The air is cold and harsh against your skin. It’s pitch black, the only light coming from your cell phone. Suddenly, there is a rustling in the bushes beside you. In your hand, a paranormal investigative meter starts to flicker, alerting you that there is a spirit nearby.
Old Alton Bridge, or Goatman’s Bridge as it’s most infamously known, is a stretch of wooden planks and sun-bleached red metal that lies just off of Teasley Lane on Old Alton Road in the far southwest part of Denton. Constructed in 1884, the bridge served as a connection between Lewisville and Alton, an old community surrounding the bridge that was abandoned due to the poor water quality in Hickory Creek.
The legends surrounding the bridge tell of many horrors, but the most popular of them all is about the Goatman, an African-American goat farmer by the name of Oscar Washburn.
The legend has it that Washburn made his living by selling meat, milk, cheese and yarn that was spun by his wife. Washburn is said to have been a reserved and quiet man and so, because of this, not many people knew his real name. The name “Goatman” was gifted to him because of his occupation.
Since he worked out of his home, Washburn painted a sign stating, “This way to the Goatman’s” and placed it on the bridge so that buyers would know where to find him. For a time the sign was beneficial to his business, but eventually it caught the unwanted attention of the Ku Klux Klan. During the 1930s, when the Washburn family is said to have lived, it was not desirable to see an African-American family doing well economically. This was the sole reason they became targets of the KKK.
“It’s like all urban legends because there are actually legends similar to it all over the country,” Ghosts of Denton tour guide Shelly Tucker says. “For the last several years I’ve given ghost tours on the Square, usually on the weekends. I don’t bring people out to Goatman’s Bridge very often but people always ask me about it. It just seems to be the story that captures everyone’s imagination.”
According to legend, in 1938, after luring Washburn out of his home, the Klansmen kidnapped him, tied a rope around his neck and threw him over the side of Old Alton Bridge. Anticipating his death, they looked over the bridge but were met with an empty noose. Oscar Washburn was gone. Stories speculate that he either escaped or was cut down and buried by a sympathetic town resident. Disgruntled and confused, the Klansmen set their sights on Washburn’s family, killing them by burning them alive inside their home.
Washburn was never seen again, but is said to haunt the area around that bridge ever since.
Satanic rituals, séances, and other strange phenomena are rumored to have occurred in the location since then, making Goatman’s Bridge a hotspot for those who are interested in the paranormal. The television series Ghost Adventures, presented by the Travel Channel, featured an episode specifically about Goatman’s Bridge. Four ghost hunters investigated the satanic and supernatural phenomena around the bridge. The episode can still be viewed today on YouTube.
Not only is the bridge a paranormal hot spot, but it is also a popular place for fishing and photography shoots. Many people sit alongside the creek with their family and friends to fish, while others may walk the trails or take formal photos. There is something about how the sun glistens off the red iron trusses of the bridge and the fresh spring greenery of the trees that makes it so attractive to locals. Not to mention the incredible view of the stars that can be seen while standing on the bridge and looking up over Old Alton Road.
We (the writers) arrived at the bridge one Saturday night, just as the sun was setting. The new bridge, just a few feet away from Old Alton Bridge, was still busy with cars. The parking lot and entrance were packed with cars on the white gravel rocks. As the sun set and the area grew quiet, we waited for Becky Vickers, head of Lake Cities Paranormal Investigations, to arrive from a cemetery not far from the bridge. The cemetery is a final resting place to many young residents and children of Old Alton. According to Becky, the main cause of death in the area was the bad water that many were forced to use and drink. The town had only one doctor who did not live in the area, so many who were sick relied heavily on only what older generations knew.
After going out to visit the bridge for so long, Becky feels a very personal connection, and has studied the history and the phenomena there. She is writing a book about the bridge that chronicles hers and other people’s experiences at the bridge called “The Bridge of Secrets.”
Losing her grandfather when she was 17 sparked Becky’s desire to start ghost hunting, a passion that she still has almost two decades later.
Becky leads ghost tours one weekend a month and says that she has had many paranormal experiences with her group at the bridge. She and her team’s experiences include hearing voices, seeing orbs, and some people even being scratched.
“Like a lot of people, I struggled to deal with death. I started reading, researching, and experimenting how to communicate with my grandfather. I just struggled with letting go. And I have never given it up. It’s my passion. It’s in my soul. It’s what I want to do.”
Becky handed out mini flashlights as we headed on our way into the darkness of the surrounding woods. Immediately, we started picking up activity on their detection devices. The investigation team had several that could allegedly pick up changes in energy, static-electricity and detect cold-spots.
As we walked along the path, Becky would occasionally stop and experiment by asking the spirits questions, looking to the devices to give her validation of ghosts being around. She then turned off into a small opening to show the group what she believed to be a sacrificial altar of sorts, possibly involved in satanic rituals. The nest-looking object, which was crafted out of sticks, was clearly hand made with mesh-netting and the inner sticks were burned along its edges. It rested almost invisibly just off the trail, but was indeed unsettling.
“I’ve spoken to police and they have confirmed that satanic rituals have and still do take place out here,” Becky says. “They sometimes come out here just to check around and make sure nothing is going on, and they have seen people out here with fires going and robes on.”
After spending some time trying to communicate with spirits on the bridge, we moved to the other side of the woods. Becky told a tale of how the KKK would often wait for African-Americans and women to pass by and attack them in the dead of night. She spoke of a low growl that could be heard in the ears of women and lantern lights that could sometimes be seen hanging low to the ground. Although the Ghost Adventures cast confirmed these phenomena, neither of us saw any lights or heard any growling.
As the night went on and the woods grew darker, the activity that once looked promising at the start of the tour eventually died down. The spirits seemed willing to communicate only with those on the team and, after another short communication session on the bridge, we trudged back to home-base, officially ending the tour with a protection prayer.
“I think people love to be scared. They’re very intrigued about the unknown,” Becky says. “It’s great seeing something that’s hard to process in your mind but that really happened.”
Maybe next time.