Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Legend of the Coatman

A Park Ranger from the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) struck up a conversation with me at Fox Hill Park in Bowie last Sunday. He initially asked me if I had caught any fish (I hadn't), and then he wanted to know whether or not I had purchased a fishing license (I had). He was very friendly, and I imagine that if I didn't have a fishing license, he would have just given me a reminder.

Our conversation turned to local fishing spots and boating on the Patuxent River, and I jokingly mentioned something about the possibility of running into the Goatman in the woods near the river.

The Park Ranger said, "did you know that the story of the Goatman is really a misunderstanding about a guy that people used to call the Coatman?"

The Park Ranger ran into a man some years back who was hunting for Bigfoot in Prince George's County. The hunter told the ranger that there was a man who would catch fish and turtles in local waterways during the Great Depression, and he would sell his catch to earn a little money. The man was a little odd. He had long unkempt hair and he would wear a long, heavy coat - even during the hot and humid summer months. People would sometimes spot the man in the woods, and they dubbed him the Coatman. According to the Bigfoot hunter, the story of the Coatman evolved into the present day stories of the Goatman.

I had never heard of the Coatman, so I searched the Internet later that night for similar stories. I came across a blog entry about the Goatman posted by a priest from a Catholic church in Mitchellville who calls himself Father Joe. Father Joe wrote...

One elderly person remarked that they had known the figure, not as the Goatman, but as the Coatman. The name changed as the particulars blurred by word of mouth. According to this testimony, and it makes real sense, it resulted from this madman always wearing a long coat of fur, even in the sweltering summers of Southern Maryland.

Perhaps the strangest part of this story is that there is a Bigfoot hunter roaming Prince George's County who is attempting to set the record straight whenever he hears silly stories about a creature that is half man and half goat.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Possible Coyote and Bobcat Sightings in Bowie

The following discussion about coyote and bobcat sightings in Bowie recently took place on the Bowie Crofton Community of Blessings discussion group on Yahoo.

Member 1: I know I've heard many accounts of coyotes in the area, but now I'm hearing people who've seen bobcats. Have any of you sighted either of these? I'm curious if these are rare occurrences or are they getting more common.

Member 2: There is at least 1 fox that lives in the vicinity of the Belair and RT 3 exchange. But it is not a coyote.

Member 3: There are several dens of fox that are in the Bowie area. Please be careful with your small pets.

Member 1: I just want to state that I'm not trying to scare anyone, and I'm not scared myself. I'm more interested in the movement of these beautiful animals and hope that we can all live together peacefully. I don't want anyone to chase away or kill coyotes or bobcats. We just need to be aware of the things that draw them in to our neighborhoods and not tempt them into doing something that will get them hated and hunted.

Member 4: Thanks for passing this along.

I think foxes are nocturnal so it may be wise to keep small pets inside at night. If you have pet doors that lead outside, you may want to lock them.

Member 1: My brother has a regular coyote visitor in Saddlebrook. He had to build a smaller fenced in area within his fenced in yard for his tiny dogs when they go out. He did that to make it harder for the coyote to jump in by having to clear two fences. He doesn't let the dogs out unsupervised. Another neighbor saw a bobcat in the same neighborhood, but my brother and sister in law haven't seen that one, but they HAVE seen the coyote.

Member 5: There have been fox spotted in the Whitehall section too.

Member 5: Thank you. I would love to see these beautiful animals too. I have seen the fox a couple of times.

We need to stop encroaching on their territory.

Member 6: I'm in Meadowbrook off of Millstream and 197 and I occasionally see red fox in my backyard by the pool. Never seen and coyotes or bobcats.

Member 7: I agree with you Cheryl. It is wonderful to see the tolerant attitudes of folks on the list toward our wilder neighbors. I have (rarely) spotted red fox in my yard too. Friends told me years ago that there were coyote on the NASA campus. We would be poorer if we were to never have these occasional encounters with the earth's other creatures, I think.

