Nobody is really sure what the Goatman of Maryland truly is. There are many old, old legends surrounding him, from the magical, to the natural, to the supernatural, all stories end in one result: a creature that is half-man, half-goat roaming the wilderness near Beltsville, Maryland. It is said that the Goatman is big, burly, and he wields an axe with a vengeance. Like most cryptids, he keeps mostly to the rural streets and roads, preying on amorous teenagers and small, fluffy animals from time to time.
The origin story that is perhaps the most laughable is that the Goatman is the result of a scientist from the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center accidentally splicing goat DNA with his own, giving rise to the monstrosity that everyone whispers stories about in Prince Georges County. The Research Center was quick to say that these silly stories were false, but, much to their chagrin, that seemed only to spur the tale on. The legend persists, and still today the tales are passed from ear to ear. You would be hard-pressed to find someone from that area who hasn’t heard of the beast.
Still, other theories as to the Goatman’s origin have to do with satanic rituals, on account of Satan himself appearing as a half-goat. The area is also known for being the same place where the boy The Exorcist movie was based off of lived, which would point to a heavy demonic influence from somewhere close by. Others believe that the Goatman is a manifestation of the Greek god Pan, who is known to be a protector of nature and the wilderness. It would also go to explain why the Goatman would appear so often in the local Lover’s Lane, as Pan was known to be a highly erotic god, and also often drunk, which may be why he would suddenly decide to attack the poor teens he was creeping on.
Goatman stories began to appear in the 50’s, although they didn’t really garner much attention until the 70’s. Rumors of the Goatman began as a few sightings here and there, people seeing a goat-like humanoid lurking in the woods, hikers stumbling upon something strange and tall while out in the wilderness. He even jumped right out in front of one woman’s car, but it didn’t seem to bring much attention. After all, he wasn’t really hurting anyone or making them feel unsafe. He was just kind of… there. Even so, it was around this era that mothers began to tell naughty children that they had better behave, or they would be left outside for the Goatman.
It is rumored that he killed a whole group of campers in 1962, but the details surrounding this are sketchy at best. And it seems odd that such a major disappearance would go undocumented. In 1963 a couple spotted him merely standing beside the road as they went past. He did not attack the car, merely watching as it went by. The woman got a better view, and she described the creature as a “tall, ragged animal with human-like features”, although she mentioned nothing of horns.
In 1971 there were two encounters, one that got major publicity and one that didn’t. The one that did was from a little girl and her family. Their dog went missing one night and turned up a few days later, beheaded, on the side of the road. The family said that they heard strange grunts and cries outside, accompanied by heavy footsteps, which is what led them to believe that whatever took their dog was no mortal being. A farmer a little ways away also had an experience kind of like this, although he had the privilege of seeing the beast crouched over one of his dead pigs. It halted in its feast when it realized it had been discovered, crying out weirdly at him before fleeing into the woods. There was hardly anything left of the pig.
Either these events triggered peoples’ paranoia, or they were simply the beginning of a rash of Goatman sightings, because after this there are countless reports of the Goatman standing outside peoples’ houses, lurking in their yards, and there were a good many more animal mutilations and beheadings before things finally began to die down. Most sightings simply consisted of people stumbling upon the beast and then having it growl at them before running away. But some people actually found worthwhile items.
A landscaper in 1977 stumbled upon some weird animal bones on a golf course. As he examined them, he heard something growling at him. He looked up to see the Goatman glaring at him with bright red eyes. Needless to say, he beat a hasty retreat. All of the sudden the Goatman went from vague, harmless spirit to scary animal-killing marauder. Who wouldn’t want to run away?
One boy claimed that the Goatman was actually the bogeyman, as when he was faced with the beast, he told his mother that it looked exactly like “the thing that stands in my room at night”. If that isn’t horrible, what is? Does that mean that the Goatman has become something even more demonic and powerful than we previously thought? Had the blood of puppies made it more savage and strange? There is really no way to know, as no other people have reported seeing him in their bedrooms at night. Just outside their windows, peeking in. It could just be that this kid saw something completely different, something that haunts him specifically, but people have already tied this incident with the Goatman and no one else. Again, this could be linked to the area’s history of demonic activity. Or the Goatman could take many, more ethereal forms.
Some stories seem to tie the Goatman to a bridge, which is known as Cry Baby Bridge for other, tragic reasons. It is said that driving across this bridge at night will allow you to hear the Goatman’s cries, or even hear the Goatman himself. People often seem to consider the tragic events that took place as a sort of catalyst, something that draws the Goatman to it in order to feed off the negative energy of the area. Others believe that the bridge is only associated with the Goatman because it happens to be near Lover’s Lane. It has been argued that there are similar goat-like beings that take refuge near and around other bridges in Maryland, Kentucky, Texas, and many other states, but the thing with the Goatman is it is linked mainly to roads and other locations, not a dilapidated old bridge. Maybe it only likes to vacation there from time to time when it gets bored of lopping the heads off of kittens.
Whatever the Goatman is, and whatever he is drawn to, the legends are not going away. In fact, with the most recent sighting in 2007, where the Goatman was briefly caught on camera, people are more insistent than ever that the legend is real. Whether he is evil, good, or simply a protector of nature, we have yet to see. Perhaps in the future he will be more forthcoming with his intentions.