Frogs in Loveland

Original sketch of the Loveland Frog. Some sources 
attribute this sketch to Ray Shockey, others to his sister. 
In Loveland, Ohio, along the banks of the Little Miami River, people claim to see Frog Men. Since at least the 1950s, if not earlier, the Loveland Frog has been a fixture in the imaginations of people living in this small, quiet, river town. Like with most legends, there are some variations  in the first story associated with the Loveland Frog. What we do know is that the witness, identified in many accounts as a Mr. Robert Hunnicutt, encountered the creatures he saw along the banks of the Little Miami River in the early morning hours (3:30 to 4 AM in some versions) during the Spring or Summer of 1955. Depending on the source, the night in question may have been in March, May, or July. He saw three or four creatures, either along the side of the road, on a bridge, or standing under a bridge, again depending on the source. Regardless of when, exactly, or where along the river, the tales do agree on what followed. Hunnicutt got a good look at the creatures from his vehicle. He described them as short, three to four feet tall, with bald heads, webbed hands and feet, faces like a frog or toad, and loose, wrinkled, leathery skin. Hunnicutt watched the creatures for several minutes as they appeared to converse among themselves, until one of them held aloft a metal rod or wand which began emitting blue sparks. Perceiving the sparks as a potential act of aggression, he fled the scene. In some versions the story ends here. In other accounts Hunnicutt flees from the scene to the police station, where Chief John Fritz eventually took him seriously enough to assign a deputy to hold vigil at the bridge in question. Nothing, however, is recorded of the deputies experiences. A UFO researcher based in Ohio at the time, Leonard Stringfield, reported that although he could get no official response of action taken by the Loveland police or other officials, he was told by an acquaintance associated with the Loveland School Board that the incident was investigated by the FBI.
The next reported incident didn’t occur until the morning of March 3, 1972, but is much better documented. At around 1 AM on the morning in question, Deputy Ray Shockey, with the Loveland Police, was patrolling along Riverside Drive heading into Loveland. Shockey noted that he was driving slowly, due to icy conditions, when the creature ran across the road in front of him allowing itself to be fully illuminated in his headlights. Shockey described what he saw in much the same way as Hunnicutt, three to four feet tall when standing erect, 50 to 75 lbs, with leathery skin and frog-like features. Shockey reported that it stood from a crouch, crossed the guardrail and went over the bank towards the river. In some versions of the story Shockey’s fellow officers follow up and find abrasions on the guardrail where the creature is said to have crossed. In other versions they find scuff marks in the mud heading down the hill toward the river.
In some versions of the story, Shockey is reported to have thought he was first seeing a dead or injured animal along the side of the road before the creature crossed in front of him, but this may be from readers and researchers confusing the Shockey report with that of Deputy Mark Matthews, from two weeks later. (In the same manner, some of the confusion with dates in the original case may be from conflating the 1955 report with these later reports.) Matthews claimed that he had stopped to remove what he believed was an injured or dead animal from the roadway when it raised up and ran towards the guardrail. Matthews reportedly discharged his weapon at it, but either missed or failed to fatally wound it. While his description closely matched that of Shockey, Matthews did describe the creature he saw as having a tail and later claimed that he had only seen a large lizard, something like an escaped iguana, and that the story had been blown out of proportion.
A popular related story claims that a local Native American tribe, either the Shawnee or the Twightwee, had a legend of a river demon known as the Shawnahooc. According to the story, the river demon, described as a reptilian creature standing on two legs, terrorized the locals until they sent their bravest and mightiest warriors to confront the creature and drive it into hiding. According to the legend the creature stayed in hiding until the local tribes were driven away and it returned to torment the new inhabitants. While this tale has a poetic quality and allure to it, it is not able to be verified with any available collection of Native myths. There are a variety of water based spirits and beings mentioned in various Native American traditions, but the Shawnahooc does not appear to be one of them. Likewise the name given for one of the potential tribes, Twightwee (see note below), is often associated with the Miami people but is not one they have used for themselves, casting further suspicion on a Native precedent for the Loveland Frog sightings.
But while there may be confusion in the documentation, obvious conflation among stories, and perhaps even outright fabrication of Native accounts, at least one case was well documented and from an individual who could generally be considered a reliable witness. It should also be noted that while the first report has often been associated with UFO accounts, despite no saucer or other craft being reported and likely as a result of the apparent technology associated with the rod the creature held in addition to the general weirdness, other reports of aquatic beings in the waters of the Ohio River or its tributaries were reported in that same year.
For instance, Mrs. Naomi Johnson was swimming with her son and friends in the Ohio River near Evansville, Indiana on August 21, 1955 when she was grasped by something and pulled under the surface several times before finally breaking away. When she came to rest on the shore she had several contusions on her leg in addition to a large, green palm print that reportedly stained her skin for several days. While there were no initial reports of UFOs or craft associated with this event, some researchers report that Johnson later attributed her attack to “one of those little green men from a spaceship”. It’s also interesting to note that the famed Kelly, Kentucky UFO encounter would occur that same evening on the Sutton family farm, 80+ miles due south of Evansville, perhaps influencing Johnson’s interpretation of the events that day. While we may never know the true connection, if any, between the events in Loveland, Evansville and Kelly, one thing we can count on is that the legend and legacy of the Loveland Frog will continue to intrigue, delight, and frighten summer swimmers, boaters and campers for generations to come.

Got a story to share? Email it to jeremy@latetothegames.com

(A previous version of this story ran in The Scioto Voice newspaper as part of the River Valley Myths & Legends series.)

Note: In another through the mirror twist, some sources claim the Twightwee name is an onomatopoeic reference to the sound of the sandhill crane, a bird sacred to the Miami. Many students of Fortean phenomenon will remember that the sandhill crane was one of the main suspects put forward to explain the Mothman sightings of 1966-1967, along the Ohio River community of Point Pleasant, WV. Anyone who has studied that case will also remember the betrayal of Shawnee chief Cornstalk is believed to have led to a curse on the community that was responsible for, among other things, the tragic collapse of the Silver Bridge in December 1967, and that some believe the Mothman sightings were an omen preceding that event.

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