Although I was surprised to hear about the possibility of coyotes and bobcats in Bowie, it turns out that I shouldn't be. According to a Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reports on coyotes in Maryland, coyotes can now be found in every county in Maryland. A similar DNR report on bobcats in Maryland from 2007 (PDF - see page 2) reported bobcat sightings in 14 of 23 Maryland counties.

The DNR coyote article reports that as coyotes increase in population in an area, red fox are pushed out. Red fox populations are diminishing in some western and central portions of Maryland, so perhaps that's why it seems like there has been an increase in red fox sightings in Bowie in recent years - including an incident last July when a Race Track Road resident was bitten by a rabid fox.

Harry Spiker, the Game Mammal Section Leader at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, had the following to say about possible coyote and bobcat sightings in Bowie.

Coyotes are known to occupy all of Maryland now, with the highest densities in western Maryland (Garrett and Allegany counties). Garrett, Allegany and Washington counties have the highest population densities of bobcats. Sporadic distribution of bobcats continues eastward to the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay.

Both species are very good at avoiding people and not being seen. Both are currently in their breeding season right now, though, and this may account for increased sightings in a given area.

Related Links

Friday, March 19, 2010

Gas Stations in Levitt Bowie

Levitt and Sons attempted to have nearly an acre of land rezoned to allow for the operation of a gas station near the intersection of Route 3 and Belair Drive. According to a 1964 Washington Post article, the Prince George's County Commissioner denied the zoning request based on a recommendation from the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission. A court battled ensued. The Princes George's County Circuit Court overruled the decision, but the Maryland Court of Appeals reversed the lower court's ruling.

When my in-laws were in the process of buying their first Levitt house in 1962, they were told to avoid buying any house on Keel Turn because a gas station was planned for the intersection of Collington Road and Kenhill Drive. Houses on the western side of Keel Turn were adjacent to the proposed location (the present day location of the Bowie bushes). That plan was also scrapped.

A gas station was built on the corner of Annapolis Road and Stonybrook Drive. According to the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation, Levitt and Sons sold the property to Mobil Oil Corporation in 1967 for $170,000. That station switched its affiliation from Mobil to Sunoco, and it closed its doors in December, 2009 to make way for a PNC Bank branch.

"Md. Court Rejects Levitt Gas Station," The Washington Post, June 3, 1964

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Bowie Levitt Neighborhood Names

Neighborhood Names Significant at Belair is an article published by The Washington Post in 1965 that reveals the origins of the neighborhood names in the early Belair at Bowie development. Former Vice President of Levitt and Sons of Maryland, Inc. James P. Lee was interviewed for the story. The following descriptions were taken directly from the article.
  • Foxhill: "The Foxhill neighborhood once echoed with the baying of foxhounds and the horn of the hunt master as Governor Ogle's private pack of hounds searched for the elusive fox."
  • Chapel Forge: "Chapel Forge is so named because it is near the site of the original estate's forge, or blacksmith shop, and also near the site of a Catholic chapel that once attracted many pilgrims to the area."
  • Buckingham and Kenilworth: "Buckingham and Kenilworth bear the same names as a well known English palace and castle - one the home of today's English royal family and the other made famous by Sir Walter Scott in his novel Kenilworth."
  • Tulip Grove: "Tulip Grove is named for an impressive stand of 78 tulip poplar trees, over 200 years old and 150 feet high. They were nursed back to good health by Levitt landscape men. For protection, each tree is fitted with its own lightning rod."
  • Meadowbrook: "Meadow Brook received its pastoral name because of the fact it once was a meadow crossed by a brook."
  • Long Ridge: "Long Ridge is named because it was built on a ridge, a distinctive feature in the rolling Maryland terrain."
The Somerset neighborhood was not mentioned in the article, and neighborhoods like Whitehall and Rockledge had not been developed by the time the article was written.

"Neighborhood Names Significant at Belair," The Washington Post, September 11, 1965

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Bowie Turtle Mystery

My wife has fond memories of playing on a concrete turtle in the 1970s in the Bowie shopping center that she has always known as Market Place, and in the years since, she has heard people claim that the Market Place turtle was moved to Allen Pond Park. She recalls, however, that the Market Place turtle and the Allen Pond turtle existed at the same time. She also recalls that the Market Place turtle had indentations to make the climb easier for kids, and the Allen Pond turtle did not.

