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Case Study: Alton (Goat Man's) Bridge

Updated: Sep 13


What is it about old bridges in Texas that draws so many ghost hunters to them? Every county in Texas seems to have a bridge or two with horrifying paranormal tales to accompany them. The Screaming Bridge in Arlington, Old Foamy in Cleburne, The Lake Worth Bridge, and most notoriously, The Goat Man’s Bridge in Denton, just to name a few. Each one has its own backstory and tales of paranormal activity that persist well into today. It is debatable if the history of these locations is true, much less the stories told about the chilling encounters that many have reported in these locations. In the future, I plan to write about paranormal cases from the perspective of, a now, seasoned investigator. This is a project I have had in mind for a long time. With Covid19 keeping most of us from going out to do what we love, there is no better time than the present to start sharing my reflections on past and future cases. Today I want to talk about The Goat Man’s Bridge in Denton, Texas. A location that is said to be occupied by a demonic presence and various other ghosts, some of which resemble the visage of a Satyr. People have been chased and attacked, investigators have captured evidence of paranormal activity, and more than one person has gone missing in the deeply wooded area surrounding the bridge.

Anyone that knows me or has followed our group for any amount of time has an idea of how I feel about this location. But I assure you, there is plenty of reason to read on. For this case study, I am going to do my best to remain completely objective about the bridge and the investigations that have been done there. If you catch me slipping into bias, I invite you to blast me in the comments. I assure you; I know I have it coming.

Having lived in Texas my whole life, it may surprise you to find out that it was not until 2013 that I ever even heard of this location. It may be that before then I did not have much experience in paranormal investigation, but as big as the local legends are about the spot, you would think I would have heard. I first heard about the bridge from my sister Kady who asked me if I had ever investigated it. At the time I had been doing paranormal investigations as a hobby for about a year off and on. Hearing the stories about the bridge from her, I dismissed it as a local legend and thought the whole thing completely ridiculous. It was not until October of 2013 that any of us actually went out there to look around.

I was caught off guard by how eerie the location is. As silly as I thought the whole idea was, I have to admit that being there in person will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up on end. We weren’t there long before a Halloween tour group showed up to walk through and we got to hear some of the histories of the location right there. It was based on this experience, that I would do more research to try and find more facts. Because, frankly, the stories we heard were just about the tallest Texas tales I have ever heard. I wanted to know how much fact there was to what was being handed down through these legends.

While I would like these case studies to focus more on the actual investigations, a little background on the location is warranted. Local legends vary a bit and there is a lot of it to be found with a quick google search. People have gone missing and cars have been abandoned in the area, but the most important story about the bridge is Oscar Washburn. A beloved and prominent businessman who sold goats near the bridge and used to display a sign near it saying “This Way to the Goat Man”. As the story goes, in August 1938, the KKK attempted to hang him from the bridge but when they looked over the side he was missing. In a panic they killed his family and Oscar was never seen again. Since then people have reported all kinds of strange “goat man” related activity on the bridge and in the surrounding woods. While the story by all accounts could be entirely true, there is no documentation to support these events. Then again, how much documentation was happening about lynching in 1938? The story follows a formulaic pattern of wrongful death and retribution. This is a common story in the south, but not necessarily one to be ruled out as fiction due to how common these activities were at the time. Of all the “Goat Man” stories I have heard over the years, Oscar Washburn’s is the closest to a factual account that I have found.

The local legend says that flashing lights, performing rituals, or crossing the bridge can bring on an encounter with the Goat Man. Most modern stories suggest that the Goat Man is a Satyr. But, when we talked to people of an older age range, told us that it was just the ghost of Oscar hanging out at the bridge.

