Oddity of the Week: Pope Lick Monster
The Pope Lick Monster is a legendary part-man, part-goat and part-sheep creature reported to live beneath a Norfolk Southern Railway trestle over Floyd’s Fork Creek, in the Fisherville area of Louisville, Kentucky.
In most accounts, the Pope Lick Monster (named after the Pope Lick Creek below the Pope Lick Train Trestle) appears as a human-goat hybrid with a grotesquely deformed body of a man. It has powerful, fur-covered goat legs, an alabaster-skinned face with an aquiline nose and wide set eyes. Short, sharp horns protrude from the forehead, nestled in long greasy hair that matched the color of the fur on the legs.
Numerous urban legends exist about the creature’s origins and the methods it employs to claim its victims. According to some accounts, the creature uses either hypnosis or voice mimicry to lure trespassers onto the trestle to meet their death before an oncoming train.
Other stories claim the monster jumps down from the trestle onto the roofs of cars passing beneath it. Yet other legends tell that it attacks its victims with a blood-stained axe. It has also been said that the very sight of the creature is so unsettling that those who see it while walking across the high trestle are driven to leap off.
Other legends explain the creature’s origins, including that it is a human goat hybrid, and that it was a circus freak who vowed revenge after being mistreated. In one version, the creature escaped after a train derailed on the trestle. Another version claims that the monster is really the twisted reincarnated form of a farmer who sacrificed goats in exchange for Satanic powers.
Oddity of the Week: The Hammersmith Ghost
The Hammersmith Ghost murder case of 1804 set a legal precedent in the UK regarding self-defense: whether someone could be held liable for their actions even if they were the consequence of a mistaken belief.
Near the end of 1803, a number of people claimed to have seen and even been attacked by a ghost in the Hammersmith area of London, a ghost believed by locals to be the spirit of a suicide victim.
On 3 January 1804, a member of one of the armed patrols set up in the wake of the reports shot and killed a plasterer, Thomas Millwood, mistaking the white clothes of Millwood’s trade for a ghostly apparition. The culprit, a 29-year-old excise officer named Francis Smith, was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death, commuted to one year’s hard labor.
The issues surrounding the case were not settled for 180 years, until a Court of Appeal decision in 1984.
Haunting of the Week: La Llorona
La Llorona (“The Weeping Woman”) is a widespread legend in Mexico, the US southwest, Puerto Rico and Central and South America. The original myth tells of a woman named Maria who drowned her children when the man she loved refused to be with her because of them. After she killed them, he still would not be with her and, in her grief, she drowned herself. Challenged at the gates of heaven as to the whereabouts of her children, she is not permitted to enter the afterlife until she has found them. Maria is forced to wander the Earth for all eternity, searching in vain for her drowned offspring, with her constant weeping giving her the name “La Llorona”. She is trapped in between the living world and the spirit world. In some versions of this tale and legend, La Llorona will kidnap wandering children who resemble her missing children, or children who disobey their parents. People who claim to have seen her say she appears at night or in the late evenings from rivers or oceans in Mexico. Some believe that those who hear the wails of La Llorona are marked for death, similar to the Gaelic banshee legend.
Robert E. Cornish (December 21, 1903 – March 6, 1963) was a child prodigy graduating from the University of California, Berkeley with honors at the age of eighteen and receiving a doctorate by the time he was twenty-two. He worked on various projects including one that allowed for reading newspapers under water with special lenses. In 1932 he became interested in the idea that he could restore life to the dead. The cornerstone of his plan consisted of a teeter board or see-saw that was used to get the blood flowing in the recently deceased patients. In 1933 he attempted to revive victims of heart attack, drowning, and electrocution with the teeter board, but had no success. Cornish decided to perfect his method on animals and managed to revive two dogs (Lazarus IV and V) clinically put to death on May 22, 1934 and in 1935. He was seesawing corpses up and down to circulate the blood while injecting a mixture of epinephrine (adrenaline) and anticoagulants.
