Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency Year Three: Case File No. 23-127
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Where We Left Off:
A member of the underground Resistance against Trump and his cronies was caught infiltrating his golf club. She took off through New Jersey and careened into our wall on her way to a safe house.
At the end of our fiscal year two, we revealed one of our most peculiar cases: Love’s Land Frog. We took the name from the Loveland Frogman of Ohio. Back then, we weren’t sure if we were dealing with a frog or toad. It too traumatic to worry about at the time with Oliver having it in his mouth and then foaming like he had rabies. We named his antagonist Amanda Seyfrog and set her free outside.
Then we kept noticing more of these creatures around the estate. We’d see baby ones hopping in the grass. We found a couple dead ones in the private road. They wanted nothing to do with us. That is, until Gus and I literally stumbled upon the largest one we’d ever seen.
We had been investigating the death of a large toad specimen. Apparently our movements were being carefully monitored. I was busy looking at my phone to research the popular frogs and toads of New Jersey when Gus quickly left my side. He was quite finished examining the deceased creature and wanted to go in search of something living. I took the photos and followed him up to the workshop. Since he seemed fine on his own poking around the buildings, I went back to my phone screen. Out there, I don’t always get a signal so while I was waiting for a page to load, I looked down on the ground and happened to notice a circular patch of dirt in the grass.
That was odd in and of itself. I didn’t think the truck tires would leave a perfectly circular shape if they caught the grass and made a tire track. It took me at least a half of a minute to realize that I wasn’t looking at a tire track at all. There was the biggest, most enormous toad creature I have ever seen and it was sitting in the middle of this dirt patch. It blended in so well that I could have tripped over it or rather, into it.
The page that was loading showed the tale of the Wuhnan Toads of China. These aren’t cryptids as far as I can tell. They are pale toads of substantial size who live in deep water. They have been known to chase trespassers who are troublesome or insensitive to the land such as fisherman who throw dynamite into the water. Due to their pale features, they have sometimes been cataloged as albino, but there’s no scientific data to back that up. Pale can mean many things too. Did you know that the word “pink” was originally any pale shade then ended up being a shade of ugly green before language changed it be light red? There was brown-pink and green-pink, etc. These toads may as well have been called pink if they had been seen by posh Brits. Who knows? But the toads we encountered were not albino.
Since there are plenty of animals (and likely many not discovered) that appear in one part of the world but not another, the Wuhnan Toads could possibly be something like that. We have black bears, but they have sun bears. Similar, but different.
The American Toad requires a wetland habitat so why the hell would those be in our yard? We don’t even have a pond or a moat (though I’ve requested one numerous times). My research also revealed some educational information on the common myths:
- Toads cannot give you warts. Thank goodness, I have enough bumpy things on my skin already.
- Toads are poisonous. Okay so this one is actually TRUE!
“However, they have glands just behind their eyes that when pressed will secrete a milky-white substance that can severely harm someone if ingested. This may not be a danger to most people, as most humans have no interest in putting toads in their mouths, but it is a concern for dogs. Dogs very typically love to grab strange objects with their mouths, which applies enough pressure to a toad’s glands to excrete their poison. This can be very detrimental to a canine’s health and can even kill them.” –conservewildlifenj.org
So these creatures do have the same effect as whatever the cats and I have discovered. Given their “taste tests” we have multiple eyewitness accounts of the cats foaming at the mouth. As far as other reactions: Oliver choked up his toad, but Gus merely walked away from his. We kept a close watch on Oliver that day, but I was less worried about Gus since this was our second not-so-clinical trial of Toad tasting. Gus let the creature go and then he walked over to me as if nothing was wrong — as if he didn’t have a mouth and face covered in white foam looking like he was dunked in a cappuccino.
No other adverse effects were noted from Gus’ experiment.
That sent me back into research mode. We have some drainage issues where water does form a trickle down one border of the yard, but that’s only when snow is melting or if there’s been a heavy rain. Without so much as a little pond, I couldn’t see how American Toads would have such a large population here. Are occasional puddles enough? I’m thinking these particular toads are more resilient and adaptable than the average American Toad.
