Loveland Frogman: Ohio's Magical Amphibious Cryptid, the UNTOLD Story TAP TO GET PODCAST
It seems like some of the smallest, most quaint towns have some of the biggest kept secrets. As we travel to Loveland, Ohio, one of those secrets includes magical wand-waving frogs that may or may not be from another dimension.
It was like any other late-spring evening, just a few weeks shy from Summer break for this small Ohio town. Children were tucked away in their nice, cozy beds, impatiently counting down the days until they were free from long hours at school. And for this unnamed traveling salesman, who had been out all day, going door-to-door pitching his company’s product, he couldn’t wait to get home. Traveling for work, late nights weren’t uncommon for this salesman. Looking down at his watch, he knew it would be another late night getting in. As the shorthand struck 3 a.m., this businessman was exhausted. But he knew he was almost home, and once he pulled into his driveway, he could simply wash the day away and hop into his own cozy bed for a restful night’s sleep. But on this specific late-night drive home, he saw something that would keep him up in curious fear for countless nights to come and would go on to forever change this quaint town.
On May 25th, 1955, driving through Loveland, Ohio (just 25 miles north of Cincinnati) that’s when he saw something, or rather things, he couldn’t quite explain. As he was crossing the river on his way home, he saw what appeared to be three individuals standing near the edge of the bridge. Although these figures seemed to be human in nature, they only stood roughly 3-ft tall. After a long day on the job, this businessman couldn’t believe his eyes. Why would there be small children standing near the edge of the bridge this late at night? Unsure if he believed what he saw or chalked it up to the dense fog and tired eyes from a long day, he drove closer to these strange-looking beings.
Upon a closer look, he realized these weren’t humans at all. Instead of hair on the top of their heads, they had large wrinkles and leathery, green skin. But perhaps the most disturbing part of all was their facial features. Standing roughly 3-ft tall on their hind legs, these wrinkly green beings also had large, gaping mouths that resembled a frog’s mouth. But that’s not all. According to the unidentified traveling salesman, these weren’t your ordinary three-foot toads. Apparently, they had magical powers. One of the creatures, perhaps the leader of the group, seemed to be holding a stick in its hand. But not just any stick. This stick resembled what you might see a young-wizard holding in Hogwarts. You guessed it. A wand.
And when the businessman slowly drove past the bridge, the ringleader waved the magic wand over its head, creating a halo of blue sparks, and then poof, the frogs seemed to vanish into thin air. According to the businessman, the only trace of these frog-like humanoids left behind was the earthy smell of alfalfa and almonds.
While this creature has had many names through the years, today, we know this cryptid as The Loveland Frog. Now, you may have a hard time believing this local Loveland legend. The thought of life-sized frogs holding magic wands and disappearing, leaving a trace of an earthy smell, may not seem believable to most, especially when you factor in that we have yet to identify that traveling salesman. In fact, we don’t officially know if this traveling salesman was selling the latest, top-of-the-line vacuum cleaner or if he was selling books like the recently-updated encyclopedia or even church pamphlets and King James bibles. Since we don’t have any documented evidence of this man or his story, it’s up to us if we believe odd stories of magical frogs from supposed men driving out on the road late at night after a long day’s work.
But perhaps it’s easier to believe these far-fetched stories when there’s documented “proof” to back them up. Especially stories that seem to leave a mark.
About four hours south of Loveland, Ohio, lies Evansville, Indiana, where the Ohio River runs through and where our next story takes place.
Just a few short months following the first supposed Loveland Frog sighting, two women, Darwin Johnson and Chris Lamble, were out enjoying the Ohio River for one last summertime adventure. On August 21st, 1955, Johnson and Lamble were soaking up the sun and enjoying a leisurely swim. Surrounded by families enjoying the last days of summer, it seemed like a normal day in the Ohio river. That is until Johnson was suddenly clutched by the knee by a large, claw-like, furry hand from below. Kicking and screaming, the Indiana locals were struck with horror as she began shouting that something had grabbed ahold of her. Shocked, Lamble had no idea how to help her friend! Does she swim out and face the monster? Does she go to shore and call for help? Making any decision in such a short amount of time was hard enough, much less when you add in the fear that she, too, may be dragged below.
