Updated: Dec 26, 2021
Day 5 on this Trip of Weirdness takes us to two surprisingly cool little towns in Ohio, Loveland and Lebanon. Cincinnati being only about a half an hour from Loveland, home of the legendary Loveland Frogman (or Frogmen), it was a must-stop for me. I've read so much about the bizarre Cryptid creature (or creatures). I even wrote about them in my book "Camp Cryptid" (which by the way is for sale on Amazon. Just saying). I just had to go see where the legend began!
Did you know that Loveland has it's own medieval castle? It does. It's weird. But it does. From the center of town you can follow one little sign after another that will lead you through winding roads to a remote area on the banks of the Little Miami river. It was in this spot that Chateau Laroche or The Loveland Castle was built by a man named Harry D. Andrews. Harry purchased the land in 1927, intending to provide a place for the young men in his Sunday school class to fish, swim and camp. The boys all slept in tents until they finally decayed. (The tents decayed... not the boys. Just to be clear.) When they did, Harry told them to bring stones from the river and he built two small rooms which he called the "Stone Tent".
Eventually, Harry built an entire castle, which he lived as he constructed it, much of it single-handedly. It's a one-fifth scale replica of a 16th century medieval castle. This, in itself, is amazing, but the man, Harry, what a life! He was pronounced dead during World War One but lived (of course). When the soldiers in his camp were infected by an outbreak of cerebrospinal meningitis, doctors removed some of Harry's blood to obtain meningococcus antibodies, and he became a blood bank to save others from the disease. I mean, what a guy!
Harry passed away in 1981 and willed the castle to his Boy scout Troop, The Knights of the Golden Trail. It's open for tours and it's well worth the visit.
The Legend of the Loveland Frogman
I did a video on this topic. It's pretty funny. Worth a few precious minutes of your time maybe.
But if you just want a quick version... here's the gist of the story...
It started in 1955 when a traveling salesman, who may or may not be named Robert Honeycutt or any other name, was driving on a road just outside of Loveland. The legend claims the man saw three figures standing on the side of the road, which he described as 3-4 feet tall with leathery skin and frog faces. The salesman claims he watched the three humanoid figures converse for a while but hurried away when one of them presented a "wand" that emitted sparks.
Fast forward to March of 1972. Officer Ray Shockey spots a creature scurrying across Riverside Road next to the Little Miami River. His description of the creature matches that of the traveling salesman. Shockey claims he watched the unknown animal stand and hop over the guardrail, disappearing into the darkness. Two weeks later, Shockey's fellow officer, Mark Matthews, also sees the "Frogman". And here's where it gets muddy...
Shortly after the sightings, the officers described the creature to Shockey's sister who drew a likeness which both men approved. Years later, Mark Matthews, claims that the whole affair was blown out of proportion and that it was someone's tail-less pet iguana which had escaped. Matthews insists that he shot the animal, put it in his trunk and paraded it around, showing it to all his police friends.
So, why did Matthews change his story? People theorize that he just grew tired of being ridiculed by his peers (and he and Shockey were certainly ridiculed!). It was only after a very muddy, fuzzy, inconclusive 2016 video surfaced, taken by a man claiming to have captured a giant bipedal frog on film while playing Pokemon Go, that Matthews gave a great sigh and blew the whole thing off.
(Left to Right... 1. Me searching for the Frogmen 2. Unsuccessful 3&4 The exact spot where the action takes place in "Camp Cryptid". 5. A sign that we are in the right town!)
Basically, that's the story and that's what brought Terry and I to Loveland. It's a cute little town with what appears to be a thriving, expanding downtown area, with hip restaurants scattered throughout. We found a coffee shop, Mile 42 Coffee, which is located right next door to an old-timey hardware store. I snagged a button for Tim Butler who was running for city council. I'm fairly certain he was sitting in the coffee shop working on his computer. I wasn't certain enough, however, or I surely would have approached him and encouraged him to push the community to embrace their Frogfolks. There was a Frogman coffee drink at Mile 42, but otherwise very little evidence of this towns legendary upright amphibians. I expected flags, banners, etc.
Fifteen miles from Loveland is another little gem of a town, Lebanon. In keeping with our haunted hotel theme we booked a room at the Golden Lamb Inn, securing the "most haunted" room of all, The Harriet Beecher Stowe room, named after the author of "Uncle Tom's Cabin". AGAIN I feel I must reiterate... We experienced ZERO paranormal presence in any of the spectacularly spirit-riddled places we visited. I would say we gave our most valiant effort to contact a restless spook at this hotel (and at the Lowe in Point Pleasant the next night) but to no avail. We did, however, find the winner of our favorite Old Fashioned here. Their version contained mead, an alcohol containing fermented honey. (They're big into honey here). The restaurant in general is top-notch and, should you happen to be passing through Lebanon, I would recommend reserving a table at this very busy restaurant.
But... on to the ghosts...
A quick rundown on some of the alleged spirits of the Golden Lamb.
Clement L. Vallandingham, a celebrated civil war-era U.S. congressmen from Ohio, fatally shot himself in the room that now bears his name. Vallandingham was preparing a defense for a man who shot another man in saloon brawl and thought he might just demonstrate how the victim could have accidentally shot himself. Unknown to Clement, the demonstration pistol was loaded and he put a bullet into his own abdomen. He died in the room the following morning and several reports of a man matching his description have been made over the years.
Ohio Supreme Court Justice Charles R. Sherman, who died in the inn at the age of 41, is another spirit thought to wander the building.
There are also reports of a young phantom girl running through the halls playing hide and seek. This little spook could be one of two children. Some believe it is the spirit of Sarah Stubbs who lived at the Golden Lamb as a child. Sarah, however, grew up, married and had a family of her own. Another contender, and perhaps the most likely of the two, is Eliza Clay, daughter of Henry Clay, President John Quincy Adams's Secretary of State. Eliza contracted a fever while at the inn in 1852 and passed away at the age of 12. I think we have a winner!
Our silly ghost-hunting selves focused our efforts on contacting Sarah, being unfamiliar with the Eliza Clay story at that point. (shame on us for not doing all of our homework). Regardless, no kids, no Supreme Court Justices, no one showed that night.
The next day we wandered around the downtown shopping area, found another coffee shop and ate lunch at a weird little hipster cafe, The Greenhouse Cafe where I was encouraged to try the cashew coffee (iced for the road). Well done, Greenhouse!
I was excited to hit the highway, super pumped for our next stop... Point Pleasant, West Virginia... Lair of Mothman!