Goatman’s Bridge: History & Hauntings of Denton’s Old Alton Bridge

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Tony Maples Photography


The historic Old Alton Bridge, which connects the towns of Denton and Copper Canyon, has a complex and haunted history. From tragic and riveting tales of murder to the somewhat vague stories of a ghostly goatherder, it’s sure to give you the chills if you ever visit – heading out there after dark probably isn’t advisable, in any case!

Goatman's Bridge: History & Hauntings of Denton's Old Alton Bridge

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The bridge was built in 1884, by the King Iron Manufacturing Bridge Company. Its original purpose was to carry horses and automobiles across the river. Though it is called the “Old Alton Bridge” the community of Alton had already dispersed by 1884. Denton County itself was formed in 1846, and the first attempt at settling the county seat was Pinckneyville (named for the Texas governor). However, water shortages forced politicians to move two years later, in 1848. The new townsite was located on a high ridge between Pecan Creek and Hickory Creek and was called Alton.

Their luck with this second townsite was also short-lived; in 1850 they moved once more, to a location five miles from present-day Corinth. This attempt was more successful. The Hickory Creek Baptist Church was organized in 1855, and by 1856, there were several buildings including a school and a saloon. However, the county seat was moved once more in 1857, to Denton. The post office closed forever in 1859. Today, the Baptist Church and the Alton cemetery are all that remains of the Alton village. The bridge was built twenty-five years later and dubbed the “Old Alton Bridge.”

Goatman's Bridge: History & Hauntings of Denton's Old Alton Bridge

Wikimedia Commons/Pixelsyndicate

It didn’t earn the “Goatman” title until half a century later, when an African-American named Oscar Washburn settled in the area. His living was raising and selling goats. He was successful, and most of the community was supportive and friendly toward Washburn and his family, but unfortunately, the local Ku Klux Klan was not so pleased. Washburn posted a sign on the bridge which read “this way to the Goatman’s.” This action angered members of the Klan, and on a fateful night in August of 1938, they drove their cars across the bridge with their headlights off, took Washburn from his home and family, and dragged him to the bridge. The legend goes that they then fitted a noose over his head and threw him over the side of the bridge – but when they looked to see whether he was dead, his body had disappeared. They returned to his home and slaughtered his family, according to the legend. Washburn was never seen or heard from again – or was he?

Goatman's Bridge: History & Hauntings of Denton's Old Alton Bridge

Facebook / Jeff Stephens

A similar tale to Washburn’s predates the building of the bridge, in which a group of cowboys lynched a goatherder called Jack Kendall. Supposedly this was near the location of the bridge. The legend goes that Kendall’s body reanimated through the power of voodoo, ripped off the head of a nearby goat, and replaced his head with the goat’s as the astonished cowboys watched in horror. Whether it’s Washburn or Kendall haunting the bridge, lots of strange things have happened around the Alton Bridge. Travelers say that if you cross the bridge without your headlights, the Goatman will meet you on the other side. There have been reports of abandoned cars with no sign of their occupants, vehicles breaking down or car doors locking and unlocking of their own accord, and some people have heard hoofbeats around the bridge.

One of the more disturbing variations of bridge experiences tells of a man waiting on the other side of the bridge with a goat head under each arm. Some people have seen a half-man, half-goat figure, similar to a satyr; this odd account of after-death transformation (if this is indeed the Goatman) bears some semblance to the tale of the Donkey Lady Bridge or La Llorona.

Goatman's Bridge: History & Hauntings of Denton's Old Alton Bridge

Facebook / Ashley Moudy

Some folks believe that Satanists have performed dark rituals on the bridge and opened a portal to another dimension. There have also been reports of inhuman screams coming from the nearby woods, or maniacal laughter sounding. On Halloween, if you go the bridge and honk your horn twice, you may see the fiery red eyes of the Goatman.

There are no definitive records of Washburn or Kendall, but as a Denton local said, “that doesn’t mean it’s not haunted.” The bridge is seven miles south of Denton, if you ever get the urge to visit… just keep your headlights on and don’t knock on the bridge, unless you want to visit with the Goatman.