they were clearly scared - so terrified, in fact, that the skeptical Fort Worth police had to take their weird tale seriously. John Reichart, his wife, and two other couples were parked at Lake Worth around midnight when a bizarre creature jumped from a tree onto their car. The thing - covered with both fur and scales and described as part man and part goat, would terrorize Lake Worth for months in the summer of 1969 and would be seen by over a hundred witnesses. This creature was probably sighted by more people in a short period than any other monster in American history.
The police had heard reports of some strange entity lurking around near Greer Island on Lake Worth for two months, but they wrote off the accounts as "pranks." The Reichart incident was different from the previous sightings in several ways, perhaps the most important distinction being that the thing tried to grab Reichart's wife. Reichart sped off before the creature got his prey.
The Fort Worth police dispatched four units to the site of the encounter, joined by those who sighted the creature. At the scene of the attack, there was no monster to be found. There was, however, an 18-inch long scratch running down the side of Reichart's car, ostensibly made by the thing's claws.
Those People Were Really Scared
The police investigated the case seriously - "because those people were really scared," according to patrolman James S. McGee. The police concluded tentatively that someone was either dressed in a monster or ape costume or threw a dummy or animal hide of some sort on the car. If it was a prank, however, it was a dangerous one indeed - people are liable to shoot at monsters that grab for their wives.
This scary incident was recounted in the Fort Worth Star Telegram of July 10, 1969, headlined "Fishy Man-goat Terrifies Couples Parked at Lake Worth," and it set off a chain reaction of fear and excitement in the area.
The next day, July 11, the monster struck again. The reports started to come in after midnight. Jack Harris of Fort Worth saw the creature cross the road going through the area around the Lake Worth Nature Center, and he tried to photograph the monster, but his flash failed. He then took a second hasty picture. The monster ran up and down a bluff as other cars arrived - eventually 30 or 40 people had gathered to watch the thing. The police were worried that someone would get hurt - after the first article appeared in the Fort Worth Star Telegram, people converged on the sighting area, many with guns.
When it seemed that people were ready to go after the monster, it grabbed a spare tire with a rim on it and threw it at the onlookers' cars. "He threw it more than 500 feet and it was coming so fast everybody took off. Everybody jumped back in their cars," according to Harris, including some of the sheriff's men who were as frightened as the rest of the crowd. The monster ran out of sight into the underbrush.
Harris told Jim Marrs of the Star Telegram that the creature walked like a man, but was big, whitish-gray and hairy. Witness estimates put the monster at seven feet in height and weighing perhaps 300 pounds. The headline to Marrs' article that day was "Police, Residents Observe But Can't Identify 'Monster,' " and upon its publication, the local monster fever escalated considerably.
A Pool Of Blood
According to one witness - Jack Harris of Fort Worth - the creature had a "pitiful cry - like something was hurting him. But it sure didn't sound human." Another witness, Ronny Armstrong, also of Fort Worth, backed his car into a tree while trying to escape the creature.
Over the following weeks the thing was seen several times running in an open grass field near Lake Worth. A group of five witnessed the monster breaking a big limb of a huge oak tree at the edge of Lake Worth. And, in a most bizarre incident, shots fired at the monster one night produced a large pool of blood with a trail of blood to the edge of the water, accompanied by some large tracks. These were not the last tracks to be found during the flap. One set of tracks, viewed by over 100 people, were approximately 16 inches long and 8 inches wide at the toes.
Ronnie Armstrong interviewed dozens of witnesses for two weeks after the initial sightings. His conclusions, "...whatever it is, it sure ain't human." He felt that it may have been a "big white ape."
Jim Stephens of Bluemound, Texas, claimed that the monster jumped on top of his car one night when Stephens and two of his friends were out hunting for the thing. Stephens rocked his car in an attempt to shake the monster off, but it held on until the car collided with a tree, after which the Lake Worth Monster hopped off and ran away.
Mr. and Mrs. James Bramlett of Fort Worth and Linda Gilliam of Palm Springs, California, tracked the beast for a week and found large tracks, dead sheep with broken necks, and other evidence of the creature. While they never sighted the monster itself, they heard its weird cry and smelled its horrendous odor.
Helmuth Naumer of the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History went on record as saying that he thought that the thing was a bobcat. Evidently, someone had loosed a pet bobcat in Lake Worth Park some time back, according to naturalist Dick Pratt. Naumer reached his conclusion due to several factors: the bobcat is quite large, it is used to sitting on tree branches, and it had jumped on top of several cars. Park Ranger Harroll Rogers of Fort Worth, who patrolled the area during the 1969 monster flap, also thought that the thing could have been a bobcat. The bobcat hypothesis hardly explains the manlike hairy whitish thing that threw a tire 300-500 feet, however, even if it may have been responsible for some of the encounters."
The Book And The Photo
There were numerous sightings four months after the initial flurry of publicity. One local resident, Sallie Ann Clarke, was inspired to write a book entitled The Lake Worth Monster of Greer Island, Ft. Worth, Texas, which she self-published in 1969. Ms. Clarke spent months in the area of the sightings and no doubt collected many fascinating accounts of the monster. However, they are of little or no use to the serious researcher, for in the book author Clarke is honest about the fact that it is a work of "semi-fiction" and more recently (1988), in personal correspondence with my colleague Mark Opsasnick, she wrote that the book is "1/2 truth and 1/2 fiction." Only the captions to the photographs preceding the main body of the book are useful, as they include actual names of witnesses and accurately, albeit briefly, describe their experiences.
Sallie Ann Clarke wrote the book before her own four sightings of the creature, which she now believes to be real. Among other claims, she says that she saw the creature rip through a barbed wire fence. Her last encounter with the monster was in August, 1977.
In Sasquatch: The Apes Among Us (Seattle, WA: Hancock House, 1978, p. 186) Bigfoot-expert John Green writes that local dress shop owner Allen Plaster took an intriguing but fuzzy black and white photo that he claimed was of the upper half of the monster. (Photo in article used with permission of Sallie Ann Clarke.)
An Aquatic Ape-man With a Taste For Chicken?
Green also tells the story of Charles Buchanan, who claimed that a man-ape lifted him up while he was sleeping in his sleeping bag in the back of his pickup truck around 2 A.M. on November 7, 1969. In this tale, recounted also by Loren Coleman in Mysterious America (Boston, Faber & Faber, 1983, p. 162), Buchanan gave the monster a bag with some chicken in it, which it took in its mouth as it shambled to Lake Worth, and then swam to Greer Island.
According to John Green, newspaperman Jim Marrs, who wrote the original monster stories, said that some pranksters with a costume had been found by the police, and that these boys had jumped onto the Reichart's car, setting off the flap and the attendant hysteria that it generated. Green notes, however, that police explanations are not always correct, and that "there is certainly independent evidence of hairy giants" living in the northeastern part of Texas. Furthermore, there is no reason to think that Ms. Clarke is not telling the truth about her own sightings, and there is some doubt that boys in costume would repeatedly harass dozens of well-armed locals, who could happily dispatch them to hoaxer heaven (or hell) with little effort.
Some believe that the monster is still on the loose, roaming Greer Island and the environs, and if any of our readers have updated or additional information on the Lake Worth Monster, it would be a great service if you could contact this author at the address below.
Until next issue, Happy Halloween!
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