Urban Legends

The Pope Lick Monster

The Pope Lick Monster didn’t get its name because it once licked the pope. Instead, it gets its name from the nearby creek, Pope Lick Creek. Specifically, the Pope Lick Monster is said to stalk the trestle bridge which is on the Norfolk Southern Railway track. 

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Like many creatures made infamous by local stories, the Pope Lick Monster’s description varies although there are certain similarities that are similar in every story. One of them being that the Pope Lick Monster is humanoid. It is typically described as having the body of a man with the lower torso and legs of either a goat or sheep...almost like some weird, demonic centaur. I think it is particularly important to note that both goat and sheep have cloven hooves, and we all know what kind of creatures cloven hooves are associated with. In addition to having the lower half of animal, the Pope Lick Monster is sometimes said to have a short pair of gnarled horns protruding from its head.

But, if the trestle bridge is haunted why do the stories continue ad how does the Pope Lick Monster continue to generate more tales of horror? Well, like the sirens of older lore it is said that the Pope Lick Monster has a special call that lures wayward travelers to its hunting grounds. Once the people are close enough, the Pope Lick Monster hypnotizes those unlucky wanderers. It is said then, interestingly enough, that he does not kill them himself but rather lures them to their deaths in front of an oncoming train or by falling off the bridge.

It’s also said that sometimes the Pope Lick Monster doesn’t have a siren call, but rather the ability to mimic human voices. Sometimes, it mimics the voice of another victim, of a child calling for help, or a voice that is somehow familiar to its intended victim.

Unsurprisingly, visiting the Pope Lick Monster and the trestle bridge soon became a rite of passage for teenagers in the surrounding area. A long-time resident of Fisherville, Martha Williams said, “There would be just mobs of kids out there near the trestle and climbing up on it.  It used to be a favorite thing to do…the boys would con the girls into it. Most of the ones that came out here were no locals. The locals sort of knew better.”

However, tragedy has happened on the bridge quite often in recent times and many believed it has been pushed forward by the legends of the Pope Lick Monster. In 1987, Jack Charles Bahm II, a Spalding University student, was killed by a train while on the trestle. Nicholas Jewell of Mount Washington, also died after falling from the trestle. His four friends would later tell police that Jewell had been attempting to cross the trestle when the train approached.

Signs remain up warning against entering the train tracks or trying to cross the trestle bridge. Locals, like Martha Williams, also warn local kids off the area when they can. 

Interestingly enough, where the Pope Lick Monster is said to hunt marks a strange area called ‘The Big Lick’ triangle, which is said to be a strange window of fortean activity that includes haunting reports, UFO sightings, and cryptid reports.

Thank you to Reynolds M for #Blogstonishing suggestion!

Pope Lick Trestle, in Louisville, reputed home of the Pope Lick Monster by Ihoyc licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

The Entombing of Julia Legare

In horror movies, books, photography, and in other forms of media the fear of being buried alive seems to be pervasive in our culture and easily one of the most frightening ways to die. While most of our folklore relates to the dead coming back to life...what happens when the living are buried like the dead? Enter the tragic tale of Julia Legare.

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Our story begins on Edisto Island, South Carolina. Edisto has a long history of inhabitation first beginning with indigenous people, followed by plantation owners in the 1700s. Julia Legare was visiting the island in the mid-1800s. While visiting she became quite ill and fell into a coma. Her family was quite worried, as her health seemed to be declining rapidly. However, days passed and she never awoke from her coma. A family physician declared Julia, who at the time was in her early teens, dead.

The family weathered the tragedy of Julia’s early death as best they could. As the years passed the family crypt remained closed until one day, about fifteen years later, her brother also met an early end. The family crypt was open to bury another Legare and found a gruesome site. Julia’s skeleton was pressed closely against the crypt door and there was evidence of scratching on the doors and floors of her final resting place.

