The Pope Lick Monster – Kentucky’s Urban Legend and a Very Real Body Count

The Pope Lick Monster is a creature said to make its lair beneath a railway bridge over Pope Lick Creek in east Louisville, Kentucky. Described as part man and part goat, the Pope Lick Monster has given rise to a number of myths and urban legends regarding his origins and behaviour.

Generally considered a dangerous and murderous being, some stories state that the monster uses voice mimicry or hypnosis to lure people onto the bridge and into the path of an approaching freight train. Others claim that he drops from the bridge onto the roofs of cars passing below, or that he prowls the bridge with a bloodstained axe at night, attacking anyone he comes across. His appearance, with the torso of a man but the head and legs of a goat, is said to be so terrifying that those who see him are driven to jump from the bridge in fright.

Pope Lick Trestle Bridge as seen from above

Stories about the origins of the monster are similarly varied. Some say he is a failed science experiment that escaped after the train transporting him derailed on the bridge. Others suggest he is a former circus freak, driven to a murderous rage by his mistreatment. A third version states that he is the reincarnated form of a local farmer that sacrificed goats to the devil in exchange for strange powers.

While there seems to have never been a reported sighting of the monster, he is nevertheless responsible for a number of deaths. The bridge has become a popular destination for ghost hunters and amateur folklorists, with many ignoring the safety warnings and eight foot fencing to attempt to cross the active railway bridge on foot. Many visitors believe that this practice is key to summoning the creature.

17-year old Jack Bahm was killed by a train on the bridge in February 1987. In May of the same year, 19-year old David Bryant passed away from injuries he had sustained jumping from the bridge to avoid an oncoming train the previous year.

35-year-old James Ratterman was killed in 1994 after attempting to cross the trestle on an ATV. After the vehicle rolled over, Ratterman was trapped beneath it and subsequently struck by a train. In 2000, 19-year old Nicholas Jewell fell to his death attempting to hang from the trestle as a train passed by.

David Knee and Roquel Bain. Image: David Knee

Amateur ghost hunters David Knee and Roquel Bain visited the bridge in April 2016 and attempted to cross it, but were met by an oncoming freight train part way across. Knee survived after managing to cling to the side of the bridge, but 26-year old Bain was struck by the train and thrown more than 90 feet to the ground, killing her. Knee was charged with the felony crime of disrupting the operation of a train, eventually reaching a plea deal and paying $2,300 in restitution.  

On May 16th 2019, 15-year-old Savannah Bright was struck by a train while walking across the Pope Lick trestle after she ventured onto the tracks with another teenager. Her friend later told police that the pair had crossed the bridge previously, and had returned to take pictures for Instagram. The following image is thought to have been taken by the pair on a previous visit to the trestle.

Savanna Bright and a friend on the Pope Lick trestle. Image: Instagram

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