Monday, September 29, 2014

Author James Renner offers tour of Ohio’s weird and wonderful at Mentor Library

Have you ever heard of the Melon Heads, the hydrocephalic test experiments that supposedly still lurk in Kirtland woods? Or the Loveland Frog, the 4-foot-tall amphibian that’s haunted the banks of the Miami River since the time of the Twightwee Indians?

Author and journalist James Renner spent years collecting stories about the weird and wonderful denizens of this state for his book, It Came from Ohio: True Tales of the Weird, Wild and Unexplained.

In anticipation of his talk, Renner was kind enough to answer a few questions about his book, his interest in the unusual, and things that go bump in the night.

Q: What about the abnormal and macabre interests you?
A: There are a handful of moments in every person's life that cannot be explained. I am fascinated by these stories and how they alter the course of someone's life. How do we explain the unexplainable when we tell the story to someone, later? What is the little pearl of truth hiding inside?

Q: You've written both fiction and nonfiction. Where does It Came from Ohio fall in that dichotomy?
A: It Came from Ohio is 100% nonfiction, in that these are stories collected from people across Ohio who firmly believe they have encountered frogmen and Bigfoot and UFOs. I research each case from the point of view of a journalist but it's up to the reader to ultimately decide whether Mothman really exists or whether it could just be a giant, angry owl.

Q: When did you start compiling the stories from It Came from Ohio?
A: I wrote crime stories for about 10 years and really wanted to do something a little more fun. I noticed that the people I interviewed about crime always had some other story they wanted to tell, now that someone was listening. And usually that story was about the strangest thing that had ever happened to them. I started jotting those stories down in my notepad. Eventually I had enough to put this little book together.

Q: Do you have a favorite story in It Came from Ohio?
A: Definitely the story about the Loveland Frog. Back in the 70's, a couple cops outside Cincinnati saw a half-man/half-frog creature on the banks of the Miami River. When I researched the local history, I found a story passed down from the Twightwee Indians who once lived in the area, about a monster called the Shawnahook. 400 years ago, the Indians also saw a frogman in the river. That gives me goosebumps. What in the world was it?

Q: I suspect people have been sharing their own unusual tales with you since you published It Came from Ohio. Is there a possibility of a sequel?
A: I love a good scary story and am compelled to go looking for monsters if you tell me where to go.

Come to the Mentor Library on Oct. 13 to hear more stories about the unusual creatures that reside in Renner’s Ohio. People can register for his talk on Mentor Library's website or by calling 440-255-8811 ext. 216.

Renner will also have copies of It Came from Ohio available for sale on Oct. 13 at Mentor Library, and he will sign them after his program.

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