Pope Lick Monster: Searching for Louisville’s Deadly Legend

By on July 31, 2013

Paranormal author and investigator J. Nathan Couch goes in search of the Pope Lick Monster in Louisville, Kentucky, which is responsible for at least 3 deaths.
The Pope Lick train trestle in Lousiville, Kentucky, home of the Pope Lick monster
Wisconsin paranormal researcher J. Nathan Couch recently took a “legend trip” to Kentucky. Legend tripping is the act of visiting an allegedly haunted location to try and experience the legend for yourself. This is the second in a series of articles by Couch following the Waverly Hills Sanatorium tour.

Legend of the Pope Lick Monster

The Pope Lick Monster is said to be a strange, savage amalgamation. He’s often described as a large humanoid creature with furry, goat-like legs, alabaster skin, wide-set eyes, and horns that protrude from greasy fur. The monster is sometimes referred to as Goatman or even Sheepman. According to story, the beast was originally captured in the wilds of Canada around the end of the 19th century. The Goatman became the star of a circus’s freak show until an electrical storm caused a train derailment. This devil-like creature was supposedly the only survivor. Instead of returning to the vast northern wilderness, the Goatman made his way to the Pope Lick Trestle, and is said to reside there even now.

Recent: Pope Lick Monster legend claims another life in Kentucky

The monster is said to possess a wide array of supernatural skills to lure people out onto the trestle including mimicry, telepathy, and/or hypnosis. Once a victim is lured onto the trestle, the Pope Lick Monster uses its abhorrent physical appearance to frighten its intended victims, causing them to leap or fall to their demise. Some versions of the legend insist the monster waits for a train to approach—then from beneath the trestle—holds its charmed victim down until the train runs them over.

Climbing onto the trestle for a glimpse of the Pope Lick Monster has long been a recreational activity for reckless Louisville-area youths. While even entertaining the idea of such an absurd creature might make even the most ardent paranormal enthusiast feel foolish, the Pope Lick Monster has killed at least three people. That’s a fact.

View from the ground of the Pope Lick tressel looming overheadThe December 30th, 1988 Louisville Courier-Journal ran a front page article entitled Trestle of Death, in which it records two tragedies. Jack “J.C.” Charles Bahm II, a 17-year old Spalding University student, was struck and killed by a train February 18, 1987 while crossing the trestle. He has since been eulogized at the site of his death. “JC we love and miss you” is spray painted on the trestle’s base. In May 1987, 19-year-old David Wayne Bryant died of injuries obtained in 1986 when he jumped from the trestle to dodge an oncoming locomotive.

Versions of the Pope Lick Monster legend have been in circulation since the 1960s, and the area around the trestle was a popular party location for area youth, but it took the Louisville premiere of the 1988 short film “The Legend of the Pope Lick Monster” to persuade the railroad it needed something more daunting than trampled chicken wire to keep the public off the trestle. The night of said premiere, two boys were arrested when they attempted to climb out onto the trestle. Immediately thereafter, a six-foot high security fence was installed.

The fence, along with a heightened police presence still hasn’t kept people away from the tracks. In 2000, a 19 year-old Mount Washington man named Nicholas Jewell was shaken from the trestle by a train’s vibrations as he tried to hang from the trestle to avoid being hit by a train.

Exploring the Pope Lick Trestle

On July 27, 2013 I went in search of this trestle to see if I could understand why anyone would risk their lives in search of a monster. As I turned onto Taylorsville Road, I caught a glimpse of the ancient looking track as it ran parallel to the road, nearly hidden by the trees. I felt as if I’d caught a glimpse of an immense, sleeping serpent. I turned onto Pope Lick Road and the trestle immediately towered some 100 feet overhead. The narrow, curved road had a surprisingly high amount of traffic when I was there, and with no visible shoulder on the road, my only recourse was to park at a nearby gas station. As soon as I pulled into the parking lot, I noticed a Louisville Sheriff’s Department patrol car sitting unmanned. I refused to be daunted by this; I’d come all the way from Wisconsin for this trip. There would be no turning back. Besides, I had no intention of going anywhere near the tracks, nor did I plan to climb any fences.