Her family, understandably, was horrified at the horrific events that had transpired in Julia’s final days. However, from the day the crypt was opened and her body was discovered strange hauntings plagued the area. The mausoleum door was found open again and again to the point where cemetery employees decided to remove the door in an attempt to appease Julia’s final wish - to be set free from the crypt.

Sadly, this seems to be more of a tale of a great fear than a reflection of reality. Dottie Thomas, a local tour guide and historian sets the record straight..."The fact is Julia was buried there. Two years after she was buried, her four-year-old child passed away, and after he was buried, the door opened again mysteriously. Two years after the child died, her husband died. He was buried there, and the same thing happened, so they took the door off and sealed up the floor." So, while the tale is strange because opening a crypt door is always eerie, it does not appear Julia was entombed alive, nor was she even a child when she died. Perhaps her spirit is unrestful due to her and her family’s untimely deaths, but her end does not seem to be as horrific as the stories lead many to believe.

Thank you to Tabitha F for the #blogstonishing suggestion!

The above image is of Portion of Wescott Road, lying just west of South Carolina Highway 174 on Edisto Island. Photo was taken at about sunrise taken by Ammodramus. It is licensed under CC0.


The Elmore Rider

The Elmore Rider weaves a tale of love, tragic loss, and a headless ghost that can’t help sticking around. Elmore, a town in northern Ohio, and its population was a mere 1,410 as of the last census. At the time of our tale, shortly after World War I,  it was a little more booming thanks to the surrounding industry.

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Like many love stories, our main characters were separated by something, in this case WWI. After our Elmore Rider was drafted, his sweetheart promised to wait for him in Elmore until his return. After letters going back and forth discussing their love for each other and their impending marriage, the Elmore Rider was finally headed home.

As a celebration, on the last leg of his journey back to Elmore he bought a brand-spanking new Indian brand motorcycle for his ride home. He decided to cut the engine a bit as he neared her house, intending to surprise her. As he passed by and parked his bike, he could see her working in the kitchen and decided to sneak in behind her and surprise her with a hug. Sadly, he did not quite get the happy, affection-filled reunion he thought he was walking into.

His love screamed and soon her face contorted into horror as she realized who had hugged her. She had thought her love had died in WWI and had accepted a marriage proposal from someone else.

Shocked and upset, he barely let her explain before hopping on his motorcycle and driving off into the night. Sadly, he didn’t make it very far. He lost control of his new bike and police were called to his scene, where his head lay several feet away from his body on a nearby bridge.

Since then, there have been reports of blinding lights around the bridge followed by eerie and heartbreaking screams. These can be heard throughout the year but on March 21st, the alleged date of the incident, it said that a ghostly bike driven by a headless rider can be found driving that stretch and vanishing from the bridge around the midpoint. Others claim that you don’t see an entire apparition, but a single ghostly orb making the same journey.  It’s also said that if you stand on the bridge during the anniversary, you may end up thrown from it. Although the bridge is not very high, it would still cause quite some damage.

According to the Louisville Ghost Hunters Society, “Richard Gill was a student at nearby Bowling Green University and had an avid interest in the paranormal. As March 21 neared, he and a friend decided to stake out the haunted bridge. They brought along a movie camera, a still camera and a tape recorder. They parked their car on the far side of the bridge and then followed the procedure that, legend had it, caused the ghost light to appear. He blinked his car lights three times and then honked his horn three times. Suddenly, the light appeared near the farmhouse and flew toward the bridge, where it vanished.”

Thanks to Mel B for this suggestion for Blogstonishing 2019!

The image is Entering Elmore, Ohio by David Wilson and is licensed under CC by 2.0.

The Dungarvon Whooper

Along the Dungarvon River, logging was quite popular in the late 1800s into the 1900s. It is no surprise that during the long winter months, the winter camps soon filled with men and their stories. One of the most prominent stories, trafficked almost as heavily as the wood, was that of the Dungarvon Whooper.

