Since the dawn of time legends have sprung up across the globe regarding strange, fish-tailed, half-human hybrids which were said to dwell in the briny depths of the world’s oceans, but there is a lesser known phenomenon regarding a unique breed of bizarre, bipedal beasts, which eyewitnesses claim to have encountered near the freshwater lakes and rivers of North America. Creatures which some insist owe more to fertile imaginations of Hollywood effects artists than to Darwin’s Natural Selection.
On March 5, 1954, filmmaker Jack Arnold unleashed what would become the last of the great Universal monsters onto the world with the release of the seminal “Creature from the Black Lagoon.” This scaly, fish lipped atrocity exploded across American screens in glorious 3-Dimensions and would soon after carve itself a niche not only in pop culture, but the psyches of theatergoers worldwide as the image of the archetypal “gill man.”
While there is no question that this iconoclastic image has indelibly impressed itself on generations of cinephiles, there is a small, yet vocal, contingent who believe that this fright flick’s popularity spawned not only a plethora of models, a pair of sequels and a recent musical adaptation, but also a rash of alleged encounters over the next two decades with “real life” aquatic humanoids.
While several reports of these ostensibly amphibious beings hailed from the backwaters of the U.S. and Canada in the latter half of the 20th century, they never did manage to make quite the same splash as their fish bottomed, ocean dwelling cousins. Nevertheless, these moist monstrosities remain some of the most intriguing enigmas in contemporary crypto-lore.
Arguably the first post-Black Lagoon account of bipedal, amphibious beings comes to us from May of 1955. At approximately 3:30 in the morning, a businessman was traveling down a lonely stretch of road near the Miami River -- located on the outskirts of the town of Loveland, Ohio -- when he claimed to have come across three, quasi-reptilian entities standing upright by the side of the road.
The man pulled his car to the curb and observed these creatures for about three minutes. During this time he noticed that these odd beings stood between 3 and 4-feet tall, were covered with leathery skin and had webbed hands and feet. Their most distinguishing characteristics, however, were their wrinkly, “frog-like” heads -- hence their designation as the “Loveland Frogmen.”
The second, and perhaps the most harrowing, account of what many believe to be an aquatic humanoid hails Evansville, Indiana. On August 21, 1955, one Mrs. Darwin Johnson claimed to have had a horrifying -- and potentially life threatening -- run-in with an unknown creature beneath the muddy surface of the Ohio River.
While enjoying a relaxing swim with a friend, Johnson reported that she was suddenly clenched around the knee by a large, claw-like hand. She struggled to disengage herself as she was yanked beneath the churning surface of the river multiple times. Finally Johnson managed to break free and make it back to shore where she was treated for multiple contusions on her leg. Most intriguingly she and her friend claimed that her leg was marked with a green, palm-print shape that stained her skin and could not be removed for days.
While Johnson never actually laid eyes on the creature, it was generally assumed that this must be an aquatic entity due to the fact that it never surfaced. This “Green Clawed Beast” has apparently never been encountered again or -- perhaps more frighteningly -- no one else has survived to tell the tale of their encounter with it.
Cryptozoologist Loren Coleman has the distinction of chronicling one of the most bizarre aquatic humanoid cases ever reported in his 1985 book “Curious Encounters.” The beast in question -- which was spotted near Charles Mill Lake in Mansfield, Ohio -- was so strange that it seemed more like a terrifying early design for Sid and Marty Krofft’s “Sigmund the Sea Monster,” than a genuine biological entity. Coleman described the being thusly:
“A green-eyed, seven-foot-tall, seemingly armless humanoid, seen late in March 1959 by Michael Lane, Wayne Armstrong, and Dennis Patterson, came out of the lake and left behind 'tracks that resembled the footgear worn by skin divers.' The thing was seen again in 1963 and described as 'luminous and green-eyed.' 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...”
This description is uncannily similar to a mysterious humanoid which was reported emerging from the underbrush near the Santa Ana River in California on November 8, 1958. This entity was described as being a fluorescent-eyed “thing” with a protuberant mouth and a body covered with scales that resembled “leaves.” While the Charles Mill Lake Monster -- and its California kin -- are arguably the weirdest of their ilk, indisputably the most aggressive of these amphibious fiends is Canada’s notorious "Thetis Lake Monster."
On August 19, 1972, a pair of teens -- Robin Flewellyn and Gordon Pike -- claimed to have been attacked by a silvery scaled, bulbous eyed, spiky headed, fish-faced humanoid, which emerged from Canada’s Thetis Lake and charged at them. The brute even managed to lacerate one of the boy’s hands with its skull spikes before he could slam his car door shut on it. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police were so impressed by the sincerity of the teens’ tale that they immediately launched an investigation into this phenomenon, but, not surprisingly, very little evidence was found at the scene to support their bizarre tale.
Just four days later Mike Gold and Russell Van Nice were fishing on the opposite side of Thetis Lake when they claimed that the same (or identical) creature rose from the murky depths, looked around and then submerged. The twosome did not wait around long enough to see if it would attack them as well.
No one can debate that all of these cases took place following the release of Arnold’s classic creature feature, and it is understandable how -- at first glance -- skeptics might be inclined to dismiss these encounters as nothing more than pop culture induced hysteria or outright hoaxes, but if one inspects the situation a little more thoroughly a very different picture begins to emerge.
First off -- be they stout and frog-like or tall, leafy, green-eyed and armless -- not one of the cryptids described by eyewitnesses overtly resembles the classic image of the "creature." Even the infamous Thetis beast with its silver scales and spiky head shares only the superficial characteristics in common with its alleged cinematic counterpart.
Secondly, accounts of these and similar creatures pre-date the gill man by decades or more. In fact, one of the earliest reports of these bizarre beings comes to us from the Kwakiutl Indians of the Pacific Northwest region of the United States and Southwestern Canada.
According to native legend a race of vicious, razor-toothed, fish-like humanoids known as Pugwis were known to terrorize anyone foolish enough to traipse too close the their watery abode. This, of course, is the same region said to be inhabited by the Thetis Lake creature.
Another pre-Black Lagoon account comes from the October 24, 1878, issue of the Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal. The article states that a “Wild Man of the Woods” was captured in Tennessee and placed on exhibit in Louisville. This beast was described as being nearly 7-feet tall, but -- unlike the prototypical Bigfoot sighting -- it was also sad to have eyes twice the normal size and a body that was “covered in scales.” Sadly, any additional information regarding this beast or its remains has not come to light.
Yet another strange case of a presumably marine humanoid emerges from Saginaw, Michigan. In 1937, a fisherman claimed that a man-like monster scrambled up a river bank, leaned against a tree and then plunged back into the river. The fisherman allegedly suffered a nervous breakdown following this astounding encounter.
While it is difficult to contest the fact that some of these creatures may have been, at least in part, inspired by the cinematic exploits of the Black Lagoon’s deadliest denizen, it seems dubious -- if not downright implausible -- that the majority of them are merely the byproduct of the hype surrounding this famous fish man. One would be remiss not to consider the -- admittedly slim -- chance that mammals were not the only class of animals to adopt bipedal, primate like attributes, and that at least some of these creatures might represent an alternate, marine based humanoid evolution… a genuine aquatic ape perhaps?
Whether these critters are the product of misidentification, man-made myths or genuine evolutionary offshoots remains to be discovered, but for those who claim to have had a brush with one of them in the gloomy depths of some backwater slough, theses beasts are all too real.