Loveland, Ohio can best be described as a sleepy, pocket suburb in the hills north of Cincinnati. Nestled along the Little Miami River, Loveland is a community that straddles three counties and is home to a true enigma of the aquatic realm. Loveland, Ohio is home to the legendary Loveland Frogmen.
The legend of the Loveland Frogmen begins in the early summer of 1955. The exact date is a matter of speculation, but most reports place it sometime in May. Like any good legend involving monsters, this encounter is typically told in three similar, but slightly different versions. The first states that an unnamed businessman saw three disturbing creatures gathered by the side of the road. He stated they were 3 to 4 feet tall and covered with a leathery skin. The creatures were described as standing erect, bipedal, and having the head-shape/faces of frogs. He also stated they had webbed hands/feet and deep wrinkles on their heads. They appeared to be totally hairless. Other versions have the same description of the creatures, but one places them sitting on a bridge and another places them under a bridge. Since this first account does not give an exact location or road, it is difficult to confirm which specific bridge the reports are meant to describe. The tale is further complicated by local information that puts the man entering or exiting Branch Hill (a community bordering the southern end of Loveland). It is worth noting that most of the side roads leading to and from Loveland, specifically the bridge areas, are not well lit.
Due to the landscape and layout of Loveland, Ohio, there are numerous bridges that criss-cross the Little Miami River and other tributaries in the area. Besides the basic description of the creatures, the most interesting detail is that one creature is claimed to have held a cylindrical metal object, sometimes described as a wand. It is stated that the creature held this object over its head and that the object emitted flashes, sparks, or other pulses of light. Whether this is in relation to a perceived threat is not related in the tale. However, upon seeing this object activated, it is claimed that the businessman fled, fearing for his safety.
This first part of the legend infuses two typically contrasting elements to this puzzling cryptid. First, the creatures are said to be reptilian/amphibian in appearance. They are described as naked and hairless. These aspects, combined with the diverse, somewhat antediluvian river ecosystem, leads one to think of these creatures, if cryptid, as being somewhat primitive. However, once the metal object is introduced into the story, it is easy to see why some have asserted that the “frogmen” were possible “greys” or other non-terrestrial life-forms. One has to wonder, which is more plausible, child-sized bipedal frogs, or aliens from another world?
Moving forward in time, the next encounter with the Loveland Frogmen gives us an exact date, time, location, and a seemingly credible witness. On March 3, 1972, at 1:00 a.m., police officer Ray Shockey was traveling on Riverside Drive headed into Loveland. The police officer was traveling cautiously due to inclement weather (described as icy roads), when he saw an animal on the side of the road. The creature scurried across the road and the officer stated that he slammed on his brakes to keep from hitting it. Once stopped, the officer had the creature fully illuminated in his headlights. He went on to describe the creature as crouching like a frog. Then the creature went on to stand erect, bipedal, and stared directly at the officer. Finally, it turned and climbed over a guard rail down into the Little Miami River. Again, the creature is described as being 3 to 4 feet tall, 50 to 75 pounds, with leathery skin and resembling a frog or lizard. Further investigation by other officers found that the guardrail had distinct abrasions exactly where it was reported that the animal crawled over the metal barrier.
There are things that need to be taken into account when looking at reports of this incident. Though the basic description never changes, one report claims that the creature fled, descending the bank into the Ohio River. One has to conclude that this is a simple misprint or a misspoken statement by someone unfamiliar with the Loveland area. The other aspect of the story is the weather. There is no information available that would suggest that the icy road conditions mentioned were inaccurate. However, this presents us with an amphibian, cold-blooded, creature that is moving, in the open air, without being burdened in sub 30 degree weather. Anyone with even basic herpetological knowledge understands that reptiles would not last long exposed in such a climate. However, if one is willing to accept the report as true, it gives pause to consider the suggested metabolism of such a creature.
