Most Denton County residents have heard the spooky tales of the Old Alton Bridge, otherwise known as “Goat Man’s Bridge.” Legends of hauntings have swirled around the historic structure for years, and many people from both near and far have visited for themselves to see if the stories are true… and to maybe catch a glimpse of the Goat Man himself.
Here at the Office of History and Culture, we won’t confirm or deny any paranormal activity at the Old Alton Bridge, but we can speculate and share the bridge’s story with you…
A Historic Structure
Old Alton Bridge was built in 1884, and is Denton County’s oldest remaining Pratt-truss iron bridge. It stands 145 feet long at its original location over the Hickory Creek tributary at Copper Canyon Road, though the roadway was rerouted in 1997. Records show that the Old Alton Bridge was constructed with a kit from the King Iron Bridge and Manufacturing Company in Ohio, a major supplier of bridges throughout Texas and North America.
The bridge was originally created as a link for travelers making their way from Denton to Dallas, and sat near the small town of Alton. It was thought that the bridge might revive Alton’s declining community, a place that had once served as the Denton County seat, but despite the new bridge, Alton gradually faded away.
A reminder of Denton County’s transportation history, Old Alton Bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1988, and became a Texas Historic Landmark in 2010. It now serves as part of a horse and hiking trail enjoyed by many… as well as a popular site residents flock to around Halloween.
Fact or Fiction?
So, how did our historic bridge get the nickname “Goat Man’s Bridge?” There are quite a few local legends, but the most well-known is a sad story about a man named Oscar Washburn, an African-American goat farmer that was hung on Old Alton Bridge by the Ku Klux Klan in 1938.
Local researchers have looked into county death records, newspaper accounts, and census records and have found no record of a man named Oscar Washburn, or of a lynching in 1938. Though the story has not been proven, it is an awful tale rooted in a terrible time in our history.
The bridge has also been investigated for paranormal activity by multiple groups, including the Association for the Study of Unexplained Phenomenon. Their research suggests the possibility of entities haunting the bridge, though they believe the spirits belong to Denton pioneer families buried in Old Alton Cemetery- a piece of the community that once was.
The Legend of the Goat Man
While we can’t confirm the urban legend of the Goat Man, there is no doubt that tales of the hauntings have spread across Texas. The most well-known ghost story surrounding Old Alton Bridge says that if you visit the historic bridge at night, stop your car, and honk twice, the Goat Man’s glowing red eyes will appear in the darkness next to the bridge.
There have also been reports of visitors seeing the Goat Man’s shadow holding two goat heads in his arms, sightings of his ghost herding phantom goats across the bridge, and appearances of a half-goat half-man. Travelers also claim spooky happenings of car doors locking and unlocking, mysterious laughter, growls, and hoof beats, and even a horrible, unexplained smell.
In one instance, a research group filmed an eerily cold, orange mist on a night that was otherwise warm- the mist apparently moved across the bridge against the flow of the wind. No explanation was ever found.
We can’t say for sure if it’s haunted, but you are welcome to visit and check out this historic landmark for yourself. Old Alton Bridge can be found in Denton off of Old Alton Road, near Teasley Lane.
If you would like to learn more about the story of Goat Man’s Bridge and other Denton hauntings, check out local Dentonite Shelly Tucker’s book Ghosts of Denton: The History of the Mysteries in a Small Texas Town, or go on one of her haunted tours of downtown Denton!
All information in this blog was found in the Office of History and Culture’s records and Shelly Tucker’s book “Ghosts of Denton”.