To traverse the bridge, it was necessary to honk before crossing since it was only a single lane. The bridge was heavily traveled at one time. Those who crossed the bridge at night were subject to an array of paranormal sightings and stories.
Several different stories exist that explain the haunting. The most common variant of the story describes an African American named Oscar Washburn who set up business near the bridge. Oscar raised goats and sold cheese, milk, meats, and hides.
The business was quite successful and before long people from all over were taking advantage of Oscar’s products; both for the quality and the prices. He was nicknamed the Goatman from the herd of goats that was the basis of his business. A sign Oscar hung on the Old Alton Bridge directed people to his property, saying, “This way to the Goatman’s.”
Most community members were not bothered by his success, but the local Ku Klux Klan was. The Klan members decided that the Goatman had to be taught a lesson.
The story goes that one night in 1938, the Klansman, bent on violence, set a trap and were able to grab Oscar. They dragged him, fighting for his life to the bridge. A noose was settled over his head and quickly tightened around his neck. Still fighting them, Oscar was unable to prevent the Klansman from hoisting him in the air and then throwing his body over the side of the bridge.
The Klansman waited what they considered enough time to complete their nefarious intent. They shined their lights on the side where they’d thrown the noose and body. The noose was empty! Despite frantic searching, the Goatman’s body had disappeared.
The Klansman, perhaps in an effort to prevent a rescue by the missing Goatman or to eliminate witnesses, set fire to the Goatman’s homestead. His wife and children, trapped in the home, were killed in the ensuing blaze. The fire incinerated all traces of the Goatman’s property. The mystery of what happened to Oscar Washburn’s body was never explained.
It was soon after this that locals began reporting paranormal experiences in the area in and around the bridge.
Again, several variations as to the goings on at the bridge exist. One states that if you knock on the bridge three times at midnight the Goatman will appear. Another says you must drive onto the bridge with your headlights off and honk three times.
The results from the honking or knocking also vary. Some describe a human body with a goat’s head. Other reports describe a spectral figure holding goat heads or human heads under each arm, glowing red eyes watching them, or a spectral figure of a man herding goats over the bridge.
There are also the many noises: hoofbeats crossing the bridge with no animals in sight, splashing in the creek below the bridge, growling from the woods and even maniacal laughter. Some report a disembodied voice telling them to get off the bridge. There are even stories of cars found abandoned on the bridge, their drivers nowhere to be found.
Other Variations of the Origin
Other variations of the origins of the haunting exist. One legend states the woods surrounding the bridge are haunted by a satyr. Another says Satanists conducting rituals in the area opened a portal to hell.
One version states it is the Goatman’s wife haunting the bridge looking for her lost children. Another variant predates the existence of the bridge.
It says that a group of cowboys lynched a runaway slave named Joe Kendall near the sight of where the bridge was later built. The goat herding slave’s head became separated from the body. The cowboy slavers watched in horror as the body raised itself from the ground by means of voodoo. The reanimated body ripped the head off a nearby goat to replace its own missing head, still caught in the noose.
There is even a version where the woods surrounding the bridge are haunted by a demon. Some claim to have met a half-man half-goat figure. Don’t worry though! The stories state that unless you are a descendant of the Klan members or slaveowners, you won’t be dragged away to your death by the mysterious Goatman.
Did any of it really happen?
No supporting evidence for any of the stories exists in local archives. No proof can be found that Oscar Washburn or Joe Kendall were real people. No trace of Oscar’s homestead or family is available.
So many have reported experiences on and around the bridge, that several paranormal investigations have been conducted including our own Haunted Rooms America team and even TV’s Ghost Adventures from The Travel Channel. The Goatman did not put in an appearance. Yet, the stories and reports of paranormal occurrences continue. The Bridge is even widely regarded as one of the most haunted places in the DFW area.
The Old Alton Bridge was closed to vehicle traffic in 2001 when a new bridge was constructed nearby. The Goatman’s Bridge is only open to pedestrian traffic nowadays. The bridge now connects the Elm Fork and Pilot Knoll hiking and riding trails. It is mostly used by hikers, riders and nature lovers. On July 8th, 1988 It was entered on the National Register of Historic Places.
But who knows, if you find yourself crossing the Old Alton Bridge late at night, make sure you stop and knock on the truss three times. Perhaps you will be greeted by the glowing red eyes of a half man/half goat waiting for you on the other side. Perhaps, the Goatman will appear for you!
Check our events page to see available dates for ghost hunts at the bridge.
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