Haunting of the Week: Robert the Doll
Robert, otherwise known as Robert the Doll, Robert the Haunted Doll, or Robert the Enchanted Doll; is a doll that was once owned by Key West painter and author Robert Eugene Otto. The doll is alleged to be possessed by evil spirits and has a terrifying reputation.
The doll, which is allegedly cursed, has become a fixture of ghost tours in the Key West area since it was inducted into the Fort East Martello Museum. Aesthetically, Robert resembles an early 20th century American Naval officer. Contrary to popular belief, however, the doll’s hair is not made of human hair, but rather, it consists of a synthetic material resembling wool yarn.
Eugene was given the doll in 1906 by an Bahamian servant who, according to legend, was skilled in black magic and voodoo and was displeased with the family. Soon afterward, it became clear that there was something eerie about the doll. Eugene’s parents said they often heard him talking to the doll and that the doll appeared to be talking back. Although at first they assumed that Eugene was simply answering himself in a changed voice, they later believed that the doll was actually speaking.
Neighbors claimed to see the doll moving from window to window when the family was out. The Otto family swore that sometimes the doll would emit a terrifying giggle and that they caught glimpses of it running from room to room. In the night Eugene would scream, and when his parents ran to the room, they would find furniture knocked over and Eugene in bed, looking incredibly scared, telling them that “Robert did it!”. In addition, guests swore that they saw Robert’s expression change before their eyes.
When Eugene died in 1974, the doll was left in the attic until the house was bought again. The new family included a ten-year old girl, who became Robert’s new owner. It was not long before the girl began screaming out in the night, claiming that Robert moved about the room and even attempted to attack her on multiple occasions. More than thirty years later, she still tells interviewers that the doll was alive and wanted to kill her.
The doll is annually rotated to the Old Post Office and Customhouse in October, with the museum staff claiming that strange activity in the museum increases during such times.
Haunting of the Week: The Bell Witch
The Bell Witch or Bell Witch Haunting is a purported poltergeist legend from Southern folklore, centered on the 19th century Bell family of Adams, Tennessee.
The only known account of the “haunting” prior to Ingram’s publication, was in 1886, (over 60 years after the events). This one paragraph in the Goodspeed Brothers book History of Tennessee:
A remarkable occurrence, which attracted wide-spread interest, was connected with the family of John Bell, who settled near what is now Adams Station about 1804. So great was the excitement that people came from hundreds of miles around to witness the manifestations of what was popularly known as the “Bell Witch.”
This witch was supposed to be some spiritual being having the voice and attributes of a woman. It was invisible to the eye, yet it would hold conversation and even shake hands with certain individuals. The feats it performed were wonderful and seemingly designed to annoy the family. It would take the sugar from the bowls, spill the milk, take the quilts from the beds, slap and pinch the children, and then laugh at the discomfiture of its victims. At first it was supposed to be a good spirit, but its subsequent acts, together with the curses with which it supplemented its remarks, proved the contrary.
Several accounts report that during his military career, Andrew Jackson was intrigued with the story and was frightened away after traveling to investigate.
Ivory artificial nose, Europe, 1701-1800: Carved from a single piece of ivory, this prosthetic nose would have been an expensive purchase beyond the means of most people. It is unclear how the nose was worn as there are no holes for straps. It may have been fixed to any existing nasal structure. Common causes of nose injuries were warfare and syphilis (a sexually transmitted infection that can eventually cause the bridge of the nose to collapse).
The Voynich manuscript, which has been described as the “the world’s most mysterious manuscript”, is a Northern Italian book which dates to the early 15th century. Although the many of the work’s illustrations resemble herbal manuscripts of the time, the vast majority of the plants depicted don’t match known species. Even weirder, the language of the manuscript itself, while studied by professional codebreakers in WWI and WWII, remains undecipherable. The manuscript is housed at Yale University.