It was a very hot summer in Evansville, Indiana in 1955. Several days of humid 95-degree unrelenting heat had driven local residents out of their homes, which were, at that time, not air-conditioned. They found relief anywhere they could and that's what sent Naomi Johnson, her three children, and Naomi's friend Louise Lamble to the Dogtown area of West Evansville to swim in the cool water of the Ohio River. It was August 21, 1955.
The Ohio can look intimidating and sometimes a bit frightening. However, the big river is only about 15 feet deep at Evansville and after it turns north and makes the big loop downtown and heads south, it's moving at only about a mile an hour. That made the Dogtown area of the river very smooth and welcoming on that hot summer day.
Naomi Johnson paddled in the calm water about 15 feet from the shore while her children sat with her friend, who was catching a few rays on the shore. The scene couldn't have been any more peaceful. And then it happened...
Naomi suddenly arched her back and began splashing the water. Something had wrapped around her knee! It felt like a very large hand. She would later describe it as "hairy and claw-like." Whatever it was pulled her under the surface, where she kicked it away and bobbed back to the top of the water. She took a huge breath and screamed just before the creature again latched onto her leg from behind. Naomi was able to grab an innertube that the ladies were using as a float. As she tried to climb on board, Naomi pulled away from the creature's grasp and made it the few feet to the shore.
Naomi Johnson was safe and, when medical help arrived, she was treated for cuts and scratches on her lower leg but authorities could not remove a strange blue-green stain. The impression was approximately the size and shape of a large hand and remained on Mrs. Johnson's leg for several days.
So what was the creature that grabbed Naomi that hot summer day in 1955?
If you are looking for a logical explanation, you might consider the garfish. These prehistoric-looking brutes can grow very big and can possibly end up in the Ohio. Some very large ones were seen in the 1950s near Evansville.
You may have heard other "big fish" stories about Ohio River catfish as big as Volkswagens. Well, officially the biggest catfish ever caught at Evansville weighed 104 pounds. I can bear testament that a catfish can cause some serious damage when it gets in a fight with you.
There is another thought about what the ladies saw that hot day in 1955. One of the most popular movies of that era was released in 1954. It was one of the first good 3-D movies, "The Creature From the Black Lagoon," which the two ladies may have seen. In that flick, a huge green monster with claw-like hands attacks a young woman while she swims near the surface. If the ladies missed that one, then the sequel, "Revenge of the Creature" had just been released a few weeks before the Dogtown adventure.
That's the story that's come down through the decades as an urban legend in Southern Indiana, the Green Clawed Beast. According to the ObscUrban Legend Wikia,
A short time later [after the sighting], a man claiming to be an air force colonel came to the Johnson's house and instructed Naomi to never speak of the incident. There have been no reported sightings since.
Maybe a piece of driftwood, a catfish or gar, teamed up with the memory of one of these movies, and a vivid imagination had something to do with the events of that day.
Oh, there's one more interesting occurrence on August 21,1955. The famous alien invasion just outside of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, took place on that same day. But that's a story for another time. You might Google "August 21, 1955 Hopkinsville alien invasion" if you want to try putting the "green clawed monster" and "little gray men of Hopkinsville" together.