The Keeper of Local Haunted Lore

By Lori Aratani
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 26, 2008

Ax-wielding, half-man, half-animal creatures. Scientists gone berserk. The D.C. area is filled with tales of horror (and, no, they're not just in Congress).

As a teenager, Mark Opsasnick cruised Fletchertown Road with his buddies in search of Prince George's County's infamous Goatman. The Greenbelt native spent many years chronicling the monster scene in the capital region. Along the way, he compiled one of the most complete inventories of Bigfoot sightings in Maryland. About two years ago, he published "The Real Story Behind the Exorcist: A Study of the Haunted Boy and Other True-Life Horror Legends From Around the Nation's Capital" (Xlibris Corp.).

With Halloween approaching, we couldn't think of a better time to catch up with the monster expert.

What drew you to monster lore?

When I was 11 years old in 1973, there was a very popular movie out called the "Legend of Boggy Creek." . . . I had always been a fan of horror movies in general, but there was something about the notion that there may be an actual half-man, half-animal type monster roaming the United States that I found very intriguing, even at a very early age.

Did you really believe there were these creatures?

I never actually believed that monsters existed, but I always hoped they did.

Tell me a little bit about the Goatman of Prince George's County.

There were basically three aspects to the Goatman legend, as described by early newspaper accounts. Number one is that they described a creature that was half-man, half-animal, walking on two feet. The other aspect of the legend was that it was a mad scientist -- a scientist who worked in the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center who was experimenting on goats, and the experiment went astray, and he started attacking cars with an ax. [He'd attack] anyone who would roam the back roads of the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center. The third aspect of the legend was that it was just an old hermit who retreated to the woods and would be seen walking alone at night along Fletchertown Road, and when anyone would come around, he'd just run away.

CONTINUED     1           >

© 2008 The Washington Post Company