The minor turtle controversy was a topic of discussion when my wife was working for the Bowie Blade as a reporter in 2006. She doesn't recall why, but she thinks that it may have been a comment from a reader in response to a Sam Fatzinger story in the Blade that claims that Allen Pond Park is the latest home for the turtle that used to be located in front of People's Drugs. My wife recalls that one of her colleagues investigated by talking to one or two sources at Bowie City Hall. She thinks the results were inconclusive.

The turtle(s) have since been discussed on Bowie related Facebook pages: Bowie, MD Stories and You Know You're From Bowie When....

The following is a March, 2010 picture of the turtle in Allen Pond Park.

"LONDINO STONE COMPANY" is engraved on the left front leg of the turtle.

The following is a picture of a turtle from Pittsburgh, PA that I found on Flickr (see pic on Flickr). My wife believes that this more closely resembles the Market Place turtle. What do you think?

Lost Keys

UPDATE: I was able to locate a picture of the turtle from the Belair Shopping Center. Click here to see the photo.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Bowie Briefs #9

Former Bowie High School Principal Dies
Former Bowie High School Principal John M. Hagan passed away Monday. According to a posting on Facebook, a memorial service will be held on Saturday March 20, 2010 from 1:00pm to 3:00 at the Beall Funeral Home, 6512 Crain Highway, Bowie, MD 20715. Click this link to see the Beall Funeral Home listing for Principal Hagan. Additional details can be found in a Bowie Star/Gazette article

Reality Show Over for Bowie Woman
Shawne Morgan of Bowie joined with her friend Monique Pryor to compete in this season of the CBS reality TV show The Amazing Race, but the pair was eliminated from the competition after three weeks when they were unable to master a mock polo competition in Argentina. More details can be found in a Bowie Star/Gazette article.

$2 Million in Damages from Old Bowie Fire
The cause of an early morning fire at a construction site in Old Bowie on Sunday is still under investigation. A Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department press release described the incident as follows.

The first fire occurred just before 4:00 AM, Sunday, March 7, 2010, in Bowie. Firefighters were alerted to a fire on a construction site in the 12900 block of 11th Street. Fire/EMS units encountered a fire involving a small structure, 3 cement trucks and large amounts of debris. About 30 firefighters worked for about 45 minutes to knock down the bulk of the fire. AMTRAK officials worked with firefighters as the site was adjacent to the tracks. No injuries were reported. The cause of the fire is under investigation and fire loss is estimated at $2,000,000.

Some area residents heard explosions early Sunday morning near Old Bowie. The following comments were posted on the Bowie Crofton Community of Blessings group page on Yahoo.

Member 1: Last night I awoke about 2 or 3 am to what sounded like an explosion. I'm in Old Bowie on 9th St. Then there were a series of explosions and one time I even saw a flash of light over the trees by the railroad followed by another explosion. Half hour later fire departments from all over were coming. Does anyone know what happened near the railroad by the antique district? I can't find anything on the news.

Member 2: Intersting, I heard an explosion and thought the clock said 4:32 (maybe it was earlier). I am off Hillmeade and 450 in Glenn Dale so it must have been big! I hope everyone is ok.

Additional details can be found in a Bowie Star/Gazette article.

Firefighters/Medics Install Carbon Monoxide Detector in Bowie Home
Firefighters and medics returned to a home on Maycheck Lane in Bowie to install a carbon monoxide detector two weeks after treating Naila Ferkic in the same home for carbon monoxide poisoning. Ferkic originally thought she had the flu, but rescuers detected carbon monoxide samples in her home that were more than ten times acceptable levels. Additional details can be found in a blog post on the Prince George's County Fire/EMS blog site.

Bowie Police Officer Shoots Dog
A Bowie police officer shot a dog after being attacked twice Monday night. The following text appeared in a Bowie Police Department unusual occurrence report (PDF).

