Crosswick, Ohio is a quiet village. Located just on the outskirts of Waynesville, Crosswick is paper town, a planned development that never quite took off.
Its sole claim to fame is a mystery that has captured imaginations for more than a hundred years.
In May 1882, several residents of this tiny town experienced a strange encounter with a huge, angry, bipedal lizard. The incident was even reported in an article in the Cincinnati Enquirer on May 29, 1882.
That May, Ed and Joe Lynch were fishing on a small creek on the south side of the village when they heard a stirring in the reeds of the bank. Upon closer inspection, the boys found the source of the noise to be a 30-foot-long black and white “snake with legs” with yellow spots.
They became understandably terrified and fled the scene immediately, the creature following. Poor Joe didn’t get far when the animal lashed out and grabbed him, dragging him about 100 yards into a large, hollow sycamore tree 26 feet in diameter with a gaping hole on one of its sides.
Luckily, the boy’s screaming was heard by three men — the Rev. Jacob Horn, George Peterson and Allen Jordan — who came to Joe’s rescue.
The creature, which some described at the time as a salamander, was still holding the boy when it heard the shouts and saw the quickly advancing men.
It dropped Joe from its clutches and fled. The animal slithered into the tree and the men turned their attention to the badly injured Joe.
Dr. L.C. Lukens of Waynesville was summoned to aid Joe while the three men gathered a posse to find and destroy the lizard monster.
A group of 60 men from Crosswick was assembled and armed with clubs, dogs, and anything they could get their hands on. Together they marched to the old sycamore, armed and ready to defend Crosswick from the huge salamander creature.
When they arrived, they began hacking the tree open with a hatchet.
Out of the dying tree sprung a reptilian beast, which slithered away, leading the mob of farmers on a chase through the hills. They followed the salamander to what they assumed was its home, a large pile of rocks, where it disappeared in a hole, never to be seen again.
The crowd went home, and the creature didn’t attempt to steal any more children from that point forward.
Ed received the medical attention he needed, suffering some minor cuts and bruises. Dr. Lukens told the Cincinnati Enquirer that the boy was in severe shock and had some spasms and convulsions, which is to be expected when a 30-foot reptile drags you away to its lair.
Ed eventually returned home safe and sound, but probably didn’t go fishing for a long time after that. He later left the state because of the constant inquiries about his experiences.
If you’ve read my previous articles, you’ll remember the mysterious case of the Highland County “Whatchumacalit.”
In that particular case, I believed it to be a “Silly Season” story, the product of a bored journalist and not an account of true events.
The differences in this story are significant. For starters, there are many names of prominent figures in the community, people who were trusted and in high positions.
The doctor, L.C. Lukens, was a reliable professional, and the Rev. Jacob Horn was a member of the church, a huge part of Crosswick during that time period. George Peterson and Allen Jordan were respected members of the community.
There was also a group of 60 men, and although we don’t know the individual identities of each one, such a bold claim in a newspaper viewed by so many had to be accurate or it would receive backlash and accusations that would tarnish its reputation.
Such reliable witnesses and reporting from a recognized newspaper lend this story real credibility and deepen the mystery of the Crosswick Monster.
This September I took a trip to Crosswick to see in person the location where the creature was spotted. The day I visited, the sun was setting and the residents of Waynesville were busy hosting the annual Sauerkraut Festival.
The creek running through Crosswick was easy to spot. I searched for the notorious tree stump, but most of the land there is privately owned, and it’s unlikely that it is still standing after more than a hundred years.
I found several deep spots in the stream, a place where fishing may have been possible for the boys. I didn’t encounter any giant salamanders, but seeing the eerie, densely wooded area and the town of Crosswick, I can imagine the terror Ed and Joe felt facing the strange beast that spring day in 1882.
What truly happened in Crosswick during the spring of 1882 is a mystery — one that has captured the imagination of newspapers, residents … and myself.
Isabella Warner is a freshman at Fairfield Local High School in Leesburg.