When I picked up my seven-year-old from her summer camp last week, she hung onto me like she hadn’t seen me in weeks. The campers had gone on a field trip to Lake Worth for a little hiking, and since my kid hearts nature like nobody’s business, I was surprised that she didn’t have a good day. And all my “what’s wrong” questions ended in this ominous response.

“I’ll tell you in the car.”

It’s hard to describe the unending mental Twitter feed of doom that scrolled through my head as we headed out to the parking lot. Was it another camper? A counselor? WHAT HAPPENED?

When she was finally inside our 120 degree SUV, she ended my torment with one cryptic sentence.

“It was the Goatman.”

Apparently, while hiking, one of the counselors told them not to go into the swamp because it is the land of alligators and “the Goatman.” She spent the rest of the hike flinching every time some stupid kid said they saw a goat in the bushes.

Yes, Texas has it’s own Big Foot legend, called the Lake Worth Monster, AKA “The Goatman.” I’d heard of him before, a seven-foot-tall monstrosity who throws tires at swimmers and jumps on the hoods of cars while teenagers are making out. I just never thought the Goatman would end up in my parenting talk about kid fears.

And then she asked me the million dollar question. “Is the Goatman real?”

goat man pic

If you’re wondering what that white blobby thing in the picture is, that’s the Goatman. The pic was taken in 1969, the summer that the Lake Worth monster first made its big splash, allegedly in front of about forty people, inspiring a flurry of newspaper articles that spread monster panic in Cowtown.

monster sighted

And even though the Lake Worth Monster was never spotted again, people couldn’t stop talking about him. The legend inspired a book, an exhibit at a San Antonio museum, and a horde of cryptozoologists and dudes with guns who prowled the lake shores, looking for footprints.  Aaaaand then there’s the musical.

monster play

Do I think this is real? No. But the Goatman has stuck around for 50 years, even though there are plenty of reasonable theories about what people really saw that summer. A prankster in a fur suit. A 40-pound Macaque monkey that had escaped from a local shelter. A beer keg that grew mold with psychedelic properties. Who knows?

So the most interesting question isn’t about whether or not it’s real.  It’s “Why do so many of us want it to be real?”

Even with the rodeo and a very nice zoo, Fort Worth would be quite a bit more interesting if we had a monster, wouldn’t it?

Still, that didn’t give me a good answer for my daughter’s question, “Is he real?” I spent most of the drive home trying to figure out the right thing to say. By the time we pulled into the driveway, she’d already made up her mind.

“If a lot of adults say it’s real, it’s probably real.”

And this is how myths are made.