This article appeared in the October 2010 issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe, please visit loumag.com.
The Halloween season gets even the rational skeptics among us into the spirit of ghouls, goblins and things that go boomp in the night, so here are three Louisville-area monster legends — “submitted for your consideration,” as The Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling used to say.
In the 19th century, an urban legend began to spread in England about a devil-like creature known as Spring-Heeled Jack, who leapt superhuman heights and distances. He wore a costume that resembled Batman a century before Batman existed. Jack (and his legend), it seems, eventually jumped the entire ocean and reached U.S. shores. On July 28, 1880, the Courier-Journal reported that a similarly attired man, making impossibly high jumps, showed up in downtown Louisville and began attacking women. The reports claim that this Kentucky Jack evaded capture by leaping over horse-drawn carriages and onto roofs.
The Pope Lick Monster
One of Louisville’s most enduring legends is that of the Pope Lick Monster, also known as the Goat Man. For most of the last century, rumors have spread of a cursed half-man/half-goat living near the corner of Pope Lick and Taylorsville roads. Supposedly, the creature hypnotizes people, convincing them to follow him up to a railroad trestle where they meet their doom. The span is so long, you see, that if a train comes when you’ve walked halfway across there is no way to run back in time before the locomotive hits you. Tragically, the curse seems to be a self-fulfilling one, because some people have gone looking for the monster and ended up being killed.
In 1878, the Courier-Journal reported that a feral “wild man of the woods” was captured and placed on public display in downtown Louisville. Bigfoot legends are relatively common in our region (including an alleged sighting in Fairdale last summer), but this “man” doesn’t fit the prototype. According to descriptions, the six-foot creature had scales instead of skin and possessed eyes twice the size of a human’s. As is often the case with these legends, the story was not followed up on — leaving us to wonder what happened.
Jeffrey Scott Holland is the author of Weird Kentucky. He lives in Louisville with his supernatural cat Krampus.
Illustration: Mike Covington