Legends of the Pope Lick Monster have been passed down in our community for generations. Whether it's the version where the sheep-man hybrid from the freakshow escapes from the crashed circus train, a Native American skinwalker seeking vengeance against new settlers in the region, or a satanic farmer sacrificing goats to fuel his transformation, they all have one thing in common: the Pope Lick Trestle is deadly.
If you're unfamiliar with the tale, you can listen to our "spooKY" renditions:
released October 2020
released October 2018
These tales may be a fun and entertaining way to get into the spooky spirit, but the dangers of this place are very real and must be taken seriously.
The deadly-ness of the Pope Lick Trestle is no myth. Since its construction in the late 1800s, the trestle has been responsible for dozens of deaths and countless injuries, and has been a source of trauma for many victims, families, and railroad employees. While individual accounts of specific incidents are suspiciously hard to track down online, Beargrass Thunder has been able to consolidate the following list of official news stories and articles regarding the dangers of the trestle.
Savanna Bright (15) - 2019 - Two females were hit by train and knocked off the side. Savanna was pronounced dead at the scene, another unnamed female was in critical condition and is now recovering.
Roquel Bain (26) - 2016 - Roquel was hit by a train and fell to her death, while her boyfriend survived by hanging from side
James Ratterman (35) - 1994 man trapped underneath overturned ATV stuck on the trestle died after being struck by train.
Michael Wells (14) - 1994 - managed to tuck his body under the track to avoid being hit by an oncoming train.
Christina Butts (19) - 1993 - Christina along with two other young women and three young men were almost across the trestle when they saw the light from the oncoming train. All managed to survive with minor injuries by climbing down onto the metal parts of the trestle. Christina, too frightened to move, was rescued by firefighters, the ladder almost not being tall enough to reach.
Grady (19) - 1992 - Grady, a student at Miami University, was on the trestle at about 1:45 am when he saw a train coming. He held onto a railroad tie but lost his grip, falling about 100 feet
Jack “J.C.” Charles Bahm II (17) - 1987 - struck and killed by a train February 18, 1987 while crossing the trestle.
David Wayne Bryant (19) - 1986 - sustained injuries in 1986 when he jumped from the trestle to dodge an oncoming train, passed away from those injuries in May 1987.
John K. List - 1985 - John K. List was killed on June 1, 1985, when he was struck by a Southern Railroad Company train. List was on the trestle with friend, Randall Graves, and had been on the trestle shooting crows. Graves was able to hang on a cross tie while the train passed, saving his life, List was within 30 feet of the end of the trestle when he was struck and killed.
Sean Fleischman (20) - 1984 - survived injuries sustained from a fall from the span of elevated track.
These are just a few examples of the very real tragedies that have taken place at the Pope Lick Trestle. Hundreds of additional anecdotal reports are shared by locals online in Reddit threads and Facebook groups.
Many people are fooled by the rusty and rickety appearance of the trestle, and think that the tracks are out of service. This has proved a deadly assumption for many, as the tracks are still very active and carry a major rail artery into Louisville. As many as twenty five heavy freight trains cross the bridge daily. The surrounding hills and woodland dampen light and sound from oncoming trains, and it could be too late to escape once you become aware. The wooden tracks are spaced in a way that make it impossible to run over, and few people possess the strength and endurance to hang on to the side for the five to seven minutes it would take the train to pass, all the while generating vibrations strong enough to shake the entire ground one hundred feet below.
In 1998, The Legend of the Pope Lick Monster film was released, much to the dismay of Norfolk Southern Railway. During the December 29, 1998 premiere, Norfolk southern issued a statement which warned of the trestle's dangers and informed the audience that anyone caught on the trestle could be prosecuted for trespassing.
At one point, there were platforms along either side of the bridge. However, at some point they were removed by the railway company to dissuade people from attempting to cross the tracks. After the most recent death just this year (2019), residents are questioning if this is still a valid solution. Should the railroad company be responsible for re-installing platforms to potentially save lives, or would this just be promoting more people to trespass and put even more lives in danger?
Recently, the land surrounding Pope Lick Trestle has been acquired by The Parklands of Floyds Fork and now features a walking path that goes under the trestle, connecting Pope Lick Park to other parks and areas along the loop. The site is also home to Legend at Pope Lick, a haunted hike through a trail which we highly recommend.
In the first ever episode of the Beargrass Thunder podcast, Jody, Richard, and Mariah discuss possible solutions to trespassing on the trestle. One of which would involve erecting a statue or monument of the Pope Lick Monster along the trail in the woods. This way. there would be a destination and photo opportunity other than the trestle itself. Tourists and paranormal enthusiasts could have a place to meet away from the danger of the train tracks, and could help bring awareness to the very real death and tragedy that has already taken place.
If you have any ideas for solutions to help prevent trespassers for putting lives in danger, accounts of injuries of death not yet listed, or even your own anecdotal reports, and stories, we would love to hear from you! You can make a comment below this post, send us a message on Facebook, or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.