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Goatman: Flesh or Folklore? a Critical Success

Goatman: Flesh or Folklore? by J. Nathan Couch

Though Thanksgiving already seems like a distant memory in the midst of this Arctic-like Wisconsin January, I believe I’d be remiss if I didn’t publicly state how thankful I am that Goatman: Flesh or Folklore? has thus far been a critical success.

I was a nervous wreck immediately following the publication of Goatman on October 07, 2014. My one previous full-length book Washington County Paranormal: A Wisconsin Legend Trip, while available both nationally and internationally, was of mostly local interest, and was read by individuals who likely viewed it through rose-tinted glasses, since they were likely reading about their respective home towns.  Goatman was my first attempt to write a book intended for a broader audience than one Southeastern Wisconsin county.

Goatman was also a vastly different topic then I’d ever attempted. This was no mere collection of ghost and monster stories to put into order. Instead it was a complex mess of folklore and Fortean phenomena that needed to be sorted out and made sense of. Needless to say, it was a huge relief when positive reviews began to trickle in.

Sean Whitley, director of the documentary Southern Fried Bigfoot commented that “this was a very entertaining read and an incredibly thorough look at one of America’s urban legends. Highly recommended.”

Michael A. Kleen, author of Haunting Illinois declares that “Goatman: Flesh or Folklore? is a solid and original work in a genre where substance and originality is increasingly difficult to find.”

Lyle Blackburn wrote in his Rue Morgue column, Monstro Bizarro that ” Couch’s writing is smooth and easy to read while maintaining a good balance between skepticism and open-mindedness. He goes where the research leads, allowing his conclusions to reflect only that which can be drawn from the evidence.”  He continued that Goatman is an “enjoyable read that provides new insight into these cases whether you’re interested in the cryptid aspect or simply monster folklore.”

Dr. Beachcombing’s Bizarre History Blog at Strange History claims, after a lot of thought provoking musing, that “one of the reasons that the book works so well is that the author is not just a Fortean, he is also a folklorist (by temperament if not by training). And a case like this is a wonderful example of where Fortean techniques come, unassisted, crashing to the ground: in a case like this the Fortean approach is, frankly, a blunt stone trying to open a can of beans. Folklore reminds us, instead, how humans create myths as spiders spin webs.”

Ken Gerhard, author of  Encounters of Flying Humanoids, declared “… Thoroughly enjoying this book at the moment. Extremely well researched and written. I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in mysterious and seriously weird creature accounts.”

John Rimmer of Magonia writes “[J. Nathan Couch] understands the liminal landscapes in which these creatures lurk, and knows that a suburban lot can hold as deep a terror as the remotest forest. This is a fascinating account of a search for mystery, a real search involving the author travelling to some of the weirdest spots in the US, not just clicking ‘search’ on a computer screen. This is Fortean writing at its finest, and recommended to all… ”

Monster Hunters author Tea Krulos writes “Couch does a good job of entertaining the [legends], but not endorsing them as them as fact. Because the idea of a half goat, half human stalking through the woods to head butt you is ridiculous…(wait a minute—do you hear that horrible bleating sound?)…or is it?”

And most recently, Loren Coleman, author of Mysterious America and the director of the International Cryptozoology Museum placed Goatman on his list of the Best Cryptozoology books of 2014, bestowing it with the title of “The Best Weird Cryptid Book of 2014.”

If you’ve read Goatman, and would like to offer your opinion, please consider leaving a review at your favorite website. Reviews (either negative or positive) would be appreciated at Amazon.com, BarnesAndNoble.com, or GoodReads.com.

Thanks everyone, for all the support, and I hope everyone reading this has a wonderful 2015.

12-15-14 Ground Zero Interview

Ground Zero with Clyde Lewis is syndicated all over the world. I had a very interesting night doing this show. And you’re welcome to listen to it HERE.

12-21-14 Mysterious Universe Interview

Guess who was interviewed by MysteriousUniverse.org? I absolutely love this site, and it was an honor to appear on the show. Please click HERE to listen!

Goatman of Herrin, Illinois

Having now written two books about Fortean subjects, I’ve discovered the most rewarding experience is when your work can inspire people to come forward with their unexplained, and often completely unsettling, personal experiences. Following the publication of my regional book Washington County Paranormal a legion of people in my Southeastern Wisconsin community have shared their own ghostly encounters.

