The Theoretical Case for Nesting and
Foraging of Unknown Reptile Species
Final Revision 2.0 - March 31st, 2004
"There are older and fouler things than orcs in the dark places of the earth." – Gandalf, in The Fellowship of the Ring, the film
To start things off in the proper perspective, according to the National Geographic Society, the Tennessee-Cumberland Watershed encompasses an area of the whole eastern United States, across the border into Canada to the north, and includes the Mississippi River to the west, the Great Lakes complex, and sweeps east to the Atlantic Ocean.
This is a huge ecosystem with wide biodiversity, and for scale sake reveals that the Great Lakes System alone accounts for 18% of the entire world’s supply of surface fresh water. (1)
The point of that short exercise is to show that not only does the eastern United States hold one of the largest single “vaults” of fresh water on the planet, but maybe even the most biodiverse and known speciation second only to the Amazon River basin. In addition, that the Ohio River Valley sits smack-dab in the middle of the watershed and is one of the largest principle tributaries to this planetary scale ecosystem is no small matter. Historically for mere humans, fresh water is not just a necessity but is also the center of our (and we must presuppose other species’) universe.
Dating as far back as the late 1800’s and up to this current period, there have been numerous reports of unusual reptile run-ins throughout the Ohio River Valley, including specifically Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana. These reports have been covered in the fundamental media either lightly or very briefly. Though there have been in some cases differences in both the physical appearance and activity of these reptiles, the most common denominators still remain thus:
(i) Heretofore-unknown reptiles, some acting in a manner not normally
observed in known reptiles;
(ii) located in areas not well known for the reported sizes of these reptiles;
(iii) all instances reported having leathery or scaly skin;
(iv) all instances reported having a head like a lizard or a frog;
(v) and all reported instances directly related to a near waterway location.
Upon viewing every single case on each account’s own merits, one will immediately come to the conclusion that the size and activity of these reptiles is expressly somewhat unusual, and often times these tales have been scientifically written off as wild fantasy or as utterly unbelievable, of course.
The interesting point I make here concerning the totality of these chance events though, is that all combined they relate directly to some form or forms of reptile (unlike other potential remote cryptid mammal or primate encounters) and all have a distinct relationship and connectivity to the Ohio River Valley, and specifically the Ohio River itself.
The fact that many cryptid reptile confrontations have been reported (at least from the point of current Western civilization) since the 1800’s in the Ohio River Valley, can only lead one to think that there are more than one or two of these creatures running around out there. Either that, or the one creature has lived a very long time, travels far and wide undetected, has escaped capture once we know of, and alters its physical shape, size and behavioral activity at will.
I will attempt to show by the conclusion of this paper that there may be literally vast numbers of these alleged creatures, and the basis of these encounters are tied to the Ohio River Basin, and as well through common related details that point to a specific location for what can be referred to as either a “nest”, or a potential point of origin.
That is the basis for and direction of this study.
With the case reports that follow, I will attempt to expand on what I believe is the primary correlation between these events and my individual interpretation of how the events are tied to this obviously sibylline premise.
Regardless of how astounding any of these reports must sound on one’s initial read, the basis for further scrutiny comes from the ultimate finer details, something that inherently gets overlooked in the real and bigger picture.
Though many learned individuals with much more knowledge than I could ever amass can probably argue against all of the points I am about to make, not all of these points can be dismissed matter-of-factly. Case report subject matter and content aside, the common detail evidence is far more direct than a simple case of whimsy.
Any conjecture to forward here will be based solely on the details and combined information of others, and with probably more information at their disposal.
That being said, let us embark on a very interesting little journey here and maybe someone somewhere will ignite the thinking man’s light bulb appropriately.
There are, and always will be, possibilities.
II. Case Reports
This chapter contains 9 publicly documented cases and their respective locations (2) representing only the reported cryptid reptile concerns in and around the Ohio River Valley. Where duplication of locations occurs, a reference to the corresponding figure will be given.