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The story of the Dungarvon Whooper begins with a young cook at a lumber camp named Ryan. Ryan was said to have been working lumber camps for a few years and was quite transient. When he arrived at the latest logging camp he brought a simple sack filled with all of his worldly possessions and bulging money belt. Although he was a bit braggadocious at times, Ryan was generally well-liked, especially for his talent. Even though Ryan was small, he could whoop and holler and yell better than any man at the camp. 

Ryan, as the camp’s cook, awoke far earlier than the rest of the camp to begin preparing breakfast for all the men. Once he was finished cooking breakfast and filling up the lunch pails, he would let out a tremendous whoop to awake the entire camp and rouse them for breakfast.

One day, the boss of the lumber camp arrived. The boss was a stranger to the camp, but, as he was responsible for their paychecks, the men respected him. Once breakfast was made and the men left for the day, it was pretty much just the boss and Ryan alone at camp. When the men returned for dinner...they found Ryan’s lifeless body without his money belt. 

One of the men confronted the boss and claimed that the young cook had suddenly taken ill after the men had left and gotten worse and worse until succumbing to his death. The lumberman, loyal to their cook, asked if this was true where was the money belt that Ryan was never seen without?

The boss said something non-committal and a horrible storm began to rage. Not wanting their friend to go without a proper burial, they buried him in the forest. As they made their way back to the storm in the middle of the night and through the eye of the storm, they heard dreadful whooping emitting from all around them. It continued throughout the night from every conceivable direction and terrified all those in the camp.

The men went back with a priest shortly after to give a proper burial...but his body was nowhere to be found in the shallow grave the men had made. Following this failed attempt at a proper burial and Ryan’s missing body, every night after dark a bone-shivering whooping would echo throughout the camp.

Despite being a profitable camp, the lumbermen abandoned their work as soon as spring came and made for different camps never to return. Although the camp was disbanded, the Dungarvon Whooper did not stop his whooping and his tortured calls would ring throughout the forest for years.

Throughout the New Brunswick area there are slight variations to this tale. Some of the stories claim that the whooping ended decades later when a priest came and blessed the land. Other stories claim that the whooping can be heard to this day.

So, is it the just the wind whipping through the forest at night that makes this baleful whooping? Or, is it something more sinister?

Thanks to Tyson T for submitting this topic for #Blogstonishing 2019!

The above image is Dungarvon River at "The Jaws", New Brunswick, Canada (IR Walker 1988).  from lesfrenck and is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

The Gorbals Vampire

Just a hop skip and a jump away from the main streets of Glasgow is a place known at The Gorbals. The Gorbals has been a part of Glasgow for centuries and originally began as a fashionable village which soon took off in popularity. However, it soon became known as one of the poorest parts of Glasgow and was often overcrowded, dingy, and even a bit scary. Although police showing up to the Gorbals isn’t exactly notable...one event in September 1954 stands out and started off a fear for the Gorbals Vampire.

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On September 23rd, 1954 police were called to the Southern Necropolis, one of the graveyards in the Gorbals. Alex Deeprose, a police constable, was the first to arrive on the scene. And he was in for quite a shock. Seemingly inexplicably, hundreds of children were running all around the graveyard. The kids, though, were armed - they had crosses, crucifixes, axes, and even knives. The children ranged in ages from 14 all the way to toddlers. But why were they running around a graveyard with weapons in the middle of the night?

Deeprose, in a bit of a panic, didn’t know how to corral the unruly horde. He finally got a hold of some of the children and asked them what they were doing. They replied simply that they were hunting the Gorbals Vampire, a 7-foot tall creature with iron teeth sharp enough to eviscerate other children. They believed that this creature was behind the murders of two other children that had recently died in the graveyard.  

More police arrived on the scene but they were unable to calm the children as they continued to hunt for the monster that had taken their friends. Finally, it began to rain and a local headmaster told the children to scram (apparently, headmasters are more frightening than police officers) and the children disbanded.