Now that Goatman:Flesh or Folklore? is published, I’ve had the fortune of being contacted by several individuals who’ve had experiences with creatures matching the description of these bizarre satyr-like creatures that are occasionally encountered across the United States.

Last week I received an email from an Illinois man named Brian Harring, who shared the following traumatizing experience in the hopes of understanding precisely what happened to him.

“I was hearing you on [the MysteriousUniverse.com podcast] today, and realized that you were talking about something that chased me through the woods a long while ago. I live in Southern Illinois outside of a town called Herrin, IL. There’s a small unrecognized community called Paineville just outside of Herrin. Leaving this neighborhood there are train tracks a small distance away from a trestle that has collapsed and the location of the Herrin Massacre; aka Bloody Williamson. Recently the remains of an ancient indian burial ground was also unearthed nearby.

“It was here that I saw this thing. It was night and I had walked up the road from my neighborhood. There’s a long dark stretch of road leading from this neighborhood without any street lighting. It gets so dark you can barely see the ground. It leads up a hill exiting the neighborhood. Crossing the main highway from here are the tracks. This is where I spotted it. I’m nearsighted, so I got just close enough so that I could see what it looked like. It was standing near the tracks facing towards a body of water. It looked like it had grayish skin, but I could hardly tell the true color under the moonlight. What I did see is that it was very tall, and had a hairless muscular upper body, stood upright and it had hooven hairy legs. It also had very large horns. That’s all I needed to see before I felt very vulnerable and scared and began running for the hill. I turned to my left and watch it jump the small pond and head into the woods that spanned the road back into my neighborhood. I could hear stomping and heavy breathing as if a bull or large buck were running. It followed me a very long way, until it ran into an area cluttered with abandoned cars and other miscellaneous junk. I ran faster than I ever have in my life. It felt like I was about to lift off of the ground and lose my footing. I was tired at the hill, but terror kept me going. When I finally made it home, I couldn’t catch my breathe and almost threw up. I’ve never seen it again, but it was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen.”

To my eyes, a couple of tidbits from Brian’s experience stand out. The first is that this sighting took place near a former Native American burial. Several strange creatures have been seen at sacred Native American locations here in Washington County, Wisconsin, such as Holy Hill where a creature similar to a goat-man was seen this past September. Also, numerous Native American effigy mounds resembling goat-men once dotted portions of the Midwest.

Another is the overwhelming panic that Brian experienced. This seems to be the most common reaction reported by goat-men witnesses. Rarely, if ever, does a goat-man witness express a sense of mystery or wonder, as does the like of UFO or Bigfoot witnesses. This could also be telling. According to mythology, encountering the Greek god of the Wild, Pan (himself satyr-like in appearance) in lonely, wild places,  would cause a maddening fear to take hold of the witness. The word panic, is of course, derived from Pan’s name.

If anyone else has encountered anything along these lines, please contact me. Perhaps, together, we can figure out exactly what these strange goat-men are.

An artist’s depiction of Pan
An artist’s depiction of Pan.

Holy Hill Creature Update

Back on November 1st I published a blog about a strange creature sighting near Holy Hill, an area outside of Hartford with a history of anomalous activity.  Essentially, a woman by the name of Mindy Rossette reached out to me in late October about an extraordinary experience she and her teenage daughter had while driving near County Highway K and Highway 167 at night on September 17th. A 4-foot tall, hairless, bi-pedal creature with backwards bending legs ran in front their car.

Goatman sketch
Eyewitness sketch of a mysterious creature that dashed in front of a moving car near Holy Hill. By Mindy Rossette.

Mindy and her daughter were very upset by this encounter, and asked if I was aware of any creature like it. Because of the backwards bending legs, I was immediately reminded of the Goatman, a legendary creature that allegedly occupies nearby Hogsback Road. Mindy has never heard of Goatman, but remarked that the legs reminded her of a canine, while her daughter remarked there was something almost extraterrestrial about the entity. To sum up how deeply disturbed these two were from their encounter, Mindy remarked “It’s something we’ll never forget. The vision of this thing is etched in our lives.”

At the end of that blog, I asked that anyone with information regarding the sighting or the strange thing the Rossettes witnessed contact me. If nothing else, knowing someone else has seen such a peculiar thing can alleviate much of the stress that comes from such a puzzling experience.  Its always heartening to know you aren’t alone.

To my delight, several individuals responded with their own encounters.