1878, October – Louisville, KY
“Wild Man of the Woods” – from the Louisville Courier-Journal
This excerpt is paraphrased from Loren Coleman’s Curious Encounters:
"Over twenty years ago (pre-1965), in the back issues of the Louisville, Kentucky, Courier-Journal, there was an interesting little item in the 24 October 1878 issue: A 'Wild Man of the Woods' was captured, supposedly in Tennessee, and then placed on exhibit in Louisville. The creature was described as being six feet, five inches tall, and having eyes twice the normal size. His body was 'covered with scales.'” (3)
Case #2 (no exact date given):
Late 1800’s – Warren County, Ohio
“Brookes detailed several newspaper accounts from the late 1800’s from a small town in Warren County, Ohio. On the banks of a small creek near Crosswicks, two young boys were fishing when one was attacked and carried off by a ‘snake’ with legs which attempted to drag the boy into a hollow tree which was approximately 26 feet in diameter at the base. A trio of men heard the cries and rushed to help, rescuing the boy. The animal disappeared into the large hollow tree. Later that day, a group of sixty men came and began cutting down the tree. The animal jumped from the tree, erected itself to between twelve and fourteen feet in height, and raced away on its hind legs.
The men described it as ‘from thirty to forty feet long, and sixteen inches in diameter, and the legs four feet long and covered with scales as the body. Feet, about twelve inches long and shaped like a lizard, of black and white color with large yellow spots. Head about sixteen inches wide with a long forked tongue, and the mouth inside deep red. The hind legs appeared to be used to give an erect position, and its propelling power is in its tail.’
Similar tales circulated years later from Shaker Swamp, west of Lebanon, OH, but these latter were thought to be told to scare away berry-pickers. I have not yet located the original newspaper reports, and it is very possible that this (additional report) was a newspaper hoax.” (4)
1955, August 21 – near Evansville, IN
Mrs. Darwin Johnson of Godtown, IN, was swimming with her friend Mrs. Chris Lamble about fifteen feet from the shore when something grabbed her from under the surface. It felt like the ‘hand’ had huge claws and furry or scaly palms. It came up from behind, grabbed her left leg, grabbed her knee, and pulled her under. She kicked and fought herself free.
It pulled her under again. Although both women could not see the thing, they screamed and yelled to scare it away. Finally, Mrs. Johnson lunged for Mrs. Lamble’s inner tube and the loud thump apparently scared it and it released its grip. Back on shore, Mrs. Johnson received treatment for her scratches and marks on her leg.
Fortean investigator Terry Colvin passed on the information that Mrs. Johnson had a palm-print shaped green stain below her knee that could not be removed and it remained for several days.
Coincidentally, Colvin also learned the Johnson’s were visited by an individual who identified himself as an Air Force colonel who took voluminous notes and warned them not to talk further about the incident.
"For anyone who has seen Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Ohio River encounter of Mrs. Darwin Johnson is already familiar, for her attack was foreshadowed in that movie.” (5)
In order to “grab” a human swimming in fairly deep water by “her left leg” and “her knee” would require two forward arms and hands, the description of and the possibility of “scaly” palms and claws leads one to believe that this was intelligent by design. For further conjecture into this particular event, I will to refer to conclusions made further in Chapter III.
One other small case in point, these witnesses were swimming in the Ohio River.
1959, March – Charles Mill Lake, Mansfield, OH
A green-eyed, 7-ft tall seemingly armless humanoid seen by Michael Lane, Wayne Armstrong, and Dennis Patterson came out of the lake and left behind tracks that resembled footwear worn by skin divers. (6)
1963 – Charles Mill Lake, Mansfield, OH
(see Figure 5 above)
“…luminous and green-eyed creature seen again.”
“…I examined the site of these encounters and can testify to the Charles Mill Lake's swampy affinities--certainly a good home for a Black Lagoon beast.” - Loren Coleman.(7)
1972, March 3 – Loveland, OH
Loveland, Ohio, (NE of Cincinnati) – Two Ohio Police Officers both saw what has become known as the Loveland Frogman.
This event was investigated by Ron Schaffner and Richard Mackey who interviewed both officers though used fictitious names of Williams and Johnson for the officers to protect their identity.
At 1:00 AM on a clear cold night, Officer Williams, enroute to Loveland via Riverside Road, thought he saw a dog beside the road. When the thing stood up, its eyes illuminated by the car lights, looked at him for an instant, turned and leapt over the guardrail. Williams saw it go down an embankment into the Little Miami River.
