Pokémon GO took the smartphone-bearing world by storm in July 2016. The augmented reality game had people out in the streets and quickly became the focus of news stories and think pieces, spawning hoaxes and fake news stories as well as real ones. The game has also indirectly resurrected — and inadvertently debunked — an old urban legend.
In 1955, a businessman in Loveland, Ohio claimed that he saw a gathering of strange, humanoid, bipedal frogs scuttling down the banks of the Little Miami River:
Like any good legend involving monsters, this encounter is typically told in three similar, but slightly different versions. The first states that an unnamed businessman saw three disturbing creatures gathered by the side of the road. He stated they were 3 to 4 feet tall and covered with a leathery skin. The creatures were described as standing erect, bipedal, and having the head-shape/faces of frogs. He also stated they had webbed hands/feet and deep wrinkles on their heads. They appeared to be totally hairless. Other versions have the same description of the creatures, but one places them sitting on a bridge and another places them under a bridge. Since this first account does not give an exact location or road, it is difficult to confirm which specific bridge the reports are meant to describe. The tale is further complicated by local information that puts the man entering or exiting Branch Hill (a community bordering the southern end of Loveland). It is worth noting that most of the side roads leading to and from Loveland, specifically the bridge areas, are not well lit.
The rumor lingered until 1972. It was rejuvenated when Loveland police officer Mark Matthews shot and killed a mystery creature that appeared to resemble a humanoid frog. The "Loveland Frogman," as the creature was called by then, had already been reported by another officer:
Matthews explained that the first officer to encounter the purported Frogman, Ray Shockey, called him one night in the March of 1972 after spotting something strange on Riverside Drive/Kemper Road near the Totes boot factory and the Little Miami River.
"Naturally, I didn't believe him … but I could somehow tell from his demeanor that he did see something," Matthews said.
Later that month, Matthews was driving on Kemper Road near the boot factory when he saw something run across the road. However, it wasn't walking upright and didn't climb over the guardrail as the urban legend of the Frogman goes. The creature crawled under the guardrail. Matthews said he "had no clue what it was."
"I know no one would believe me, so I shot it," he said.
Matthews recovered the creature's body and put it in his trunk to show Shockey. He said Shockey said it was the creature he had seen, too.
In August 2016, a couple playing Pokémon GO claimed they, too, had seen the elusive Loveland Frogman:
As for Wednesday night's sighting, Jacobs said, "We saw a huge frog near the water. Not in the game (Pokemon Go), this was an actual giant frog. I took a couple of pictures and a video 'cause I'd never seen one that big. Then the thing stood up and walked on its hind legs".
Jacobs went on to say he realizes some people will think he's crazy. "I swear on my grandmother's grave that this is the truth", Jacobs said. "I'm not sure whether it was a Frogman or just a giant frog. Either way, I've never seen anything like it."
Sam Jacobs took photographs and a video of the creature, but it was so dark that it only showed a pair of shining eyes and an indistinct shape. The story enjoyed some brief play until 5 August 2016, when Mark Matthews, who had shot the creature in 1972, called a reporter after seeing the Loveland Frogman in the news again to tell him what it actually had been:
It was a large iguana about 3 or 3.5 feet long, Matthews said. The animal was missing its tail, which is why he didn't immediately recognize it.
Matthews said he figured the iguana had been someone's pet and then either got loose or was released when it grew too large. He also theorized that the cold-blooded animal had been living near the pipes that released water that was used for cooling the ovens in the boot factory as a way to stay warm in the cold March weather.
"The thing was half dead anyway when I shot it," he said.
Matthews added that he had already told the entire account to the author of a book about urban legends, but that the author omitted the part that confirmed that the creature was an iguana rather than a Frogman. He said that the Loveland Frogman has grown in the public's imagination until it has become an urban legend rivaling Bigfoot.
"I don't believe in Bigfoot either," Matthews said.