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    I offered to buy the movie "The Legend of the Pope Lick Monster" for $20 off Ron Schildknecht’s website, but he wouldn’t allow it. “Ha!” he replied. “It’s not very good. I’ll bring it with me (to the interview).”

    At one point in the film, the three main characters — playing a brother and sister and their mutual friend, Clancy — are sitting in a parked car.
     
    Katie: “You’ve never heard of the Pope Lick Monster?”
    Ben: “Man, where you been all your life, band practice?”
    Clancy: “No! What is it?”
    Katie: “It’s this half-man, half-sheep creature that lives out near the train trestle.”
    Ben: “Yeah, and at night he comes out and lures people out on the tracks.”
    Clancy: “Where did it come from?” (Swigs from beer can)
    Ben: “Do you really want to know?”
    Clancy: “Yeah.”
    Ben: “Well, there was this horny old farmer...who had a torrid affair with a ewe!” (Exaggerated laughter)
     
    Little does Clancy know that, six minutes of screen time later, he will come face to face with the monster, only to be left hanging from the tracks as a train thunders above.

    Schildknecht was 25 when he made The Legend of the Pope Lick Monster with a six-person crew and three actors, one of whom did double-duty and played the monster — complete with makeup and furry leggings. The 16-minute black-and-white short, which premiered in March 1988, is inspired by the ’50s horror genre, with such timeless touches as letterman’s jackets, high school football games and teens cruising for booze. The film’s endearing kitsch has made it a cult favorite for some. “Own a copy,” one of my friends wrote on Facebook. “The legend will NOT die!”
     
    It’s the allure of the unknown, laced with potential danger, that attracted my brother and me to the legend as high-school students (that and seeing tidy stacks of “Goat Man Lives” T-shirts at WHY Louisville). The trestle is in Fisherville, and it crosses Pope Lick Creek right before the creek empties into Floyds Fork. When we wheeled our bikes to the trestle via a web of concrete and dirt paths now bounded by the Parklands of Floyds Fork, we didn’t spot the monster. We did see a chain-link fence marked with signs: “Keep Off.” “Private Property.” “Danger.”
     
    Built in the late 1800s, the trestle rises 90 feet above the water and spans a distance of 772 feet. According to the Encyclopedia of Louisville, the legend has been around for more than three generations and has “served as the mood-setter for multiple romantic encounters between teenage boys and girls.”

    Schildknecht had contacted Norfolk Southern Corp. about using the trestle, and the company agreed — as long as the filmmaker provided $3 million of production insurance. “That wasn’t going to happen,” Schildknecht says. “So we trespassed.” For years no fence surrounded the tracks, making for easy access. But it also led to tragedy. During the two years Schildknecht spent filming and editing, two separate deaths (unrelated to the movie) occurred at the site. Before the premiere at Uptown Theater (formerly at the intersection of Bardstown Road and Eastern Parkway), Schildknecht received three phone calls: one from Norfolk’s attorney, one from its public-safety representative and one from the mother of one of the boys killed on the tracks. “They requested a private screening, which I agreed to,” Schildknecht says. “They weren’t huge fans of the movie, but all they asked me to do was include a statement to be read at the premiere warning of the danger, which I did.” Soon after, Norfolk installed the fence.
     
    Schildknecht, who teaches screenwriting and film at Spalding University, has gone on to make five other short films and commissioned work for businesses and universities. He estimates he spent $6,000 — including a $1,000 grant from the Kentucky Folklife Foundation — making The Legend of the Pope Lick Monster. He made $1,000 of it back. “I honestly can’t believe people are still talking about that film,” Schildknecht says with a laugh. “I’m not particularly embarrassed of it or anything, but I can say that I’m still shocked whenever it comes up.”
     
     
    Ashlie Stevens's picture

    About Ashlie Stevens

    I'm a writer, dancer, daughter, sister,foodie, health nut, and a proud Louisvillian. I am currently a student at Bellarmine University, and am hoping to graduate with a major in Communications and a minor in Health Sciences

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