The Trickster and the Goatman: The Old Alton Bridge, or Goatman’s Bridge, is a famously haunted site in north Texas. It has been featured in Buzzfeed Unsolved and Ghost Adventures, and the urban legends about the bridge are well-known in the paranormal world. But in my research, I’ve discovered that everything may not be as it seems at the Old Alton Bridge . . .

Highlights include:
• a Reddit troll who makes some wild claims about the bridge
• what it was like growing up in north Texas
• a look at trickster elements of the paranormal

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Episode Script for The Trickster and the Goatman (Goatman’s Bridge Series)

DISCLAIMER: I’m providing this version of the script for accessibility purposes. It hasn’t been proofread, so please excuse typos. There are also some things that may differ between the final episode and this draft script. Please treat the episode audio as the final product. 

Intro

  • I’m excited to dive into this series on the famous Old Alton Bridge, also known as the Goatman’s Bridge, located near Denton, Texas. This bridge is a real doozy. 
    • Popular urban legends about the bridge abound. In case you aren’t familiar, I’ll list some of them now, though a lot of this series will focus on how, of course, you shouldn’t believe everything you hear.
      • People talk about a terrifying Goatman, sometimes speaking of him as if he’s a cryptid, sometimes comparing him to a demon, and other times connecting him to a historical figure who may have lived near the bridge and been brutally murdered on the bridge
      • Some say they see glowing red eyes in the woods.
      • Others claim to have been pelted by unseen rocks.
      • Visitors have also said they’ve heard  growls, hoof beats, and mysterious laughter. 
      • Folks have said that they heard a voice saying to get off the bridge, or have had sudden violent urges while visiting.
      • There are also rumors of abandoned cars being found near there, with their occupants supposedly missing.
      • Crucially, Buzzfeed Unsolved and Ghost Adventures have both investigated the bridge, spreading stories of its haunting far and wide
  • I initially thought that I’d just do one quick episode about the Old Alton Bridge, but as usual, the more I dug into the topic, the more weird stuff I found. I imagine that this series will probably end up being nine or ten episodes, but I’m still working on research for the later ones, so we’ll see.
  • This series will cover a lot of ground: 
    • I’ll cover the true, horrific, and sort of forgotten history of the area, the details of the terrible events that are supposed to have led to the bridge becoming haunted, as well as a recent tragic, suspicious death in the area. 
    • I’m also going to do a deep dive into all of the paranormal claims that people have made about the bridge. I have a huge spreadsheet where I’ve gathered up tons of claims so I can really assess and analyze them and I have some thoughts about what’s going on in the area.
      • But just so you know what we’re looking at here: we’ve got a lot of standard urban legends about doing different things to summon the bridge’s Goat Man, like knocking on it three times or driving over the bridge at night. There are also plenty of typical paranormal claims, like the ones I mentioned earlier.
    • But there’s also another weird element woven into this story. The backstories to this haunting are strangely specific yet also unconfirmable. For example, there are specific named people, something that’s rare for urban legends, but no one can confirm that the people ever existed. And there are further complications and potential trickster elements to the story which I will really dig into.

 

  • But first, I wanted to introduce myself real quick. The episodes that I do about more famous urban legends tend to attract a lot of new listeners, so if you’re new here, welcome!
    • Like I said in the intro, my name’s Chris. I live in Queens, a borough of New York City, and I grew up in North Texas. Specifically, I grew up in Denton County, where the Old Alton Bridge is.
    • In this podcast, I mostly do really deep dives into paranormal topics, especially topics tied to local history. I have a particular focus on New York City since I’ve lived here my entire adult life, but I’ve also done episodes about famous hauntings in Salem, Asheville, and Las Vegas.
    • I consider myself a skeptical believer, meaning that I think that the paranormal exists but I’m not dogmatic about it. I am also not willing to take urban legends at face value. 
      • I want to dig deeper and see what weird stuff I can find beneath the surface of the stories that we tell ourselves. 
      • Also, I don’t believe that all hauntings are caused by ghosts.
      • I think the paranormal is much stranger than what popular culture would lead us to believe, and that hauntings, UFOs, cryptids, and other weirdness are all connected.
      • I’m also interested in looking at what urban legends do, like what function they serve for the people who tell them and believe them, where they come from, etc.
      • I have no interest in trying to get anyone to believe anything in particular, or trying to convince anyone of any specific view. 
      • I think it’s important to develop strong critical thinking skills when engaging with the paranormal, so I present the information I can find, give my own opinion, and have no real investment in whether folks agree with me.
    • Also, I have a pretty strong focus on history, and believe that it’s pointless to analyze the paranormal in an area without also deep diving into the location’s history. I just don’t think that one can be separated from the other.
    • My goal here is to uncover interesting and weird things and hidden bits of history, and to have fun doing it. 
    • Oh, also, I try to plan these series so if you decide to skip around and listen to them out of order, they’ll still make sense, but of course you’ll get the most out of them if you listen to them in order.
    • Now let’s get into the Old Alton Bridge.