However, the children returned in full force the next night...and in varying numbers for the rest of the week. At this time, the police had been called multiple times and the legend of the Gorbals Vampire was beginning to spread amongst the residents of the Gorbals.

Parents began to worry about the creature that was stalking and killing children in the dead of night and rumors continued to spread on the playground.

A student at the time, Kenny Hughes, when interviewed years later said, “The children’s terror ‘built up and built up until it basically became mass hysteria.”

And, perhaps, this strange tale of the vampire with iron teeth and children swarming the graveyard was just that...a strange tale. While the children vampire hunting in the graveyard at night, illuminated by the fire of the nearby steelworks, was very real...the tale of the vampire may just have been a tall tale. According to investigations by the police at the time and later legend-hunters, no children were reported missing or found dead in the area during the time. 

According to the Scotsman, the children may have updated the town’s local boogeyman into something more easily hunted, “Myths of iron-toothed monsters have haunted Glasgow for some time. According to Tam Smith, parents sometimes warned their badly behaved offspring that the ‘Iron Man’ – a local ogre – would get them.”

Vampires appearing as villains in comics around this time were also blamed for the updated iron-tooth monster. Not to mention that vampires, unlike nondescript iron-toothed monsters, have very specific things that can kill them. Which, may have made the hunt for them even easier and more attractive to the child horde that would descend upon the Necropolis. 

Thank you Kristy R for contributing this topic suggestion for #Blogstonishing 2019!

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. It was posted by Robert Kelley.

Gates of Hell

As discussed in several blog posts and, of course, our Jersey Devil series...a lot of weird things are happening in New Jersey. In addition to witches and time machines being built in the Pine Barrens, there is also the Clifton Gate. These gates are rumored to be the very gates of hell. 

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Calling the Clifton Gate a gate is a bit misleading, as it is really a series of drains. What makes this drain system different than any other in America or the world at large? Well, they are said to go on for an unfathomable amount of distance and are said to be layered seven times, mirroring the seven circles of hell. The deeper you go it is said you will find bones, decay, and other terrifying images.

This particular tunnel system was originally built as a drainage run-off for Weasel Brook, a stream. Likely one of the reasons it got its terrifying names is that during times of heavy rain the usual trickle of water throughout the tunnel becomes a raging torrent instantaneously.

It is said the intensely private and winding corridors of this system have led to it be a gathering place for alleged rituals, KKK meetings, and other untoward activities. In fact, so much evil and debauchery are said to have happened here that the devil himself has made himself a regular guest in the deepest, darkest, most difficult to find room in the system. 

Even if you’re hell-bent on meeting the devil, you still might not get an audience with him. This room can only be found and accessed by the devil’s chosen ones. There are several trials you must go through before meeting, including lifting giant axes that block the door. Once you enter the antechamber, there would be a glowing human skull. Then, you would descend even further (which would seem impossible) until you met the room where the devil waited for you. Now, if you want to meet a devil it seems like it’d be much easier to make a deal with him at a crossroads...but hey, who doesn’t like feeling like a chosen one?

In addition to a meeting place with a devil, the Gates of Hell also includes its very own guard. Nicknamed Red Eyed Mike, it is unclear if this creature’s goal is to keep people out or to keep those who enter safe. It is said if you knock on the railroad ties located above the entrance three times, you will hear a horn sound from somewhere within the tunnel. Once you know his presence is there, you may feel safer upon entering. However, you should respect the space because Red Eyed Mike can soon turn mischievous and hurl rocks at you, create strange noises, mimic others in your group, and generally freak you out.

While this story is likely an interesting urban legend it is interesting that it has such staying power. Does your small town have a meeting place with the devil? How does it differ from this story?

The header image of this post is not related to the tunnel and is an image of ‘greenwich foot tunnel... cold, wet and creepy‘ by flickr user jo.sau and is liscensed under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).

