You can’t keep a good monster down.In July 1969, when the rest of the world marveled at the moon landing, Fort Worth was fascinated with the Lake Worth Monster.That month, 45 years ago, a Goat-Man emerged at the Fort Worth Nature Center and started attacking cars and throwing tires.Or maybe he was a lake serpent ( a 1947 sighting nearby), or the furry Bigfoot photographed later in 1969 by a gawking motorist on Shoreline Drive near Greer Island.Whatever the Monster/Goat-Man is, he’s coming back.The Nature Center will celebrate his 45th anniversary this fall, and the Monster’s legend only grows through reality TV’s fascination with the paranormal.But as the Monster’s fame grows, another clue to his 1969 origin has turned up.Newly digitized Star-Telegram archives show that in December 1968, front-page columnist George Dolan wrote jokingly about the 1947 sighting.“A man who used to run a boat works on Lake Worth mentioned the other day that he can understand people thinking they see flying saucers,” Dolan wrote, referring to the UFO sightings of that paranoid, Cold War-wary era.“Remember the ‘Lake Worth monster’?”Seven months before sightings began anew, Dolan retold the 1947 prank where workers at the boat works rigged an inner tube with a pulley and trotline to make it bob up and down in the water.“The excitement went on for days,” Dolan wrote, before it was revealed as a prank.“People didn’t believe it,” Dolan quoted the storyteller. “Some of them might still think there’s a monster in Lake Worth.”The very next summer, at the height of UFO sightings (and slow news days), police officer James S. McGee was dispatched to take Fort Worth resident John Reichert’s account of a Goat-Man scratching his car and grabbing at his wife.A Sansom Park man, Jack Harris, said he saw it throw a tire 500 feet. Later that fall, Charles Buchanan said he threw a bag of chicken to ward off a gorilla-like creature.(The owner of a nearby kennel has said a macaque monkey got loose about the same time.)But the only record we have is Allen Plaster’s blurry Nov. 19, 1969, Polaroid of a giant, white furball described by one online critic as “some sort of monstrous Bichon Frise.”Plaster, then owner of the House of Allen women’s wear shop in Fort Worth, said he was driving west on Shoreline Drive with a Weatherford couple at 1:35 a.m. when they saw the Fur Monster stand up acoss the road.In a 2006 interview, he said he now considers the sighting a “prank,” adding, “Whatever it was, it wanted to be seen.”The Monster’s 45th birthday will be marked Oct. 4 with a morning party at the Nature Center, 9601 Fossil Ridge Road.“There’s more interest than ever in Bigfoot legends,” Nature Center manager Suzanne Tuttle said.The event will include a guided tour of sightings and a tire-hurling contest.“People are coming in now whose grandparents told them about the monster,” Tuttle said.“We keep hearing new stories.”Every few months, somebody new calls trying to take credit as the prankster.The Nature Center keeps Monster talk to a minimum. They’d rather visitors come see the 15 alligators or 17 bison.“We want to bring the Monster back, but only as an occasional thing,” Tuttle said.Wouldn’t want to wear out his welcome.
Bud Kennedy's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538 Twitter: @BudKennedy