He described it as weighing about 60 lbs, about 3-4 ft tall, having a textured leathery skin, and a face like a frog or a lizard. Williams went to the police station and returned with Officer Johnson to look for evidence. They turned up scrape marks leading down the side of a small hill near the river. (8)
1972, March 17 – Loveland, OH
(see Figure 6 above)
Fourteen days later, Officer Johnson again driving outside of Loveland when seeing an animal laying in the middle of the road, stopped to remove what he thought was a dead animal carcass. Instead, when the officer opened his car door the animal got up in a crouched position. The creature hobbled to the guardrail and lifted its leg over while constantly looking at Johnson. “…(Officer) Johnson decided to shoot at it and missed, he believes, because the thing didn’t slow down.”
Johnson later told how he felt it was more upright than the way Williams had described it. (9)
1972, March – Loveland, OH
(see Figure 6 above)
An area farmer told investigators he saw a large frog-like or lizard-like creature during the same month of the two police officer’s sightings (reference Cases #6 and 7). (10)
1975, October – Milton, KY
Clarence Cable reported a “giant lizard” roaming the forests around his junkyard.
Author Peter Gutilla described the creature Cable had surprised as ‘about 15 foot long, had a foot-long forked tongue, and big eyes that bulged something like a frog’s. It was dull white with black and white stripes across its body with quarter-sized speckles all over it’. On-site investigator Mark Hall indicated the ‘giant lizard’ ran bipedally according to other Trimble County, Kentucky, witnesses. (11)
“Whatever this animal was, it was certainly not an amphibian. Not only are the characteristics clearly reptile-like, but a large amphibian would quickly dehydrate in the July sun, especially underneath the sun-heated metal of wrecked cars. At present, however, I’m wondering why the description of this creature so closely matches the one seen almost a hundred years earlier just across the Ohio River in Warren County, Ohio (Case #2). The coloration given in both reports is almost exactly the same, but the earlier report was more a local tale that was never widely publicized.” (12)
At this point it is imperative that we move to probably the most important phase of the discussion: what do all of these case reports have in common, what do they show us as far as some remote source of relational data, and can one draw an objective conclusion from such an exercise? I believe the answer to those questions can be demonstrated though will require some time and attention, as well as a reasonable understanding of unrelated or obscure information displaying some form of conjunction.
What follows is a demonstration that I believe in the end will go further to tie all of the apparent unrelated events together, something that has not previously been attempted.
[A] Location Data
Figure 8 shows the regional position of all these cases (including the 3 reports from the Loveland area, and the 2 reports from Mansfield’s Charles Mill Lake):
What the points above lead to is that there seems to be an incredible barrage of encounters directly related to the Ohio River, which delineates the borders of Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio. Of all nine of these occurrences, seven of the most profound are directly connected to the Ohio River by only a matter of feet to a very few miles.
The only other two (Charles Mill Lake) can be traced to the Ohio River by a chain of connecting rivers. Though the distance may seem on the surface as very lengthy (200 miles or so), the parallel remains as noted by red tracking in the next figure:
In most people’s minds, the distance from the Ohio River proper may seem extraordinary for 200 miles. The fact that there have been two documented sightings at that distance can only be questioned from the standpoint that there had to have been some travel by connecting rivers.
[B] Waterway System Data
After studying all of the river systems related to this data set, a broader picture appears that tends to lead one to believe that the connection is so definitely river based and all of the event sites are related to the river data, it is difficult to dispel the notion that of the nine events spanning very close to 100 years, that the river correlation is not related.
Figure 10 displays the connectivity of all of the occurrences related to the Ohio River Valley, the Ohio River, and the Ohio River system:
With this presupposition comes a small caveat, and that would be the Charles Mill Lake events in the Mansfield area. Given the 200-mile distance from the Ohio River, the immediate argument would come about as to how could any relevant and unusual species travel that distance and not be seen, documented, or even remotely spotted prior to that point.
The only answer could be that they truly travel during periods where they cannot be observed, and points to the high probability that this one is not a local species. If the species is of a dedicated local environ, then the possibility of the descriptions so far should present radically different visual traces to make it unrelated. The fact that reptilian characteristics were defined by the comment “…tracks that resembled footwear worn by skin divers” is distinctly telling of reptilian tracking prints. Either that, or this was actually skin divers misrepresented in two separate public dramas.
Let’s revisit all nine of the cases.
 1878, October – Louisville, KY: This may have been caught in Tennessee, though I have to doubt it for now unless much more conclusive information is presented (the word ‘supposedly’ in the account is they key). Though the story reports that the “beast” was caught in Tennessee and later brought to Louisville for display, we also have to consider the frame of 19th century attitudes.