Luckily, Johnson was able to kick and shake herself free. Both women let out a sigh of relief. Only, this celebration was short-lived. Before the women were able to fully catch their breath, Johnson was immediately attacked from behind and dragged under the water. Once again, fearing for both her and her friend’s safety, Lamble knew she had to do something, and fast. Throwing out her inner tube for Johnson to catch seemed to scare the creature away for good. Johnson broke free from the creature once again and bobbed back above the surface.
Once Lamble and Johnson made it back to the shore, they quickly realized they hadn’t completed yet achieved safety. Johnson had to seek immediate medical help. As she looked down at her legs, there were several marks, scratches, and gashes from where this supposed river monster had taken hold. After getting her legs cleaned and bandaged up, there was still one major problem. On her leg was a green, palm-print-shaped stain where the creature had grabbed her and drug her below. This emerald stain, according to Johnson, couldn’t be removed for several days after the incident.
While this “Green Clawed Beast” is said to be a resemblance to the Thetis Lake Monster, a supposed aquatic cryptid from British Colombia, Canada from the 1970s, others believe that this underwater mystery is actually related to the aforementioned Loveland Frogman.
Terry Colvin, a paranormal investigator, caught wind of the incident and decided to pay Johnson a visit to learn more about her experience. But upon speaking with Mrs. Johnson, Terry found that he wasn’t the only individual knocking on her door to investigate her story. Apparently, Johnson and her husband were visited at their Indiana home by a man who claimed to be an Air Force Colonel. As the supposed Colonel wrote down everything Johnson claimed she saw, from the hairy claw grabbing her leg and pulling her under to the emerald stain left behind, he then left them with a warning to never tell anyone else about what happened during her fateful swim.
While Johnson’s experience is a bizarre one, it isn’t the only strange thing that happened on August 21st, 1955. No, she wasn’t the only one who experienced odd things that day. And although we haven’t yet covered goblins on this show, Just a little over an hour’s drive south of Evansville, Indiana, the Hopkinsville Goblin incident had also occurred. And while I have to save this story for another day, I’ll leave you with just one hint: “little,” “green,” “men.”
Throughout history, many people have shared their own versions of unexplained encounters. Whether it’s strange sightings in the woods or underwater phenomena, many of us share common stories of things that, no matter how hard we try, we simply can’t rationalize. Maybe Johnson really was attacked by the Loveland Frogman, a little green alien, or perhaps maybe she simply brushed up against something like an alligator or something previously unknown like the bluish-green algae recently found near Cincinnati back in 2019.
Who knows, maybe the Loveland frog man really did grab Darwin Johnson and drag her under. Maybe there really was a traveling businessman who witnessed a magical group of toads on the side of a bridge waiving whimsical wands. Maybe this all really happened, or maybe it’s a bit of folklore. But coincidentally, there is yet another story of a similar experience involving a traveling businessman that happened just a few years before.
Leonard Stringfield, Early UFO Investigator, Director of the CRIFO, which stands for “Civilian Research of Interplanetary Flying Objects,” Publisher of the ORBIT monthly newsletter, and Author of Situation Red, had caught wind of the supposed Loveland Frog sighting. Curious about its whereabouts, he began investigating the claims and tried contacting anyone who had information on this story. He paid a visit to the Loveland Police Chief John Fritz, but the chief simply brushed off his investigations. But that didn’t stop Leonard from still trying. In fact, as he kept researching, he heard from a member of the Loveland school board that this incident had actually been investigated by the F.B.I… That’s when Leonard knew he had to get to the bottom of this story. Later, in 1965, while he was researching all he could find about the original Loveland frog story, he and his two fellow UFO investigators met with Robert Hunnicutt, a local traveling businessman who, in Leonard’s words, was described as “a man in a responsible position, well-dressed, well-mannered; his voice soft, undramatic; his eyes steady, never shifting.”
