This is the story of why I’ll never walk Sutton Wilderness in the dark again.
The sun wouldn’t rise for another hour when I leashed up my dog for our walk. You see, my wife and I started going to the gym on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Last week, our trainer wanted us to add cardio to our routine, so Tuesdays and Thursdays became our cardio days. Our gym was small, and with only one treadmill working at the moment, I opted to get my exercise later in the day via a hike through the nearby urban wilderness. I figured this would also be an excellent opportunity to walk our dog, Penny.
Fall showed no signs of coming early to Oklahoma as we stepped outside to the 75-degree heat. With all of the lakes and the Gulf Stream, Oklahoma can get unbearably humid. On Tuesday, when I did the walk at 10 am, I felt sweaty enough to want to take a second shower from a 40-minute hike, so this was much better. Today, I opted to start at 6 am before I’d shower and match my wife’s time at the gym.
Despite the dark, there were several cars parked in the lot for Sutton Wilderness.
“Goes to show that the Sutton Goatman isn’t real,” I joked.
I had heard of the urban legend about a Goatman stalking the woods at night, but that was the extent of my knowledge until I listened to a local podcast that went more in-depth. The host described the story as one that echoed other Goatman stories across the nation. His research compared the sightings of woodland monsters, like bigfoot, through a cultural lens, with people from British backgrounds familiar with apemen, werewolves from Germanic history, and the goatmen from the Dutch. Similar to other Goatman stories, this creature existed near a hospital, or in the case of Sutton Wilderness, a psychiatric ward.
The urban wilderness was once grounds for the Griffon Memorial Hospital, an old central state mental hospital. As the hospital shrunk, the state turned the landscape into the park people enjoy today. According to urban legends, the hospital found a baby deformed with horns to the point they thought the child was a goat at first. The hospital cared for the baby, and as the child grew up and the landscape changed, the child decided to stay here.
The podcast host noted that this would put the Goatman well over 70 years old and said that some people believe the spirit of the Goatman is what haunts the woods. Regardless of the form, the legend warns that people will hear footsteps made by hooves coming from behind them. If a person walked faster or slower, the steps would match their pace until one would feel hot breath on their neck, by which time, you were too late. If you turned around, the Goatman would grab you and drag you deep into the woods–never to be seen again.
The main trail for the park was about a mile and a half long, with the two main entrances looping back at a wooden pavilion. We took the path to our right. Although it was dark, and I could barely see with all of the tree coverage, I was more concerned about my dog eating something she shouldn’t than anything else. The city had widened the trails a couple of years ago to give people more space when crossing each other and reduce the tick population.
My dog stopped. Her ears perked up and turned to the south toward the rhythmic beat of drums off in the distance.
I tugged on her leash and assured her, “It’s just the high school band practicing, Penny.”
I was over a third of the way on the trail before I encountered my first person. They appeared to be an older gentleman–hard to say with the blue disposable face mask, long sleeve shirt, pants, and fisher hat they wore. I nodded my head hello, and they walked past without saying a word.
When we got to the long straight path near the pond, something behind us caught my dog’s attention. I turned around, and there was a white light floating through the bushes, moving fast along the trail and getting closer. I’m ashamed to admit that my brain took a long moment before realizing this was a headlight from a bike. In my defense, bicycles were not allowed on the trails. I pulled Penny closer to me as we moved to the side and let them pass.
Penny and I came to the final stretch of the woods, which had the thickest tree coverage. Penny’s tail curled inward as she got closer to my side. An educational sign about life in the woods highlighted the various animals one could find, such as bark beetles, ornate box turtles, cedar waxwings, bobcats, eastern wood rats, and downy woodpeckers. Back away from the sign was a hut made out of fallen tree branches. I always viewed this “fairy house” as something fun for kids to explore, but not today.
There were pieces of the bike I saw earlier scattered on the ground. The bike looked like it had been mangled by some machine as no person or creature could do that kind of damage. I turned on my phone’s flashlight. While I stayed put on the paved trail, I used the light to follow the bike pieces to the hut.
Something moved inside. I cut away the shadows with my light and revealed a pair of green eyes reflecting at me.
I ran, and so did Penny. I was struggling to keep up with her, but I had her on the leash still. Behind us, I heard what sounded like hooves matching my pace on the paved trail. I dared not to look back.
The sun was rising as we made our escape out of the woods and back to the gazebo. With the sound of hooves gone and no warm breath on my neck, I stopped to catch my breath. Staying behind in the trees was someone about my height. I thought I saw horns like a goat, but as I tried to get a good look at them, they faded into the shadows.
This short story was inspired by an actual walk I had through Sutton Wilderness one morning. My muse spoke to me along the walk and I recorded several voice-to-text memos of the scenes for this story as I walked my dog. Bits like the drums, the person in the mask walking, and the cyclist happened to me, adding to the realism of the story.
The podcast referenced in the story was from the Tales Unveiled episode, The Wilderness of Sutton. (I also produce this show and voice Sam.) The goatman legend is one of the urban legends about the area, so if you want to know more about this myth and others, give the episode a listen.
While I first published the story to my supporters on Patreon, I did share this on r/NoSleep where the work got some great feedback and traction. I had a few people reach out to me asking if they could read the story on their channel, so I’m excited about that experience. I’ll update this page with those links as I get them. (Find them at the top.)
Thank you for reading!