Pope Lick Monster: Searching for Louisville’s Deadly Legend
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.
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.
The 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.
Despite 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?
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
If anything it’s a land guardian. Pissed off by the colonialism of Turtle Island and the genocide of the First Nations peoples.
picture mr burns on the simpsons…EX CE LENT.good work.people pleasr head the warning.in texas rail road property is not public.they have their own police,you will go to jail.
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 .
Where did you find the documentary?
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.
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.
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
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… Read more »
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.
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… Read more »
I just watched a documentary on this thing you do not want to mess with it