There are stories that travel far back into Māori folklore, and forward to quite recently, of a mysterious entity, half man half goat, that has been encountered on lonely roads and outside of smaller towns all around the country. Most people refer to the creature by a simple, straightforward name, Goatman, sometimes Hoofman. Who or what is this Goatman creature?
Tales of goatlike creatures have circulated the globe for hundreds of years. They are said to lurk on the outer boundaries of suburban regions, living but a few kilometres from residential zones. Reports speak of them being around 7-8 feet tall, putrid smelling, covered in thick matted fur and rather vicious, sometimes clothed, sometimes naked, hairy and very wild. Witnesses claim it has a goatlike head and moves about on either two or four legs, depending on the circumstances and terrain, much like the wondrous mythical creatures embedded in Greek mythology.
The Goatman has been reported in many regions around New Zealand. Stories have come from Waiouru Military Camp, where it has scared witless a few who have lived there. This Goatman, however, is said to possibly be just a prank, sometimes played on the newbies to the camp. The creature has been sighted along the Desert Road, which runs past the Waiouru Camp region, leaping into the bush as cars approach. One reader told me his uncle claimed to have almost hit the creature in his old ute while driving the Desert Road back in the 1970s.
The Waioweka Gorge is another location of alleged Goatman appearances. These encounters, in particular, are said to be good omens. I was told that he is sometimes known to step out to approaching cars, asking for a lift, hence another of his given names, the Hitchhiker.
‘You stop and give him a lift, but just a short way up the road he asks to get out,’ said one believer/witness. ‘Sometimes he just disappears from the car, having safely gotten you past the stretch of road you were about to have an accident on. Just seeing him on a dangerous piece of road has avoided you from an accident about to happen, most probably right where he stood.’
I am told he is an ancestor who comes to warn of impending bad news or traumatic events to come. One reader that wrote to me told of her great-grandparents talking about the man with horse hooves. They spoke of having seen him in Rotorua and the Mamaku area. Others told me the creature is a spirit.
‘He lives on the Banana Bridge in the Paraparas,’ said WHO. ‘We call him the Hitchhiker. He is an old man whose car went over the bank. He pops up every so often, normally to help people who are having car troubles, or hitchhikers who are lost. He even pops up in cars on the way to a Tangi.’
The hitchhiking theme carried on with this story.
A strange looking man in a trench coat was hitchhiking the Waituhi Saddle Road in the early hours, in pitch-black darkness. My uncle picked him up. He didn’t say a word, just silence. As the truck headed on down the road towards Turangi, the man thumped on the door of the truck to be let off. When the truck came to a stop, the man jumped off the truck and disappeared into the night. My uncle said to me, ‘All you heard was clip … clop … clip … clop.’
Somehow, his lower half isn’t distinguishable until he’s in your car. He’s very smelly. If you don’t pick him up, something bad will happen. The legend was meant to be from around the Taupo region, but I’ve since heard others talking about him being as far up as Northland!
It is unsure whether these creatures are solid flesh and blood cryptids, interdimensional beings, aliens, ghosts or just straight up urban myth.
The Māori view on them is that they are Kaitiaki, or a guardian, an entity that protects the lakes and forests.
One ‘guardian’ I received information about was from the Maniapoto tribe. His name is Tarapikau. Known as being a traveller, he is said to occupy Maungatautari, a mountain range nestled in between Te Awamutu and Putaruru. He is believed to have originated from the Rangitoto ranges, King Country. I am told that this Goatman is one of two twins. One brings good, the other inflicting misfortune and death ‘because he’s impatient’.