Growing up in Cincinnati, my family often took trips to Loveland, Ohio, to appreciate the natural scenery, the bike trails, the rippling rivers and lakes. Little did I realize the same roads we drove on were allegedly the haunting grounds of the Loveland Frog, a mysterious humanoid amphibian said to lurk around the city.
The Loveland Frog is probably one of the lesser-known cryptids. Everyone knows of its closest neighbor, the Mothman of Point Pleasant, West Virginia. There are constant high-tech searches for the Loch Ness Monster, and alleged Bigfoot sightings have occurred all over the world. The Loveland Frog, though, remains elusive. You could ask any cryptozoologist about it, and forget naming the frogman – they might not know where to find Loveland on a map.
But the Loveland Frog has a history just as alluring as the Mothman's, as mysterious as the Chupacabra's. Its origin story is one of Ohio’s hidden gems.
The Mystery Begins
As history tells it, one night in May of 1955, a traveling salesman drove through Loveland, Ohio, part of the Greater Cincinnati region. He was alone on the road. When he crossed a poorly-lit bridge over the Little Miami River, three humanoid yet frog-like creatures loomed in the shadows at the side of the road.
The salesman watched as the three frog-people talked amongst themselves, each oblivious to their observer. The salesman noted they all seemed to be about three and a half feet tall, with leathery skin and webbed hands and feet. They had bulging eyes, wide mouths, and deep grooves on their heads instead of hair.
Suddenly, one of the figures noticed the salesman. They pulled out a wand and waved it, sending a spray of sparks flying in the air. The man sped away, the first witness to the Loveland Frog, with the peculiar smell of alfalfa and almonds trailing behind his car.
The salesman's name has been forgotten, but a sighting by two officers in 1972 revivified the tale.
A Tale Without a Tail
It was March 3rd, 1972, the bracing winds of winter not yet turned over to the spring sunshine.
At 1:00 A.M., Loveland police officer Ray Shockey was driving on Riverside Drive, near the Totes boot factory and the Little Miami River, when a creature dashed in front of his car. Its eyes glowed in Shockey’s headlights.
Before it skittered away, Shockey saw it was similar to the creature in the traveling salesman’s story – about three to four feet tall, with distinctly frog-like features.
The frogman took advantage of Shockey’s bewilderment and scrambled to the roadside, hopped the guardrail, and escaped into the river. The only trace left behind were a few scratch marks in the guardrail’s metal side.
Two weeks later, on St. Patrick’s Day, Officer Mark Matthews drove around the same boot factory. Something crouched in the middle of Kemper Road. Thinking the lump was roadkill, Matthews exited his car to clear it from the road. The lump jumped at Matthews. It dashed to the guardrail and scrambled underneath, keeping eye contact with Matthews the entire time.
Matthews drew his revolver and took a shot. The creature stopped moving. Matthews recovered the body and put it in his trunk to show Officer Shockey.
He identified the animal as a large iguana, about three to three and a half feet long, difficult to identify because it was missing its tail. He figured somebody had abandoned their pet when it got too large to care for, and the cold-blooded iguana was keeping warm from the pipes leading away from the boot factory’s ovens.
The Loveland Frog: A Local Celebrity
With the discovery of the 'iguana,' the whole mystery seemed to be solved. Except Matthews’ story only explained the 1972 sightings. What about the three frogmen spotted in 1955?
Skeptics point out that Creature from the Black Lagoon came out in 1954, so Americans had amphibious lake monsters on the brain at the time.
But the Creature from the Black Lagoon notably doesn’t have a magic sparkling wand, and he has a much larger stature than the 3.5-foot-tall frog people chatting along the Little Miami River.
In other words, many believe there are still questions left unanswered when it comes to the Loveland Frog. The cryptid certainly continues to spark Cincinnatians’ cultural imaginations.
Cryptid hunters checking out Loveland can wear their very own “I saw the Loveland Frog” T-shirt. A video game developer called Glorious Trainwrecks made a spiritual successor to the classic arcade game Frogger, where instead of helping a pixelated frog cross the road, you guide a frogman through traffic safely.
Most notably though, the Loveland Frog is famous for being the only cryptid with its own musical. Ohio writers and actors Joshua Steele and Mike Hall wrote the bluegrass musical Hot Damn! It’s the Loveland Frog!, which debuted May 29, 2014, at the Cincinnati Fringe Festival.
In the show, Luke Honeywell and his girlfriend Dharla set off with a bluegrass band to find Luke’s missing grandfather, supposedly snatched by the frogman himself.
The couple runs from moonshiners, learns about the frogman’s legend from shadow puppets, and are interrupted from time-to-time by fake commercials from a local taxidermist.
The frogman’s unique Cincinnati flair inspired Hall, a long-time Loveland resident, and audiences shared the love. The show ran for five performances, all sold out.
The Cryptid Ohio Deserves
Why do Cincinnatians show such devotion to the Loveland Frog? Perhaps it is because it is something uniquely theirs, an imaginative story to explain why their home city is special.
If you’re not from Ohio, you probably dismiss it as a flyover state. For many people, Ohio seems monotonous. The Loveland Frog adds a little drama to the landscape.
The Loveland Frog is also emblematic of the watersheds and wetlands that make up many an Ohioan’s backyard. Ohio does have some of the most abundant plant biodiversity in the United States, containing 32,950 acres of national parks.
With this much wildlife, it makes sense that a lonely, tired salesman driving at night might spot a frogman or two trekking the riverfront among coyotes, opossums, and hellbenders.
The Legend Continues
A recent sighting confirms that, even if it isn’t a frogman, there’s definitely something in the water.
It was August 2016, the summer Pokemon Go swept the nation. Sam Jacobs was catching Pokemon with his girlfriend on Loveland’s Madeira Road.
As they crossed the train tracks to the banks of Lake Isabella, they saw a huge frog staring at them. Jacobs reports the frog then stood on its hind legs and disappeared beneath the surface.
Jacobs took photos and videos of the frog, which circulated on various Cincinnati news sites. In his photos, two glowing eyes atop a shadowy figure stare at the viewer.
Reporters called up Officer Mark Matthews. He’s now retired and holds fast to the story that it’s all a hoax, and the Loveland Frog was just a dead iguana dried up in the middle of the road.
Jacobs isn’t sure. He knows it sounds crazy, but he really did see something in the lake. Whether it’s a frogman or a gigantic frog, he says, he’s never seen anything like it.