Fort Worth Star Telegram
Couples say they saw a Lake Worth monster 40 years ago
Posted Thursday, Jul. 30, 2009
By CHRIS VAUGHN
Greer Island, a small patch of land close to where the West Fork of the Trinity River flows into Lake Worth, is heavily shaded by tall oaks, cedar elms and cottonwoods.
One of the quietest spots in Fort Worth, the island is home to egrets and owls, perhaps an alligator or two.
And maybe, just maybe, the Lake Worth Monster.
The Lake Worth Monster — aka Goat-Man — hasn’t been seen regularly at the Fort Worth Nature Center since a very memorable summer 40 years ago when all of Texas seemed to buzz with the news that a hairy, scaly 7-foot man-goat-beast was terrorizing the good citizens of Tarrant County.
"Every so often, it will come up in conversation," said Suzanne Tuttle, manager of the Nature Center. "Somebody will say, 'I remember when that happened.’ "
Perhaps the monster moved on to less-populated environs, and maybe it’s dead by now, his bones to be discovered decades later by a lucky anthropologist.
Or, as more people actually suspect, the monster was really several creatures, all hoaxes carried out by enterprising and opportunistic mischief-makers from Brewer, Castleberry or North Side high school.
No one is exactly sure.
Mystery still cloaks the legend of the Lake Worth Monster and his tire-chucking, hair-raising appearance in July 1969.
On the afternoon of July 10 that year, the Star-Telegram’s front page carried a headline above the fold — "Fishy Man-Goat Terrifies Couples Parked at Lake Worth."
Reporter Jim Marrs broke the story to the world.
"Six terrified residents told police early today they were attacked by a thing they described as being half-man, half-goat and covered with fur and scales.
"Four units of Fort Worth police and the residents searched in vain for the thing, which was reported seen at Lake Worth, near Greer Island."
John Reichart told police that the creature leapt from a tree and landed on his car, and he showed them an 18-inch scar down the side of his car as proof.
The police officer told Marrs that "we did make a serious investigation because those people were really scared."
The police also revealed that they had received reports in the past but had laughed them off.
The next night, the monster, in front of a couple of dozen witnesses, was said to have uttered a "pitiful cry" and hurled a tire from a bluff at them.
The police weren’t laughing anymore. Hundreds of amateur trackers descended on the area with all manner of Remingtons, Brownings and Colts.
"I’m not worried about the monster so much as all those people wandering around out there with guns," a police sergeant was quoted as saying in Marrs’ second-day story.
One of the curious who went to Lake Worth that summer was Sallie Ann Clarke, an aspiring writer and private investigator who dropped everything to interview people for what would become her quick-draw and slightly tongue-in-cheek book, The Lake Worth Monster of Greer Island, self-published in September ’69.
During the weeks of summer, people saw the creature running through the Johnson grass, found tracks too big for a man, and reported dead sheep and blood.
Soldiers and sailors in Vietnam wrote their parents in Fort Worth and asked for more news, and reporters from far and wide wrote stories about it. The authorities continued to blame either a bobcat or teenage pranksters.
Then, about the time school resumed, perhaps not coincidentally, the Lake Worth Monster furor largely disappeared.
A photo and doubts
Clarke is 80 years old now and still lives in Benbrook, but, regrettably, she can’t talk much about that summer. A series of strokes greatly damaged her memory and her health, said her husband, Richard Lederer.
Clarke has always regretted the way she wrote her book, he said, because after she published it, she saw the monster on three occasions.
"If I’d seen it before I wrote the book, the book would have been quite a lot different," she told the Star-Telegram in 1989. "It wouldn’t have been semi-fiction. It would have been like a history."
She has the most famous, perhaps the only, photograph ever taken. It was given to her by Allen Plaster, who snapped it in October 1969 at 1:15 a.m. near Greer Island.
Both her descriptions and the photo show a large white something, though it doesn’t seem to favor a goat at all.
Plaster, interviewed in 2006, said he doesn’t buy the monster story now.
"Looking back, I realize that when we drove by, it stood up," he was quoted as saying in the Star-Telegram. "Whatever it was, it wanted to be seen. That was a prank. That was somebody out there waiting for people to drive by. I don’t think an animal would have acted that way."
For his part, though, Plaster isn’t talking anymore. He declined an interview request.
In 2005, a reporter at the Star-Telegram received a handwritten letter, with no name and no forwarding address.
"One weekend, myself and two friends from North Side High School decided to go out to Lake Worth and scare people on the roads where there were always stories of monsters and creatures who would attack parkers," the letter began.
The writer claimed to have used tinfoil to make a homemade mask to scare a truckload of girls.
When the friends were finished, they went to a Dairy Queen on the north side.
"I had a Coke float. The goatman had a parfait," the letter said. "The goatman turns 55 this summer and resides a peaceful life in the hills outside of Joshua."
Except that whoever wrote the letter — a man who lives somewhere near Beaumont, based on the postal cancellation — isn’t the only person to make such a claim.
Marrs, the reporter, told the newspaper in 1989 that police questioned several Castleberry students who were found with a faceless gorilla outfit and a mask.
Fort Worth, Texas magazine outed a man this month — identified only as "Vinzens" — who admitted being involved in the infamous tire-throwing incident of July 11. He said the tire went airborne only because it hit a bump after they rolled it. But he had no interest in naming more names or publicly taking credit or blame.
The owner of a kennel near Lake Worth has also said that he lost a macaque monkey that summer and that perhaps the primate was responsible. All of it could be true. Or none of it. Who knows?
Clarke’s husband maintains that the monster was definitely not pranksters.
"She offered a $5,000 reward for any person who could pass a polygraph that they were the monster," Lederer said. "She never got a call."
The Nature Center is holding its own monster revival celebration Oct. 3, a date selected for the temperate Texas autumn rather than any connection to the events of 1969. It will have canoe rides, guided hikes around Greer Island, live music, food and drinks.
For those who belong to the Friends of the Nature Center, Texas Bigfoot Research Conservancy Chairman Craig Woolheater will speak at a private dinner that night.
Tuttle said the Nature Center’s staff is skeptical of the existence of a monster.
"You never know," she said. "He may hear about it and just turn up."
News researcher Cathy Belcher contributed to this report.