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Exploring American Monsters: Kentucky

The state of Kentucky is best known for its bourbon, horse racing (particularly the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs the first Saturday in May), and “Colonel” Harland Sanders’ world famous Kentucky Fried Chicken (truth be told, Sanders lived in nearby Indiana until he left home at age 13 and moved to Kentucky). Famous Kentuckians include President Abraham Lincoln, boxing great Muhammad Ali, actor Johnny Depp, and gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson. The state’s topography consists of mountains, farmland, rivers, coalfields, and swampy lowlands. It’s the perfect home for monsters.

The Norfolk Southern Railway trestle near Louisville, Kentucky. Home of the Poke Lick Monster.

The Norfolk Southern Railway trestle near Louisville, Kentucky. Home of the Poke Lick Monster.

The Pope Lick Monster

A true troll under the bridge story, the Pope Lick Monster has been described as part-man/part-goat, or part-man/part-sheep, and lives beneath a railway trestle near Louisville, Kentucky. Calling for help, the monster lures its victims onto the trestle where they jump to their deaths before an oncoming train.

The origin of the monster is clouded. There are stories it’s the undead form of an old farmer who sacrificed goats to Satan, a sideshow freak, or a human-goat hybrid. Regardless of the origin, the description of the beast is consistent – it looks like a satyr from Greek mythology.

Another consistency about the monster is that the kind folks at Norfolk Southern Railway don’t want the legend to drive people onto their trestle. The company has vowed to prosecute anyone caught there.

Although there have been deaths from people jumping from the trestle, whether they were the despondent, thrill seekers, or victims of the Pope Lick Monster, no one knows.

The man-made Herrington Lake may be home to a monster.

The man-made Herrington Lake may be home to a monster.

Herrington Lake Monster

Some people are certain there’s a monster in the 2,335-acre man-made Herrington Lake. A sighting in 1972 brought the monster to the public’s attention.

Lawrence Thompson was fishing in the lake when he saw something he couldn’t believe. “All (I) ever seen of it is a snout, not unlike that of a pig, moving along just above the water at about the speed of a boat with a trolling motor, and a curly tail, similar to that of the same animal, coming along about 15 feet behind,” Thompson told The Courier-Journal. But that’s all he knew about the monster. “What we don’t know is colossal; what we do know is minimal,” Thompson said.

Thompson’s not the only one to see something monstrous in the lake. In 1990, Junction City resident Sherri Hurst saw something familiar, and terrifying, in the lake. “It was an alligator,” she told Central Kentucky News. “I go to Florida all the time. I know what an alligator looks like, and that was an alligator.”

Others suggest a catfish. Dave Baker of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife told Central Kentucky News there are catfish in Herrington Lake, and Kentucky grows some big ones. The largest catfish caught in the state weighed 100 pounds.

Are devil monkey's loose in Kentucky?

Are devil monkey’s loose in Kentucky?

Devil Monkeys

Three to four feet tall, excessively hairy, bipedal, and vicious, Devil Monkeys have been reported in southeastern states for decades. Resembling baboons with dog-like faces, Devil Monkeys are also reported to have strong legs like a kangaroo, three-toed feet, and a long, bushy tail.

In Kentucky, the most famous Devil Monkey encounter occurred in 1973 when farmers near Albany, Kentucky, reported three of these black primates had slaughtered livestock. No Devil Monkeys were ever captured.

Given the fact that there are 12.4 million acres of forest in the state, it’s not out of the question a troop of baboon-like primates may have found a home in the woods of Kentucky.

Mothman by Mr-Shin

West Virginia is not alone. Kentucky is also home to Mothman sightings.(Mothman by Mr-Shin)

The Kentucky Mothman

The 1966 and 1967 Mothman encounters in and around the town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, were made famous in John Keel’s book, “The Mothman Prophecies,” and the 2002 movie of the same name. These sightings of Mothman are related to the collapse of the Silver Bridge in 1967, which killed 46 people. More than 100 people claimed to have seen Mothman around Point Pleasant in those two years.

However, encounters with a Mothman-like creature aren’t limited to West Virginia. In 1938, residents of Ashland, Kentucky, and Elizabethtown, Kentucky, reported seeing a large, black, humanlike being with a huge wingspan, and blazing red eyes. Although the sightings died out by 1939, they reappeared in 2008 when farmer Harley Foster said he saw a bird-like monster with red eyes near his barn. Foster said the monster chased him.

Mothman has been considered an omen of doom. When it disappeared from Kentucky in 1939, people thought it a precursor to war in Europe. In 1967 it foretold the collapse of the Silver Bridge. What did it foretell in 2008? The spate of tornadoes that ripped through the U.S.? The earthquakes in China and Japan? The hurricane that devastated Haiti? It all depends on whom you ask.

The Demon Leaper, a living gargoyle in Louisville, Kentucky.

The Demon Leaper, a living gargoyle in Louisville, Kentucky.

The Demon Leaper

For decades upon decades, residents of Louisville, Kentucky, would look upon the gothic Walnut Street Baptist Church, and see what looked like a living gargoyle amongst the stone beasts. Kentucky Author David Dominé told Wave 3 News, “It’s a bat-like creature with leathery skin, wings and claws and talons and it’s been seen to hop along the roof.”

This gargoyle not only jumps across the rooftop, it has wings, and can fly. “It’s been seen on other structures roof tops as well. They call it the Demon Leaper. It’s perhaps our most famous legend in Old Louisville,” Dominé told the Wave.

Some witnesses claimed the Leaper to be a monkey wearing a “shiny suit,” and said it would leap down upon people and poke them, although no one was ever seriously injured. A 12 September 1880 story in The New York Times referred to the beast as, “An Aerial Mystery.”

Next up: Louisiana.