Andre LeMieux: “Golfing at Ironwood [in Sussex, WI], the eastern most part of  the course. Saw what appeared to be a large dog over road kill when it stood up on hind legs and walked into small grove of trees going out of sight. A friend of mine said he saw a similar creature at his brother’s backyard which is not far from there… . My sighting was about 6:30 pm with full sunshine in summertime about three years ago [2011]. Appeared to stand about 4 to 5 feet tall on hind legs.”

Josh Hughes: “My father and I experienced something very similar to this [strange creature] while hunting in the area. It happened [around 2006] when all the Sasquatch sightings were going on. [Mindy’s story] brought up the old memories and I thought it might be good to share with you.”

Salem: On the night of December 27th, 2006 a friend and I had an encounter with what I can only describe as a supernatural creature, that resembled a wolf/dog in the Menomonee Falls area of Wisconsin. We got a pretty clear look at it too.”

Not all of the stories involved strange animals. Luther Banks shared some details regarding a UFO he witnessed. Certainly not off-topic since so many people have noted the alien qualities of Mindy’s sketch.

Luther Banks: “On October 30, 2014 I saw an object in the sky shaped like a falcon. It was metal and dark, took tight curves like it was looking for something. Tip of the craft was dark, no movement of the wings. The sun hit it right and I could definitely tell it was made of some sort of metal. [This happened at] approximately 0940 and was visible for no longer then a minute till it quickly was out of vision. This was sighted from the ground from the outskirts of Watertown, WI.

After reading Luther’s message, I myself was reminded of 4 glowing, amber orbs of light that I, and more then 50 bus tour patrons witnessed flying near Jackson, Wisconsin, on September 12th, 2014 during a Washington County Historical Society event. The orbs were flying in a rough V formation, and changed directions several times before we lost view of them. This sighting occurred just 5 days before the Rossette encounter. Of course, none of these experiences explains exactly what the Rossettes saw, but it does prove their incident was not isolated.

 Some responses were skeptical.

 Vintage Basil: “I have lived in the Holy Hill area for almost 37 years. There is a man who lives out in the wilderness up near Holy Hill. He wears all kinds of hats on his head to keep warm, and also carries all of his belongings with him. He stashes his stuff wherever he decides to spend the day and walks around at all times of the day and night. The Carmelite [friars] have tried to help him, but he has some mental issues and prefers to live outside. He has caught my eye from a distance, more than once. He doesn’t look human until you get up close and see him. They probably saw him. Night time, darkness, wilderness…all sounds like a fairy tale creature, but most likely, it’s not.

 Chris: “I’m just wondering why hunters haven’t gotten any pictures or eye witness. I am a hunter in the area just a little west of Holy Hill am curious but in disbelief. Mapleton, WI had a cougar for 5 years. It had a tracking collar on but that’s it for anything out of the ordinary. I’d like to know more.”

 A few people on social media sites theorized that it was a deer.

 A deer never, ever runs or walks on two legs, and an eccentric loner in a funny hat doesn’t have backwards bending legs. As for Chris’s question, I can’t speak for all the hunters in the Holy Hill area, but if I put myself in the Mindy’s shoes, this how I think it would go: I’d never be driving while using my phone, especially at night. After I swerved to avoid the creature, and got over the initial surprise, I’d have to get into my pants pocket for my phone, type in my four digit access could, and find my camera app. By the time all that happened, I’m sure any frightened animal/humanoid would be long gone.

 The mystery remains just that, a mystery. Once again I extend an invitation to readers: I’ve you’ve experienced anything usual that may relate to the Rossette’s experiences, please comment below or email me. If enough people come forward, perhaps we can at least try and guess at what is going on.

Goatman sketch

A Strange Creature Near Holy Hill

On October 28th a woman named Mindy Rossette posted the following sketch and message on my Washington County Paranormal Facebook Page. Mindy has graciously allowed me to publish it on my blog in the hopes that someone else may come forward with a sighting, or perhaps offer some explanation as to what she and her daughter encountered.

According to Mindy:

“At the urging of friends I am reaching out to you about an encounter me and my teen daughter had at about 9:40 pm on September 17th. We were traveling near Highway K and 167 near Holy Hill.

“I can only say [the creature] was maybe 4 ft tall, hairless, grey/brownish, and running on its hind legs. It seemed to brace for impact as my car barely missed it. Below is the picture I drew as soon as i got home. Any ideas?”

Goatman sketch
Eyewitness sketch of a mysterious creature that dashed in front of a moving car near Holy Hill. By Mindy Rossette.

