Friday, October 2, 2009

Loveland Lizard

loveland frog
Loveland Lizard image from Weird Things

Next, we'll head across Ohio towards Cincinnati, and check out the reports of its mean green machine, the Loveland Lizard (or frog).

The Algonquin Twightwees (the Miami tribe), lived in Ohio's Miami Valley and were the first to tell tales of a froggy creature. As early French explorers came by, the Twightwees warned them of a lizard-like creature that could not be killed. They called this critter Shawnahooc, meaning "demon of the river."

But after a couple of centuries spent fighting the expansion of the settlers, the Miamis were forced to relocate to Kansas, and with them went the Shawnahooc legend.

That is, until May, 1955. A businessman reported that he saw three or four frog-faced creatures gathered under a bridge near Loveland.

They were described as three-foot tall, with wrinkles instead of hair, broad chests, and wide mouths without lips, like king-sized frogs. One of them is said to have held up a wand that shot sparks. A strong odor of alfalfa and almonds was reportedly left behind after the varmints vacated the bridge.

The witness couldn't decide whether he had seen fairy-tale trolls, creatures that were half human, half frog, huge reptiles, or spacemen.

As the years rolled into decades, there were no further reported sightings of the Loveland Frog. Then the long arm of the law got involved.

On March 3, 1972, a police officer was patrolling a section of Riverside Avenue that runs along the Little Miami River in Loveland, Ohio. The policeman saw what he thought was a dog lying in the middle of the road, and slowed down his cruiser on the icy road, unsure of the animal's condition.

The cop stopped his patrol car and got out with his flashlight to check if the dog was injured or perhaps even roadkill. Suddenly, the creature crouched on two legs, and the officer realized his sighting wasn't a dog at all, but something entirely different.

It was three to four feet tall, 50 to 75 pounds, with leathery skin, maybe a short tail, and a head and face like a frog. Whatever this creature was, it glanced at the patrolman and leapt over the road's guard rail toward the river.

The officer reported the odd event to the police dispatcher, though never filing an official report, and later returned to the scene with another policeman. All they found were markings from something that had scraped along the hillside as it made its way to the river.

Two weeks later, another police officer saw it, again lying in the middle of the road. When he got out of his car to haul it to the shoulder, it got up, climbed over the guard rail, eying the policeman, and disappeared toward the river.

The cop took a shot at the creature, but it never slowed down and escaped into the waters of the Little Miami River.

A farmer in Loveland also claimed that he spotted a froglike creature during the same time frame.

A local publicity firestorm erupted, based a little bit on the sightings and a lot on Loveland politics and efforts at embarrassing people and evening scores, not an uncommon tack in small-town editorial rooms (or big city ones, for that matter.)

The second peace officer pooh-poohed the whole affair, claiming that he saw someone's tossed-out, overgrown pet lizard. He took a shot at him in an effort to bring the critter in and clear the first officer's reputation. His guess was that either he winged it and it eventually died from the wound, or that the cold got it.

An investigation came up empty, suggesting that the officers saw an escaped Nile monitor lizard or a large iguana, which can be over six feet in length. So did the sightings.

Did they actually see a lizard-man? Well, there are reports of them from other places. Some of the more renowned are the Lizardman of Wayne, New Jersey, the Giant Lizard of Milton, Kentucky, and the Lizard Man craze that swept Bishopville, South Carolina in 1988.

But for Loveland, it seemed the end of the story. The twentieth century passed by without anymore lizards littering the local roads. But...

In 2000, a visitor on vacation reported seeing the Loveland Lizard on the way to his hotel. He described it as a 4-foot-tall creature that was part human and part lizard or frog. He said it had scaly skin, webbed hands and feet and was holding a wand-like stick. Sound familiar?

The tourist tried to take a photo of the creature but he hit the flash instead of the shutter button and scared it off. Pity; a picture is worth a thousand words.

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