According to Hunnicutt, he, too, had an encounter with what some might call the Loveland Frogman driving home late one night. This time, around 4 a.m. in March of 1952, while driving through Branch Hill, he caught something in his headlights. They illuminated something on the side of the road. Rather than driving away, Hunnicutt decided to get out of his car for a better look. Just like the unnamed traveling salesman, Hunnicutt also saw figures that stood about 3-ft tall. Only, these beings weren’t green at all. They were grey. With “lop-sided chests that bulged at the shoulder to the armpit.” These tiny grey men also supposedly had one arm longer than the other. Hunnicutt also described these beings as having “heads that were ugly with a mouth that spanned in a thin line, across a smooth grey face, and void of eyebrows with rolls of fat running horizontally across their bald heads.” reminding him of wrinkly, grey frogs. And once again, according to Hunnicutt, these grey beings also held something that appeared to be a “dark chain or stick, emitting blue-white sparks.” Wanting to get an even better look at these creatures, Hunnicutt tried walking even closer, curious as to what exactly he was looking at. But when he made his way in front of his car, the “little men made a slight, unnatural move as if motioning not to come any closer.”
After a few minutes of staring at these unusual creatures, Hunnicutt got back into his car, drove straight to the Loveland Police, and shared his sightings with Chief John Fritz. According to Leonard, Chief Fritz had investigated this area himself but never really found anything remotely close to Hunnicutt’s supposed sighting.
Interestingly enough, Leonard shared that members of the Loveland Ground Observer Corps, which was a program developed by the Air Force for security, had reportedly seen a UFO that same night in that same area. But, for all we know, this could have been flashes of light seen from the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base rather than evidence of little grey aliens.
Once again, we are left questioning the validity of these stories. While we have names to pin to these sightings, we still don’t have any more proof than we did before. Honestly, we probably have an even harder time trying to piece together what’s true and what’s based on the various re-tellings of these stories. But if you ask Ray Shockey and Mark Mathews, friends and former colleagues, They might have told you that this creature was, in fact, real… Or they might just try to cover it all up.
In February of 1972, nearly two decades after these original frogman sightings, police officer Ray Shockey was patrolling the Loveland area late one night. That’s when he spotted something peculiar on the road. After slowing down to get a better look, he put his car in park and stepped outside of his vehicle. Crouching about 20-ft ahead, Officer Shockey spotted a nearly 4-foot creature with leathery skin that bore the resemblance of a frog. And though he tried to inch himself closer to the creature, he was quickly spotted. But still, he pressed on, hoping to get just a step or so closer, but the ghoulish frogman wasn’t having it. It hopped the guardrail and disappeared into the night. Trying to shake off this weird encounter, he finished patrolling the neighborhood and safely returned to the station. There, he met Officer Mark Mathews and shared with him what he had just witnessed and mentioned he should keep an eye out for any unusually large frog-like creatures. But Officer Mathews just chuckled, thinking this was just a prank. Only, Officer Mathews became a believer just two weeks later after he had his own run-in with this magical amphibious man.
Following the same patrol path Officer Shockey had driven two weeks before, Officer Mathews didn’t think twice about what his friend had told him. Having completely forgotten about the whole situation, he kept on driving into the night. However, Officer Mathews saw something standing in the middle of the road. Immediately remembering what Officer Shockey had told him, this creature looked exactly how he had originally described it. Just standing there, unfazed, was a large frog staring straight back at him. Slightly curious if this was still a hoax from his friend or slightly terrified of what this creature really was, he also put his car in park and stepped out of his vehicle. And just like before, the creature tried to run away. That’s when Officer Mathews fired 3 consecutive shots. But he had seemingly missed entirely. That’s when he knew Officer Shockey was telling the truth, whatever the truth was.
Hatching up a plan, they tried to find the origin of this creature by asking one of their friends to draw a depiction of what they had seen so they could get expert advice. Robert Lotshaw, Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens Curator agreed that this artist’s rendition was odd and resembled the creature from “The Creature from The Black Lagoon.” However, no matter how strange this being looked to him, Lotshaw said that realistically, it was probably just a really large frog because three to four-foot-tall frogs are all the rage in Ohio, apparently.