Many investigators have since tested the legend and conducted investigations. Many have produced evidence and documentation suggesting that all the stories are true. But we should take a closer look at what is going on. I have seen two mainstream television groups that have investigated the bridge, and a handful of private groups that have done work there. Ghost Adventures used the location for their Halloween special and to me, the results were infuriating. After watching a string of interviews with people I know personally, I found myself upset with the degree their stories suddenly changed on camera. One person’s story changed from what was initially seeing a mysterious shadow on the bridge to being confronted by a full-on goat-headed demon. Another lady, who had initially told us that the location made her uneasy once, claimed to be the victim of demonic possession and wanted to kill her child. While I understand that the need for entertaining television may require some embellishment, I cannot even begin to do the mental gymnastics required to accept that. From these stories alone it would seem to any paranormal investigator that the place is dangerous. Yet, both people run ghost tours with groups on a weekly basis. I am not a hard believer by any stretch of the word. But there are a few places I have investigated that I would never take a non-group member for a tour.

In true fashion, the GA crew begin their investigation with one of their set crew becoming attacked and possessed by a demon. So alarmed by this development, they decide to do what any of us would do, keep filming their TV show. They go on to lie to the audience about the location, telling us how isolated and alone they are. For starters, this bridge is located less than 20 feet off the main road that has high amounts of traffic and well lit. The other side of the bridge is well kept hiking trails that go all the way down the river. Not fifty yards from that is a monolithic church with giant floodlights pointed toward the area. The evidence the GA crew gathers is some strange lights in the woods, a set of reflective eyes in the foliage, and some strange noises somewhere off-camera. The unsolved group came up with about as much but did not try to oversell what they found. Several other groups have come away with “evidence” in the form of several apps and light up gizmos putting on a display, but nothing I have ever put any stock in. Taking the tour, it will be pointed out, while on the trails, that people smell onions in the area. Supposedly this is because Oscar’s wife sold onions off a cart before their untimely demise. However, never once do the point out that onions grow wild not too far off the trail.

Having said all that, I have seen some interesting photos taken at the location. One lady managed to snap a picture of a shadow whereby all logic one should not exist. And, I have also been allowed to listen to some captured EVP’s from people I consider credible. In all my investigations out there, I have never felt truly in danger, possessed, or seen any kind of apparition or goat type creatures. Our group, despite our doubt about the location, usually manages to capture one or two EVPs and on occasion experience something strange. The EVP’s we have collected have never been clear enough to understand and could easily be background contamination. What the shows do not tell you is that the bridge is a popular hangout for teens and anyone with nothing to do on the weekend. Partying and loud talking are unavoidable. And, with the woods so thick, there is no telling who might be wandering around in the brush. Our EVP tech once had a strange experience near the far side of the bridge in which he dared the goat-man to come out. Seemingly on cue, the bush next to him began to shake violently as if someone had grabbed it. We looked all over for an animal with our thermal camera, but there was none to be found. The small tree was on the side near the highway, so we know there was no way a person was hiding and messing with us. And, just like ghost Adventures, we too have captured strange eyes in the foliage that we were not able to locate the source. But any intelligent person could assume there are animals everywhere curious about what is going on.

Unlike some investigations where there are at least a few things that we can come away without any explanation. There is nothing at Alton that cannot be explained simply by admitting that the location is, like a lot of other places, outside. There is no way to separate contamination from paranormal events whatsoever. Traffic, teenagers, and animals can account for 99% of everything claimed to have happened in a first-hand account. Even if the area were inhabited by a demon, you would be hard-pressed to find it short of bumping into it headfirst. Maybe the on even which has never been claimed to happen. After six trips to the location during various parts of the year, using multiple pieces of equipment and technique, I don’t think there is anything to be taken away from this location that could be seriously considered evidence. Even the best presentations reveal little more than a charming old bridge that gives off creepy horror movie vibes after sundown.

For people uninitiated and who just love a good story, Alton bridge is an excellent spot to explore. It’s no more dangerous than the local park and quite beautiful as well. For the seasoned and serious investigator, it’s still a must-stop location that should be on your ghost-hunting bucket list, but I wouldn’t recommend packing the truck up with thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment or you may find yourself disappointed. Like most haunted bridges the legend is bigger than the reality, but the tale is fascinating, to say the least. Should you find yourself in the Denton area I would also suggest visiting the Alton Cemetery and taking a trip down to the square to round out your exploration. I doubt you will find any ghosts, but you may find a ghost story or two.

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