The Legend of the Pope Lick Monster

As I noted back when I reviewed Winterbeast, I have a fondness for regional horror films. There’s just something about the rough, “do it yourself” indie vibe combined with the time capsule nature of such films that speaks to me. The best way I have to describe it to someone who has never seen such a film is that grainy footage of an alligator jawbone hanging on a porch by a meat hook from the opening title sequence of True Blood. Truth be told, that brief clip excites my imagination far more than the actual show does! So when I stumbled across a reference to a 1988 horror short called The Legend of the Pope Lick Monster, you know I immediately had to look into it.

The Pope Lick Monster is said to reside in Louisville, Kentucky. More specifically, under the Pope Lick trestle that stretches over Pope Lick Creek. Why the funny-sounding name? The term “lick” refers to a type of small stream while the “Pope” part is a reference to the surname of an important historical figure from the area’s past. Legend has it that the Pope Lick Monster is a satyr-like combination of human and goat who delights in luring unwary passers-by onto the tracks to meet their doom when a train goes by. As is the case with many urban legends, there are numerous contradictory versions of the creature’s origin and motives. Personally, I think the theory that parents made up the monster in an attempt to keep children away from the dangerous trestle is the most likely. After all, there have been plenty of people who have been killed or injured due to their visiting the trestle.

Naturally, this alleged creature captured the imagination of a filmmaker. Independent filmmaker Ron Schildknecht, to be precise. In 1988, he and a small cast put together a 16 minute black and white short film about three youths growing up in the area and one’s brush with the monster. Although the $6,000 film was able to premiere at a local movie theater, not everyone in the area was pleased with the idea. Officials from Norfolk Southern Railway (who own the trestle) were concerned that the film would inspire people to visit the trestle and possibly even attempt a dangerous stunt depicted in the movie (which was actually filmed at a different, safer location for that particular segment of the short film). To prevent any accidents, they had a statement warning of the danger read before The Legend of the Pope Lick Monster was screened.

When I sought out information about Mr. Schildknecht and the film, I fully expected to either find a dead end or a bemused man who would express shock that anyone outside of Louisville knew or cared about a film that was only shown once. Instead, I found that one could purchase a DVD of the film at his official website, along with DVDs of his more recent works! Interestingly enough, the online press material for the film claims the monster is half sheep! I was also pleased to see that he had uploaded a clip from it onto Youtube to promote the DVD:

Although the DVD only contains a single short film, it also boasts “digitally remastered video and sound; English subtitles; Stereo and 5.1 Surround Sound audio; Scripts; [and] Outtakes.” Not bad for an independent short film. If you order a copy, please write in to let me know what you thought of it. I suspect that orders will go up thanks to the upcoming release of a feature-length horror film about the monster. However, Mr. Schildknecht has nothing to do with the film, simply titled Pope Lick. Only time will tell how it compares to The Legend of the Pope Lick Monster.

UPDATE: The full film is now available on Amazon in streaming form!

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