Not long after, word got out about these two sightings. While a few townsfolk loved to believe that the Loveland Frogman made his grand appearance once again, not everyone believed these tall tales. In fact, many people from town mocked their experiences and chalked it up to imagination. Although these two officers definitely got spooked by something late in the night, they didn’t want people thinking they were crazy. It was better to rationalize that they saw a really large iguana, possibly someone’s pet, that accidentally got out. They just didn’t want to entertain the Loveland Frog theory any longer. Refusing to discuss their experiences anymore, the news of the potential Loveland Frogman sighting once again fizzled out. Though, I do have to make mention here that a few years later, Officer Shockey supposedly approached the city council with a new idea. One that would potentially recognize the validity of the Loveland Frog once more by petitioning to make the official Loveland city mascot the Loveland Frog but the council didn’t much care for this idea. You might even say the idea didn’t make the splash he hoped for. It croaked before it was ever given a chance.
So what do we make of accounts like this one? It’s one thing to poke holes in stories about humanoid frogs with magic wands that emit strange, blue sparks when we don’t even have a credible source. No hard evidence, no proof of concept. But when two police officers both claim they witnessed a large amphibian frog creature within just a couple weeks of each other, it tells another story. While there’s still no actual evidence from these two different sightings, I think it’s still worth looking into.
It seems to be more than a coincidence that all of these stories have so much in common. Weird sightings, all while driving late at night, that seem beyond the ability to explain. Whether it was just dense fog hitting the car headlights just right that creates a certain ambiance, the drowsiness from a long day at work and eager to get home, or the boredom from patrolling the neighborhoods over and over that induces a creative way to pass the time, each of these frogmen encounters leaves us wondering what’s really out there and do we really know every creature that lurks behind the shadows? And what about Mrs. Johnson? Did she make up the entire story of getting dragged underwater by an alien-like monster that left an emerald green trace behind in hopes of some old-fashioned publicity? Or is there a deeper story than we even realize?
Stories like these often have deeper, more traditional origins. Many of these stories go back centuries and are more deeply rooted than we might imagine. Stories of the Loveland Frogman supposedly date back all the way to the late 17th century. But the natives at the time had another name for it: The Shawnahooc.
As French explorers found their way onto the shores of the Little Miami River, about a 30-minute drive across town from Loveland, the native Twightwee people warned these explorers about a menacing demon that lived in the river. The Twightwee, a Native American tribe from the Great Lakes, described the Shawnahooc as “dark and bumpy, with a wrinkled, yet slimy appearance, with features of both a frog and a man, minus a nose or any sort of hair.” The Shawnahooc guarded the river banks, deterring anyone or anything from getting too close. Not to mention, the Twightwee believed that this frog-human-hybrid was immortal, and if it was injured, “it would simply sink back into the cool waters of the Little Miami River.” Call it the Shawnahooc or call it the Loveland Frog, this amphibious creature has quite the history.
But some theorize that this cryptid may not be a frog at all. Some identify this creature as a different species. Instead of a terrorizing frog, it might just be a terrorizing lizard. Namely: the Crosswick Monster.
A couple of centuries removed from the Twightwee tellings of the Shawnahooc, a new story arose on May 29th, 1882. In Waynesville, Ohio, about a 40-minute drive from Loveland, there had been several reports about potential sightings of primitive reptiles slithering about in this small town.
Two boys, Ed and Joe Lynch, were out fishing at a small creek on the south side of their hometown in Crosswick, just a mile from Waynesville. It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon and the perfect place to catch a few fish and enjoy each other’s company. Comfortably sitting in the grass, patiently awaiting their next big catch, they were used to the quiet and peaceful nature of this spot. But what they weren’t used to was the loud rustling in the brush behind them. And that’s when they saw it. This huge lizard-like monster was rapidly approaching them from behind, staring them down menacingly.
