The Legend of Pan Lives In The Heart of Cherokee Park

Investigating the Urban Legend of the Living Pan Statue in Cherokee Park

On the night of August 1st, under the light of the Full Moon and at the stroke of Midnight, I journeyed into the heart of darkness to discover the truths and myths surrounding one of Louisville’s oldest urban legends.

Most popular among residents of the Highlands area, the Legend of Pan has been passed down through several generations of Louisvillians. The story tells of the statue of the mythical god, Pan, who towers above Hogan’s Fountain in the heart of Cherokee Park luring thirsty travelers (and their dogs) to the cascading springs below him. As the legend goes, the statue magically comes to life at Midnight on nights of the Full Moon, running amok through the park and causing Gremlin-style mischief.

Over a hundred years old, Hogan’s Fountain was financed by the Hogan family of Anchorage in 1904. It was sculpted by local artist, Enid Yandell, who also sculpted the famous Daniel Boone statue guarding one of the nearby entrances to the park. It was officially unveiled to the public on August 31, 1905.

If you take the Scenic Loop through Cherokee Park, Pan’s Fountain isn’t the only unusual edifice you’re likely to encounter. Right off the Loop on Ledge Road, you will also come upon a stone dragon-headed viking ship (SEE PHOTO) even older than Hogan’s Fountain. Built in 1900, the evocative viking vessel was designed by the Clark and Loomis Firm in consultation with John C. Olmstead as a memorial to Paulina Keofoed Christensen, and was fully restored by the Louisville Olmstead Parks Conservancy in 2001.

Directly across from Hogan’s Fountain, you’ll find the Hogan Fountain Pavilion (SEE PHOTO). Built in 1965, it was designed as a public picnic shelter, but the Halloween fans that frequent this site will likely immediately imagine it as a giant witch’s hat. Between the goat legged specter of Pan and the over-sized witch’s hat, the whole area has the aura of ancient magic about it.

As the Full Moon loomed above me, I turned onto the Scenic Loop just as the witching hour was approaching. The trees on both sides of my car seemed to engulf the road as I traveled down the twisting, winding path. The Full Moon cast the shadows of spindly, leering branches across the road, making me lean back into my seat in claustrophobic unease.


When I reached the top of the hill where Pan’s Fountain awaited, I parked near the Pavilion and walked towards my destination. I’d never explored Cherokee Park at night before. In daylight, this part of the park is always filled with the sounds of family picnics, bikers, hikers, dogs and frolicking children.

Now, at the stroke of Midnight, an eerie silence blankets the entire area with the exception of the soothing sounds of water continually streaming into the fountain which grew seemingly louder as I approached.

Then, from approximately thirty feet away, I lifted my gaze to the top of the fountain and froze in my tracks. The great god Pan was gone!

As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, the illusion revealed itself. The stark white base of the statue stands out in the night’s horizon, but the black bronze of the statue itself disappears into the blackness of the surrounding forest, giving the appearance of its absence. It would be easy for anyone driving by to believe that Pan had left his perch at a quick glance.

At least I think it was an illusion. You’ll have a chance very soon to find out for yourself. This August 31st, the night of the next Full Moon, falls on the exact date of the 107th anniversary of the unveiling of Pan’s Fountain. Will you be lured by Pan’s flute to Cherokee Park on this historic night when the moon cycle and the statue’s birth-date come into perfect alignment? Tell us your own story if you dare.

The Phantom of The Ville

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