Episode 3: The Legend of the Pope Lick Monster

The Pope Lick Monster is an urban legend that has led countless seekers to a dangerous trestle bridge in Louisville, Kentucky. Keith Age, of SyFy Channel fame, joins me to discuss the legend.

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There are a lot of Goatman legends across the country but one of the freakiest, and most infamous of the Goatman legends, is the Pope Lick Monster of Louisville, Kentucky.

If you’re not familiar with a Goatman , The Cult of Weird, defines the Goatman as “a large humanoid creature with furry, goat-like legs, alabaster skin, wide-set eyes, and horns that protrude from greasy fur.” As the name says, a part human and part goat creature.

The legend of the Goat Man of Pope Lick started in the 1960s and has continued for generations as thrill seekers have shared the story of Goatman. With every re-telling, the story gets more interesting.

Read Flesh or Folklore? by J. Nathan Crouch

We don’t know the exact origins of the Goat Man but there are a few theories. One says a local goat farmer “liked his goats a little too much”… and I’ll leave it at that. Another theory states that GoatMan was a circus sideshow freak that was freed when lightning struck the circus train he was traveling in. The train traveled over the Pope Lick trestle and GoatMan has remained attached to the trestle ever since.

One of the most interesting theories comes from a book by J Nathan Couch who has researched GoatMan extensively. In his book Goatman: Flesh or Folklore, Couch says that his “search for the truth behind the legend of Goatman eventually led him to the story of a man named Charles “Ches” McCartney who became something of a legend himself.”

Couch’s theory surrounding McCartney as GoatMan includes the following:

-Ches McCartney was a vagabond from Iowa who traveled all over the country for decades (from the 1930’s through around 1987) in a wagon pulled by a team of goats
-McCartney had a mangled left arm that was disfigured in a timber cutting accident, and he often liked to dress in goat skins, earning the nickname ‘Goat Man’ as he traveled from town to town.
-He visited all 50 states, camping in farms along the road where he would tell tall tales and sell postcards with his picture on them.
-He became something of a celebrity and people would come out to see him when he came to town
-Through Couch’s research he found that McCartney traveled to Pope Lick on numerous occasions over the years.
-Parents would take their children to see the old ‘Goat Man,’ and his herd of goats so you can see how this tale would be twisted in the memory of little children into a grand story of seeing a part goat and part human creature.
-As is true of urban legends – they start with simple stories with some truth and are exaggerated over time. In this case, it became the legend of the Goat Man

“Goat Man” Ches McCartney

The Legend of the Pope Lick Monster, this Goatman, is a deadly one. People have died in pursuit of the mystery of this being.

Legend says the Goatman hypnotizes you and convinces you to follow him up to the Pope Lick railroad trestle where you meet your doom. That’s because the trestle is so long (close to 800 feet) and a lot of people don’t realize trains still run across it. When thrill seekers are on that trestle investigating the Pope Lick Monster, a train will come and they end up standing on the trestle. To survive, your only option is to make a 100 foot jump from the trestle in a panic which doesn’t end well. Or you can try to hold on to the bottom of the trestle rails while a train goes over. That’s just about impossible but a man managed to do that in 2016 when he was caught out on the trestle as a train came down the tracks. To his horror, he watched as his girlfriend was thrown from the trestle and died in pursuit of the legend of the pope lick monster.

Despite the deaths, every October, Halloween season comes and people will continue to try to pursue the Legend of the Pope Lick Monster. They scale the fence, climb the trestle and live out one of the scariest things you can imagine – a deep belief in an urban legend that could put them face to face with a terrifying creature that only wishes death upon them.

Or even worse, they’ll feel vibration under their feet, then hear a train whistle blow and realize as they stand in the middle of this trestle. Realize that there’s one thing worse than the legend of the pope lick monster and it’s simply a train that will seal their fate.

Episode Sources
Keith Age is the founder of the Louisville Ghost Hunter Society. You can read more about Keith here and find details of LGHS’s investigation of the Pope Lick Monster here
Goatman: Author J. Nathan Couch Explores the Bizarre Legend in His New Book Cult of Weird 8 October 2014
Goatman: Flesh or Folklore. Phantom of the Ville Interview with J. Nathan Couch
Charles McCartney (“Goat Man”) (1901-1998) New Georgia Encyclopedia 10 January 2014
The strange, unexplained, and deadly allure of the Pope Lick Monster Daily Dot 24 February 2017

Music Credits
Theme Song: “Dark & Troubled” by Panthernburn. Special thanks to Phillip St Ours for permission for use

Southern Man “Southern Man”, Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution