Sunday, 29 November 2015

Pardon me for being gruff: Dismissing the Goat Man


What? You hadn't noticed? Well, neither had I actually, but that's what "lad's culture" site Unilad reported today (29/11/15). The article talks about the history of the cryptid and not much else. So where is this "Goatman frenzy" occurring?

Mostly on Twitter it seems, where searching the hashtag #goatman links to a hundred or so tweets from the last few days. None of these posts actually link to any actual eye witness accounts. Many of them link to blogs heavily featuring the photo above, easily the most famous image of the cryptid. But this image certainly isn't a new one, a brief search links it to a news story aired in May 2014 from Wave 3 a Louisville KY TV station. The report centres around legends of the "Pope-lick monster", tales of farmers dealing with Satan and escaped circus freaks ensue. But the image seems to predate this report. In fact it dates back to 2011.

The picture is clearly a fake, for a start it supposedly features the body of a murdered hiker, yet no criminal investigation was ever carried out nor are there any news reports of the same, hardly surprising as the picture was actually created for website i09 which held a competition entitled "Cryptid Summer" in 2011 which callenged visitors to create the most convincing cryptid photograph! Creator Lew describes how he created the image in the passage of the right, beneath the picture.

So if this isn't representative of the recent sightings of Goat-Man, where are these  accounts? A Google search links to what seems to be the source of the recent Goat-Man frenzy. On 27th November Janice Robinson reports for the website MoviePilot:
" American cryptid-spotters from all across the country - with hotspots in Kentucky, Texas and Wisconsin - report sightings of a horned man with the cloven hooves of an ungulate... Cult of Weird describes a sighting from Louisville, KY where the Goatman is locally known as 'The Pope Lick Monster': 'A large humanoid creature with furry, goat-like legs, alabaster skin, wide-set eyes, and horns that protrude from greasy fur.'"
The report further links to a year old publicity blurb for a book by Wisconsin author J. Nathan Couch, "Goatman: Flesh or Folklore?" which  explores goatman legends and sightings, I can answer that question by the way: folklore.

At no point does the MoviePilot article quote anyone who has allegedly encountered "Goat-Man", nor does an UPROXX article from the following day.
"creature known colloquially as “The Pope Lick Monster” has recently (and allegedly) been spotted throughout Wisconsin, Texas, and Kentucky..... scattered sightings of the creature arrive not too long after the release of J. Nathan Couch’s book, Goatman: Flesh or Folklore? Couch, a Wisconsin-based ghost hunter, dug into the decades-deep history of the Goatman, who has frightened generations of teenagers who would otherwise hang freely in the woods for rampant makeout sessions. Well, maybe the Goatman did serve a purpose."

The UPROXX article does link to the Twitter fuss, and who is this right in the centre of the hashtag frenzy? Its J. Nathan Couch author of the aforementioned Goat Man book!

Now I don't really see this increased interest in Goat-man as a publicity stunt by Couch to promote the book, I just think that he's exploiting the sudden surge in attention to market a few copies. I don't blame him, the man has to make a living.

The UK's free daily newspaper The Metro reports from a similar angle as UPROXX and UNILAD, the Goat Man itself isn't the story, the "internet frenzy" is. Laughably the Metro submits this image into evidence:

The image is clearly a man dressed as a goat! In the photographer who took the image conclusively told Fox News this in 2012!

"He was clumsy, working his way down the cliff trying to catch up with the rest of the herd," said Creighton. "With the binoculars I could clearly see it was a guy dressed up in a homemade goat suit." Creighton says the suit was big and furry and the man also wore heavy gloves so he could crawl on his hands and knees."
Shame on Metro reporter Ollie McAteer for straight-face reporting of an image that FOX FUCKING NEWS saw through! Also, lazy journalism man, it took me 30 seconds on Google to debunk this. You should be ashamed. Sure its A goat man, but its not THE Goat Man!

I'm pretty sure the Daily Star and Mirror stories along the same vein will follow within hours.

Again what the Metro story lacks is any eye witness testimony.

Putting this aside for a moment, could the Goat Man be a creature that actually exists?

Certainly man/animal hybrids have been a staple of mythology in multiple cultures since time immemorial, but these myths were born before the development of natural selection and evolution, before the discovery of DNA and the genome. Many of the accounts of the Goat man tell of "science gone wrong" and the creation of a gene-spliced monster.

Brian Regal assistant professor of the history of science at Kean University gave a series of lectures in 2009 regarding the impact of Darwin's theory of natural selection on the werewolf myth and explains why these hybrids are impossible.
 “The spread of the idea of evolution helped kill off the werewolf because a canid-human hybrid makes no sense from an evolutionary point of view,”
Surely the same can be said regarding a goat/man hybrid. The species involved here are simply too far removed into evolutionary terms, to create a hybrid.

You can listen to Regal's interview with the Monster Talk team, entitled Darwin .Vs the Wolfman, here.

So with no ACTUAL spate of sightings and no clear financial gain, what is the interest in three extremely popular sites, entertainment sites mind you, and the Metro publishing these stories?

I think there's a Slender-Man-esqe feel to what's on offer here, the only major difference being Goat Man having something of a folklore antecedent, albeit a not particularly old one-(the earliest Goat Man reports date to 1952 and the early 1940s), where this antecedent was pure invention in the case of Slender-man. Is this perhaps an attempt here to create another modern-myth, a viral monster in the ilk of SM and the Black eyed children? That interest would certainly generate a whole ton of hits for sites quick enough to get the jump on a surge in interest.

We are in a unique position looking at this develop at this time, because it won't be long until the preponderance of these stories begins to generate actual sightings. The more attention Goat man gets, the further to the forefront of people's mind he becomes, the more likely hoaxers and those vulnerable to misattribution are to begin sighting the beast.

What we are seeing is a self fulfilling prophecy in reverse. A rash of sightings has not sparked an internet frenzy, but an internet frenzy may likely spark a rash of "sightings".

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