"South Bay Bessie"
Ohio Life

‘Ohio: An Unnatural History’ in Fremont

This special exhibition at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library and Museums examines the role folklore plays in our lives. 

From South Bay Bessie to the Loveland Frog, creatures that have long lurked in Ohioans’ imaginations come to life at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library & Museums. “Ohio: An Unnatural History” delves into the role of folklore in our culture.

“We’ve done a good job of explaining what’s in the world and how it works, but there are still a lot of areas that we haven’t explored, and we don’t fully understand yet,” says museum curator of artifacts Kevin Moore. “Part of being human is wanting to fill in those gaps, and I think for a lot of people that’s what folklore does.”

In assembling the exhibition, which runs through Oct. 31, 2021, Moore called on Dan Chudzinski — an artist, film-industry creature designer and curator of the University of Findlay’s Mazza Museum — to depict each cryptid through life-size, photo-realistic renderings. Chudzinski drew inspiration from first-person accounts, police reports and newspaper articles, as well as his experience working at the Toledo Zoo & Aquarium. In addition to South Bay Bessie and the Loveland Frog, the 12 supernatural legends featured in “Ohio: An Unnatural History” include the Dog Man of Defiance, Mothman and the Ohio Grassman, a regional equivalent of Bigfoot or Sasquatch that’s described as standing 7 feet tall and weighing more than 300 pounds.

“The closest thing that I knew to [the Ohio Grassman] was a silverback gorilla at the Toledo Zoo, who I’ve known for about 18 years now, named Kwiasha,” Chudzinski says. “Kwiasha is at least 6’3” when he stands up completely, and he’s probably close to 500 pounds. He’s incredibly imposing even when he’s just relaxing.” 

Spiegel Grove, Fremont 43420, 419/332-2081, rbhayes.org