A young woman was killed last week outside of Louisville, Ky., when she and her boyfriend were walking along elevated train tracks in search of a monster reputed to dwell there.
The couple, both from Ohio, were searching for a beast called the Pope Lick monster. Roquel Bain, 26, and her boyfriend were on the tracks when a train arrived; the conductor saw them, sounded the horn and applied the brakes but it was too late. Bain's boyfriend survived by dangling off the bridge but she was hit and dragged, soon dying at the scene.
According to a news story in The Courier Journal:
"The boyfriend told officials he and Bain came to town from Dayton for a paranormal tour scheduled from 10 p.m. to midnight Saturday. Brandon Barnes, a security guard at Waverly Hills Sanatorium, said Bain had purchased two tickets online for $25 each for Saturday night's guided tour, which was attended by 45 ghost hunters. Bain and her boyfriend decided to spend time beforehand hunting for the Pope Lick monster, the subject of an urban legend and popularized on videos on Youtube and other social media sites and in a movie."
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The Pope Lick monster is said to be part human, part goat, and part sheep. It's one of many part-human monsters of regional lore across the country including the Maryland Goat-Man and the Donkey Lady said to haunt a bridge outside of San Antonio, Texas. This tragedy is not the first time that deaths have occurred at that bridge. Researcher Loren Coleman, author of "The Copycat Effect," notes on his blog that "The nickname of the site is the ‘Trestle of Death,' and this appears to be linked to deaths from 1986 and 1987."
Though ghost- and monster-hunting is depicted on television shows as harmless - if fruitless - fun, the dangers are real even if the subject of the searches aren't. No one searching for Bigfoot, the chupacabra, or the Loch Ness monster has ever been injured or killed by one, just as generations of girls have bravely summoned the legendary mirror-dwelling ghost/witch Bloody Mary without serious incident.
Deaths and serious injuries are not common, but they do happen. In 2006, for example, an Ohio girl was shot while exploring legends about a haunted house near a cemetery. She and a friend were trespassing, and she was critically wounded when the homeowner mistook them for vandals.
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In an incident eerily similar to the Pope Lick death, a man in neighboring North Carolina was hit by a train while on the tracks at a rural bridge. The man was part of a ghost hunting group who hoped to see the ghost of a train rumored to appear on the anniversary of an accident. Instead of a spectral train, a real one appeared from around a bend and killed one man who couldn't get out of the way in time.
Other times tragedy occurs not because of any legend that the victim believes but instead what others believe. The most famous example of this occurred in 2014 when two Wisconsin girls, both 12, stabbed their friend nearly to death in an effort to prove their devotion to a fictional character named Slenderman. The girls planned the killing for months and lured their friend into a wooded area where one girl allegedly held the victim down while the other stabbed her 19 times. The girls are set to go on trial in July.
Unfortunately Roquel Bain's death will inevitably become part of the Pope Lick monster legend, whether she believed in it, and whether the creature is real. Legends of vanishing hitchhikers and hook-handed escaped serial killers can make for spooky fun around a campfire, but those who seek real-life thrills should be careful. No one should lose their life over a rumor or legend, and the death of Bain and others is neither spooky nor funny, but tragic and preventable.