On 3/8/10 at 1945 hrs, the Bowie Police responded to the 14800 block of London Lane for a lost property report. As the Officer was approaching the dwelling the Officer noticed a large dog attempting to get out of the door as the owner was exiting the dwelling. The Officer advised the owner to secure his extremely large dog (weighing approximally (sic) 100 lbs) at which time the dog ran past the owner, lunged at the Officer latching onto her left leg. The Officer freed herself from the dog and attempted to retreat at which time the dog attacked her a second time, biting her in the right leg. The Officer again attempted to retreat at which time the dog charged her again, fearing for her personal safety, the Officer drew her duty weapon and fired one shot, striking the dog. The Officer was transported to Bowie Health Center where she received treatment for a dog bite and released.

The homeowner transported the injured dog to 6700 Laurel Bowie Road for emergency treatment. The dog is in stable condition at this time.

Bowie Man Indicted for Mortgage Fraud Scheme
Rolando Alonzo Cousins was indicted for his part in a scheme that took advantage of homeowners who were behind in their mortgage payments. Some victims were left homeless. More details can be found in a article.

World War II Pilot Back in the Cockpit
Ninety-one year old World War II pilot Wayne Fogelman of Riva was given the opportunity to fly again after Bowie car salesman Lew Gilinsky and Freeway Airport owner Stanely Rodenhouser arranged to have Fogelman pilot a 30 minute trip with flight instructor Matt Linquist. Click this link to read the story in the Bowie Blade.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Former Head of Bowie Race Track Dies

Former Bowie Race Track General Manager Al Karwacki died of pancreatic cancer Sunday. He was 78.

According to, Karwacki started as a part-time accountant at the track in 1963, and he worked his way up to be the General Manager and Vice President of the track by the time it was shuttered in 1985.

See the following links for more details.

Where in Bowie? #5 - Answer revealed

In a previous post, I asked where this picture was taken in Bowie.

Bill from Bill's Baro Clinic blog correctly guessed that this picture was taken along the WB&A Trail between the Omaha Beach Chapter of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and the Berwyn Rod & Gun Club.

This section of the WB&A Trail runs along the former Washington, Baltimore and Annapolis Railroad right of way. I don't know the history of this structure, but it may have been a water tower for the railroad.

A view from the trail. The view of this structure is partially blocked by leaves during the summer. Joggers and bikers might not even realize it's there.

Another view from the trail.

We took a walking and biking trip along a section of the WB&A trail last Sunday. We started our trip at the parking lot off Race Track Road.

Trail Dedication. Morris J. Warren was a long time Bowie resident, and, according to the Wash Cycle blog, he is considered to be the driving force behind the creation of the WB&A trail. In 2008, the City of Bowie recommended (PDF) that the trail's future bridge over the Patuxent River be named in honor of Morris Warren.

The Tunnel Under Race Track Road

I was surprised to see snow still covering part of the trail.

Some of the old rails are still visible near the deck by Race Track Road.

Thanks Wiggans Family!

Loud gunfire can sometimes be heard because of the trail's close proximity to the Berwyn Rod & Gun Club.

A sound barrier helps dampen the sound of gunfire.

Something doesn't seem right about putting bike helmets on your kids for safety and letting them ride by a shooting range.

Someone painted a bit of graffiti after our last visit in the fall.

Part of the trail must be shared with cars, although cars rarely come by.

Berwyn Rod & Gun Club. The club has been at this location for a long time.

The City of Bowie purchased a 12.8 acre property adjacent to the trail near the water tower in June, 2009 for about $500,000. The funding came from a State grant as part of Program Open Space. Program Open Space is described on the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Web site as follows:

Program Open Space (POS) acquires recreation and open space areas for public use. The Program administers funds made available to local communities for open and recreational space through the State real estate transfer tax and from federal programs, such as the Land and Water Conservation Fund of the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. The Program coordinates the acquisition of lands for the use of all units of DNR.

