Bigfoot, Mothman, the Loch Ness Monster – cryptids come in all shapes and sizes. Some are big like our buddy Nessie, and some are small like a faery orpuckwudgie. Unique attributes and physical characteristics make them each as different as snowflakes.
Ohio has its fair share of these “hidden” creatures. We’ve got the Dogman, the Melonheads, the Lake Erie Monster(Bessie), and the Ohio Grassman (our resident Sasquatch-type.) But there’s one cryptid unique to our state – a creature that’s almost never been seen outside the greater Cincinnati area – The Loveland Frog.
As a young girl, I remember hearing the legend of a weird humanoid-amphibian, mostly at sleep-away camp, where ghost stories and tall tales festered in the late summer heat. The Loveland Frog was a mini-monster – not enormous like Godzilla, but still freakishly strange and abnormally sized for a pond dweller. It wasn’t something I cared to come across during an afternoon hike.
The Loveland Frog is basically a really, really, big frog. It’s similar to its normal frog cousins but about 400 times the size. It walks bipedally, upright on two legs. It’s a man-frog hybrid, with some amphibian and some human characteristics. It’s said to range between three and five feet tall, about the size of a large dog or small person. The Loveland Frog is definitely not your run-of-the-mill Spring Peeper.
Legends about the caecilian creature date back centuries, to a time before white men settle the shores of the Little Miami River. In the last years of the 17th century, the native Twightwee people warned early French explorers about a river demon they called the Shawnahooc.
The terrifying water devil had features of both a frog and a man, minus a nose or any sort of hair. Its skin was dark and bumpy, with a wrinkled yet slimy appearance. The Shawnahooc guarded the river’s banks, chasing away any and all who stumbled uninvited onto its territory. The creature was thought to be immortal and if injured, it would simply sink back into the cool waters of the Little Miami.
The Shawnahooc legend was passed down from generation to generation. The residents of the area (later known as Loveland) dubbed the cryptid “The Loveland Frog.” Modern day reports can be traced back as far as the early 1920s, but the most intriguing eyewitness account appeared in 1955.
It was an early spring morning, after midnight but before dawn. A weary business traveller was heading through the Loveland area when a strange sight stopped him in his tracks. Before him on a bridge he saw three unusual creatures. He strained his eyes, mystified by the bizarre trio. They had a slightly human appearance, but their skin took on a strange greenish hue. Their eyes and mouths were enormously large and “frog-like.”
The creatures were hairless and smelled of almonds and alfalfa. The bewildered man swore they each held some sort of sparking wand in their webbed hands, waving it madly above their frog-like heads. That was all the detail he could give before he drove madly away shrieking with fear.
This particular tale was more like Creature from the Black Lagoon meetsInvaders from Mars. These alien frogmen had a definite otherworldly vibe about them. I found no other accounts that matched the 1955 description exactly, but the similarities to later sightings is notable.
One of the best known anecdotes of the Loveland Frog came from very trusted and reliable sources – two Clermont County police officers. In March of 1972, officer Ray Shockey and his partner Mark Mathews came across something incredibly strange during an evening patrol. As their cruiser approached Twightwee Road, they saw what they believed to be an injured or dead animal lying on the ground in front of them. The men approached with caution.
They were shocked when the prostrate creature suddenly jumped up and bounded across the road in front of their patrol car! The headlights illuminated the ominous being as it moved, giving the men a good look at it. Shockey and Mathews could not believe their eyes!
Both described the exact same thing. The weird creature was about three to five feet tall, with leathery skin and the face of a frog. It had a giant gaping mouth and no discernible nose. In a matter of seconds, the creature was gone – vanishing into the night. The only evidence that remained of the frogman was some long scrape marks on the guardrail leading from the road to the river.
Less than a month later, Mathews again encountered the giant frogman. At first he thought it was just another animal on the side of the road, but he approached the site apprehensively. He carefully pulled his car up along side of the creature. The monster stood up on two legs, turned and stared at the officer, then slowly stepped over the guardrail before quickly disappearing into the river. Mathews claimed he pulled his gun and shot at the bizarre beast before it vanished into the darkness.
It’s highly unusual for an officer of the law to go on record with something like this. Belief in aliens, ghosts, or half human – half frog creatures is tantamount to career suicide. It opens the door to attacks on one’s sanity and credibility. Shockey and Mathews fell victim to this. People thought these guys were nuts!
The sightings kept pouring in. The citizens who lived in and around Loveland were having fleeting encounters with the mysterious frogman. The town monster had people talking, authorities worried, and teenagers out looking. It became the local urban legend, a game of sorts. But for Shockey and Mathews things turned ugly. They were mocked, laughed at, completely ridiculed. No one seemed to believe them.
Mathews ended up recanting his story, tired of defending the incident and his reputation. The two policemen eventually refused to talk about what they saw that night to anyone except each other.
Other sightings of the Loveland Frog came from area farmers. One spotted a large reptilian-like creature with large circular eyes. Its skin was a pale greenish-grey and its huge mouth was filled with sharp pointy teeth. Luckily, the creature didn’t attack the farmer, but quietly slipped away, heading back toward the waters’ edge from which it came.
Years later, Ray Shockey apparently had a change of heart. He approached the Loveland town council in an attempt to get them to recognize the Loveland Frog as sort of a city mascot and capitalize on the notoriety (and revenue) it could bring. His pleas fell on deaf ears and his idea was dismissed unceremoniously.
In recent years, I’ve seen more and more accounts of the Loveland Frog and creatures with similar characteristics surface on the web. YouTube even had some fuzzy video footage of a large frog-like creature that appears to be walking on two legs, supposedly shot near the Little Miami River. I sincerely doubt the authenticity of this video, but I sincerely doubt the authenticity of most things I find on You Tube.
I found another story about a woman who claims she was attacked by a reptillian-like creature while swimming in the Ohio River near Evansville, Indiana. The frogman grabbed her by the legs and dragged her deep under the water. The panicked swimmer managed to kick herself free from the monster with help from a bystander who witnessed her distress. The attack left behind tears and scratches, as well as an unusual green palm print that stained her leg for days after.
This Indiana location isn’t exactly close to Loveland, so it could be unrelated…or maybe there’s an “Evansville Amphibian” lurking out there as well.
If nothing else, the tale of The Loveland Frog brings national attention to the little Cincinnati suburb, which in turn, could be a good thing. In 2014, the town finally decide to embrace its resident monster and put on a musical play called “Hot Damn! It’s the Loveland Frog!”
Now there’s something I’d pay to see!
I’d like to thank author and fellow Ohioan James Renner for the inspiration to write this article. His book, It Came From Ohio, was a great source of information and brought back many treasured memories of my favorite childhood monsters. Thanks for the nightmares James!
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