The Ohio River and its many tributaries are a hotbed of odd (and occasionally dangerous) cryptozoological activity, but one of the weirdest creatures ever to have emerged from their murky depths has got to be this hulking, gray-skinned, quasi-cephalopod, which at least five terrified eyewitness claimed to have seen in during the winter of 1959.
The world at large first learned about this moist monstrosity on January 29th, 1959, in article published in the Cincinnati Post & Times-Star tantalizingly titled: “What Is It? ‘Monster’ Churns Up the Ohio.” Beneath it the equally intriguing sub-heading read: “Anyone missing an ‘indescribable monster’ that swims?”
Thus begins the fascinating (and all too short) saga of the insidious (yet little known) “Indescribable Octo-Man.”
Often — and inexplicably — lumped in with HAIRY HOMINID accounts from the same region and era, this ostensibly amphibious beast was first reported to Ohio’s Clermont County and New Richmond police by an unnamed man who claimed that “something came out of the river” approximately 4-miles from New Richmond. According to the spooked eyewitness, the alien life-form he saw was utterly “indescribable.”
Needless to say police took this anonymous report with a proverbial grain of salt, but they changed their tune when a second concerned caller — this time a truck driver en route to Indianapolis — phoned from a gas station located on Kellogg Ave. near a bridge on the Little Miami River. The trucker claimed that as he drove from Mt. Washington toward Cincinnati he had spied an UNCLASSIFIED entity unlike anything he had ever seen:
“It came up out of the water. I can’t describe it and I have never seen anything like it before. All I want to do is get out of here and get on to Indianapolis.”
In the first of two stories published by the Cincinnati Post & Times-Star regarding this inscrutable creature, a dispatcher from Station X — the code for one sergeant and a radio operator, housed at Central Station in City Hall, Cincinnati — confirmed that the voices of both witnesses were distinct and he even went on to state:
“We didn’t do anything after the first call. After the second one, we asked Hamilton County police if they had heard about it. We both sent cars out after 4 a.m.. and chased ghosts for a couple of hours, but we didn’t find anything.”
Of course, just because local police were pursuing the case doesn’t mean that they took it seriously. In fact another (again unnamed) officer sarcastically speculated that this “thing” might be from OUT OF THIS WORLD when he was quoted as saying “it really was a riot here. We kept waiting for someone to say ‘take me to your leader.’”
Regardless of how amused some officers were by the rampant “monster” reports, most of the dispatchers who responded to the witnesses’ calls — including one Frank B. Heisler — agreed that those making the reports sounded legitimately “shaken” and sober.
As if this situation were not already strange enough; right after the creature reports started filtering in, all of the streetlamps along Kellogg Ave. — from Lunken Airport to Coney Island (Ohio) — were extinguished simultaneously. The newspaper report stated:
“Police say the lights are on two different circuits, and that so far they have been unable to find why the lights went out.”
While many of the officers were disdainful of the entire affair, some of their more diligent cohorts were in the field; legitimately concerned that what folks were reporting was not a monster, but a victim of an automobile accident. According to the Thursday newspaper account:
“Cincinnati police for a time thought maybe someone had an auto accident, hit a pole, and rolled over in the mud. This would explain why the lights went out along Kellogg Ave. and what was seen coming up out of the water, but they were unable to find any broken poles.”
The following day, on January 30th, 1959, the Cincinnati Post & Times-Star once again fed the creature hungry public more details about the roving monstrosity. This article was titled: “Driver Swears It Happened: River Monster Takes a Stroll On Bridge.”
The piece went on to report that “high winds” had caused the power outage, despite the fact that the police had already revealed that the lights were “on two different circuits.” They also stated that additional reports of the monster came in early on Friday:
“Reported sightings of the ‘monster’ at various points flowed in Friday to police of Cincinnati, New Richmond, Clermont and Hamilton Counties. Hamilton County officers spent two hours chasing ghosts along the Ohio and Little Miami Rivers. Street lights went out in parts of eastern Cincinnati about the same time adding to the eeriness. But the Cincinnati Gas and Electric Co. says it was a power failure caused by high winds.”
The January 30th article also included testimony from a man who was identified simply as a “scientist.” The scientist asserted that on the morning following the uproar he was driving across the Licking River — a tributary of the Ohio River than flows into Kentucky — when “something leaped on the bridge.” The newspaper published his full description:
“It was large, not a dog or a cat. It leaped in front of my car and on two legs and was taller than the auto. When I looked back in my mirror, it was moving along the bridge rail. It was three or four times the size of a man and much bulkier. I have an eye and mind for dimensions and I know it was huge.”