The Silver Arrow

Through the Resurrection Mary series we’ve explored haunted roads...but what about haunted vehicles? In Stockholm, Sweden, there is a phantom train said to pull in every so often into active stations. It's called the Silverpilen, or The Silver Arrow.

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I found the link between the Silver Arrow and Women in White that haunt highways incredibly interesting. Similar to the Women in White, the Silver Arrow is a ghostly silver color and haunts common subway lines. There is, seemingly, no rhyme or reason as to when the Silver Arrow decides to show itself. In fact, you could ride the same lines hundreds of times before ever getting a glimpse of this strange train. But, those who do witness it have stories to tell.

The stories gained traction beginning around 1965. It was during this year that the Stockholm metro added eight unpainted, silver aluminum train cares. Standing apart from the regular green trains, the unpainted silver trains were met to be a test to check performance and if all trains should lose the paint to save money.

However, these silver trains were not popular among commuters. They were spartan test models, rarely seen and often avoided. The doors slid open on the outside of the train unlike others and inside it was sparse of ads, decorations, or even a little bit of human flourish. Thus, they proved fertile grounds for the rumor of a ghost train.

Similar to the Women in White the Silver Arrow also seems to enjoy appearing at night, rather than the middle of the day. According to some versions of the legend, it is only seen after midnight and before dawn.

The train is usually seen completely empty, or sometimes sparsely filled with ghostly passengers. One should never dare to board the Silver Arrow, unless you want to join its passengers for eternity or, perhaps even worse, arrive at Kymilinge which is rumored to be the station of the dead.

According to Urban Legend scholar Bengt af Klintberg, “The passengers in the train seem to be living dead, with expressionless, vacant looks. A very common detail is that a person who just wanted to travel to the next station remained seated for one week in the Silverpilen. Many girls dared not enter trains which they believed could be Silverpilen”

Going back briefly to the station of the dead, Kymlinge, it is important to note that this is a real station. Well, kind of real. The death of Kymlinge wasn’t due to anything paranormal but rather a lack of demand for the station lead the structure to never fully open to commuters. Thus, the Silver Arrow had its stop - the abandoned station, Kymlinge. Like the strange silver trains, Kymlinge lacked any human touch or flourish and felt strange and uncomfortable for those who did glimpse it.

There are some people who claimed to have survived the Silver Arrow. One commonality amongst those who do make their way off this strange train is a loss of time. Some travelers mention just a few hours of lost time after getting off, but others claim weeks or even months had passed before they were let off the Silver Arrow. Another commonality is the fact that many of these travelers claim that when they finally deboard the Silver Arrow they are released at Kymlinge.

The silver cars were retired in the mid 1990s, but the sightings of the Silver Arrow have not slowed. In fact, even Stockholm’s young people who certainly did not experience the trains back in the 1960s know to avoid any silver cars that pull into the station.

The above image is of Kymlinge Subway Station taken April 1, 2014. This file is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

The Devil’s Toy Box

What buildings come to mind when you think of places you might be driven mad by purely existing in them? Perhaps the post office, the doctor’s office, the DMV. Or, maybe something more sinister comes to mind like an abandoned building or a sanitarium. According to those in the know, none of these places can compare to the Devil’s Toy Box.

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It is not entirely clear if the The Devil’s Toy Box is all urban legend, creepypasta, hints at truth, or is completely true. For the purposes of this post, I am going to go with the middle option - that there is something about this story, this type of place, that gets at truth.

Now, where is this alleged evil place? Northern Louisiana. In fact,  its creation was inspired by the Clive Barker Hellraiser movies. Although some debate remains about its creation and location, the most accepted explanation is that it was an attraction set up in the annual halloween attraction, Farmer Grave’s haunted Orchard.

Unlike the movies, however, this toy box is not something you can fit in your hand or even a room.