My experience of Texas history

  • I lived in Texas for about 17 years, and left after high school.
  • I grew up in the suburbs of Dallas. My family moved to my hometown in the early 1990s, and I remember watching the area rapidly develop. Fields of sunflowers became strip malls. Roads, which needed to be expanded every few years because so many people were moving to the area, were constantly under construction.
  • The Dallas area, with its convenient proximity to DFW airport, attracted a ton of workers in tech, engineering, finance, and other prestigious fields. Maybe about half of the people I grew up with were from Texas, whereas the rest of us had been born elsewhere and moved to the metroplex because of all the good jobs there. Also, at the time, the cost of living was pretty low, though that isn’t really true anymore.
  • Like any newly developed suburb, my hometown was a sort of strange place to grow up. 
  • Obviously this is all just my own opinion, but the combination of rapid development and an influx of new people who weren’t from the area created a sense of being completely dislocated from history.
  • There was an implicit sense that history happened somewhere else. 
  • You could go into Dallas or Fort Worth and see the museums, the old buildings, and that sort of thing. But for those of us who lived in these suburbs that sprang up in the 1990s, there was this sense that the place we lived grew up out of nothing.
  • Of course, like a mushroom appearing after heavy rain, suburbs like the one I grew up in may have seemed to come from nowhere, but they didn’t. With mushrooms, first there is a spore, leading to a network of mycelium running underground. The fruit body, or mushroom, that you see above ground is just a tiny part of a larger, hidden entity that has been growing for some time and has a life cycle that is easy to overlook. If you overlook what you can’t readily see, then you miss most of what’s really going on.
  • Labored metaphors aside, that’s what I see going on in places like my hometown. Or, at least, that’s how I, as a kid, perceived it. It’s easy to think that you live separately from history, and that was my experience as a kid there.
    • Obviously there are a lot of people who are interested in history everywhere, I would just say that the history isn’t as easy to see somewhere like my hometown as it is to see somewhere like New York City, where I live now. 
    • In New York, you’re constantly confronted with history, whether it’s the age of the buildings you live and work in, or the experience of going to a park that was laid out in the 19th century. 
    • Whereas if you live in a newly developed suburb, where there are very few buildings that predate the 1990s, then your experience of history will be different.
  • It’s easy to feel like somewhere like New York City (or many other cities around the world) is “older” than somewhere like my hometown, and has less history. 
  • Obviously, that’s untrue. Every part of the earth is as old as the rest of it. The area that my hometown now sits on has a long history of existence, and a long history of human habitation, but much of that history has been effaced or not recorded with the same enthusiasm as the history as somewhere like New York City. 
  • But that doesn’t mean that history never happened.
  • In recent years, since starting this podcast, I have been taking a closer look at the history of my hometown. 
    • For example, when I was at my parents’ house for Christmas last year, I found a number of important historical sites within walking distance of the house I grew up in. 
    • When I was younger, I’d believed that nothing in my hometown predated the late 20th century. But I was proven wrong when I was confronted with multiple cemeteries containing burials dating to the 19th century. 
  • When I was a bored teenager, I could have visited these sites and learned more about the history, but I didn’t, even though I was interested in history. I just assumed it was absent and focused on the history of other places. The more fool me.
  • By the way, bored teenagers will play a somewhat important story that I’m going to tell about the Old Alton Bridge, because it is a location swaddled in urban legends that have been gleefully woven by kids with nothing better to do. 
    • All this being said, of course history is harder to research somewhere where less of it was written down in books and newspapers. 
    • It becomes even harder when perhaps some powerful figures in the past may have wanted some of it to be suppressed, something that I will talk about in depth in a couple weeks.
    • If you’ve heard the popular paranormal stories about the Goatman’s Bridge and you think you know the story, I’ve dug up some new information that calls some of the popular stories into question and also shines a light on some other horrific stuff. 
    • Also, like I mentioned, there’s certainly a trickster element at work here, and I’ve encountered a surprising number of important synchronicities during my research of the topic, which you can look forward to me unraveling in detail.
    • So let’s talk a bit about the trickster.