In the Middle Ages the toad was a witch’s animal, i.e. a demonic helper of a witch. In 1580 a witch was burned in Steiermark, Germany and the watchful executioner noticed an extraordinarily large toad rushing straight towards the water. Needless to say, it was the escaping demon. (Petzoldt 1990: 116.) G. L. Kittredge describes the beliefs about toads in medieval England: “The Devil, who squat like a toad at the ear of Mother Eve in Eden, is always at hand in the churchyard after service, waiting in that guise for some evil-minded communicant to feed him with a bit of the consecrated wafer: whoever thus sacrifices to Satan will straightway become a witch or wizard. The relation of witches to toads (or frogs) is notorious; and, like everything else in this department of superstition, it is founded on fact. Toads are not uncommon in earth-floored huts, and doubtless they were sometimes petted by solitary old women who, esteemed as witches, regarded themselves as such and thought the creatures were really imps or demons. Anyhow, toad-familiars are as commonplace as cats.” (Kittredge 1929:181-182.) — all-creatures.org
We see that tales of toads and also snakes and frogs go back throughout history. They took the spotlight particularly in the Middle Ages when magic was prevalent and literacy slightly more commonplace. The written word is an excellent way to spread true or false information as we know from Facebook. The all-creatures article goes to point out another fascinating piece of lore:
The toad as well as the snake (serpent) occur among the manifestations of the Devil in the exempla of medieval sermons (IE 1557, 1562, 1563, 2738, 4882). Both creatures have a somewhat devilish status also in Estonian folk religion, which is reflected in the widespread belief that killing those animals is a pious act for which a certain number of sins will be forgiven:
He who kills a viper will be forgiven the sins of one day, but he who kills a toad will be forgiven the sins of nine days. HII 20, 716 (10) < Vändra – H. Mett (1889).
If you kill a toad, you will be forgiven nine sins. The toad is the animal of the Evil Spirit (kurivaim). ERA II188,191 (43) < Lääne-Nigula < Martna – E. Ennist (1938).
One can see how a Get Out of Jail Free card for nine sins is huge deal. Middle Age Europeans had a lot more passivity about killing animals when they had to do their own hunting and skinning to make daily meals. Squashing a toad now and then was probably not that hard.
Even in more recent sources from the early 20th century, folklore held that a toad entering the house signified an enemy nearby or that misfortune would come calling soon. — hypnogoria
The folklore site Hypnogoria reveals that some people would absolutely not kill frogs or toads when they entered a house because they were witch’s familiars (most likely). Those people were afraid of revenge curses in my opinion and not in awe as Hypnogoria states. Who knows for sure? Unless you have a time machine and can travel to Europe, we won’t know. The article has incredible details of the fear of toads bringing sickness and even devouring people.
Who among us Gen-X pop culture nerds can forget the scene in Practical Magic when toads plagued Jillian because of her abusive bastard of an ex-boyfriend? Sally and all the townswomen had to herd the toads from the house and garden. (PS – why the hell isn’t there a gif of that now that I need it?)
Our toads are large. Light olive/tan coloring but certainly not albino. They emit a toxic substance strong enough to ward of felines when bitten. They are growing in numbers in a woody area without a water source other than occasional rain, snow, and puddles. We have some unanswered questions.
- Is their presence an unexpected side effect of the Frankenmason rituals?
- Did we accidentally summon them in our pagan rites? Oliver denies this.
- Are they a portent of an enemy approaching us to bring us harm? Let’s hope not. I’m just beginning to feel like I have a modicum of normalcy. Maybe they’re just passing through on their way to someone else’s house.
Case Status: Open
We have to be vigilant in our observations and check in with our CIs to see if we can determine the cause of death of the toad in the road and then determine if it is a criminal matter. Oliver and Gus believe we are most likely dealing with something of a supernatural case rather than an earthly predator-prey killing.