Love and sweethearts may invoke visions of winged cherubs shooting arrows of love, that's another entity for another day. At Haint.Blue we might go chasing winged cherubs, but when you mention the word love to the editorial board, our collective hive mind goes to the Sweetheart of Ohio, Loveland.
Loveland, Ohio calls itself the sweetheart of Ohio, and has had Valentine's Day celebrations for over 40 years. I made a stop in Loveland in 2019 and I must say it was a very quaint and beautiful city. Named for a proprietor of a local business, Loveland was incorporated in 1876. Loveland has enjoyed being a suburb of nearby Cincinnati and its proximity to the Little Miami River and Loveland Bike trail make it a desirable destination for tourists and residents alike. A nearby castle, the discovery of a mastodon skeleton, and an oddities shop all are classic hallmarks of a Haint.Blue recommended vacation destination to boot, however, what draws us to Loveland is another Valentine's symbol - the frog prince. No, not some poor prince cursed to look like a frog until he is kissed ensuring his return to a normal incarnation, the prince, or should I say King, of the amphibious Cryptids, The Loveland Frog.
The Loveland Frog/Loveland Frogman/Loveland Lizard is described as a bipedal amphibian or a short humanoid with a frog-like face. The history of the Frogs goes back to the earliest recorded encounter in 1955. Like any legend, the story has a variety of twists and turns that through the years have become cannon, depending on the story teller. The basic story says that in the spring of 1955 a traveling salesman was traveling the road parallel to the Little Miami river at night. He pulled his vehicle over along the side of the road and, depending on the story, he was looking at a map, eating a sandwich, or taking a rest. As his eyes adjusted to the dark, he noticed three humanoid figures about three to four feet tall described as having leathery skin and frog-like faces. The salesman was intrigued long enough to see these creatures appeared to be communicating amongst themselves. One of the creatures held a rod above it’s head that emitted sparks, at which point the salesman fled the scene. While this story takes a very strange turn, with a sparking staff or rod, the story doesn't end here.
It would be almost twenty years until the creatures would resurface. As with any monster story, the credibility of the witness is an easy target for debunking the story. When the local town vagrant reports seeing a Sasquatch rummaging through his trash can, it is easily dismissed as a false observation of a pair of large raccoons. When a pillar of the community, a respected citizen, or someone with an advanced degree sees something it elevates the value of the event. When a trained observer makes the report it becomes harder to pick away at. In 1972 a trained observer, Officer Ray Shockley would, as Rod Sterling put it, enter the Twilight Zone.
Officer Shockley was on duty the morning of March 3, 1972 while driving on Riverside Drive, a road that parallels the Little Miami River. As he approached the Totes Boot Factory at approximately 1:00 AM, an unidentified animal scurried across the road fully illuminated in his headlights. Officer Shockley would describe the animal as being three to four feet in height, approximately 50 to 70 pounds, and bent over as it moved. Upon reaching the edge of the road, it stood up straight, climbed over a guardrail, and descended into the river. How Officer Shockley was received when he filed the report has been lost to time, however, the fact that it was reported gives it more credible evidence.
Fortunately, another sighting would occur less than two weeks later and also to another police officer. Officer Mark Matthews would come across a similar creature also on Riverside Drive. Officer Mathews would actually collect evidence that is largely unheard of in cryptozoology, a body. Officer Mathews encountered a large 3-foot long reptilian creature and shot it with his gun. And the body was reported to be that of a tailless iguana!
A green iguana is considered to be the most common and widespread type of iguana. Using the green iguana as the likely culprit in this scenario is based on commonality and the popularity in the pet trade. Examining the weather in that time frame, the Florence, KY airport, 40 minutes away and to the south of Loveland, reported temperatures during the week of the March 2 sighting ranging from as high as 65 degrees on February 28 to as low as 21 on March 3 - warm enough to possibly move a reptile out of hibernation. Could an iguana survive in the wild of South Western Ohio? The species is found in Florida and the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, but not naturally in Ohio. The idea that it was abandoned or escaped is a definite possibility and not something that rules out this theory. The part about being tailless is also a possibility because iguanas can shed their tail due to injury or other stress inducing conditions. Prior to said iguana shedding its tail would put the eyewitness descriptions in a conceivable reality. Iguanas can get five to six feet in length however, subtracting the tail length would make this an abnormally large Iguana pre-shed, as Officer Mathews specimen was three foot long, but completely ignoring the fact that iguanas are not bipeds! Furthermore, in January 2020 the news was full of stories about stunned iguanas falling from trees in Florida as temperatures plummeted into the 30- and 40-degree range. If a tailless iguana was out and about walking on two legs, why wasn’t it stunned by the cold? The facts just don’t add up.