The Trickster

    • There’s a really great book called The Trickster and the Paranormal by George P. Hansen, which is exactly what it sounds like, an examination of the tricker elements in paranormal phenomena. It’s an excellent book. 
      • However, I will warn you that it’s very academic. But that also means it’s extremely thorough and well cited. If you’re interested in the subject and up for a challenging read, definitely pick it up.
      • For me, the book has really helped to solidify the idea that the paranormal is permanently liminal, on the wrong side of respectability and believability. The paranormal will always involve elements of doubt and confusion. And things will come along to discredit anything that seems particularly solid in the field, preventing it from being mainstreamed. 
        • Basically, the paranormal isn’t fringe because it’s fake; it’s fringe because by definition, the paranormal must be fringe.
      • As I’ve been researching the Old Alton Bridge, I’ve thought of bits of The Trickster and the Paranormal again and again, and it’s really helped me make sense–or, rather, accept some of the weirdness–of the hauntings.
    • This just completely blew my mind, but while I was doing research and writing the scripts for these episodes, someone appeared on reddit and claimed that he made up the whole haunting, or, rather, that he popularized it online and beefed it up some. 
      • I was delighted by this wrinkle in the story, because it fit so well into this archetypal trickster figure in the paranormal, and in general it just makes things more interesting.
    • So what happened? On March 4, 2022, a reddit user who I’m going to call Bob (which is not his real name) shared a link to a video and/or a playlist containing a video that he claims contains the real story behind the Goatman’s Bridge. I went to his user page and saw that he posted it 23 times on different threads. 
      • Some of the posts he commented on were about the Old Alton Bridge, Texas Hauntings, or similar topics. Others were totally unrelated, and just seemed to contain a keyword that made it come up in his search. 
      • On some posts, he included an intriguing line, like “I turned a false legend about a relatively unknown old bridge in Texas into a place many refer to now as the “most haunted place in America”” and “Here is another story nobody wants to hear…about how a fake legend of a haunted bridge turned into the most haunted bridge in america.” and “I followed a false legend about a haunted bridge and manifested it into reality. It is now known as the most haunted place in America.” and “Its easy to communicate with the spirits there, I taught them how to turn that place into the most haunted bridge in America! Check this out”
    • However, based on a reply that someone posted the next day, the video was deleted within 24 hours. I was only able to find one commenter who said that they had seen the video, and that was from the day it was posted.
    • I found his posts 14 days after their creation.
    • Bob’s youtube channel has also been deleted, and he hasn’t posted on reddit under that account since March 4. He’d had the account since 2018, but the only other visible thing that he’d posted was something on a World of Warcraft subreddit. Also on March 4, 2022, he got into a few arguments with people about metaphysical topics, but as of recording, he hasn’t been back since. I also have tried to contact him through reddit, but he hasn’t answered, and I can’t find any other way to get in touch with him.
    • As far as I can tell, it seems like, in March of this year, he made a youtube video about the Old Alton Bridge, wanted to drive traffic to it by posting on reddit, but then for some reason decided to delete it. The video was called “The First Goatmans Bridge Video Ever Uploaded on Youtube – 2011 – YouTube.” It’s unclear if the video was just a reupload of the original video he made in 2011, or if he added additional commentary.
    • Now, I don’t want to give away any personally identifiable information about Bob; I’m not here to dox anyone. That also means that I’m not going to post links to his posts and videos in the show notes that are publicly available on my website.
      • But I believe this person is in his mid-thirties, which I only mention because it’s relevant: Because of his age, some of the local urban legends probably predate him. 
      • He’s not claiming to have invented it wholecloth, but it seems that he claims to have popularized the legend online. 
      • Another relevant detail is that, based on his online activity, he has been interested in conspiracy theories, UFOs, meditation, and other metaphysical topics since at least 2011.
    • Now, I’m not very interested in Bob as a person, but I am interested in what this says about the Old Alton Bridge and urban legends. He mentions that the Old Alton Bridge is one of the most famous haunted places in Texas these days, but it isn’t mentioned in older books about the paranormal and legends in Texas. He says that’s because it just wasn’t a very famous urban legend before he spread it online.
      • I can confirm that the Old Alton Bridge and the Goatman weren’t mentioned in the older books that I have access to about the paranormal or urban legends in Texas: 
        • I have two books by folklorist J. Frank Dobie, Legends of Texas Volume II: Pirates’ Gold and Other Tales, and Tales of Old-Time Texas, and the only stories they have about the area are about Sam Bass. Dobie describes Sam Bass as a sort of Texan Robin Hood, an outlaw who was apparently well liked and spent some time in Denton County. However, no goatman.