On of the positive things about this report is that it gives a rather precise location. Riverside Drive, as the name implies, runs north/south along the west bank of the Little Miami River. It is actually called East Kemper Road and then turns into Riverside Drive as the road follows the river north, past an unusual island in the middle of the river, and into downtown Loveland. The barriers have been replaced over the years, but here one can walk in the exact spot where this particular version of the creature was reported to have been seen.
There is another report of the Loveland Frogmen not worth mentioning, because it was recanted in later years. This report too was from a police officer allegedly trying to “support” his friend by exaggerating an unrelated animal encounter story. This should be used as warning for anyone who assumes a report is accurate simply because of the profession of the reporter.
Yet another tale possibly related to, and often reported alongside, the tale of the Loveland Frogmen, is that of Mrs. Darwin Johnson. This incident is alleged to have occurred on August 21, 1955. She stated that she was attacked by some type of creature while swimming in the Ohio River near Evansville, Indiana. She went on to claim that the creature attacked her from under the water and latched onto her knee. This occurred in 15 feet of water while a friend, Mrs. Chris Lamble was present. The attack dragged Mrs. Johnson beneath the waves twice. After kicking free of the creature she was able to swim to shore with the aid of Mrs. Lamble. Mrs. Johnson bore several contusions on her leg including an alleged green, palm-print that seemed to stain the skin for several days.
The only relation this tale has to the Loveland Frogmen is that the Little Miami River drains into the Ohio River. However, Evansville is over 240 miles away to the Southwest. Also, anyone familiar with the Ohio River knows that the normal fish and aquatic life along its banks and in its depths is unusual at best. Mammoth catfish and enormous snapping turtles are plentiful in the Ohio River. While not ruling out some type of monster fish or other cryptid, it is doubtful this tale is directly related to the Loveland Frogmen.
It is vital to note that the tales of the Loveland Frogmen did not truly originate in 1955. The Native American population was familiar with a creature, or species of creatures, they call Shawnahooc (River Demon). The creature was described as being a large reptile that could walk on two legs. The creature lived specifically along the banks of the Little Miami River. It is said that this creature threatened the indigenous tribes until they sent their greatest warriors to confront the demon. After the fray was decided, the Shawnahooc is said to have gone into hiding. When the Native Americans were driven from the territory by encroaching settlers, the Shawnahooc is claimed to have returned to the river banks. This particular aquatic legend is attributed to both the Shawnee and the Twightwee tribes.
The Little Miami River twists and meanders through southern Ohio from Yellow Springs to the Ohio River. The banks are lined with dark, eerie runoffs and dotted with small tunnels and holes. As if the scenery was not mystical enough, along the wooded banks in Loveland rests a full-scale replica of a Normanesque castle, Château Laroche. The castle was started in 1929 by builder, and known Masonic follower, Sir Harry Andrews. Andrews did not start full construction of the castle in earnest until 1955 (coincidentally the same year the Loveland Frogmen were observed by that anonymous businessman). There are some in the area who attach Andrews, his knowledge of the local fauna, hidden tunnels, and even secrets of the Masons with the legendary Loveland Frogmen. With an IQ of 189, Mr. Andrews was considered a genius. Did he know about something prowling the banks of the Little Miami that no one else did?
Not hiding from their notoriety, the community of Loveland, Ohio has adopted the Loveland Frogmen as their own. There are teams called the Frogmen, 5K races called the Frogman, and dozens of pictorial representations of these mini-monsters of the deep. Local canoe outfitters often enchant children with tales of the creatures lurking the river banks. Lastly, in 2010, native Loveland filmmaker Gretchen Kessler released a film, Legend of the Loveland Frogmen, putting her own spin on the local folklore.
The tales of the Loveland Frogmen have been the subject of countless campfire stories that echo the banks of the Little Miami River. Whether cryptid, alien, or hybrid, the Loveland Frogmen has captured the collective psyche of the Ohio River Valley. Some dismiss the creature as something too imaginative to be real. Others insist that the dark river banks hold secrets few are willing to accept. Regardless, when stalking through the dank mud of the Little Miami, even those with a rationally skeptical mind will find themselves peering over their shoulder on occasion.