We've all heard of Big Foot, he's one of the best known American cryptids on record. He's even starred in his own movie; if you consider Harry from "Harry and The Hendersons" to be Big Foot or just some other Sasquatch that is.
What's that? What's a "cryptid"? Cryptids are creatures who have been suggested as real but have yet to be scientifically proven as real. Why bring up cryptids? Because the star of this post is a cryptid himself.
A few weeks ago, on the Facebook page, I featured a photo and a very brief description of this character and the response was enormous. It's the third most shared and discussed post since the page launched in September of last year. Over 60 shares brought the Pope Lick Monster to the timelines of nearly 5000 people. So, since the hairy little fellow wound up being so popular, I thought I'd do more robust write-up. Enjoy!
The Pope Lick Monster of Louisville, Kentucky
Said to be a savage beast, the Pope Lick Monster (also called Goatman or Sheepman) lives beneath a railroad trestle in Louisville, Kentucky. The proposed origin of this cryptid is actually kind of sad. Born to a human family who didn't want him (for obvious reasons) he was sold to the Saskatchewan Circus Company in Canada. Made to perform for circus-goers, the boy was depressed but that depression quickly grew into anger and rage.
Eventually the circus company went bankrupt and the abandoned all their equipment in the woods after their final performance. Also abandoned were the circus "freaks"; the boy, now a full grown goat-man, was of course one of them. He wandered south to America and eventually took up residence in a neighborhood of Louisville: Fisherville.
The Name Pope Lick
This actually took me quite a bit of time to run down. Goatman is referred to as The Pope Lick Monster because he resides on the shore of Pope Lick Creek. No, that's not what took me a while to figure out; what took me a while to figure out was why the creek is named "Pope Lick". Go ahead, try to Google "Pope Lick" with any other inquisitive words like "why" or "origin" and all you'll get is stuff about the Pope Lick Monster. Permit me to save you two hours of Google-hell:
A Lick is a small watercourse that ranks (hydrologically) between a "rill" and a stream. The Pope Lick Monster doesn't live on the Pope River, there is no Pope River. The Pope Lick trestle is located above Floyds Fork River in Fisherville Kentucky; so if anything, it ought to be called the Floyd Lick Monster... but it's not. So why Pope?
After a bit of searching I lucked upon a picture album from a "Furnas" family, as well as an individual historical record of the Pope Lick railroad trestle. This lead me to Pope Lick road which was... wait a minute... running along Pope Lick Creek clear on the other side of Fisherville! What the heck?
(click map to enlarge)
So there is no Pope Lick River, but there is a Pope Lick Creek and it's a mile west of the Pope Lick Trestle under which the Pope Lick Monster is said to live? This isn't adding up. Is there a trestle over the actual Pope Lick Creek? Oh snap! There is!
Okay, so, Google be damned. Frustratingly wasting my time with misleading information. It makes a lot more sense that the Pope Lick Monster would live under a trestle that ran over Pope Lick Road and Pope Lick Creek than one which didn't. Although Atlas Obscura could have told me that if I'd thought to look there first. Lesson learned.
So now, what about that name? Pope.
Turns out Pope is a really big name in Kentucky, but finding references connecting the family name to the Trestle or the Lick, was proving impossible. The railroad trestle belonged to the Norfolk Southern railroad company and Pope has no ties to that corporation. The road is likely named after the Creek and not the other way around; so I started on that, and after just a little bit of clever searching I found the answer.
Pope Lick Creek/River is named afterJohn Pope (b.1770 d.1845), a U.S. Senator and Congressional Representative. He also served as the third territorial governor of Arkansas and was a member of the Whig Party.
Alright. So now you know what a "Lick" is, you know where the Pope Lick Creek is located (Fisherville), you know who's responsible for naming it (or who it got its name from anyway), and you know who owned the trestle (Norfolk Southern). I dare say you now know just as much (if not more) about the geography of this legend than any Kentuckian living in Fisherville.
"Okay, so what? Tell us more about the GoatManSheepGuy!"
Okay, I will!
The Deaths / Murders of the Pope Lick Monster
So, like I said before, the Pope Lick Monster is considered to be a savagebeast. A killer to be sure. In addition to his parents selling him into circus slavery, the circus abandoning him in the woods like a disposable play-thing, and a really long walk from Saskatchewan to Kentucky (that's almost 3,000 miles; possibly more depending on where you start), the Pope Lick Monster has a whole lot of reasons to be pissed off and angry at human beings. I mean, wouldn't you be?
Even though the Pope Lick Monster is a cryptid, an urban legend, a myth, he's still killed a number of people. Rather, the very suggestion of his existence has killed people.
The local challenge, or dare, is to walk out to the middle of the trestle and back. The proposed risk, other than being hit by a train or requiring a Tetanus shot afterwards, is that the Pope Lick Monster will use his mind powers (yes, he has those) to call to you in a friendly voice - almost like a siren. Unable to resist the alluring call, you'll walk right off the trestle - of your own volition - and fall to your immediate death. Other methods include scaring you into jumping with its terrifying appearance or using a magic spell to hold you down when a train is approaching so you cannot escape.
In 1987 a 17-year old was struck by a train on the trestle, the same year another boy died from injuries sustained during his leap from the trestle to avoid an oncoming train. Both boys were answering Pope Lick Monster dares from their friends. Dozens more met the same grizzly fates: death by train, or death by gravity.
So travel to Kentucky, visit the trestle while you're there (but don't go out on it!), and let me know what you think of the Pope Lick Monster: Real or Fake?