The Devil’s Toy Box is described as a shack. From the outside, it is unappealing and average. But the interior of the Devil’s Toy Box is what gives this strange room its lasting reputation. According to several sources, the inside of the shack consists of floor-to-ceiling mirrors, including the walls.

No one can last more than five minutes in this room.

People who have been unlucky enough to stumble upon this room have been hospitalized, driven mad, and run out screaming.

The man alleged to last the longest was Roger Heltz, who lasted four minutes and 37 seconds. Heltz was, by all accounts, fairly normal. He was a 52-year-old family man and father of three. Sadly, his experience in the room severely damaged him and, since that day, he has been unable to speak. Heltz’s is only one of the tales of madness and terror. Dozens of teenagers have been seriously disturbed, horrified at what lay inside, or otherwise unable to last more than just a few seconds inside the attraction.

So what happens in the room? ThoughtCatalog reports  “According to the legend, if you stood inside this mirror-room alone for too long, supposedly the devil would show up and steal your soul. In most versions of this story, he did so by flaying you alive. I mention all of this because about two weeks ago, I got an email from an 18-year-old girl located in Northern Louisiana who we’ll call “Erin” (the specific town where Erin lived shall go unnamed for reasons that will soon become clear).”

The rumor mill was spinning so local law enforcement quickly stepped in and closed down the attraction. Even after it was shut down, several teens attempted to visit the property (accessible by a two-lane road near the Sawyers’ property), but it has never been discovered again.


The above image is unrelated to the story and was taken by Paulo Valdivieso, entitled
Dirt Road #1. It liscensed under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0). 

Where does the Legend of Friday the 13th Come From?

In American culture, Friday the 13th is a notorious day...but do we know why? Like any legendary day...how the date became infamous is a little hard to track down. 

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First, let's dive a little into 13. Like 666, 13 also seems to be a number mired in bad luck ad mystery. In fact, according to refinery29, 13 has "countless malevolent origins." Ancient Norse Lore holds that " evil and turmoil were first introduced in the world by the appearance of the treacherous and mischievous god Loki at a dinner party in Valhalla. He was the 13th guest, upsetting the balance of the 12 gods already in attendance." Notably, Judas was the 13th guest at the last supper. It should also be noted that 13 only seems to be a concern in the Western world (in places like ancient Egypt, 13 is lucky and other numbers are evil...like 4 in much of Asia). Finally, in the ancient world 12 was considered a "perfect number." This can be seen today - calendars with 12 months, a day is 2 parts of 12 hours, etc. Because 13 follows this perfect number, it is "found lacking and unusual."

Now that we know a little bit about 13...let's dive deeper into the lore surrounding Friday the 13th. We've established 13 isn't a number held in the highest esteem, likewise neither was Friday. In fact, the literature from the middle ages often linked Friday to meager harvests, bad business, and disastrous travel. Even in the perennial Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer made sure to note, "And on a Friday fell all this mischance."  

So, is Friday the 13th simply the marriage of two unlucky/evil/mysterious things? Maybe, but maybe not. The fear of Friday the 13th is so significant it has a name - paraskevidekatriaphobia. You can also see the effects of it in elevators - although not every building skips a "13" button on the elevator, you may notice that several do...especially older buildings.

Others believe it has a religious origin. As mentioned above, there were 13 guests at Jesus' last supper the night before his death on Good Friday. 

Others believe that popular culture is to blame. For example, Thomas W. Lawson's popular novel Friday, the Thirteenth published in 1907. In the book, a man takes advantage of the superstition of Friday the 13th to create a Wall Street panic.

In more recent times, movies like the Friday the 13th have further popularized and, in a way, normalized the unluckiness and noterity of Friday the 13th.

Snopes has several interesting anecdotes and pull quotes from different historical sources that seem to support that Friday the 13th isn't at the luckiest of days. You can read through them by clicking the third "link" at the top of the page!

In 2018, Friday the 13th will fall on April 13 and July 13.

The above image is liscensed under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
 and is from Flickr user Frédéric BISSON