The countryside surrounding Holy Hill has more than it’s fair share of anomalous activity. In 2006, a large bearlike animal with canine characteristics dragged a dead deer from the back of a county contractor’s pick up truck. The authorities recorded the encounter as a “yeti sighting” and started a minor media frenzy, attracting Bigfoot Hunters from as far away as California. Following the Bigfoot clamor, numerous eyewitnesses came forward with sightings of various strange animals ranging in description from the infamous Bigfoot, to odd bear/wolf hybrid creatures.

Also nearby is Hogsback Road, an area that local teenagers claim is haunted by an even stranger cryptid, Goatman. Goatman is exactly what he sounds like, a strange humanoid with caprine characteristics. To my eye, this creature, while almost assuredly not a human/goat hybrid, could put someone in mind of the legendary creature, particularly with those very unsettling legs which seem to have backwards bending knees.

Stories about Goatman have been told around Washington County campfires and in parked cars since about the late-1960s. While the creature seems to be mostly urban legend, creatures with a blend of human and goat attributes have been reported sporadically across the United States, with the oldest I’m aware of occurring in 1830s Minnesota.

Goatman: Flesh or Folklore? by J. Nathan Couch
Pictured above: Amber Michelle Russell’s interpretation of Goatman for the cover of my most recent book.

When I told Mindy that it reminded me of Goatman, she’d never heard of the creature. When she asked me what Goatman was, I was hard pressed to answer her.

She continued with her description:

“It’s elbow was set low on the arm. Legs seemed to bend back at the knee like a dog’s. Muscles very defined. Thighs especially. I couldn’t make out the hands because of the way it was running. I couldn’t see the feet as I couldn’t see past the car hood.

“Instantly i knew this was something incredible. We were shocked and confused trying to figure out what the heck we just witnessed. We don’t live far from that rural area so we are pretty much freaked out to venture outside when its pitch black. It’s something we’ll never forget. It was a monumental moment. The vision of this thing is etched in our lives.

“I really want to know what that was. It was tangible. Not our imagination. I wish I’d seen the face but it braced itself and tucked its head down. I wish i would have hit it. Not to cause harm, [but just so people won’t think I’m crazy].”

Those who have seen the drawing so far have remarked that it looks extraterrestrial to them, likely because of that large head that resembles the classic “grey alien” description given by alleged UFO abductees.

I’ve pondered the drawing all weekend, and the only rational explanation I can think of isn’t rational at all. It looks vaguely like a tailless kangaroo or wallaby, but just how did one of those make it’s way to Southeastern Wisconsin? One can’t solve a mystery by introducing a second, equally puzzling mystery.

Interestingly enough, I talked with a man two weeks ago following a Downtown West Bend Ghost Walk who described a creature similar to one Mindy saw outside of his house in Southern Kewaskum. A few winters ago he heard gunshots outside. He peered out his window, expecting to see coyotes running down the snowmobile path near his home. He instead saw a 4-foot tall, grey-brown creature with a horselike head running extremely fast down the snowmobile trail before it dashed away into the woods. The only major difference separating the thing he saw from the one sketched above was that it was covered in shaggy fur.

If anyone else encounters something similar to either of these creatures, or has any information pertaining to Mindy’s upsetting encounter, please contact me.

I Lost the Costume Contest

CAN YOU BELIEVE I LOST? I demand a recount.

Goatman costume
J. Nathan Couch as Goatman, Halloween 2014.
Goatman
J. Nathan Couch enjoying a good book after the contest.

Oh well. I think I looked pretty awesome.

What Are Satyrs?

During the years I spent writing Goatman: Flesh or Folklore?  one of the greatest challenges I faced was trying to describe the book to non-Forteans. Whenever they found themselves intrigued enough to ask what a goat-man was, roughly two-thirds of them stared blankly at me when I described it as resembling a satyr. While most students of the unexplained are switched on to the world of mythology, I felt a blog about these strange entities from Ancient Greece is in order. Quite a few Forteans are unaware these beings have been reportedly sighted in modern day North America.

Satyrs, while described as flesh-and-blood entities in much of the ancient literature were also regarded as nature spirits. They were depicted in art and story as handsome young men with the long ears and the full, bushy tails of horses. They were most often in the company of the god of wine, Dionysus. Their chief pursuits in life were wine, women, and song. They danced, they drank, they seduced, and they fornicated.

Satyr
A Satyr holding a pipe. Circa 500 B.C.

