Who Forted? Magazine

Classic Cryptid: The Legend of the Loveland Frogmen

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.

This particular sketch was drawn by a responding officer's sister, based on eyewitness accounts of frogmen sightings

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.

Kwin The Eskimo

Kwin The Eskimo

In the mid 1970s, Kwin the Eskimo was trapped under an avalanche of ragged Weekly World News, National Enquirer and Sun Magazines. It was a dodgy few weeks until he clawed his way out of the pile, squinting as if seeing sunlight for the first time. He survived the ordeal only to wind up wandering around Canada, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Middle East delving into all things esoteric. He finally found his way home again, settling in the Eastern Woodlands of the United States. These days he gets paid to uncover the truth, but seldom finds the answers as enlightening as the journey to the question. Most of the time he would rather be stalking through the wilds trapping his next meal than dealing with the unwashed masses. He resides with Mrs Eskimo and an ever changing cadre of wildlife.

12 Comments

  1. S.

    07/24/2012 at 10:00 AM

    Neat article. I’ve always enjoyed the stories of the Loveland Frogs, for some reason I’ve always been creeped out by amphibians, and have been disappointed with he dearth of information available. I’ve never heard the background concerning the Shawnahooc or Mr. Andrews they’re both great additions. Perhaps the frogmen are related to the Deep Ones.

    • Bob Jase

      07/25/2012 at 5:20 PM

      Related to Deep Ones?

      Nonsense! Deep Ones live in salt water.

      Now Gill Men, aka Creatures from the Black Lagoon, are a different matter.

  2. S. Hill

    07/24/2012 at 1:27 PM

    Damn that picture is creepy.

    I always liked the story of the Loveland Frog; it’s just so out there.

    Two quibbles, though. One. REFERENCES. For a comprehensive story like this, it’s a shame you don’t include references which would make it rather valuable to people looking for cited info on the web.

    Second, I can’t agree with associating the frogman with the native stories of river demons. I’d think MOST/ALL tribes would have spirit creatures as part of their culture and, being by the river, would certainly have a river beastie. It’s highly speculative to make that leap and connect it.

    Sharon

    • Jake

      07/24/2012 at 3:35 PM

      Im with ya about that damn picture. I Clicked on the story thinking “sweet! A classic cryptid I haven’t heard about!” then the main title picture came up, and I believe my exact quote was “holy f**king sh*t!”

  3. Ashley

    07/24/2012 at 11:58 PM

    I just LOVE frogs. Always have since I was a wee little one. Now that I’m an adult I still pass by anything frogish in the mall, on vacation or whatever I can’t help but smile. If I were to ever see this Loveland Frogman I would definitely ask for his/her autograph! I would be completely flabergasted to witness this particular sighting!

    Great article, btw! :)

  4. Chris Woodyard

    07/25/2012 at 9:48 AM

    Very enjoyable article! Can you cite your source for information on the Shawnahooc? I can’t find anything online except it is mentioned in a horror novel.

  5. George Wagner

    07/25/2012 at 6:49 PM

    There was a spate of Ohio River monster sightings at Cincinnati during January, 1959.

    And in mid-1955 Mrs. Darwin Johnson was apparently attacked by a greenish monster while swimming in the Ohio off Indiaaa.

  6. Kwin The Eskimo

    07/27/2012 at 7:02 PM

    I have been somewhat incommunicado this past week and am surprised at how many comments this article has drawn. I must say, all the comments I have read are well received. I will address the critiques and suggestions here:

    Shawnahooc is an understood local Shawnee translation of the words “River Demon.” I first heard this word many years ago while talking to a curator at the nearby Fort Ancient archeological site. Granted, Fort Ancient is Hopewell not Shawnee, however at the time, the curator was speaking on the greater lore surrounding the Little Miami River (of which Fort Ancient sits on its banks north of Loveland). Shawnahooc is not a “general river demon,” but rather one specific to the area, so it is my stance that including it within the context of the legend of the Loveland Frogman is appropriate.

    Unlike far too many folklorists, I choose not to do armchair research. This is why I did not include any citations (particularly in proper APA style) in this specific article. I have spent a great deal of time in Loveland, Ohio (having relatives who live there and having kayaked/canoed the Little Miami dozens of times throughout my life). Most of the legends surrounding this tale are well known in the area and much of the information collected herein (while it may be able to be found through other sources) was primarily collected first hand and/or relayed from memory. I was going to include personal photos of River Road (where the alleged police sighting took place), Loveland Castle (from the high east bank that I was only able to get while trespassing), the bridge at Branch Hill (the location of the sighting by the businessman), and some of the lesser known river tributaries, but time got the better of me while working on this article. Perhaps if I ever do a follow-up.

    If you decide to make the trip to Loveland, you will find that there is no shortage of people who are willing to discuss the tale of the Frogmen. They range from little old ladies to eccentric river folk. Just be careful. There is something peculiar about this area. It is not what it seems to be on the surface.

  7. Donna Anderson

    07/28/2012 at 7:59 PM

    Interesting article, but I’m getting a little worried now. I’m actually thinking about moving to Ohio in a few months and first I read about a 20-foot snake that’s creeping around the countryside and now Frogmen. Ohio might be a little too creepy and reptilian for this ol’ gal!

    Other than brandishing a wand as they jump into the river are these Loveland Frogmen nasty?

    • Mike McKay

      09/10/2012 at 11:03 AM

      We also have The Ohio Grassman, Mothman sightings, whatever their hiding at W.P.A.F.B. and Cincinnati, a city that once elected Jerry Springer for Mayor. That part scares me the most.

  8. Pingback: The Pandora Society – Strange & Beautiful Events for Steampunk & Beyond » Chateau Laroche AKA the Loveland Castle

  9. Pingback: The Loveland Frogmen | Cincinnati Ghosts

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