by Mel Ayers
Disclaimer: In order to showcase cryptids in a real world setting, we have made some adaptations that may not accurately reflect traditional folklore standards.
The Pope Lick Monster (also known as the goatman) is a half-goat, half-human, entirely evil humanoid. The origin of the Pope Lick Monster is unknown. Some speculate he was a circus freak runaway. Others believe he was the result of a satanic ritual gone wrong. No one knows, but one thing’s for sure, those who believe in his existence say his goal is to kill. Whether he uses mind control powers, brute force, or the swing of an ax, he’s out to get you.
The Pope Lick Monster earned his name from the place he resides—beneath the Pope Lick train trestle in Louisville, Kentucky. The grand trestle was built in the mid-to-late 1920’s and stands in working fashion today, spanning Pope Lick Road and Pope Lick Creek. Owned and operated by the Norfolk Southern Railway, the bridge is 772 feet (235m) long, and the steepest drop is about a 100 feet. Old and foreboding, the bridge is as much an oddity as the cryptid itself.
Trespassers have risked their lives, and some even died just to say they walked the tracks. Many people believe the Pope Lick Monster is guilty of all those deaths.
It was a beautiful January day. Mel and I were on our way to Chattanooga to see my son, so we traveled a little off the beaten path to check out the train trestle tied to so many sad and scary stories. It brought back memories as my brother and I used to play on the train tracks near our house while growing up in a small town. We had built a fort out of pallets and organized a club with a few other kids who had nothing better to do than search for trouble.
Not ruling out demonic forces, but they aren’t required when peer pressure, ego, or an adrenaline rush are present. It’s not hard to imagine what goes on in the minds of teenagers who visit the Pope Lick trestle. If you aren’t afraid of heights and you believe you’re invincible, then a dare like this would be enticing and thrilling, even if entirely stupid. I think I would have done it at a young age, especially if both ends of the tracks were dark and there was no sign of a train. I would believe the odds of a train showing up in the twenty minutes (or however long) it takes me to cross the tracks to be slim to none.
I’m sure that’s what every one of the individuals who lost their lives thought, too. The most recent death of a young woman occurred in 2016 when she and her boyfriend ventured out onto the tracks in hopes of seeing the “goat man”. She was killed by an oncoming train while her boyfriend survived by hanging onto the side of the trestle.
An evil force of allurement? A thrill seeking adventure? Either way the poorly thought out stunt resulted in a tragic loss.
In Pop Culture
In 1988, Ron Schildknecht created 16-minute short film called “The Legend of the Pope Lick Monster.” Three teenagers seeking romance, danger, and a rendezvous with the Sheepman take their weekend party out to the Pope Lick train trestle. You can view the short film on Amazon Prime. Not recommended for kids.
Another modern piece of pop culture is a stage play written by Kentucky native, Naomi Wallace, winner of the McArthur Foundation’s “Genesis Award.” She wrote “The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek” in 2000. Published by Broadway Play Publishing, the story is set in a 1936 town “so dull that the only thing young people can pit themselves against, the only thing greater than them, is the 7:10 train with its 153-ton engine and deafening roar. So we find Dalton and Pace making plans to test themselves by trying to outrun the train on a trestle a hundred feet above ta dry creek bed.”
Would you do it?
Would you have done it as a teenager? What dare do you look back on a wonder…why in the world did I do that?
This video gives a nice view of the train trestle.