by Taylor Leonard
Otherwise known as the Kentucky Goatman, the Pope Lick Monster is a legendary creature said to exist underneath an old train trestle in the woods outside of Louisville. Central to the myth is the entity’s ability to coerce people into dangerously trekking across the 722-foot long span of active track elevated roughly 80 feet off the ground. On more than one occasion, this act of paranormal manipulation has seemingly come true with tragic consequences, as several young people have died over the years while crossing the trestle by foot, caught off guard by the train barreling down on them.
The most recent victim of the Pope Lick Monster legend is 26-year-old Roquel Bain, who in April of 2016 was walking across the trestle with her boyfriend in search of the mythical creature when an oncoming train forced the duo to run for their lives. While the boyfriend managed to hang off the side of the trestle to avoid being hit, Roquel was not so lucky. She was killed when her body was struck by the front of the train and thrown 80 feet to the ground below.
From the short film The Legend of the Pope Lick Monster, 1988.
The two Ohio natives were in town specifically to attend a paranormal tour when they learned of the Pope Lick Monster and decided to investigate. In order to get onto the trestle, Roquel and her boyfriend had to climb over a seven-foot tall security fence as well as pass by numerous signs warning them of frequent train activity on the track.
A similar incident happened in late 2000, when 19-year-old Nick Jewell was walking along the Pope Lick train trestle with four friends. The journey from one end of the span to the other has become a rite of passage for local teenagers, with most acts of trespassing occurring late at night. About halfway through the walk across, Nick was surprised by the arrival of a midnight train. Although the young man managed to move to the side to avoid being hit, the extreme vibrations emanating from the fast moving locomotive prevented him from getting a firm grip on the supports and the young man fell to his death.
In 1988, 17-year-old Jack Bahm II was on the trestle with friends with a freight train struck and killed him. In 1987, 19-year-old David Bryant succumbed to injuries stemming from a fall from the Pope Lick trestle a year prior.
Fortunately, not everyone confronted with an inbound freight train on the Pope Lick trestle is killed. In 1984, 20-year-old Sean Fleischman survived injuries sustained from a fall from the span of elevated track. In 1994, 14-year-old Michael Wells managed to tuck his body under the track to avoid being hit by an oncoming train.
Yet references to the Pope Lick Monster and its connection to the train trestle are hard to come by prior to 1989, when Louisville-area filmmaker Ron Schildknecht produced an independent short film titled “The Legend of the Pope Lick Monster.” In the 16-minute long film, characters are hypnotized by the creature into walking onto the trestle. One manages to avoid being hit by a train by hanging off the edge of the span in the nick of the time. Schildknecht claimed to be inspired by preexisting legends, the ones which drew Fleischman, Bryant, Bahm, and countless other local young folk to the trestle in years prior to his film being released.
In the years since the release of “The Legend of the Pope Lick Monster,” references to the alleged creature can be found in numerous newspapers, online forums, and blogs. It’s uncertain where the myth began, but one thing is for sure, it still garners plenty of attention to the Pope Lick train trestle.
“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.”
Perhaps the co-called Kentucky Goatman is, in fact, a scape-Goatman for the reckless decisions of youth? Whether or not there is any truth to the existence of the Pope Lick Monster, the history of untimely deaths associated with the Pope Lick trestle ought to be enough to keep folks from investigating further. Unfortunately, as the recent loss of Roquel Bain shows, the seemingly hypnotic attraction to the trestle and its alleged monster remain to this day.