Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Urban Legends of Maryland, Part II: Goatman

The region near Bowie (Prince George's County) is the haunt of a variously-described monster named Goatman. Some will have it that he is a man with a goat's head. Others, that he is a goat-legged human figure, a traditional satyr. Still others, that he is a 6-foot tall hairy humanoid, a typical Bigfoot. Whatever the case, the stories of Goatman could have their origins in August 1957, when a gorilla-like creature was reported to be prowling around Brown Station Road in Upper Marlboro. Over 200 reports of the Abominable Phantom, as the creature was called, were received by police in the space of a week.

According to Marylandghosts.com, a Washington Post article appearing in November 1971 reported that a dog belonging to April Edwards of Bowie was killed, its severed head the only part of it that was found. The head was discovered by Willie Gheen and Ray Hayden. The night before, Ray's brother had encountered a 6-foot tall bipedal hairy creature which made whining, squealing sounds near the railroad tracks at Old Fletchertown Road.

The autumn of 1976 had Francine Abell seeing a grayish-brown, round-shouldered animnal with reflective red eyes cross the road in front of her car on Route 198 and then step over the guard rail and disappear. In March 1977, a NASA engineer witnessed a Bigfoot-type tossing a dog onto the road at I-95 and Powder Mill Road in Beltsville. In August 1982 a sighting of a gorilla-like animal was made in a field near the United States Agricultural Research Center (USARC) in Beltsville, a building with other bearings on the Goatman legend as seen below.

In August 2000, a number of construction workers saw a 12-foot tall Bigfoot-like creature roaming around suburban Prince George's. This seems unusually tall for a Sasquatch, if not exaggerated.

An undated encounter with Goatman was described by "thestereogod" in Weird Maryland, surfacing from the military housing complex near Andrews Air Force Base. A quadrupedal figure which later rose onto two legs was seen near a stream, and later hoofed footprints were found in the area.

The legendary version of the origin of Goatman has it that a scientist working at the USARC in Beltsville (above) became the axe-wielding beast-man, though the mechanism differs from teller to teller: some have it that the scientist simply went mad, and took up residence in the wooded lands. Others will have it that through a horrible accident, the scientist was mutated into a goatish figure. Yet another variation has the scientist working on a cure for cancer when this happened (living near a large pharmaceutical lab as I do, I can confirm that sheep and presumably goats are indeed used for generation of various vaccines and such -along with its area of origin, that makes this version sound as if it could be a response to the anthrax attacks immediately post-9/11).

Yet another variant of Goatman surfaces from Depression-era Anne Arundel County, and seems more believable. In this one, Goatman was an accident victim who suffered brain damage. In the accident, his head was disfigured and appeared to have two horn-like projections. He wandered the wilds, killing and eating animals raw, armed with a shotgun or sickle. He was apparently quite misanthropic.

Like all good urban legend figures, Goatman has particular haunts, though it's difficult to pin down just one. Of course, as mentioned above, one of his preferred regions is the area around Fletchertown Road near Bowie. Some also have him taking up residence at the Glenndale Asylum, and abandoned mental-health facility near Lanham-Seabrook - or maybe, as some variants have it, he is a former resident of the hospital.

Goatman is also reported to frequent the area around Lottsford Vista and Ardmore-Ardwick Road in Mitchellville as well as Tucker Road in Oxon Hill, where a satyr-like phantom terrorizes amorous teenagers.

In the area of Largo, Goatman is said to be tremendously fast and aggressive, running at speeds of up to 60 MPH and then launching himself at passing cars, accounting for a number of car accidents.

In another typical urban legend fashion, the stories of Goatman are hopelessly confused with other urban legends. One of the more notable of these is the notorious "Crybaby Bridge", which features in several urban legends nation-wide. The Crybaby Bridge associated with Goatman is on the border with Anne Arundel County, on Governor's Bridge Road. The bridge in question is an iron trestle, and legend has it that you can hear the crying of a baby who supposedly was hung from one of the iron beams. Some variants, though, claim this as Goatman Bridge, and the crying is no ghostly infant but Goatman himself. Another is on the Lottsford Vista Road.

As discussed in a previous post, the stories of Goatman and Bunnyman are inextricably linked. In fact, some variants have it that Bunnyman resembles a goat and that Goatman is simply a variant name for that figure. Some of the areas of Bunnyman legends, such as Greenbelt, are squarely in Goatman territory.

Goatman seems to have a notable antipathy towards dogs. The Bowie sighting discussed above involved the killing of a dog, and many have claimed to have seen Goatman throwing dogs off of overpasses on the Washington Beltway. Bigfoot also often have a dislike of dogs, the Beast of Seven Chutes and Momo having been seen with dead dogs. This is also a feature of the Mothman of West Virginia.

One wonders whether the frequenting by hairy hominids, etc. of the area near the USARC is due to the easy availability of prey animals such as goats and sheep.

Whether Goatman is a Bigfoot or NAPE, a strictly urban-legend figure, or something else entirely, is up for dispute. However, it does seem something has taken root in Prince George's County.

Check out the rest of the Urban Legends of Maryland mini-series:

Part One: Pigwoman

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