Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Siren of Pope Lick Trestle—Kentucky

Paranormal Day Party
Pope Lick Trestle
Over Pope Lick Road and Pope Lick Creek
Jeffersontown, Kentucky

The ghastly siren of Pope Lick Trestle has claimed yet another victim. The terror experienced by a young couple from Ohio while visiting this lonely railroad trestle is unimaginable. The couple was exploring the paranormal wonders of Louisville, of which there are many, and expected to tour Waverly Hills Sanitarium last Saturday evening. While trespassing at Pope Lick in search of the famed Pope Lick Monster or Goatman the couple was caught in the middle of the railroad trestle by an approaching train. The female was struck, thrown from the trestle, and killed. Her boyfriend was able to hang from the trestle until the train passed.

In Homer’s The Odyssey, Odysseus encounters the Sirens, beautiful maiden-like creatures who lured sailors to their death with their enchanting song. It seems the Pope Lick Monster is a variation of the sirens. In this case however, the monster lures teens with the thrill of viewing his ghastly form and when they walk the trestle in search of him some of them have been killed by a train on this busy thoroughfare.

The legend of the Pope Lick Monster is, like most urban legends, rather hard to pin down. The tales appear to have begun circulating in the mid-20th century. At that time, the trestle was a remote place where local teens would congregate to party and “neck” (in other words, to make out or have sex in the parlance of the period). Perhaps it is one of these teens who first saw the mysterious creature described as being half-human and half-sheep or goat. David Domine, a local writer, historian and expert on area legends and lore describes him as having muscular legs “covered with course dark hair. He’s got the same dark hair on the parts of his body. His face is alabaster they say and he has horns as well.”
 
The Pope Lick Trestle over Pope Lick Creek, 2013, by David Kidd.
From Flickr.
Some descriptions state that the creature uses hypnosis or other mind-altering methods to lure victims onto the trestle. Other stories note that he uses mimicry to recreate the voice of a child or loved-one. Once on the trestle, it’s too late for the victim to escape a passing train. Perhaps nowadays with the preponderance of thrill-seekers especially looking for paranormal thrills, just the thought of seeing the Goat Man’s visage is enough to lure the unwary.

Since the late 1980s, the siren of the trestle has claimed its fair share of victims. A young man died from injuries sustained in a fall from the trestle in 1987. The next year a young man was killed here in February. In 2000 local headlines note another young man killed after falling from the dangerous trestle. With the most recent victim, that makes four, though I suspect there may be more that didn’t immediately appear in newspaper searches. The trestle was constructed in 1929 and there may have been many deaths here over the years.

The exact identity of this murderous creature is also hidden in lore. Some stories make the connection between this creature and the Goatman that haunts the woods of Prince George’s County, Maryland. That creature is supposed to have escaped from a Beltsville, MD government lab, though the creature must do quite a bit of traveling between the two locations. Other stories indicate that the Goatman is the product of an illicit relationship between a local farmer and a member of his flock. Still other stories note that there may have been some type of Satanic ritual involved. The tale of a traveling circus involved in a railroad accident near here tells of the escape of a freak from the car carrying the circus’ freak show is also mentioned as an explanation for the monster here.

In 1988, Louisville filmmaker Ron Schildknecht premiered his short film, The Legend of the Pope Lick Monster. Norfolk Southern immediately expressed concern that the film might encourage locals to trespass on the trestle. Schildknecht added a note about this to the film to appease the railroad. It does appear that the film and the ensuing controversy served to stir up interest in the legend and perhaps add a bit to it.

Walking along railroad tracks, bridges, and trestles is considered trespassing. While these places are seemingly open to the public, they are private railroad property. The young woman killed at Pope Lick isn’t the isn’t the first ghost hunter or legend tripper killed on railroad property in recent years. In 2010, as a group of ghost hunters explored Bostian Bridge near Statesville, North Carolina, a train appeared and one of the young men was struck and killed by it. The victim pushed a young woman to safety and she was injured in the fall. This group of ghost hunters were looking for the ghost train that is known to appear here reliving the horrific train crash that occurred here in 1891.

Pope Lick Trestle may be safely viewed if one travels down Pope Lick Road. A walking trail also parallels the road and passes under the trestle as well. Do not trespass on the trestle! If you hear the siren call of the Goat Man of Pope Lick Trestle, shut your ears and leave the area, he may be calling you to your death.

