Frognapped? In Rock Hill? It’s possible in a city where a hot dog sign was stolen years ago and never found.
Whatever happened to the nattily-attired, 7-foot green frog Brenda Warner created from PVC pipe and foam – that stood on Oakland Avenue, greeted motorists, amused neighboring business owners and attracted visitors to the antiques shop Warner owns with a friend – remains a mystery.
Warner says the frog was stolen, possibly by mischievous teenagers or college students. One nearby business owner agrees, thinking the frog was the victim of a fraternity initiation.
For Warner, who says her frog is worth about $150 – not including labor – it doesn’t matter how he left.
“Just bring him back,” she said.
Nothing but a tall monument of pipe, wire and foam, there was no way to break “Mr. Frog” down, Warner said, meaning the thieves had to carry all 7 feet of him away in one piece. She said she’s reported the theft to police.
“I’m sure it’s a kid” that took Mr. Frog, she said. “If they would’ve asked me, I would’ve made them one ... don’t take him without asking, that’s just rude.”
Warner and her friend, Brenda Young, opened the Stoney Toad antiques, oddities and variety shop in September. “Mr. Frog” was there with them since the beginning, Warner said.
Her shop is filled with knick-knacks that are both “top dollar” and “low economy.” Skeletons sit in the corner amid china behind glass and toys on shelves. Checks from the 1800s are mounted on a wall next to a 1950s Rock Hill High School football game program. Customers are free to just “hang out” in the “real diversified” shop, Warner said, and play with her dogs, two 13-year-old Cairn Terriers named Pete and Visa. They’re not free to steal the merchandise ... especially Mr. Frog.
“He was part of our start-up team,” Warner said, and helped draw customers to their store, which is nestled behind an insurance office and El Caribe Sunset Cafe. But, “antique fans will find you,” Warner said.
The green frog on the street helped, too.
As the shop closed at the end of each day, she would go out to the sidewalk and carry the frog back inside the business. But on a recent rainy Monday, she left him outside. When she returned the next morning, at about 11:30, he was gone.
“I’m sure he’s in a dorm room with a joint and beer in his hand,” Warner said. “That’s fine. Keep him for a month, but just bring him back.”
In the meantime, Warner’s busied herself with creating two new frogs that will take his place. Built from pipes, wiring and more foam, it took her 20 hours to create “Willy” and “Billy.” One will stand on Oakland Avenue; the other outside the Stoney Toad.
Still, “it’s not the same,” Warner said. “A lot of people knew (Mr. Frog).”
Melanie Hurst, an agent at the Rebecca Myers Nationwide Insurance Agency, said, “Our customers loved him.”
“Everybody commented on him,” said Hurst, able to look at the frog from a window in her office. When she realized the frog was gone, “we were awfully upset ... we were kind of sad.”
“He became an old friend to us,” she said.
Across the street, Jane Bailey and employees at her flower shop, Jane’s Creative Designs, often stood at the front door and looked at their froggy neighbor, which Bailey called a “fixture” in the area.
“It looked like the Hulk,” Bailey said. “He was more than ugly ... but you know, he got your attention.”
Teresa Hall, a shop employee, said, “Mr. Frog” more closely resembled the infamous “Lizard Man of South Carolina.”
The case of the disappearing frog has produced conspiracy theories galore. Oakland Avenue is busy during the day, Bailey said, but a “ghost town” after 5 p.m. There’s no doubt the culprits struck when no one would see them, perhaps forcing him off the stakes Warner used to keep him sturdy, and tossing him in a car. Perhaps there were no culprits at all.
“He decided to hop off,” Bailey said with a chuckle, or maybe “the March wind got him – just blew him right into somebody’s house.”
Just like the Ebenezer Grill hot dog sign that disappeared in 2005 and has yet to be found, the frog is somewhere, the women at the shop say.
“I guarantee it’s in somebody’s frat house,” Bailey said, the result of “a type of initiation” that required someone to steal something “significant, out-of-the-ordinary.”
Warner’s posted fliers about the missing frog outside her shop. Students at nearby Winthrop University have agreed to post the signs at the DiGiorgio Campus Center, she said, and in the student newspaper. On Facebook, she tells friends and customers that she’s waiting for the frog’s ransom call. One man posted that “Mr. Frog” might show up during Rock Hill’s Come-See-Me festival.
Warner promises a reward for whoever returns her 7-foot, $150 frog: “I won’t turn you in,” she said.