Creek at the base of the Pope Lick tresselDespite my lawful intentions, I felt like a criminal as I navigated an astonishingly high amount of traffic to take pictures from a nearby bicycle trail. Next I walked down the shoulder of the road to stand beneath the tracks. I felt a strong need to gaze up. As I did, the light through the railroad ties was dazzling, and I felt dizzy on the uneven shoulder. My imagination conjured up the approach of a train. The trestle is 772 feet from end-to-end. If you’re stranded up there with a train coming, it’s impossible to out run the locomotive and the engineer has no hope of stopping in time. The body of one of the men that was hit was recovered a couple of miles from the trestle. I turned and examined the creek, which on this day barely qualified as a trickle. One’s only choice is to leap off the trestle, a jump that it’s vastly improbable to survive.

I envisioned the Goatman—a poorly disguised image of the devil himself—and I was reminded how certain members of the Jeffersontown and Louisville community believe the Pope Lick Monster—or some other supernatural force—DID persuade those kids out onto the track. As I walked back to my car, I took a final look at the antiquated, foreboding structure and I couldn’t put myself in those kids’ shoes at all. Having been a nervous and meek youth growing up, I couldn’t imagine needing a thrill so bad that I’d wander onto the trestle.

While I wouldn’t go as far as say supernatural provocation caused the death of those kids, the Pope Lick Monster DID lure them out onto the trestle, if only with his legend.

CAUTION: Trespassing ruins legend tripping for everyone. Also, never ever play or loiter on railroad tracks. Funerals aren’t fun for anyone.

Read more about the Pope Lick Monster in Goatman: Flesh or Folklore?

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21 Comments

  1. Gary Roberts

    May 1, 2016 at 8:51 am

    I grew up in Eastwood and we used to campout and go hunting for the popelick monster and use to cross the trestle but we new when the trains where coming through .

  2. April Bialy

    April 29, 2016 at 10:47 am

    Where did you find the documentary?

  3. James McKee Saurer

    April 28, 2016 at 8:50 pm

    Ignorance is rampant on this thread. Grew up on Pope Lick Rd. Beginning in ’58. Paranormal research? The devil? God? Satanic rituals? Goat man? Boogie man? NO ONE HAS BEEN LED TO THEIR DEATH ON THE TRESTLE BY ANYTHING OTHER THAN THE CHALLENGE OF CROSSING IT. MANY MANY HAVE CROSSED…A FEW WERE SUPRISED BY A TRAIN THEY COULD NOT OUTRUN. PERIOD.

    • Robert Waites

      April 29, 2016 at 5:07 pm

      When I was in High School in the 60s’, some friends and I went there to drink and party with some local “Goat Girls”. Their father came out and said he was the “Goatman” and would kill us boys. I personally kicked his hairy ass and we continued partying ’til the wee hours of the morning. Then “Goatwife” showed up looking for “Goatman” and we partied with her. Then I kicked HER ass. Then Abraham Lincoln came by with Elvis and we all played hop scotch ’til Tuesday. The End

  4. charles evans

    April 28, 2016 at 4:12 pm

    My cousin was killed there he was hung in a tree they never found his killer there was a sewaside note but his hands wastied behind his back on the note there was a drawing the train tracks and someone standing on them 3week $ went by before they said there was foul play and there no way he did th8s his self rip robert evans love you and miss you

    • Julia Martin Bradley

      April 28, 2016 at 7:07 pm

      “sewaside” note? Maybe you mean “suicide”? Bad punctuation, bad spelling. Maybe it was another of your idiotic friends or relatives that did it. I hope you don’t breed. There are things called periods. They are used in between sentences.

  5. Lucifer

    January 18, 2016 at 12:45 am

    I think the monster of Pope Lick (or Goatman) may be a Windigo because its said the “Goatman” mimics the voice of a friend or loved one to lure you to the tracks where you “fall” or get hit by a train, but a Windigo mimics a voice to lure you into its trap and well….eats you, and I think the “Goatman” has killed more than 3 people but since there bodys were never found they stay on the missing list.

    • James McKee Saurer

      April 28, 2016 at 9:12 pm

      Face to face with a locomotive or a jump to get away from a locomotive is the cause of death “Lucifer”. Lololol

  6. John

    December 14, 2015 at 1:07 am

    Its real. I’ve stood about fifteen feet away from it. and it made those boys go up there, that is certain. I’m sorry you traveled so far, but be glad you didn’t see it. Ive never felt a purer form of terror

    • James McKee Saurer

      April 28, 2016 at 9:09 pm

      We’re u hallucinating? Did u also see Jimmie Hoffa? The wicked witch of the west. Get a life. Read a book.