Sources
Brown, Alan. Haunted Kentucky: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena
     of the Bluegrass State. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2009.
Bryant, Judy. “Trestle of death: Film depicting legend stirs fear
     of life imitating art.” The Courier-Journal. 30 December 1988.
Bryant, Judy and Lisa Jessie. “Film puts Pope Lick trestle” fatal
     attraction in the spotlight.” The Courier-Journal. 4 January 1989.
Gast, Phil. “’Ghost train’ hunter killed by train in North Carolina.”
     CNN. 28 August 2010.
Gee, Dawna. “Numerous urban legends tell of Louisville’s Goat Man.”
     WAVE3. 9 May 2014.
Holland, Jeffrey Scott. Weird Kentucky. NYC: Sterling, 2008.
Kuwicki, Holden. “Local legend may have contributed to Pope Lick
     death. WHAS11. 25 April 2016.
Strikler, Lon. “The Pope Lick Monster’s Deadly Trestle.” Phantoms and
     Monsters Blog. 30 May 2014.
Tangonan, Shannon. “19-year-old does after falling from railroad trestle.”
     The Courier-Journal. 7 November 2000.
Wilder, Annie. Trucker Ghost Stories. NYC: Tor, 2012.
Yoo, Sharon and John Paxton. “Coroner: Woman killed by train while
     investigating ‘goatman’ myth.” KLTV. 23 April 2016.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Life Returns to the Dead of Belmont—Elkridge, Maryland

Belmont Manor & Historic Park
6555 Belmont Woods Road
Elkridge, Maryland

Last year just about this time, life began to return to Belmont Manor when it was reopened to the public. The estate had been a private residence for almost two centuries before it was donated to the Smithsonian Institution in 1964 for use as a conference center. The Smithsonian sold the property in 1982 to the American Chemical Society which used it as a meeting facility. They sold the property to Howard Community College which closed the property in 2010 after facing financial difficulties. Until the property sold in 2012, the grand house quietly sat in a pall of silence. Only the dead stirred.

As the house was being renovated and restored by Howard County, its new owner, the dead continued to stir. Workers on the estate observed a little girl running about. The county contacted Inspired Ghost Tracking who investigated and was able to captured an image of the spectral girl peering around a corner.
 
Belmont Manor, 2015, by Scott218. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
This ghostly child can be added to the legend recorded a little more than a hundred years ago in John Martin Hammond’s 1914 book, Colonial Mansions of Maryland and Delaware. In addition to relating the histories of these magnificent estates, Hammond included the occasional ghost story when they popped up. The Belmont Ghost, as Hammond dubs the spectral event, usually happened at least once every winter. On a dark, windy night, residents and visitors to Belmont would hear the sounds of an invisible carriage approach the house. Upon opening the door, the living would see nothing but continue to hear the sounds of an invisible retinue enter the house. Once unloaded, the carriage would be heard to head towards the stable.

Since opening to the public last year, Belmont is now playing host to weddings and other events while the public explores the historic woodlands that remain unchanged since the building of the house in 1738. Now that the dead have been discovered on the estate, Howard County has brought out paranormal investigators and those interested in learning about the spirits around us to learn about paranormal investigating here. According to the Baltimore Sun, the next public paranormal investigation will be held this summer.

Sources
Bonk, Valerie. “Ghost investigations at Belmont gather people
     curious about the paranormal.” Baltimore Sun. 6 April 2016.
Gunts, Edward. “The past is prologue for Elkridge’s Belmont
     Mansion.” Baltimore Sun. 20 September 2012.
Okonowicz, Ed. The Big Book of Maryland Ghosts. Mechanicsburg,
     PA: Stackpole Books, 2010.
Yeager, Amanda. “Elkridge’s historic Belmont Manor reopens.”
     Baltimore Sun. 13 April 2015.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Crime and Punishment in South Georgia

Crime and Punishment Museum
(Old Turner County Jail)
241 East College Avenue
Ashburn, Georgia

The war in Europe had been heating for only a few months when the front page of The Atlanta Constitution noted that a touch of winter was being felt in Georgia. The paper was almost entirely taken up with news from the fighting that the minor note on page 7 might be totally disregarded by the average reader.

12 September 1914
Page 7

HANGED FOR THE MURDER OF HIS MOTHER-IN-LAW

Ashburn, Ga., September 11.—(Special.)—Miles L. Cribb paid the death penalty on the gallows in the county jail here this afternoon at 1 o’clock for the murder of his mother-in-law, Mrs. Mary E. Hancock, near Rebecca, in November, 1913. Only a few close friends of the family were allowed to witness the execution.

After bidding his aged mother, brothers and little 9-year-old son goodbye the condemned man mounted the scaffold with signs of nervousness.

Sheriff King sprang the trap at exactly 1 o’clock. Twelve minutes later Cribb was pronounced dead. The body was turned over to relatives who will leave tonight for Jones county where Cribb will be buried tomorrow.

