Denton County

Denton's Haunted Bridge Legend Grows, But Does the Story Add Up?

On Halloween, who doesn't love a good scary story?  For those who believe in the paranormal, Denton is a hotbed of activity.  One story in particular has grown legs over the years, even if there's not a whole lot of truth behind it.

"This is our scenic route," said Jim Denton as he and wife Karin walked across Old Alton Bridge. "This is beautiful country out here."

The bridge, built in 1884, also happens to be the stuff of legend.

"Some farmer down here saw something that looked like a goat," said Jim Denton.  "It had two hooves and started running, and it got going after that."

Many folks believe the Old Alton Bridge is haunted.  The origins of that story -- as it's told, anyway -- date back to the 1930's, and a ghostly character named "Goat Man."

"The Goatman's bridge is my least favorite story," said Shelly Tucker, an author and storyteller who conducts regular ghost tours in Denton.  "People always ask about it. They just gotta know."

As legend has it, a black goat farmer named Oscar Washburn was hanged from the bridge by Klansmen. When they checked the end of the noose, their victim was nowhere to be found.  People claim the bridge, and the area around it, is haunted by Washburn's ghost.

Tucker says people have reported strange or unexplained experiences near the bridge.

"Supposedly, the teenagers all said if you went out to Goatman's Bridge, turned off your cars lights and honked twice, you'd see the glowing red eyes of the goat man," she said.

Tucker has researched this, and the story is recounted in "Ghosts of Denton" -- a book she authored.  But she says through years of research, including census records, no African-American man named Oscar Washburn ever lived near the bridge. There is no record of a lynching in Denton in 1938.

"It makes a great slumber party story," said Tucker.  "As far as there being KKK, lynching -- it's not true."

Tucker hosts regular tours of several of Denton's allegedly haunted spots.  As for the myth of Denton's "Goatman," and why it keeps growing? She blames the internet.

True or not, Tucker believes people will always have the need for scary stories.

"I believe in the spirit world, but ghost stories?" said Karin Denton as she laughed at the notion.

True story or not, an old bridge in Denton continues to draw the curious -- seeking history, and mystery.

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