American Legends: The Bench-Leg of Goeble Ridge

Author Mark Muncy has always loved telling scary stories. In his newest book Freaky Florida, he and fiancée Kari Shultz explore the legends and lore of Florida State, but it was in Kentucky that Mark had his first encounter with an urban legend. Read on to learn about The Bench-Leg of Goeble Ridge, and how it haunts the rural lands of Northern Kentucky!

By Mark Muncy

I started working on Eerie Florida after my haunted house, Hellview Cemetery, had been effectively shut down by the city of St. Petersburg. I had collected so many local stories, interviews, and emails over the two decades of running the haunted house. When Kari Shultz and I pitched these stories to History Press, we had a giant 100,000-word monster of a collection. They suggested, wisely I might add, to scale it back and create a top twenty list. We bumped it up to twenty-five stories and legends. Thankfully we had plenty of stories left over, and encouraged by the success of the first book, we recently published Freaky Florida.

While promoting these books we get lots of the same questions. Do you believe in ghosts and monsters? Did you experience anything while researching? What place really scared you the most? Was there any story you really wanted to tell? What made you want to research these stories in the first place?

I always want to tell them there is one story I would love to tell; that there is one story I can’t explain that I witnessed myself. Someday, I may get around to researching and writing Eerie Kentucky, but I just don’t have time, and it would involve a lot of miles. So, in the meantime I’ll present my own legend here…

I had heard stories of the beast that lurked near my family’s lands in Kentucky. My father used to tell me the story of the creature, with the dumbest name I’d ever heard, that hunted the woods of Goeble Ridge in Eastern Kentucky. We only lived a few hours away in Ohio, so we used to spend weekends “roughing it” in Louisa, and my uncle or my dad would tell us of “The Bench-Leg of Goeble Ridge.” All of us kids would laugh at the name. I thought the name was incredibly silly. Now, I had already had some odd encounters with strange phenomena and other unexplainable experiences long before this, so I was a general believer. But for some reason, I just never believed in the local legendary beast… Until I saw it.

Any kid from who grew up anywhere near Isaac Church can tell you about the legend of the creature. The story goes that an old peddler in the late 1700s would have his cart pulled by an ox out along what was then known as Muncy-Meeks Road. He would sell pots, pans, and other odds and ends to the farms scattered along the ridge. The families all knew he was coming by the sound of an old cow bell and the rattle of his wagon.  

The story follows that some nefarious types figured the old man would have some quick cash on him, and possibly gold or silver. So, they set up an ambush under an old tree at a bend in the road where they could hide behind the ridge. It was there they robbed the peddler. He resisted by breaking off a limb from the tree and using it as a club. Of course, they overpowered him and killed him. To hide the murder, they apparently butchered the ox and buried the whole mess in a shallow grave under the old tree.

Authors Mark Muncy and Kari Shultz at Goeble Ridge.
Authors Mark Muncy and Kari Shultz at Goeble Ridge, courtesy of the author.

As many times as I’ve heard the tale, up to that point it never changes. It’s afterwards that everyone tells it differently; it seems to depend on which of the several family trees in the area tell the tale. Cyrus descendants say that the peddler was of gypsy heritage, and a powerful curse brought forth a beast like a big cat, which walks on two legs and carries the old peddler’s club to take vengeance on the highwaymen. Meeks family members say the old peddler’s wife was a witch that animated the bones of her husband and the ox into some odd undead creature, which hunts Kentucky lands to keep away bad people. The Isaac clan generally just says it was divine vengeance that killed all the wrongdoers. My dad told it differently.

We of the Muncy family tell it a bit differently, since we own most of the land the creature is said to live on. Each generation seems to have some odd encounter or tale of “The Bench-Leg.” Heck, the old tree in the legend is supposed to be the creepy old tree that is right across the street from where we “rough it” in our trailer. No other trees will grow in the immediate area around it. The stories tend to be shared by the big fire pit where we can stay up late telling ghost stories (because basic cable sucks after 11pm). Almost every member of our family has seen the beast, including my dad, his brother, and me.

My dad told me he saw it once when he was very young, while out walking his old herd of cattle in. He was walking in the holler when he saw an extra cow in the group. It seemed a little small with an odd glow about its head. My dad called to his brother and told him that one of the cows most have foaled without their knowledge. He got his bother to try and corner the “new cow” by going around one side of a small copse of trees as my dad came from the other side. They blinked in astonishment as the beast vanished in front of their eyes. My dad said that just before it vanished, he could have sworn it turned and looked at him with a glowing human head.