At that period in American history, local ridicule was more damaging than physical provocation. In addition, transportation being what it was in the mid-to-late 1800’s, fair distances would be somewhat problematic in any timely fashion. Personally, I would be willing to bet the “beast” was caught somewhere in Kentucky and most likely very close to Louisville, maybe even within proximity to the river. This is only my opinion. The one other missing piece of information to this story is, what happened to the creature after the exhibition, who has it or what did someone do with it?
 Late 1800’s – Warren County, OH: The details of the occurrence can only be referred to as reptile in nature. Despite the size, even the predatory nature goes hand in hand with reptile behavior.
 1955, August 21 – near Evansville, IN: This one story has to be the most fascinating of all the milestones to date (police stories notwithstanding). Even without actual relayed visual information, the fact that an obviously clawed two-handed form grabbed this person from under the water does not lend itself to farfetched fantasy in regards to reptiles. With post-event wounds and signs of physical contact, I would doubt that this was anything other than another large predatory reptile.
 1959, March – Charles Mill Lake, Mansfield, OH: There have been several articles about this report. From what I have seen so far, there are a minority that state the “beast” was hairy though these are a fair number of misquoted articles – not that a hairy humanoid could not have webbed feet. The fact that the prints left in the sand and documented as “…tracks that resembled footwear worn by skin divers” leads one to conclude a reptilian presentation since I doubt this was in any way a marsupial.
 The latter of the two Charles Mill Lake cases was further looked into by Loren Coleman, who had performed the physical investigation.
[6 & 7] 1972, March – Loveland, OH: These two stories hold the most credibility of the entire cryptid reptile phenomenon. Not just one police officer saw this, but two police officers on two separate nights two weeks apart, who saw similar incidences under similar circumstances and with quite similar outcomes.
 1972, March – Loveland, OH: This is an anecdotal mention from Ron Schaffner’s report of the Loveland event with the two police officers (Cases #6 & 7). I have to consider this an additional case report as opposed to supplemental supporting evidence since it is actually and technically unrelated to the two previous incidents, other than the fact that the report was garnered during the previous investigation.
 1975, October – Milton, KY: Quite a few people saw this and more than one person investigated it. The connection mentioned by Mr. Arment referring to the similarities with the late 1800’s Warren County, Ohio, report goes a long way to verify consistent reptile confrontations in differing locations with identical descriptions. Once again, the difference is only the period of time elapsed – roughly one hundred years.
[D] Connectivity to Location and Waterway Data
Warren County, Ohio, approximately around the Lebanon location, is just off the Little Miami River at about 30 miles north of the Ohio River.
Loveland, Ohio, (just northeast of Cincinnati) is connected to the Ohio River via the Little Miami River by about 15 miles.
Evansville, Indiana, is located on the Ohio River.
Charles Mill Lake is connected to the Ohio River via the Mohican River, and then via the Muskingum waterway. The distance to the Ohio River is approximately 200 miles.
Milton, Kentucky, rests on the Ohio River 20-25 miles northeast of Louisville – which also rests on the Ohio River.
IV. The Big Picture
Except for some of the superficial and seemingly wild and anomalous subject matter contained across these episodes and considering the overall data these reports convey, the one thing that sticks out repeatedly is the Ohio River and its connecting systems. If one were to actually go looking for signs or traces of such species, it would be a safe bet to say that the Ohio River system would be a good place to start.
Since the expansive reaches of the Ohio River system would most likely impede any serious investigation in anything but a massive period of time, one only need perform a minimal “guesstimation” as to what potential territory could be a serious habitat candidate.
Obviously this (or these) species utilize the Ohio River system in its entirety to move about, or forage, as it were. This would also presuppose that they don’t have much trouble breathing underwater for extended periods, or they manage to remain out of view for long periods in order to move about, or primarily restrict their movements to late at night when 99% of the human population is unconscious. Also, the largest portion of all these river systems rarely go anywhere near congested human habitation, though obviously the Cincinnati-Dayton areas alongside the Little Miami River do pose a slight problem for undetected travel purposes – most likely why such frequency occurs there.
In understanding reptilian habitat and environmental requirements, it should be noted that most all reptiles remain out of direct sunlight until nightfall when the surface temperatures are cooler. So to carry that line of thinking one step further, if there were many of these fairly large creatures about then most likely they would try to remain in fairly large cold dark places for convenience and comfort sake.