The murder for which Cribb was hanged was serious enough to make a headline on the front page of The Atlanta Constitution’s front page.

8 November 1913
Page 1

THREE WOMEN ARE VICTIMS OF ENRAGED FARMER’S FURY; ONE DEAD AND TWO DYING

Miles Cribb of Rebecca, Ga., Kills His Mother-in-Law and Seriously Wounds His Wife and Sister-in-Law.

EFFORT MADE BY WIFE TO SECURE ONLY CHILD LEADS TO THE TRAGEDY

Estrangement Between South Georgia Farmer and His Wife Leads to the Death of Aged Woman and Wounding of Her Daughters

Cordele, Ga., November 7.—(Special.) Enraged because his wife would not agree to a reconciliation with him after a brief separation of two weeks, M. L. Cribb, a Turner county farmer, living about two miles from Rebecca, tonight about 6 o’clock shot and instantly killed his mother-in-law, Mrs. J. G. B. Hancock, fired two bullets into the body of his wife, probably fatally wounding her, and then turning the pistol on his sister-in-law, Miss Sallie Hancock, fired the remaining bullets, inflicting a wound from which she will probably die during the night.

Reports are to the effect that Cribb went to the Hancock home about 6 o’clock and, pushing open the dining room door without a word of warning, ripped out a revolver and shot Mrs. Hancock, 70 years of age, dead in her chair at the supper table, fatally wounded his wife and seriously wounded his sister-in-law, Miss Sallie Hancock.

[…]Cribb hastily left the scene before aid from nearby neighbors reached the wounded women and sought a hiding place in the woods nearby.

Miles Cribb made his way to his brother’s home where he attempted suicide by putting his revolver to his head but his brother, Rev. W. J. Cribb, was able to grab the weapon from him and urged him to surrender. The article notes that this horrific incident stemmed from his mother-in-law’s attempt to get custody of the couple’s child, presumably the son mentioned in the article about the hanging. The 1913 article concludes with the gathering of a mob wishing to lynch Mr. Cribb.

[…]Feeling is strong against Cribb in the Rebecca district, and is rapidly growing stronger, and it is believed that Warden Putman is trying to get Cribb to a place of safety early enough prevent mob violence.

[…] Late reports from the little town are that a mob has formed near the scene of the shooting and will make an effort to take Cribb from the officers f they are located. These reports have not been verified.

The streets of Rebecca are practically deserted, nearly all the male citizens having gone to the scene of the tragedy.

The following day Mr. Cribb again was in the front page headlines of The Atlanta Constitution:

9 November 1913
Page 1

I Know I Must Pay Penalty But Save Me From Lynchers, Cries Cribb, Women’s Slayer

Cordele, Ga., November 8.—(Special.) Miles L. Cribb who was the principal actor in one of the dastardly and horrible crimes ever enacted in the section of Georgia…is now safely confined in the Dougherty county jail [in Albany, GA]. While he is now probably safe from mob violence, feeling in the community near the scene of the tragedy continues [to be] very intense, and it is thought that until he is given trial, if then, it will not be advisable to return him to the Turner county jail.

[…]Upon the arrival of Putnam [the warden who arrested Cribb] and Cribb on the outskirts of Ashburn they found a mob had gathered there, intending to do violence to Cribb if he was brought there. [Sheriff John A.] King was notified of the whereabouts of Cribb, and eluding the angry citizens, he took him in an automobile as rapidly as possible to Sylvester and then to Albany.

Once the furor died down, Mr. Cribb was eventually transferred to the Turner County Jail where he faced a jury next door in the Italianate halls of the Turner County Courthouse on January 6, 1914. Both Cribb’s wife and sister-in-law survived their wounds and were present. Word of the trial was not published in The Atlanta Constitution until nearly a month had passed.

7 February 1914
Page 12

CRIBB MUST HANG FOR BLOODY DEED

Wife Smiles as Ashburn Man Is Sentenced for the Killing of His Mother-in-Law.

Ashburn, Ga., January 6.—(Special.) “We, the jury, find the defendant guilty,” was the verdict returned this afternoon by the twelve men who had been chosen to decide the fate of Miles Cribb, who was placed on trial in Turner superior court this morning at 8:30 o’clock charged with the murder of Mrs. Mary E. Hancock, hos mother-in-law, in the Rebecca district last November.

Silence pervaded the crowded courtroom from the time the bailiff in charge of the jury announced to the court that they were ready to enter until the last word of the sentence of death was uttered by Judge Cox, fixing Tuesday, March 3, 1914, as the date of execution.

Between his aged mother on the right and the Rev. W. J. Cribb, his brother, on the left, the unfortunate man sat with bowed head for the most part throughout the trial which lasted from 10 a. m. to 1:30 p.m. The mother of the defendant sobbed constantly, as did the defendant, himself, as his counsel feelingly pleaded for mercy from the jury.

