The Horrifying Urban Legend Of The Pope Lick Monster

According to tall tales, a mysterious half-human-half-animal figure roams the woods surrounding Pope Lick Trestle Bridge (above) in Louisville, Kentucky. Local lore says the monster can mimic a human voice to lure people out to the bridge, and then the horrific form of the beast causes people to jump to their deaths. But that's just the beginning of a truly hair-raising history.

So what does the Pope Lick Monster look like? It depends who you ask, because different people have reported very different appearances since the early 1800s. Beargrass Thunder describes the being as a "sheep-man hybrid" who escaped from a freak show and haunts the nearby woods. But they also mention that some people believe it is actually a Native American skinwalker, the term for a witch who can possess animals to take on their form. Atlas Obscura reports that the figure has horns on its forehead, with the body of a human and the torso of a sheep or goat.

The Pope Lick Monster is a famous Kentucky legend, but there have been chilling real-life consequences for the myth. Pope Lick Trestle Bridge has an eight-foot-tall fence, but that doesn't stop adventure seekers from climbing onto the train tracks, as Only in Your State reported. 

Real danger behind the legendary monster

As a trestle bridge, the structure has no walkway for people, and the wide spaces between wooden planks mean that the only place to walk is along the railroad tracks. There is space only for a single train. And, as Beargrass Thunder reports, the bridge looks very old, rusty, and rickety, tricking people into thinking the tracks are out of service when that is simply untrue. Any time civilians go onto these tracks, even with no train in sight, it puts them in extreme danger.

According to Beargrass Thunder, there are hundreds of accounts of strange occurrences at the Pope Lick Trestle, both confirmed and anecdotal. As early as 1984, kids and adults began walking across the bridge, and were forced to jump or climb onto the trestle beams below when spotting oncoming trains. That year, 20-year-old Sean Fleischman survived after falling from the train tracks to the ground, which is a terrifying 100-foot drop. In 1988, director Ron Schildknecht released a short film, "The Legend of the Pope Lick Monster," fueling even more lore around the goat-human monster (via IMDb). 

The search for the Pope Lick Monster continues

Then in 1993, four young adults began crossing the bridge when they spotted a train heading for the trestle. Thinking quickly, they climbed down to the metal bars of the trestle supports, but one member became too scared to move off the beams, and had to be rescued by ladder (via Beargrass Thunder). 

In 2016, a couple of tourists from Ohio were crossing the bridge but didn't hear the train coming until it was just yards away. David Knee survived by clinging onto the trestle beams, but his girlfriend, 26-year-old Roquel Bain, fell to her death. Knee described life after the incident as "a nightmare waking up each day and realizing it's not a dream," reports Courier Journal

Tragedy struck again on the famous trestle in 2019 (via WLKY). Savannah Bright, age 15, and her friend Kaylee Keeling were hit by a train, tossing the two over the edge. Bright died due to her injuries; Keeling, age 16, survived and recovered.

According to Only in Your State, Norfolk Southern Railway has implored people not to attempt to cross the trestle in any way to ensure their safety. But spurned by the tall tales of the Pope Lick Monster, people continue to explore the area around the trestle, unaware of how very dangerous — or even fatal — that really is.