These two boys threw down their fishing rods and took off running back home to get away from the reptilian beast. Only, this was no average lizard. No, this monster had slimy, long arms that it used to reach out and grab the older brother. As the boy struggled to break free from this terrifying reptilian monster, the lizard man only squeezed tighter while dragging him 100 yards or so down the creek and up a large, hollow sycamore tree where I presume it was preparing to kill and eat the young boy.
Three men, George Peterson, Allen Jordan, and Reverend Jacob Horn, heard the two boys’ screams and saw the lizard-like creature haul the young boy to its den in the sycamore tree. The men took off in a full sprint to help and just barely reached the large tree in time. The lizard saw the three men, dropped the young boy from its firm grip, and quickly slithered away.
Word got out about the attack, and soon, 60 men, armed with clubs and axes along with their hunting dogs, went back to the large sycamore tree to see if they could find the monster. With no trace of the lizard, the 60 men got to work, opting to cut down the tree. But the monster, to their surprise, was better at hiding than they thought. As they were hacking away at its home, the lizard man supposedly lunged down from the tree, threw out its four legs, stood up about 14 feet tall, and took off running until it stopped and burrowed into a large hole, never to be seen again.
From what we learned about the Loveland Frogman, it seems a far cry from this massive lizard standing roughly 14 feet tall. And while these sightings all have unique variations, they did all happen in the same vicinity. Regardless of which stories are accurate and which are folklore, there’s no doubt that there is something strange going on in Ohio. But maybe there’s a chance we can explain these strange, dark, and mysterious encounters with a bit of science and, well, a whole lot of superstition.
According to The Washington Post, in the early 2000s, we found a 240-million-year-old fossil known as the Megachirella Wachtleri, which is known as the oldest-known species of the reptile order of the Squamata, which is the family of reptiles that makes up snakes and lizards. So could the story of the two young boys who were terrorized by a massive snake lizard in the 1800s be true? Could there very well be a prehistoric lizard man still living among us? And what about the frogs? Well, if you believe in parallel universes, then we might just be able to answer all of these questions and more.
If you’re a believer in the parallel universe, Squamozoic Earth, then you know that giant lizards, humanoid iguanas, and monstrous toads roam this parallel planet. But these aren’t your average, larger-than-life-sized cryptids. On Squamozoic Earth, these creatures are known as the squamates and are believed to be large-bodied creatures with heightened intelligence that are able to time travel. Queue the magic wand-waving frogs. Maybe those wands were used to jump through space and time. That would kind of explain how these wizard toads disappeared in a poof of blue sparks leaving behind nothing but that sweet scent of almonds. I feel like this gives Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness a run for its money.
Okay, so maybe this is an even farther-fetched story. It’s one thing to believe two on-duty police officers seeing something they couldn’t quite explain one late, foggy night, but it’s another thing to believe in time-traveling amphibious humanoids with magical wands, jumping through parallel universes.
Regardless of what you believe, you have to admit, it definitely makes for quite an interesting theory. But to me, it’s important to know the origins of which these theories come from. There’s a reason why stories like these exist. They teach us life lessons and remind us that we’re all a lot more alike than we even realize. Even if our stories make one person chuckle out of disbelief, there’s still a connection there. One that reminds us that despite our differences, folklore is embedded deep within our roots, or rather, our roots are what folklore is crafted from.
That’s exactly what Professor Edgar Slotkin believed. Before he sadly passed in 2015, Slotkin, a former Folklore professor, and Celtic Scholar at the University of Cincinnati was highly regarded for his folkloric ideas. Slotkin often enjoyed discussing the Loveland Frog and comparing it to the North American logger’s tale of Paul Bunyan, a giant lumberjack with superhuman strength.
At the American Folklore Society’s annual meeting in 1985, Slotkin stated that “One of the first things I tell my students is that (in folklore) we’re all the folk.” If you ask me, this is one of the most beautiful things about human nature. Despite our differences, we’re all just folk in the end. We all have our own stories, experiences, and beliefs. They’re our own truth. It doesn’t really matter if other people believe in them because these stories are our own. And if you stick with me, I have one more story to share with you that might already be more of your own than you realize.