        • Best Tales of Texas Ghosts by Docia Schultz Williams was published in 1998 and has plenty of stories of ghosts in the Dallas area, but no mention of Denton County or the Old Alton Bridge at all.
        • The Big Book of Texas Ghost Stories by Alan Brown, published in 2012, doesn’t mention the Old Alton Bridge.
        • Haunted Texas: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the Lone Star State by Alan Brown, published in 2008, has no mention of the Old Alton Bridge, even though it does mention another Denton haunting, the haunting of the University of North Texas’ Bruce Hall.
      • On the other hand, the book Haunted Plano, Texas by Mary Jacobs, which was published in 2018, has a whole section about the Old Alton Bridge, even though it isn’t in Plano. There is a Plano Goat Man legend dating to at least the 70s or 80s which she mentions in the book, but in the subsection about the Old Alton Bridge Goatman, there’s no date given for when that legend began.
        • In a future episode in this series, I’ll go into more detail about some of the other Texas Goat Men, since there are a few of them.
      • The Goatman’s Bridge’s absence from older books does support Bob’s claim that the current stories of the haunting may be of somewhat recent manufacture.
    • One thing I want to investigate throughout this series is: do I believe Bob? 
      • Even if I don’t believe all of the details of Bob’s stories, his claims about the legend seeming to change around the late 2000s/early 2010 seems plausible. 
      • So I’ve been trying to pinpoint when exactly the different legends about the Old Alton Bridge came about.
    • My current hypothesis is that it was a local urban legend that was popularized by the internet, and then recently skyrocketed to fame by being covered in Ghost Adventures and Buzzfeed Unsolved. 
      • That would also help to explain how I’d never heard of the bridge or its legends despite having grown up near it. 
      • Now, even if parts of the urban legend were made up, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t haunted and there’s nothing paranormal there, but I do have a feeling that there’s something artificial about the location’s fame.
    • At this point, I don’t believe Bob’s claim of having made up or created this urban legend, not really. Some sort of urban legend clearly did exist about that bridge before he came around. 
    • That being said, as a counterpoint to my own statement, I wanted to read this bit from The Tricker and the Paranormal. This passage describes how often, when hoaxers come out, people often don’t believe them. Even though someone has admitted to making it all up, they still believe the story.
    • This is in the context of UFO hoaxes, but I think it’s relevant here:
  • “The paranormal, by its nature, is enmeshed in frauds and hoaxes, especially in cases with high public visibility. . . . Exposes of hoaxes are often not satisfactorily convincing for everyone. Even a full confession by perpetrators can be inadequate to convince die-hards that they had been hoodwinked.” (TATP 249)
  • So, am I a chump who’s been hoodwinked by the many myths and legends of the Old Alton Bridge? Maybe. I certainly don’t know. 
  • But back to Bob: I think it’s a bummer that he deleted his videos, but at the same time, he might not have caught my attention if he hadn’t. Maybe I would have just watched his video and been like, eh, this just seems like someone trying to drum up eyeballs for their youtube video, and that wouldn’t have been compelling to me at all.
    • Also, while I’m intrigued by someone doing so much promotion of a video and then quickly deleting it, it doesn’t read as that strange to me. I have ADHD and am pretty familiar with the impulse to embark on a big project only to change my mind a few days later. It also strikes me as something that an anxious person might do. Of course, there could be another explanation for this, but I’m inclined to go with Occam’s razor on this one.
  • In the end, though, if I were to find out that the legend has been faked, that sort of doesn’t matter. 
    • This is a death of the author type situation, where if the Old Alton Bridge legends were embellished by one or more people online and then spread like wildfire, it doesn’t really matter. 
    • So many people have gone to the bridge and tried to communicate with things that if it wasn’t already a sort of thin place, I imagine that amount of human activity trying to engage with the paranormal would get something’s attention.
    • Also, a look at the terrible history of the place as told by urban legends reveals a part of history that is often overlooked and is worth delving into. 
    • In looking into this, I learned things about the area that I grew up in that I didn’t learn by living there, or in my years of Texas history education in school. 
    • So, in future episodes, I will talk all about the disturbing legends of the area, and the horrific things that have happened there in the distant and not-so-distant past.
    • Next week’s episode will be about the history of the bridge, as well as what it was like when I visited it in December 2021.

Sources consulted RE: The Trickster and the Goatman (Goatman’s Bridge Series)

Books consulted: The Trickster and the Goatman (Goatman’s Bridge Series)

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