I don't know what the future plans are for this property.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Goatman - The Movie

The legend of the half-man half-goat creature known as the Goatman has survived for more than 50 years in Bowie, and now Bowie native Andrew Bowser has made the Goatman the subject of a movie making its debut at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Conference and Festival in Austin, Texas later this month.

Jimmy Tupper VS. The Goatman of Bowie is the story of a young nobody who is dumped in the woods as a prank after he becomes drunk and passes out. Jimmy, played by director Andrew Bowser, eventually finds his way out of the woods, but his body is bloodied, and Jimmy has a story to tell - he's seen the Goatman. Jimmy returns to the woods with a video camera to prove to his friends that the Goatman is real.

Jimmy Tupper VS. The Goatman of Bowie Official Trailer

Although some people may categorize the style of the film as "found footage", Bowser said that the movie is more of a commentary on the genre that was made popular by The Blair Witch Project in 1999. Although the "found footage" approach created some challenges for Bowser, it also helped him keep the film's budget low.

I interviewed Andrew Bowser about his links to Bowie, the movie and his memories of the Goatman legend.

Can you tell me about your past and current links to Bowie?

I grew up in Bowie and still have numerous friends and family members that live there!

How long did you live in Bowie?

From when I was born until I moved away to college in NYC. Then after two years at school- I moved back to the area until leaving for LA. So about 22 years total.

Where did you grow up (what section/neighborhood)?

B section! Brierdale to be exact, right off Buckingham.

Are your folks still in Bowie?

No, my Dad lives in Massachusetts and my Mother lives in Arkansas. But my sisters live in Crofton and Crownsville. Also, my in-laws live in Bowie still.

Which schools did you attend?

Holy Redeemer Pre-school, Kenilworth Elementary, then Thomas Pullen Middle and Suitland High.

You were in the Visual and Performing Arts magnet program at Suitland High?

Yes I studied photography at Suitland in the VPA department.

When did you graduate?

I graduated from Suitland High School in 2000.

Any other links to Bowie?

Bowie was where I grew up, so I have a million links. I worked at the Hoyts movie theater when it opened and was there for a few years. I worked at the Tony Roma's restaurant with my friend and fellow actor Pedro Gonzalez. I also worked at the Target overnight stocking. The Hoyts is where I met Chris Jones, Tim Kuczka and Pedro Gonzalez who are all in the film!

Is that the same Pedro Gonzalez who is a Spanish teacher at Samuel Ogle?

The very same one!

Where was the movie filmed?

Bowie, all over Bowie. K section, O section, a gas station at the intersection of Route 3 and 450. Hmm...let me think where else...of COURSE Governor's Bridge Road and the woods directly past the bridge.

I assume that the movie is set in Bowie?

Heck yes.

Any other current/former Bowie residents in the film? I saw the following listed: Pedro Gonzalez, Chris Jones, Michael Eller, Tim Kuczka, Micah Terrill, Rose Rodkey, and Brittany Latorre.

Gary Coby is in the film and also co-produced it alongside Tim Kuczka. There are NUMEROUS Bowie-ites in the picture. Too many to count. I think everyone in the film is from Bowie or lived there. Chris Jones however is from Laurel!

Do you have any childhood memories of the Goatman legend?

I just remember hearing stories of him killing animals and people with an axe. I had a friend whose parents loved telling scary stories. They lived right on Belair Drive and would have big halloween parties every year. They told us about the Goatman and a million other stories about the Belair Mansion being haunted.

Is there any link to the movie and what you and your friends did as teenagers in Bowie?

The movie was really a "return to form" of sorts for us. We made films at the Hoyts all the time. We would stay after hours and make silly shorts and even attempted to make a feature a long time ago. I've been working in music videos for a few years and living in LA working on another film I made called "The Mother of Invention". That film cost a little more than "Goatman" and was made out here in Cali with my friend Joe Petrick. Coming back to MD and making this movie with my MD bros was like getting back to basics. It's what we grew up doing.

Did you and your friends ever go out "searching" for the Goatman?

We used to drive onto the bridge and turn the lights out. We'd be waiting for either the ghost of a murdered woman- or the Goatman. We never saw either.

Have you ever been to Glenn Dale Hospital?