The story takes yet another twist, as most monster stories do. Upon recovery of the reptilian body, the story goes two directions. In one version, Officer Mathews put the body in the trunk of his patrol car and then showed it to Officer Shockley, who confirmed it was the same creature before they disposed of the creature in the river. The other version of the story has Officer Mathews examining the creature and throwing the body into the river without consulting with his fellow officer. But why would he do this; to prevent the story from being the basis of ridicule? The motives of this action have not been turned up in my research.
For many years the story stopped here, it faded into obscurity and was lost on even local residents. In 2009, I met a girlfriend of an artist friend of mine, she was a physician by trait and was raised in Loveland. I immediately asked her about the Frogman and she had no clue what I was talking about, she called her mom who remembered the story, but said she thought it was a misidentification or a folk tale. A relative on my wife’s side of the family is married to woman who hails from Cincinnati area, and she also was surprised to hear the tale from me at a family reunion. Not exactly a scientific study of how far the story reached, but it has parallels to other small town monsters. My mother, who grew up 45 minutes from Point Pleasant, WV and was 9-10 years old during the Mothman years, had never heard about it. Family friends who lived in Point Pleasant during the flap never referred to the creature as Mothman and simply called it “The Bird” well into the 21st century. Loveland Frog or Loveland Frogman, like Mothman, would resurface into the collective hive mind with the internet in the late 1990s.
The Frogman would make a debut in cryptozoology toys sold in Japan in the early 2000s, however, it has not yet reached the fame of the WV cryptids Mothman and Flatwoods Monster. As Mothman soared up into second place behind Sasquatch and other cryptids came out of the ether, the Frogman maintained it’s obscurity.
The Frogman became newsworthy again in 2016, this time to the South of Loveland at Lake Isabella Park along the shores of the Little Miami River. Lake Isabella is a 77-acre park with woodlands and a 28-acre stocked lake that can be fished in for a fee. The lake has it’s origins as a gravel pit before being transformed into its current incarnation in the late 1930’s. Possibly the same gravel pit the mastodon skeleton was discovered? Noting it’s previous history as a gravel pit ties into the narrative spun by John Keel in Mothman Prophecy. Keel makes note that monsters and other apparitions are often sighted near quarries, dumps, and other areas where the earth has been disturbed. The 2016 sightings coincided with the rise in popularity of the video game Pokémon Go. The game requiring players to actively explore their surroundings and local parks led to this potential sighting. Two teenage youth were playing the game along the shores of Lake Isabella on August 3. The two youth claimed they witnessed a giant frog near the lake stand up and walk on it’s hind legs. The story was later debunked as being another student in a homemade costume.
Being a fan of the Frogman for years, I finally made a stop to pay my respect in 2019 on a guys' trip with my Dad and 6-year-old son. The trip through West Virginia, Ohio, a brief stop in Indiana, and Kentucky was later dubbed the Monsters and Mounds tour. We visited a number of archeological sites of Adena, Hopewell, and Fort Ancient Culture in Ohio and West Virginia. We also ventured out, visiting the haunts of the Loveland Frog, Mothman, Flatwoods Monster, Philippi Mummies, and the Grafton Monster.
While in Loveland, I was disappointed to find no statues or museums. I was blessed to find a beautiful town with quaint shops, a bike trail, and numerous dining options. I drove in on Riverside Drive, examined the area of the sightings and paid my respects to the Frog. The local store Cincy Shirts provided a variety of high quality t-shirts of the Frogman depicted as a variety of pop culture icons from Ice Cream treats with bubble gum eyes, to an Italian American Plumber of Video Game fame wearing a frog suit. My son was thrilled to play “Loveland Froggerman," a Frogman video game on an old arcade machine in their store. While in the store asking for local tips and locations to visit the following story was recounted to me.
About two years prior to my visit, one of the police officers involved in the 1972 sightings was in the store. The employee said the man introduced himself and the role he played in the legend. The employee went on to say that the officer said it was real, a very real entity and that the iguana story was not accurate. That was the souvenir I was seeking.