On July 6th, 2016, the augmented reality mobile game, developed and published by Niantic in collaboration with Nintendo, Pokemon Go, made its debut. Fans from around the world, both nostalgic from growing up on Pokemon in the 90s to new, younger fans of the series and games, grabbed their phones and went on community-wide poke-hunts. For me, I never really grew up watching Pokemon or playing the old Nintendo games as my husband did as a child. But as soon as this app came out, I was hooked, and still, play it every so often. When this app first came out, you couldn’t drive past local parks, downtown districts, or even your favorite coffee shops without seeing pokeballs spinning, trying to catch Charmander, Bulbasaur, Squirtle, or even Pikachu. It was honestly a beautiful sight to see, everyone huddled together in groups, sharing their latest catch. But for one Loveland, Ohio Pokemon Go player, he quite possibly set his eyes on what might have seemed like your average Pokemon named, Politoad. Only thing was, this didn’t happen in the game. It happened in real life! For Sam Jacobs, poke-hunting may have led him right to the legendary Loveland Frog.
In August 2016, one month after the release of Pokemon Go, Sam Jacobs, and his girlfriend were out one night trying to catch a few Pokemon. Growing up, Jacobs knew of the local legend but had never seen it with his own eyes. That is until he came face to face with a strange-looking creature staring right at him out of the water. In Jacobs’s words, “We saw a huge frog near the water. Not in the game; this was an actual frog. I took a couple of pictures and videos ‘cause I’d never seen one that big. Then the thing stood up and walked on its hind legs. I swear on my grandmother’s grave that this is the truth.” Jacobs recounted. “I’m not sure whether it was a Frogman or just a giant frog. Either way, I’ve never seen anything like it.”
So what did Jacobs really see that night? Did he see the supposed Loveland Frogman? Or just a typical frog that seemed bigger than normal?
Of course, this story spread to news outlets and media like it did back in the 70s when Officer Shockey and Officer Mathews shared their own experience. With Jacobs’s story circulating, so did the officer’s stories as well. But with the growing small-town gossip of this supposed sighting, former Officer Mathews has his own revised theory. Recalling the first event Shockey had shared with him in 1972, Mathews stated, “Naturally, I didn’t believe, but I could somehow tell from his demeanor that he did see something.”
When asked about his own experience a few weeks later, Mathews relayed a different version of his story than before. Rather than a large frog walking upright and climbing the guardrail after being spotted, it rather crawled under the guardrail. Still, Mathews shared, “I had no clue what it was. I knew no one would believe me, so I shot it.” What’s more, is that Mathews says he was able to recover the creature’s body and put it in his trunk until he got to the police station to show his colleague. When Mathews opened up his trunk, Shockey looked inside and seemingly agreed that’s what he actually saw: a large iguana about 3.5 feet long. According to Mathews, “the animal was missing its tail, which is why I didn’t immediately recognize it.” He also theorized that either it was a child’s pet iguana that got loose or was deliberately released when it got too big to keep. And if you ask Mathews if there’s even a possibility of a magical frog living under the bridge in Loveland, he’d say, “It’s a big hoax. There’s a logical explanation for everything. It’s like Bigfoot and all that other stuff. I don’t believe in Bigfoot either.”
Maybe you’re in the same boat as Mathews. To you, the logical explanation of this semi-aquatic cryptid legend is that it’s just an abnormally big frog or iguana. This could explain what Sam Jacobs saw as he was playing Pokemon Go with his girlfriend one night. Things always seem spookier at night, anyway. Or maybe you fall in line with the theory that there’s a parallel universe run by snakes, frogs, and iguanas that are intelligent beings who can travel through space and time by waving a magic wand in the air. No judgment here. Or maybe, just maybe, you believe in a blend of both. You’re open-minded because you have your own experiences you can’t quite explain. The fact is, we are all in search of our own answers, and if there’s one thing we can glean from the Pokemon franchise, it’s that some of us just want to “catch them all.”
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Thanks for touring Cryptids Across the Atlas. Until next time, keep your eyes open. You never know what you might see just on the edge of the road.