Heck yes. Numerous times. In fact, in the sequel to "Goatman" The Glendale Hospital plays a HUGE role.

What's next for the film after SXSW?

I am going to enter more and more festivals and look for financing for "Goatman 2".

Are there any planned viewings in the Bowie area?

Not yet, maybe after we get into a few more fests (God willing) we will do some Bowie screenings.

How would someone see the movie after SXSW?

The only way to see it is if we get into more festivals at this point.

After reading one of your blog posts, I've got to ask you this. Would someone give this film a "Christian" label?

Most people would not define this film as a "Christian Film." Quite the opposite really. But I love Christ and attempt to do everything with a goal of pleasing him. But the monster movie I've made is very displeasing to Christ in the eyes of a lot of Christians so it may be divisive in that world. I can say this, the sequel delves deeper into the supernatural world and the motives behind murder and destruction so perhaps...that will seem more "Christian" than it's predecessor. But my intentions as a filmmaker are to illuminate truths and emotions that I think God wants brought into the light as well.

Anything else that you think people from Bowie would be interested in knowing about you or the movie?

I think it would be great for Bowie to get behind the film, see it at fests if they can over the next year and help us get the sequel made! Perhaps there is some rich doctor in Bowie somewhere that's always dreamed of being a movie producer...?

The movie is featured as part of the SXSW Film Festival's Midnighters Screenings. Show times at the Alamo Ritz 2 in Austin are March 14th at 11:45pm, March 16th at 11:00pm and March 20th at 11:00pm.

Related Links

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Where in Bowie #5

The Where in Bowie posts are meant to challenge readers to identify a location in Bowie pictured in the post. I put a lot of empty space at the end of the post to keep the comments out of sight until the reader scrolls down.

Where in Bowie is this?
Click here for the answer.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Bowie Briefs #8

Bowie High Student's Death Caused by Heart Abnormality
Bowie High School football player Jonathan Nolon died February 18th in the school's gym after running laps. Autopsy results indicate Nolon had a coronary artery anomaly. Some question whether or not EKG tests should be mandatory for student athletes. Additional details can be found in an article in the Bowie Star/Gazette.

City of Bowie Posts Job Openings
Can you talk to the animals? Do you have any experience keeping pic-a-nic baskets away from hungry bears? Do you know how to mow grass? The City of Bowie may want you. Click here to see the following City of Bowie job openings.

  • Part Time Animal Control Officer or Trainee
  • Seasonal Park Ranger
  • Temporary Laborer

Bowie Baysox Holding National Anthem Auditions
Jose, can you see? Do you know the words to the Star-Spangled Banner? The Bowie Baysox are looking for people to sing the National Anthem at 2010 home games. Auditions will be held on Saturday, March 13th. Click this link for more details.

Bowie Center for the Performing Arts Hosts Fundraiser
A concert was held at the Bowie Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday to raise money for victims of the recent earthquake in Haiti. The concert featured numerous bands including The Crayfish (with Bowie City Councilman Jimmy Marcos on drums). The event raised over $3000. Additional details can be found in an article in the Bowie Star/Gazette.

Spanish Teacher Named Teacher of the Month
Samuel Ogle Middle School teacher Pedro Gonzalez was named Bowie Teacher of the Month for January. Additional details can be found in an article in the Bowie Star/Gazette.

Bowie Man Loses Nearly $100,000 to Identity Theft
The story of identify theft victim Dave Crouse of Bowie was recently featured in an article in The Buffalo News. Crouse lost everything in his savings and retirement accounts. Five percent of adults in the U.S. were victims of identify theft in 2009, according to one study. See the article by following this link: Buffalo News article

Housing Prices Decline in the 20715 Zip Code
According to this blog post, the average list price for homes in the 20715 zip code is $294,073, and the average days on market is 198.

Bowie Family Helps Raise Guide Dogs
Suzanne Mead of Bowie was featured in a recent article in The Sentinel for her volunteer work raising guide dogs for Guiding Eyes for the Blind, an internationally accredited, nonprofit guide dog school.