With the Spring graduation ceremonies of TWU and UNT now completed, and scant weeks left for our Denton ISD schools to ring their final bell, Summertime is officially looming just over our horizon. Now comes the inevitable question that reverberates: What can we do today? Since we love us some urban exploring close to home, in 2014 we began to catalog our favorite Offbeat Denton Sites then expanded with more Offbeat Denton Oddities in 2015. Because there is always more kooky stuff to check out around our beloved town, here are even more Strange Denton Stops that you’ll need to Instagram to believe!
It is indeed a bit of a drive or bike up to Gainesville, but trust me that Glenn Goode’s Fiberglass Giants are totally worth a gander. The self-proclaimed “Fiberglass Man of North Texas,” Goode operated a sandblast & fiberglass business in the Denton area until his passing last year, but luckily his story lives on in documentary footage and internet infamy. These ginormous Muffler Men, Big Johns or Uniroyal Gals were used to advertise automotive products in the 50s and 60s, but have largely vanished. Goode salvaged and restored several of these oddities, which are still displayed on his Walnut Bend Road property. Y’all should totally check ‘em out next time you’re visiting the Lavender Ridge Farms or picking fruit in north Denton County!
While you’re driving North up I-35 East, you should also keep your eyes peeled for the architectural corpses of the mysterious Kirby’s Abandoned Mansion and the infamous Rex Cauble Ranch. The Kirby Mansion is surrounded by speculative rumors of murder and Satanism, but the Rex Cauble Ranch is a bonafide site of shady 70s outlaw skullduggery by an alleged “Cowboy Mafia.” The FBI investigation and trial of Cauble’s operations were quite the scandal during the 70s and 80s, and maybe even fodder for the PigMan of Hog Valley rumors. There ain’t a whole lot left of either, but you can actually still visit the golden statue of Cauble’s legendary thoroughbred Cutter Bill at LAWN LAND on Dallas Drive in Denton!
There is more history to be seen at the Old Irish Bed & Breakfast here in Denton, an honest to gosh alpaca farm that also offers a quaint getaway. While you visit to check out their lovely property and on-site Irish pub, be sure to take a look at their Civil War Era Historic Loom. The Georgia Barn Wood Loom was one of a few that survived Sherman's Historic March to the Sea at the end of the Civil War, legend says by freed slaves and the first African-American business owner of Macon, GA. The loom arrived in Dallas when a young couple traveled here in 1896 and has been passed along ever since. Jim can really spin a yarn about the old loom over a tasty cocktail.
You won’t have to stroll far off the Denton Square to find this wacky Denton stop, which has raised questions with more than one new arrival or recent transplant: What in the heck is/was The Bear’s Den?!? The answer, friends, is itself a piece of Denton history. Back in 2013, the mystery was solved when Julie Glover’s team discovered that the spot had been owned by famous Denton songwriter Clint Ballard Jr, who until his death in 2008 used the basement space as his hangout to drink beer with buddies. Ballard has quite the impressive list of hits that should be added to your spottily playlist, like Game of Love by Wayne Fontana, You’re No Good by Linda Ronstadt, I’m Alive by The Hollies, There’s Not A Minute by Ricky Nelson, and Gotta Get A’Hold of Myself by The Zombies. Ballard had one heckuva career, and Denton was home base.
Of course we’re always finding new spots to explore even as other’s keep creating them! Judy of Rose’s Costumes has adopted yet another spot to keep beautiful and interesting, the Chairy Orchard on Churchill Drive, which is a fun photo-op to add to your Instagram dossier!! So get out there and snap your photos with #WDDI and tell up where your favorite urban explorations can be found!!
Shaun Treat is a former professor at the University of North Texas and founder of the Denton Haunts historical ghost tour. Doc has written about numerous local places and personalities at his Denton Haunts blog, and is forever indebted to the great work of our local keepers of history like Mike Cochran and Laura Douglas at the Emily Fowler Library for their tireless work in helping preserve Denton’s intriguing past. Be sure to check out our local museums curated by the fine folks at the Denton County Office of History & Culture, and follow @Dentonaut on Twitter for local happenings.