Earth does supply a few of these locations so we must attempt to identify such candidates in relative proximity to the Ohio River that also reveal Ohio River system access.
Figure 11 above is from a National Geographic plate of February 1977, again showing the centered Ohio River with Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky. This figure also shows the forested lands, rivers, and a handful of national parks. There are even some specific and unique geologic formational anomalies located within this image range.
For example, there are a number of expansive and proximity-based cave systems that are within the realm of the Ohio River Basin, as well as the subsequent attached waterway systems. Vast portions of the cave systems are actually related to the watershed due to the invasive nature of the geologic strata and the waterway environment.
These cave systems run throughout all of these closely related states and regions: Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and other areas located within the watershed. A large portion of the caves and deeply furrowed cave systems, in some of the study cases, are theorized to connect deep below our currently identified geologic universe and our quaint subterranean mapping technology.
The fact these caves appear as more than coincidental a connection to the Ohio River system methodology of movement, could very well identify such habitat candidates.
For further consideration, it is also very likely that there may be subterranean access, or rimation, to the river beds at the surface from these cave systems that are as yet undiscovered. Given the geologic construct of these cave systems directly related to this river basin, all of the river systems, as well as the vast age and unique variables that these cave systems present, show that there are in fact a considerable number of unknowns regarding these systems in terms of length, depth, branching systems and long distance and deep connectivity between currently known independent subterranean systems.
…after all, don’t forget --- reptiles can be sneaky.
V. Coda & Final Thoughts
With all of the foregoing information, it would be logical to put forward these concepts based on the connection between all of this apparently unconnected event data:
there seem to be literally dozens, if not possibly vast numbers of these creatures;
the common basis of these specific incidences are directly tied to the
Ohio River system,
the relational location of reports lead to unique locations and can be referred to as either a “nest,” or simply potential common points of origin.
I will not attempt here to venture a guess as to what they are, where or whence they came, or if they in fact have been here all along. That we will leave for another day and another formal study.
But, with sightings of reptiles that have been reported globally, and not just the Ohio River area, it would lead one to think that the possibility exists there may be a vast array of cave networks throughout the world, and that these cryptids seem to move far and wide directly via connecting river systems – much like our present day freeway infrastructure.
One might even go so far as to hypothesize that a huge population of largely unknown and undocumented (dare one say ‘bipedal’?) reptiles are literally running around out there just on the outside of our field of view.
Impossible you say? Here is an item for that discussion:
“Since the Swedish botanist Linnaeus published his Systema Naturae, a system for classifying living things, in the mid-1700s, taxonomists have identified between 1.5 million and 1.75 million species, some 4,500 of them mammals. Many more species have yet to be named and described. Controversy surrounds the issue of how many unknown species may exist…”(13)
Currently (as of 1999) the general thoughts concerning yet unknown and unidentified species would make a considerably interesting topic. The following graph depicts the ratio of known (dark block) to potentially unknown species (gray block):
Based on these projections, it would be safe to guess that the unknown and so far undiscovered species are leading the known numbers in most all areas.
Humans as a species, though ingenious in our earthly designs, are still only one small piece of the bigger picture. We are also not quite as well versed in our own world as we would like to believe.
Just because you can’t see something, doesn’t mean something’s not out there.
1. National Geographic, November 1993.
2. All maps and charts (title page, figures 1-12) courtesy of and copyright by National Geographic and Topics Entertainment. © 1888-2001 National Geographic Society. All rights reserved, National Geographic Interactive, Washington, DC 20036.
3. Curious Encounters, by Loren Coleman (Faber & Faber., Boston, Mass. 1985) pp. 70-76
4. North American BioFortean Review, Vol II, No. 2, 2000 – Dinos in the USA, A Summary of North American Bipedal “Lizard” Reports, by Chad Arment, pg. 32
5. Curious Encounters, Coleman
6. Curious Encounters, Coleman
7. Curious Encounters, Coleman
8. Creature Chronicles; Issue #4; Autumn 1981. Courtesy of Ron Schaffner. Author Note: Ron Schaffner and Richard Mackey were the two investigators that compiled the original investigation and story.
9. Creature Chronicles; Issue #4; Schaffner
10. Creature Chronicles; Issue #4; Schaffner
11. Curious Encounters, Coleman
12. Dinos in the USA, Arment
13. National Geographic, December, 1998
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