I know it’s not terrifying. I know it’s just odd. I also know my father never lied about a thing in his life, so I know he honestly believed every word of his story. My uncle also talks about the incident in hushed tones, which, if you knew my uncle, you would know happens very rarely.

My incident came many years later. I used to drag some of my city friends with me to our land in Kentucky nearly weekly just to have someone to goof off or go hunting with. On this occasion, we had found and cleaned out my parent’s old Airstream trailer: we killed all the spiders and snakes that had nested in it, and dragged it down to the edge of an old baseball field my grandparents used to have on their land. There wasn’t a ball field there anymore; it was simply a baseball diamond-sized clearing in a pristine wilderness. All we really cared about was that it was about a half-mile away from where the grown-ups spent their time, so we could talk about girls, school, our parents, and tell actually scary ghost stories, not ones about a dumbly-named cow monster with a man’s head and a possible wooden leg. 

Anyway, one night just after we had gotten to a shaky sleep after a particularly scary retelling of The Haunting of Hill House by yours truly to my friends, one of the horses that occasionally grazed in the area got really close to one of our windows and snorted… Loudly. You would have thought the devil himself was at our door as we three teenaged boys ran out of that trailer with bats and bb guns, ready to slay whatever beast had awakened us. I seriously think we entertained the horse mightily as I imagine the sight of us bursting out of the trailer like an uncoordinated SWAT team. When we realized what fell beast had disturbed our slumber, we all laughed pretty hard.

That’s when we heard the sound of more hooves. Was there a second horse out grazing that we hadn’t heard about? Was this some echo from a nearby farm? We all got quiet. That’s when I saw the glow through the tree line. I can still feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end as I type these words even now, over 25 years later. The eerie green light was coming right for us and I knew exactly what it was. I was about to have my own story to add to our family’s litany.

A rendition of the Bench-Leg of Goeble Ridge.
A rendition of the Bench-Leg of Goeble Ridge, courtesy of the author.

It burst forth and I could see it was about the size of a big cat. It was covered in a deep black fur all over it, and the moonlight seemed to sink into it. I would compare it to a large panther except it had no tail, I swear it had hooves and not claws, and its head was a misshaped thing that looked like pictures I’d seen of the Elephant man. It did have the head of a man, but it was one ugly face. I remember trying to see if it had a wooden leg, too. Suddenly, the beast made a quick turn and ran into the woods just behind our little trailer.

I vaguely remember the horse bolting towards third base and the pond in that area. My friends all scattered and ran for the big trailer, I could hear them yelling for me to “get the heck out of there.”  Though they didn’t say “heck” actually. I don’t remember running, but I do remember being out of breath as I collapsed on the couch in the big family trailer. I also remember my friend PJ suddenly started yelling, “What the heck was that?”

My dad came out of his room with mom in tow behind him. Though it had to be 2 or 3 AM, he had drawn his revolver, and was heading for the shotgun cabinet to kill whatever had scared his boy and his friends. From our inability to articulate thanks to sheer terror, and a half mile sprint, he thought we had a bear or some sort of cougar loose in the area. Then our eyes made contact. He put his gun down and took a deep breath. He knew what had happened.

I don’t 100% know what it was. I’ve never seen it since. The encounter makes zero sense, which has become my gauge for seeing if someone who has an unusual encounter interview with us is telling the truth. We weren’t in any apparent danger. Apart from the legends of the Bench-Leg beating up bad people and seeking revenge on the highwaymen, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone actually being hurt by the creature.  All I do know is I now have a tale to add to the late-night fires on Goeble Ridge.

So, there’s the long answer I would love to tell all the interviewers. I do have a story I wish I could include. There was one story that made me begin to research the truth behind legends. And yes, I do try to keep an open mind, and try to figure out what they’ve seen or experienced. As for what place scared us the most? Well, that’s another story…

About the Author

Mark Muncy is the creator of Hellview Cemetery, a charity haunted house in central Florida that was so infamous it was banned by the City of St. Petersburg. An author of horror and science fiction, he has spent more than three decades collecting ghostly tales and reports of legendary beasts. He lives in St. Petersburg, Florida, on the remains of an ancient midden with his fiancée, Kari Schultz. Occasionally, he is visited by his daughters when they remember he is still there.

To see more of Mark’s work, check out his books below!

Have you ever had a run-in with a legendary beast? Let us know in the comments!
 
Posted: 10/3/2018


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