  7. Tammy McGaughey

    December 13, 2015 at 12:58 pm

    I grew up on North Pope Lick Rd. When Interstate 64 was built, Pope Lick Rd was divided into 2 parts. North and South Pope Lick Rd, the trestle is located on the South side. I went to school at Eastern High school which is close to this area. In 1986, I was a junior there and I remember the Train incident well. CSX sent a representative to the school to speak to us and explain the facts and warned us that if caught, you would be arrested and charged with trespassing. I never was intrigued by the stories, and I was terrified of heights, so I never felt the need to investigate the legend. I truly believe that the only monster on the trestle is the Train. It takes a train 800 feet approximately to stop once they see something and thats close to length of the trestle itself. Take my advice and don’t try it

  8. Jo

    September 7, 2015 at 4:31 am

    You state that it’s a fact that this monster has killed three people?
    Um, no. Three people died, yes. But from falls and being struck by a train.

    • JNathanCouch

      November 29, 2015 at 3:17 pm

      The monster is, in a way, responsible for the kids being killed. The legend is what lures kids out there. The existence of the monster is irrelevant in this instance.

  9. Goward

    June 30, 2015 at 4:14 pm

    No you don’t see it my friend you said it yourself they saw a Goat man but then they didn’t see anything that is because I want to state the obvious that the devil is a spiritual being, an evil entity, who shape shifts. He has do to his activity against God’s will so He has to use fear, myth, idols, stories to give people the urges to give him power to materilize. When ever people do satanic rituals they usually have to do it at night. These young men were mostly killed at night correct. The devil is the prince of darkness. Now this doesn’t mean he has ultimate power, or all power, but he can send a thought into a person mind what these kids were hearing was the devil speaking to them in their minds I believe luring them to do kill themselves. Actually the devil does that people in the day not just at night, alot of us have all heard a voice tell us, “KILL YOURSELF YOUR WORTH NOTHING” but that voice is a demon spirit of heaviness in the Bible I have heard that voice before strongly, and felt like following, but Thanks be to God there is Someone who wants to be on your side that is God Himself, God sent His Holy Spirit to us to Help us if we accept. We have to accept Jesus as our lord and savior then you do not belong to the devil or this world system that is under the devils control, but you belong to the savior. If you want to escape this voice or the power of the devil you have to know God or else there is power against him, no amount of alcohol will drown him out. Say Lord Jesus I need you in my life I believe that you died on the cross for my sins, and arose from the dead fill me with The Holy Spirit in Jesus name Amen. The devil has to deceive you but God comes right out and tells you, you can choose Him, you have to choose. One of the names for satan is a goat one of the names in hebrew for demons is goat man it’s not surprising that they saw a goat. Yet after wards no one found any evidence that these young men had been eaten why would a creature kill them but not eat them if it were an animal, that is because its not doing it for hunger its doing it for pleasure for the fact that he can take them to hell if they were not saved in Jesus to torment them forever, as a slave their play thing, or just the fact that he can stop them from having a good life, maybe they knew something special they had gifts from God, but they didn’t realize them. Every person is important that is why God HImself went to the cross for us all Jesus is God in flesh He suffered so we can be set free John 3. The devils main weapon though is rebellion based on ignorance, that is how he gets his power by making you rebel against Jesus, that is how He stays in control if you never see this goat man doesn’t mean he is not trying to lure you. You need to give your life to Jesus Christ, this goat uses all kind of things to destroy and lure people. That is why they can’t find it, because it is like a vapor, it doesn’t really have a physical body, it only manifests when it is given power too, but most of the time uses thoughts 2 Corinthians 10 that is what the devil is a deceiver a creature that only uses thoughts ideas of evil intent to turn people away from God to spiritual bondage.

    • James McKee Saurer

      April 28, 2016 at 8:59 pm

      You are full of shit. Get a life. Help feed the homeless. Give your time to do something positive.

      • James McKee Saurer

        April 28, 2016 at 9:03 pm

        You need to change your name from Goward to Coward since u didn’t use your name. I m the Boogie man. Lol

    • April Bialy

      April 29, 2016 at 10:46 am

      Your exactly right! God bless you!

  10. Jamie simkins

    October 29, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    I just watched a documentary on this thing you do not want to mess with it

What do you think?