Later, as the Roman Empire spread across the land, the Romans adopted much of Greek mythology and blended it with their own. The Romans had their own bawdy, inebriated nature spirits, the fauns. Likewise, fauns were humanoids with pastoral qualities, but whereas satyrs were horselike, fauns were partly goat. The Romans merged these two in song and story, and since then satyrs have been almost universally regarded as goatlike beings.

Faun
A Faun, by Hungarian painter Pál Szinyei Merse.

Two other characters from mythology must be mentioned. Both the Greeks and the Romans have goatlike gods in their respective pantheons. In Greece, there was Pan. While mythological tales claim Pan is the youngest of all the Olympians, he is likely the oldest. Archaeologists have found evidence of Pan-worship as early as the Sixth Century, BC, in Arcadia. While some sources claim a kinship between Pan and satyrs, this connection likely didn’t exist until art began depicting satyrs as goat men.

A statue of Pan in the company of Daphnis, a Greek shepherd.

The Roman goat god was Faunus. As his name might suggest, Faunus did have a direct connection with the Roman fauns. Like Pan, Faunus is also one of the oldest of the Roman pantheon of gods. Both deities served similar purposes within their respective cultures. They were both rustic gods of fields, fertility, music, and wild places.  Many sources erroneously refer to both Pan and Faunus as satyrs, despite, in fact, being gods.

Faunus in statue form.

Both Pan and Faunus represented the most basic of human needs and pleasures. Given this fact, along with the fact they were both especially worshiped in rural places, they were among the most popular and enduring of all pagan deities.

Many scholars believe that the Christian devil Satan was given goatlike characteristics in Christian art as a way of making these gods of nature and merriment less appealing to rural Europeans who had yet to convert to Christianity. Other lesser demons from Christian tradition, such as Baphomet, were given goatlike features. Baphomet was eventually adopted as the symbol of the Church of Satan, further linking Pan, Faunus, satyrs, and fauns, with evil.

Baphomet, symbol of the Church of Satan.

As Christianity grew into a worldwide religion, goatlike entities such as satyrs would fade into the realm of mythology, or in certain circles, the realm of the occult. But belief in these creatures have never been entirely stamped out. Many neo-pagans still worship either or both Pan and Faunus, while some modern day Wiccans worship the Horned God, a deity that likely grew out of ancient Pan worship.

While some believe satyrs and fauns were or are satanic in nature, historical research shows that they represented humanity’s ties with, and dependence on, the natural world. But, why would these very Old World creatures be seen in North America? That’s a blog for another day.

J. Nathan Couch’s latest book Goatman: Flesh or Folklore? is now available on Amazon.com and anywhere books are sold!

Finalized Goatman front cover.

Goatman: Published

Tonight has been an extremely satisfying night. The latest proof copy of Goatman: Flesh or Folklore? arrived almost a week early. After what likely amounted to my 100th reading of the material, I finally realized the book was now ready for humanoid consumption. With a light heart and a nervous stomach, I gave the go ahead for publication.

As of this moment Goatman: Flesh or Folklore? is now on sale at my store and on Amazon.com

Within 14  days the book with be available on Kindle.

Within 6-8 weeks (but likely much sooner) the book with be available at Barnes and Noble, and just about anywhere else books are sold.

They say there are seven stages of grief. I believe there are also seven stages to writing a book. For me they are, in order:

1) Skeptical enthusiasm

2) Fanatical dedication

3) Bleak disillusionment

4) Sickening self-doubt

5) Euphoric enthusiasm

6) Crippling anxiety

7) Complete and total relief

I am presently at stage seven. There’s a lot of people who deserve recognition for making this project a reality, but I’ll save that for the book’s acknowledgment page. But I would like to use this space to thank everyone who’s believed in me and followed my other projects. If you’ve ever attended one of my talks, tours, or presentations; if you’ve ever liked something of mine on social media; If you’ve ever told a friend about one my projects; if you’ve ever pretended to laugh at one of my terrible, terrible, terrible jokes, you’re responsible for Goatman: Flesh or Folklore? being written.

I hope you’ll all enjoy it, or at the very least, mumble to yourself “That Couch fellow knows a lot about weird stuff” as you shove the book into the box marked “Goodwill.”

Thanks one, thanks all.

-J. Nathan Couch
October 07, 2014.

J. Nathan Couch with a zombie
J. Nathan Couch. And a Zombie. Dahlonega, Georgia, 2013.