Posted by: Loren Coleman on June 8th, 2006
One of the enlightening side events at a speaking engagement is the media. University publicity relations people, television reporters, radio talk show hosts, and newspaper writers want your time, and all come with their own special interests and bias. Sometimes, of course, it digs up old stories and develops new details.
In Texas last weekend, one reporter, Bud Kennedy, from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, was there early and talked to me for quite a while before the event. Since Ben Radford was speaking first and busy with preparing for his talk, I gave Kennedy a tour of the exhibition and answered his questions.
Right away I noticed Kennedy was peppering me with skeptical questions and hints of ironic humor in his conversations. That’s okay, I’m used to that.
Kennedy asked immediately what I thought of the "Elmendorf Chupacabras" – found southeast of San Antonio, Texas, in July 2004. He seemed surprised that I thought it was nothing more than a mangy dog or maybe merely a diseased coydog or coyote. He thought so too, and seemed unaware that dogs and other candids with mange were found all over the South that summer.
Then Kennedy, taking notes and looking in some cases in the museum, appeared to soak in the exhibition. He interviewed Craig Woolheater, a couple other people, and then listened to parts of Radford’s show and my talk before leaving.
What Bud Kennedy has produced, as far as articles, are somewhat skeptical overviews. We have grown to expect that from a few people in the media. But Kennedy has done a relatively good job focussing in on one specific old case.
While I was not prepared for Kennedy’s drumming away at the Lake Worth Monster of 1969 being a myth or hoax, nevertheless, he has written this week about that angle. And each of his columns has added material to the file on this case. That’s good, no matter what his bias.
On Tuesday, 6-6-06, Kennedy penned "Lake Monster May be Myth, but Exhibit is Real." His treatment was about the exhibition, but his underlying theme underscored his belief that the Lake Worth Monster was a "mythical swamp beast." The article shows this quickly, even when quoting me:
As it turns out, experts and hobbyists now track the mythical swamp beast’s Texas appearances back to 1969 — and Lake Worth. No kidding. Our very own Lake Worth Monster — the "Goat-Man," if you prefer — is now considered the most famous of all Texas Sasquatch sightings.
Police later blamed teenage pranksters. But one of the speakers Saturday at an Institute of Texan Cultures forum said he still thinks the Lake Worth Monster was real.
"You had several credible people saying they saw it," said Maine author Loren Coleman. "You had investigations. You had more than one incident.
"It was too involved for a prank."
Kennedy then takes a breath, readjusts his sarcastic tone machine, lol, and summarizes the events for his readers:
If you’re new around here, back in summer 1969, a lot of people were seeing things. Some people thought they saw flying saucers. Some people thought they saw Soviet spies. And some people thought they saw a 7-foot-tall half-man, half-goat threatening motorists near Lake Worth.
John Reichert of South Henderson Street was quoted in the Star-Telegram as saying it scratched his car. Jack Harris of Sansom Park said he saw it throw a tire 500 feet. Allen Plaster of Fort Worth, who owned women’s wear shops, shot a photo of a large, furry-looking, light-colored blob.
That fall, Charles Buchanan said he saw a gorillalike creature. He threw a bag of leftover chicken at it, and it swam off toward Greer Island, where it has apparently lived ever since in an undisclosed location.
Police said later that Brewer High School students were found with a glow-in-the-dark mask and a gorilla costume. Experts back then said the first sightings were probably of a bobcat, and the guess was that the teenagers wanted to scare the curious crowds searching the lake. If so, they not only scared the crowds but also wrote Bigfoot history.
In Dallas, 9-year-old Craig Woolheater was watching the breathless TV news coverage of the search.
If you think the TV newscasts made a big deal lately about a dead alligator in Lewisville Lake, imagine the coverage in the Texas summer of 1969, before we had the Rangers or Mavericks.
(The rest, as they say, is history, and Woolheater’s efforts in Bigfoot studies in Texas and elsewhere are relatively well-known.)
Let us return to the saga of Kennedy’s writings on the Lake Worth Monster. On Thursday, June 8, he decides to add to his skeptical bent here by writing "37 years after snapping photo, Bigfoot talk gets man’s goat."
This is a straight-forward critical look at the Lake Worth Monster by airing the view of the man who took the famed "White Bigfoot" photograph of the creature.
Kennedy writes that
…the man who shot the photo now says talk of a swamp beast is "silly." The fleeing "monster" looked more like a prankster with a fur or rug, Allen Plaster, 59, of Fort Worth, says. And the "Goat-Man" should be glad that Plaster shot only a Polaroid.
"That place was crawling with people with guns," he said. "That was really stupid."
Until this week, Plaster didn’t know that his 1969 snapshot is on Web sites and in a new San Antonio museum exhibit, "Bigfoot in Texas?"
Plaster and a Weatherford couple, all in their early 20s, went to the lake two or three nights a week that summer searching for the "monster" or "Goat-Man" described breathlessly on TV and radio news.
Plaster was driving westbound along the shore late one night when one of his friends — he would give her name only as Kay — pointed and shouted, "Look! Look! Look! There it is!"
Something furry stood up in 3-foot-tall weeds on his side of the road. Plaster stopped and reached for his Polaroid, catching the figure running away.
"Looking back, I realize that when we drove by, it stood up," he said this week. "Whatever it was, it wanted to be seen. That was a prank. That was somebody out there waiting for people to drive by. I don’t think an animal would have acted that way."
At the time, Plaster had become the young owner of some women’s-wear boutiques in Fort Worth, the House of Allen. Later, he managed hotels before working 15 years as a bail bond agent.
He hadn’t seen the photo in years, he said. He remembers giving the Polaroid instant print — the only copy — to Sallie Ann Clarke of Benbrook, who not only saw the monster but wrote a homespun book, The Lake Worth Monster of Greer Island, Ft. Worth, Texas.
Now the photo is everywhere from eBay.com to San Antonio and the Institute of Texan Cultures, where an exhibit open through July 30 reviews the folklore of Texas Bigfoot sightings.
Plaster looked down and shook his head sadly. "It’s strange, the things that happen," he said. "I don’t know what gets in people’s heads."
Clarke, now 77, said she thinks she has Plaster’s original photo somewhere. She also stuck by her story and said that Plaster now laughs it of
f out of embarrassment. "We all saw that thing at the lake that summer," she said. "A lot of people saw it."
Her book describes a "terrorizing monster" with white hair and scales, a 7-foot "goat-fish-man."
"It came out of a bunch of trees in front of 40 or 50 people," she said Wednesday by phone, describing the incident in the wee hours of July 11, 1969, that triggered the months-long search.
"When it screamed, everybody ran to their cars and took off. I didn’t take it as a prank, and I don’t think too many people did."
By the time Plaster shot the photo weeks later, everybody was either looking for Lake Worth’s celebrity Goat-Man or maybe dressed up portraying him.
And in 1969, the Monster wasn’t the only thing into weeds.
"If I’d been smoking pot or drinking alcohol back then, I could blame that," Plaster said.
"But my friends were all terribly boring. That’s why we were out driving around the lake every night. We were coffee and Dr Pepper people, staying out late."
If you think his photo shows Bigfoot, then you’ve been drinking something stronger than Lake Worth water.
Or Dr Pepper.
Sallie Ann Clarke has suffered a stroke, and is no longer well. Plaster is getting up there too, but still a young man. It is good to have his insights via Bud Kennedy, even if some of them are not the ones we might wish to hear. After all, in 1969, I preferred RC Cola and Silver Frost Root Beer. Never much liked Dr. Pepper. Still don’t. To each their own, when cryptid hunting, I guess.