That same morning or perhaps the night before — the accounts are exasperatingly sketchy about correlating specific times and sightings — a young woman claimed to have seen “the thing” in a creek near the Fort Thomas pumping station, near the Ohio River in Kentucky. She was the first witness to compare the creature to an octopus:
“It was like an octopus. It came up and then moved down.”
Considering the lack of specific details reported in local papers, it is difficult to discern just what this witness saw that compelled her to compare it to an octopus. Did the beast have tentacles, a bulbous octopoid-head or both (or additional) attributes? Unless the eyewitness comes forward, we’ll likely never know for sure.
Another unidentified woman — who may or may not have been entirely serious — allegedly shouted at a Cincinnati Post & Times-Star reporter: “We saw that thing this morning. Now you gonna put my name in the paper and call me a crack pot?”
The same day, less than 5-miles away in Covington, Kentucky, another woman — who clearly saw the creature — gave what is by far the most thorough description of the creature in question. Sadly, her story would not be published for nearly 20-years.
According to respected cryptozoologist LOREN COLEMAN, all public accounts of this monster dried up until nearly two decades later when ufologist and Bigfoot investigator, Dennis Pilchis, published a booklet titled: “Bigfoot: Tales of Unexplained Creatures” in 1978. Pilchis, a native of Rome, Ohio — who may have had access to local witnesses — added some essential details regarding the creature, which were not covered in the newspaper accounts of the sightings. Pilchis wrote that the woman from Covington saw the thing “bent over” and that she went on to describe a:
“Strange grayish creature with a lopsided chest, ‘ugly’ tentacles, and rolls of fat running horizontally over a bald head.”
With cellulite lobes running up its bare skull, this slimy, shuffling, colossal mass of organic matter must have been a traumatizing sight to behold. A testament to just how frightening this brief flap was (especially to the children of the region) was published in the Cincinnati Post & Times-Star. In it they stated that an 11-year old phoned to ask if the “green men really are coming out of the river in groups of twelve as his teacher said they were.”
By Saturday the police said the phone calls had ceased and that “the monster has left town.” But that declaration might have been a little premature.
In 1982‘s “The Bigfoot Casebook,” authors Janet and Colin Bord report that a motorist by the name of George Wagner claimed to have seen a huge two-legged creature walking on a bridge over the Ohio River sometime in February of 1959, near Covington, Kentucky. One can only assume that this was early in February.
With that final report, the malformed, hairless, tendril bearing, bipedal behemoth seemed to have vanished off the face of the Earth… or perhaps it just slipped back into the into the muddy depths of the Ohio River — or one of its seemingly innumerable tributaries — just waiting for a time when it can rise a again to wreak havoc.
In the thick of the monster panic, the Clermont County dispatcher, Heisler, speculated that the eyewitnesses might have “seen a tree bobbing up and down in the water.” The “tree bobbing” theory was shared by local dam lock-man, William Sprague:
“I’ve been on duty since midnight. I look out over the river a good deal of the time and I never saw a thing… the winds was strong all night and it whipped up waves six to eight-feet high. That could fool a man. The wind tore a lot of driftwood loose too. I’ve been out on the river at night and the trees floating by in a dim light look spooky.”
Sprague’s seemingly plausible “driftwood” supposition might help to explain the youthful lady’s Fort Thomas surging “octopus” sighting, but it clearly does not take into account the facts that neither trees nor waves have feet, fat rolls or tentacles. Nor does it address the testimony of the eyewitness who saw it jump onto a bridge.
When all is said and done, the three big questions that both modern investigators and the eyewitnesses were faced with are:
“What was it that five (or possibly six) apparently unrelated observers saw in the wee hours of that icy winter’s eve? Where did this thing come from? And, perhaps most intriguingly, why has it never been seen either before or since?”
Is this some kind of amphibious animal hitherto unknown to science that was able to burrow deep into the river mud and hibernate undetected for inordinately long stretches of time? This might explain why sightings are so rare, but if the Octo-Man were ectothermic, with a body temperature that fluctuated wildly depending on the environment, then why would it have lurched out of the river in the dead of winter?
Descriptions of this ostensibly HYBRID BEAST are not entirely unlike those of the hairy, upright and diminutive (by comparison) cephalopodan critter — lovingly dubbed OCTO-SQUATCH by your friends here at American Monsters — which was allegedly seen by a pair of eyewitness in Spain less than two years after the Octo-Man encounters. That having been said, the fact that this shaggy, big-eyed varmint was said to be just over 3-feet tall and smothered with a thick coat of rust- colored hair pretty much negates and further comparisons.