[…]The wife of the defendant, together with her relatives, who occupied the front seat, smiled her approval of the verdict and sentence as the condemned man was turned over to the sheriff.

[…]It is very likely that Cribb will remain in the jail here until his execution as the bitter feeling toward him immediately after the crime has almost subsided.

Cribb languished in the Turner County Jail for a number of months before he was executed there in September, less than a year after his heinous deed. The Turner County Jail is not atypical of turn of the century jails that remain in small towns throughout the South. It’s a heavy brick building in the reigning vernacular style of the period with some Romanesque-revival elements. The building takes on a very solemn air, especially when compared to the righteous flamboyancy of the courthouse next door. The jail features a tower-like element on its west corner that echoes the clock tower on the courthouse and the steeple of the Baptist church that can be seen between the two when viewed from College Street. This solemnity gives the building the air of strength, order, and as a place to avoided.
 
Old Turner County Jail, 2015, by Jud McCranie. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
According to a 2003 article, the jail’s strict architectural lines led it to be referred to as the “Turner Castle” by locals. It was constructed in 1906 for Turner County which had been established the previous year. The jail opened in 1907 for inmates. As was common in small town jails, the building provided a home for the sheriff and his family as well as room for inmates. The sheriff’s wife was tasked with providing meals for the inmates as well as her husband and family.

At the back of the building a metal staircase leads to the second floor where male inmates were confined in small 7’X 7’ cells. Two bunks on either side provided sleeping accommodations for the inmates, four of which could be confined in a single cell. The second floor also held a “death cage” where Cribb would have been confined in the hours leading up to his meeting with state-sanctioned fate. This cell is just a few steps from the steel trap door that would drop Cribb to his death at the end of a strong rope. This harsh conditions persisted until the county opened a new jail in 1994.

According to the jail’s documentation in the Georgia Architectural and Historic Properties Survey, the solemn mood of the jail sounded like something akin to a revival service for Cribb’s hanging, the last hanging conducted in Turner County and the second hanging in the jail (the other was in 1907). Mrs. Netta Shingler, who sang a hymn before the execution, described the event as a “once in a lifetime” event attended by the sheriff, deputy sheriff, school superintendent, and a prominent local Methodist minister. A service was held where Mrs. Shingler notes that “if the prisoner heard us he made no signs but those conducting the service were overcome.”

The jail has been preserved as a museum examining the harsh jail conditions that once existed throughout the South. Among the artifacts displayed here is a bloody shirt collar of Miles Cribb’s shirt from his execution. While the museum explores the spirit of crime and punishment in the South, spirits persist here as well, trying to tell their own stories. The spirits slam doors, shake beds, and have been noted to leave indentions in the old mattresses in the cells. Museum staff have allowed a number of paranormal investigation groups investigate the jail with one of the groups, Southeastern Paranormal Investigative and Information Team (S.P.I.R.I.T. Paranormal), having a piece of tile thrown at investigators in the basement during their 2012 investigation. Reportedly, the tile shattered on an opposite wall.

During this investigation members of the team had a variety of personal experiences seeing, hearing, and feeling things. A member of the Ghosts of Georgia Paranormal reported that during their investigation in 2013 that he heard voices throughout the building. The Albany Herald has just recently reported on ghost tours of the jail that are now being conducted on Friday and Saturday nights by the Paranormal Society of Middle Georgia. Perhaps Miles Cribb is still pitifully pleading forgiveness for his heinous deeds.

Sources
“Ashburn, GA. Museum puts a lock on history.” Vindy.com.
     15 July 2003.
“Ashburn man spends the night in haunted jail.” WALB.
     12 June 2015.
Big Bend Ghost Trackers. “Investigation Report for the
     Crime and Punishment Museum.” 6 October 2007.
Blanchard, Haley. Georgia Architectural and Historic Properties
     Survey: Turner County Jail. No date.
“Cribb must hang for bloody deed.” Atlanta Constitution.
     7 February 1914.
Ghosts of Georgia Paranormal Investigations. “Investigation
“Hanged for the murder of his mother-in-law.” Atlanta
     Constitutition. 12 September 1914.
“Historic jail in Ashburn offering ghost tours.” Albany Herald.
     27 March 2016.
“I know I must pay penalty but save me from lynchers. Atlanta
     Constitution. 9 November 1913.
S.P.I.R.I.T. Paranormal. “Investigation Report for Crime
     & Punishment Museum.” 23 June 2012.
“Three women are victims of enraged farmer’s fury.”
     Atlanta Constitution. 8 November 1913.