Ohio, named after the Iroquois word “ohi-yo” meaning “large creek,” lies in the Midwestern United States. It’s home to a number of firsts, such as America’s first automobile (built by John Lambert in 1891), the first use of x-rays in surgery in 1896, Superman (by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in 1933) and the invention of the pop-top can in the 1960s. Eight presidents were either born in Ohio, or lived there when they were elected. Along with presidents, Ohio produced movie directors Steven Spielberg and Wes Craven, first man on the moon Neil Armstrong, inventor Thomas Edison, author Toni Morrison, actors Clark Gable, and Jim “Thurston Howell III” Backus, and murderer Charles Manson (who also wrote the first draft of the Beach Boys song “Never Learn Not to Love"). Ohio isn’t a big state, the 34th largest, but it ranks seventh in population. Rolling plains make up most of Ohio, topped off by the Appalachian Plateau consisting of hills and valleys. Three hundred twelve miles of Lake Erie shoreline stretch across two-thirds of the northern section of the state. More than 8.1 million acres of Ohio lay under the cover of trees. That’s a lot of room to hide, oh I don’t know, Bigfoot, maybe?
Although stories of hairy men in the forests of Ohio go back to the native Indians, the first written report appeared in newspapers in 1869 entitled “A Gorilla in Ohio.” The creature apparently pounced upon a wagon, and attacked the driver. The man’s daughter, who was also in the wagon, struck the creature in the ear with a rock, and it fled.
Although scattered reports continued over the years, the sighting of a seven-foot-tall, 300-pound, hairy ape-like creature near Minerva in 1978 brought the Ohio Grassman to national attention. A group of children claimed to see the creature in a gravel pit. The sightings soon became regular. Evelyn Clayton, the grandmother of the children who made the initial claim, saw the creature picking through garbage in broad daylight, although she couldn’t see any features through the thick mat of hair over its face.
The Clayton family continued to see the creature. On 21 August of that year, the Claytons saw what they called “panthers” in their yard, right before an enormous upright creature stepped in front of the cats. The Clayton’s went inside to grab firearms when one of them saw the monster leering through a kitchen window. When they went outside with the guns, the hairy creature was gone, although it left a horrendous stench.
The Claytons and neighbors continued to see the creature at night, and during the day. Authorities searching the area found two dogs with snapped necks. Bigfoot investigators discovered large footprints, and grassy nests where they said the creature bedded down, giving the legendary creature the name Grassman.
Another rash of sightings of the creature occurred in the summer of 1980, although nothing has rivaled the encounters of 1978.
Mill Lake Monster
This beast was seen only once, way back in 1959, and the three teens that encountered it were happy it stayed put.
Charles Mill Lake at Charles Mill Lake Park is a man-made reservoir built in the 1930s by damming the Black Fork River. It’s a popular area for fishing, boating, and hunting. On 28 March 1959, three friends, Michael Lane, Dennis Patterson, and Wayne Armstrong, were at the lake when a creature they claimed was at least seven feet tall, rose straight up from the water, and approached them. They described the beast as humanoid, but without arms. It had glowing green eyes, and huge webbed feet. Terrified, they drove off, and straight to local law enforcement to report the encounter.
Police found tracks at the spot where the boys saw the being. The prints looked like they had been made with swim fins. The monster, however, was long gone. And that would be the end of The Mill Lake Monster except for a brief report by cryptozoologist Loren Coleman in his book “Curious Encounters,” where he states simply a humanoid, green-eyed monster was seen at the lake in 1963.
If there’s a monster at Charles Mill Lake Reservoir, at least it’s not lonely. In 1963, a number of witnesses reported seeing an eleven-foot-tall, 1,000-pound ape-like creature at the park that’s eyes glowed orange. Local legend has it the monster once lived in a tunnel beneath a nearby cemetery, but when a highway came through in the 1940s, it had to look for somewhere else to live. And it wasn’t happy about it.
Another sighting came in 1968 when children saw the monster in the woods, but that about did it for Orange Eyes. The beast showed itself to two fishermen in 1991 before it faded into obscurity.
In 1955, a man driving near the Miami River near Loveland just before 4 a.m. saw three human-like figures on the side of the road. He pulled over to help them, then realized what he saw. They were creatures about four feet tall with webbed hands and feet, and green, leather-like skin. The faces of the beasts looked like frogs. The largest frogman held some kind of wand over its head, which began spitting sparks. The driver hit the accelerator, and sped away.
That wasn’t the only encounter with the frogmen.
In 1972, a Loveland police officer driving on a lonely road was startled when a creature about three feet tall jumped from the side of the road, and dashed to the other side on two legs. It jumped over the guardrail, and into the Miami River. Soon after, another police officer stopped to move what he thought was a dead animal from the road, when the lump leaped up, and ran. The officer shot and wounded the beast, although it, too escaped into the river.
With so much shoreline on a body of water as big as Lake Erie, there’s bound to be a monster in there somewhere. With a surface area of 9,940 square miles, Lake Erie is big. Really, really big.
The first sighting of Bessie dates back to 1793, when the captain of the ship Felicity saw an enormous snake-like head emerge from the surface of Lake Erie. The neck alone he estimated to be more than sixteen feet long. In 1817, another ship saw a forty-foot-long sea serpent, and yet another that same year saw one estimated to be sixty feet long.
The entire crew of a ship heading to Toledo, Ohio, in 1892 saw a sea serpent that appeared to be “wrestling … as if fighting with an unseen foe.” They said the monster was about fifty feet long, with brown skin and large flippers.
Sightings continued into the 20th century, with some of the most recent being in 1993. A $100,000 reward for the capture of Bessie has been on the table for years, although Bessie remains a free serpent.
People in Gallipolis, Ohio, saw a man-sized humanoid bird between November 1966 and December 1967. A newspaper reporter dubbed the creature Mothman, and it’s been the subject of books, a 2002 movie staring Richard Gere, and an annual festival. I don’t want to discount Ohio’s part in the Mothman story, so I’m bringing it up here. However, the entity is more associated with Point Pleasant, West Virginia, so we’ll revisit Mothman in exactly thirteen states. Stay tuned.
Up next: Oklahoma.