Pope Lick Creek, a quiet and unassuming opening deep in a forest in Kentucky, America, dominated by an ancient dark and rusty lonely railroad bridge, ageing and rickety, looming large over the gentle waters that flow beneath, hidden by trees. Creepiness permeates this place, a foreboding aura dominating like a cold breath on the back of your neck, surrounded by nothing but wilderness and silence. And is it here where a monster haunts. As the story goes, ringmaster Colonel Beauregard Schildknecht was a legend all of his own. The owner of a travelling circus touring America in the 1930s, a man of ill repute, a cheat, a charlatan and a liar. His entourage of carnies and clowns were little more than a gang of pirates, leaving behind a wake of thefts and even deaths in each town they visited. One stormy night, the infamous Madame Bristelles, a bearded lady, discovered an infant abandoned in a hay filled crate outside her tent. A child severely malformed with stubs protruding from his forehead, with feet more akin to cloven hooves. A devil was born, the monster of Pope Lick Creek…
Bristelles fed and watered the child, and took him to the Colonel. Being little more than a businessman, the Colonel saw gold and exclaimed that he had found the star attraction of his show. “It will make me rich, rich beyond my wildest dreams!” He took the child in and raised him, waiting for the cruel day he could exploit the poor boy. He grew in size and strength, his stubs developing into fully grown horns. His temperament as filthy as his treatment by the hands of the carnies. He was chained to a wall and whipped into submission, fed little more than gruel and scraps from the grease pits.
Then, one night, many, many years later, a night as stormy as the night of the child’s discovery, the circus train was rolling through Fisherville to a performance in Louisville, when a bolt of lightning suddenly struck the train, causing it to derail only yards before the bridge at Pope Lick. The train plummeted the 90 feet off the 742 foot long bridge and collided with the ground, a twisted wreck from which only one survived. Body parts were found across the site, but there was no deformed child. He had fled his life of torment and, as some believe, murdered the Colonel, ripping him to shreds…
A story of legend, but one many believe. In the years since 1930, deaths, missing persons and missing animals have all been reported to be because of the Pope Lick Monster. He never left the creek, after all. It’s alleged that he lives in a cave, perhaps, or maybe some ramshackle dwelling far from the beaten track. A creature said to be feared, a bloodthirsty and dangerous monster still enraged by his treatment by the most cruel and foul of people.
It’s said that the monster can mimic human speech, and uses hypnosis to draw people to the top of the bridge, luring them onto the tracks just as a train barrels into view, killing the trespassers instantly. It might be a myth, but many have died climbing the bridge, trying to catch a glimpse of the infamous beast. Many have also died jumping from the bridge to avoid a train. Two people died after colliding with a train in 1987 and 1988. One, Jack Bahm II, 17-years-old, with ‘JC, we love and miss you’ to this day spray painted on the base of the bridge. And David Bryant, who leapt from the bridge to avoid a train but later died from his injuries. Their doom sealed by a belief in a creature of unimaginable horror…
The monster is often described as part goat, whilst other descriptions portray it as a goat-sheep hybrid. Its horns are said to be short and sharp, nestled in long, greasy hair. Fur is said to cover its muscular legs, too, and some think it has a porcelain coloured face. It’s even said to carry a bloody axe, and really, the reason why is best left to one’s imagination. In some versions of the story, it’s not the train that kills the victims, but suicide, driven to madness by the sight of such a beast. Some even say it’s half man, the offspring of a perverted farmer, or perhaps the resurrection of another farmer said to have sacrificed goats to Satan in the hope of immortality. As you do.
People still report ‘sightings.’ Police have received calls of car mirrors broken off during a lonely drive down the lonely country roads nearby, cars said to be attacked by the beast. Others have blamed claw marks on their vehicles are also the work of the creature. Belief grew so strong that, in the 1970s, a satanic cult engaging in demonic rituals set up in a farm near Pope Lick Creek, worshipping the Pope Lick Monster. Nearby residents often heard strange tribal drum beats, and say they were armed. Throughout the 1980s and in to the 1990s, The Four Winds Farm was surrounded by a red and black fence and, at the entrance gate, a sign, warning trespassers of prosecution…
In 1993, nine people, four teenagers and five adults, narrowly avoided death after loitering on the tracks searching for the monster. One young girl was rescued clinging on the side of the bridge, barely. In 2000, 19-year-old Nicholas Jewell died after falling from the bridge, trying to hang from the edge when he saw a train coming. As recently as 2016, just last year, a couple chasing the legend faced tragedy when, not realising the train tracks were still in use, found themselves staring down a train coming right for them. The bridge looked so old they thought it was out of commission. Whilst 41-year-old martial arts instructor David Knee was saved, jumping from the bridge and holding on to the edge until the train had passed, only suffering a minor graze, his girlfriend, Roquel Bain, a 26-year-old surgical assistant and mother of a boy who was just one-year-old at the time, was struck by the train. She was unable to escape, and died when she hit the ground. Local deputy coroner Jack Arnold said that, whilst he had investigated many, many deaths at the bridge before, Bain’s death was the first officially recorded to have happened chasing the monster.
Does this myth exist? No. It doesn’t. It can’t. But it’s a legend all of its own. One that has spanned decades of belief and strange worship, from cults to the crazy youth venturing on to an active train line, costing many their lives. Sightings in a dark wood could be anything, but naturally, many would apportion blame to the monster. It’s easy for the mind to wander. And as for missing people and other such occurrences, such things are not unusual, although a cult killing the livestock most blame the monster for most certainly is unusual. Indeed, there are stories of the youth of the area going around banging on doors and scratching cars, trying to spread fear of a beast that does not even exist. And since 1930, the internet has happened, spreading rumours and tales galore, distorting any truths buried in the legend. Despite all this, one cannot deny this is a fascinating story, but likely just that. A story that will, most certainly, never, ever go away. Yet one thing is for sure. For the love of God, stay off the tracks…
So I’ll give this cryptid a 59 on my patented Cryptid-o-Meter, putting it bottom of the list of 57, with the Beast of Gévauden still holding top spot.
The Pope Lick Monster. A fascinating cryptid indeed.
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