There is also the intriguing possibility that this lumbering aberration of nature might be a combination of animal and plant tissue. This is considered to be a biological impossibility, but there are rare cases — such as the Florida MOSS MAN — that seem to indicate the very real possibility of human-animal-plant hybrids lurking in vast uncharted swamps and other remote waterlogged regions of the world.
The fact that this creature was seen by so many witnesses in such a brief window of time has also led some to speculate that it might just be a lost alien. They surmise that the creature’s craft may have crashed into a larger body of water and that the stranded “thing” — not unlike poor E.T. — was just looking for a way to contact home. The dearth of local UFO sightings that night, combined with the lack of a any reported air crashes in the area, seem to pretty well wrap that theory up.
More terrestrial minded folks — including a handful of crypto-authors like John Green, writer of “Sasquatch: The Apes Among Us” (1981) and the aforementioned Colin and Janet Bord — have lumped these sightings in with more traditional BIGFOOT reports, but based on the witness descriptions of a lopsided, hairless, octopus-like beast, it would seem that this deduction is, at best, counterintuitive.
Another, perhaps more plausible, hypothesis is that this huge creature might be linked to tales of the terrifying, yet skittish, LOVELAND FROGMEN. The first sighting of these creatures occurred in 1955, when an unnamed business man claimed to have witnessed three, bipedal, semi-amphibious creatures assembled by the side of a road that travels along the Little Miami River.
These strange beings stood between 3 and 4-feet tall, were covered with leathery skin, and had webbed hands and feet. Their most distinguishing characteristic, however, was their distinctly “frog-like” heads, which the man claimed bore “deep wrinkles.”
The report of “deep wrinkles” on the foreheads of the Loveland Frogmen invite inevitable comparisons to the horizontal “rolls of fat” described by the Octo-Man witness during the Covington encounter. Another Frogmen observer claimed that the critters had “pale greenish-gray” flesh, this also corresponds roughly to the description given by one of the Covington witnesses.
Alas, all Frogmen reports state that the animals were no more than 4-feet tall. This stands in stark contrast to the Licking River witness who claimed that the thing he saw was “three or four times the size of a man and much bulkier.” Still, one can’t help but wonder whether or not the infamous Octa-Man might possibly be at least a distant cousin to these frog-like fiends.
Arguably the most dangerous Ohio River cryptid on record is the notorious GREEN CLAWED BEAST. On August 21, 1955, Naomi Johnson — While enjoying a leisurely swim with a friend — had a terrifying encounter with what she believed was a hideous creature beneath the surface of the Ohio River near Evansville, Indiana. Johnson (and the other witnesses at the scene) swore that she was suddenly clutched around her knee and dragged beneath the waves by a large, claw-like hand, which left an imprint that lasted for days.
Unfortunately Johnson never got a good look at the creature, as it remained submerged in the murky river water for the duration of the attack. Needless to say, she never swam in the Ohio River again.
While there is no hard (or even circumstantial) evidence to link the Octo-Man with the unseen creature that grabbed the recreational swimmer in 1955, it’s difficult not to at least entertain the possibility that this tentacled terror — seen both in and out of the Ohio, Little Miami and Licking rivers just 4-years later — may have been responsible for the aquatic assault.
On a more fanciful note; as I delved deeper and deeper into this intriguing case, I began to wonder if reports of this gargantuan gray varmint might have inspired one of the coolest cinematic mutations ever to lurch across a drive-in movie screen during the halcyon days of schlock-sploitation known as the 1970s.
I am, of course, referring to 1971’s “not-so classic” movie monster “Octoman,” which was created by the inimitable special effects guru Rick Baker no less! This bizarre, bipedal offshoot of an octopus and a human being both delighted and scared the hell out of me as a kid when I caught it on a Saturday afternoon creature feature, and years later it inexorably reminded me of “Indescribable Octo-Man” — hence I use it as a frame of reference when I created my own interpretation of this mysterious monstrosity seen here.
At this point I’d like to make a plea to anyone reading these words:
If you know anybody who claims to have seen this creature or even possess second-hand accounts from those who have passed on or are unwilling to reveal their identity — we implore you to send them in to us! We will not reveal the names of our sources unless given permission to do so. Cases like this are simply too fascinating to allow them to slip through the cracks or languish in the nebulous world of rumors, hearsay and old newspaper clippings!
Thanks and as ever… keep your eyes peeled!
Also, I would be remiss if I did not offer a hearty “cheers” to UFO investigator Patrick Gross for cataloging some phenomenal info regarding this truly unusual cryptid.
Rob Morphy is an artist / journalist / filmmaker / designer / crypto chronicler / pod host / cult movie lover and co-founder of American Monsters.