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The story of ‘Jacko’

Was a young Bigfoot captured near Yale in 1884? This is the original article published by the colonist newspaper. Directly below is an excellent article written by the ever readable Loren Coleman. Please take time to read his article once you have read the newspaper story.

What is it?

A Strange Creature Captured Above Yale.

A British Columbia Gorilla

(Correspondence of The Daily Colonist)

Yale, B.C., July 3rd 1884

In the immediate vicinity of No. 4 tunnel, situated some twenty miles above this village, are bluffs of rock which have hitherto been unsurmountable, but on Monday morning last were successfully scaled by Mr. Onderdonk's employees on the regular train from Lytton. Assisted by Mr. Costerton, the British Columbia Express Company's messenger, and a number of gentlemen from Lytton and points east of that place who, after considerable trouble and perilous climbing, succeeded in capturing a creature which may truly be called half man and half beast. "Jacko" as the creature has been called by his capturers, is something of the gorilla type standing four feet seven inches in height and weighing 127 pounds. He has long, black, strong hair and resembles a human being with one exception, his entire body, excepting his hands, (or paws) and feet are covered with glossy hair about an inch long. His fore arm is much longer than a man's fore arm, and he possesses extraordinary strength, as he will take hold of a stick and break it by wrenching or twisting it, which no man living could break in the same way.

Since his capture he is very reticent, only occasionally uttering a noise which is half bark and half growl. He is, however, becoming daily more attached to his keeper, Mr. George Telbury, of this place, who proposes shortly starting for London, England, to exhibit him. His favorite food so far is berries, and he drinks fresh milk with evident relish. By advice of Dr. Hannington raw meats have been withheld from Jacko, as the doctor thinks it would have a tendency to make him savage. The mode of his capture was as follows :

Ned Austin, the engineer, on coming in sight of the bluff at the eastern end of the No. 4 tunnel saw what he supposed to be a man lying asleep in close proximity to the track, and as quick as thought blew the signal to apply the brakes. The brakes were instantly applied, and in a few seconds the train was brought to a standstill. At this moment the supposed man sprang up, and uttering a sharp quick bark began to climb the steep bluff. Conductor R.J. Craig and Express Messenger Costerton, followed by the baggage man and brakemen, jumped from the train and knowing they were some twenty minutes ahead of time immediately gave chase. After five minutes of perilous climbing the then supposed demented Indian was corralled on a projecting shelf of rock where he could neither ascend nor descend. The query now was how to capture him alive, which was quickly decided by Mr. Craig, who crawled on his hands and knees until he was about forty feet above the creature. Taking a small piece of loose rock he let it fall and it had the desired effect of rendering poor Jacko incapable of resistance for a time at least.

The bell rope was then brought up and Jacko was now lowered to terra firma. After firmly binding him and placing him in the baggage car "off brakes" was sounded and the train started for Yale. At the station a large crowd who had heard of the capture by telephone from Spuzzum Flat were assembled, each one anxious to have the first look at the monstrosity, but they were disappointed, as Jacko had been taken off at the machine shops and placed in charge of his present keeper.

The question naturally arises, how came the creature where it was first seen by Mr. Austin ? From bruises about its head and body, and apparent soreness since its capture, it is supposed that Jacko ventured too near the edge of the bluff, slipped, fell and lay where found until the sound of the rushing train aroused him. Mr. Thos. white and Mr. Gouin, C.E., as well as Mr. Major, who kept a small store about half a mile west of the tunnel during the past two years, have mentioned having seen a curious creature at different points between Camps 13 and 17, but no attention was paid to their remarks as people came to the conclusion that they had either seen a bear or stray Indian dog. Who can unravel the mystery that now surrounds Jacko! Does he belong to a species hitherto unknown in this part of the continent, or is he really what the train men first thought he was, a crazy Indian!

The original story published in the Daily Colonist
newspaper, July 3rd 1884.
The headline WHAT IS IT? can be read.

Jack: A Modern Fable

By Loren Coleman

The story of Jacko is a piece of Sasquatch-capture folklore that refuses to die, despite a superb investigative article published in 1975, co-authored by John Green and Sabina W. Sanderson.

The history and investigation of the historical Jacko only began in earnest within the last few decades, not the 1880s, of course. A news reporter named Brian McKelvie, during the 1950s, became interested in the then-current stories of the Sasquatch, being carried by his local British Columbian papers. McKelvie searched for older reports. What he found was the Daily British Colonist, 4 July 1884, article about Jacko. The account detailed the sighting of a smallish hairy creature ("something of the gorilla type") supposedly seen and captured near Yale, BC, on 30 June 1884, and housed in a local jail. (1)

McKelvie shared the Jacko account with John Green and Rene Dahinden. MeKelvie told them this was the only record of the event due to a fire that had destroyed other area newspapers of the time.

John Green, in 1958, found and interviewed a man (August Castle) who remembered the Jacko talk of the time, but he said his parents did not take him to the jail to see the beast. Other senior citizens remembered the talk of the creature, but no one could produce any truly good evidence for or eyewitness accounts (other than the British Colonist story) of Jacko.

The story's first modern appearance in a hardbound book propelled the Jacko incident into the modern literature, and as they say, history. The book, of course, was Ivan T. Sanderson's 1961 Abominable Snowman: Legend Come to Life. Other authors, including John Green, Rene Dahinden/Don Hunter, Grover Krantz, and John Napier, would follow, as would years of rehashers and men's magazine writers. The story was repeated again and again.

Nevertheless, John Green was still digging into the journalistic evidence for the story. He had discovered that, yes, while the newspapers from the time do not exist in the BC Archives (as McKelvie had found out to his dismay), there are microfilms of BC newspapers from the 1880s at the University of British Columbia. Green then found two important articles that threw light on the whole affair.

The New Westminister, BC, Mainland Guardian of 9 July 1884, mentioned the story and noted: "The 'What Is It' is the subject of conversation in town. How the story originated, and by whom, is hard for one to conjecture. Absurdity is written on the face of it. The fact of the matter is, that no such animal was caught, and how the Colonist was duped in such a manner, and by such a story, is strange."

On 11 July 1884, the British Columbian carried the news that some 200 people had gone to the jail to view Jacko. But the "only wild man visible" was a man, who was humorously called the "governor of the goal [jail], who completely exhausted his patience" fielding the repeated inquiries from the crowd about the nonexistent creature.

As Green has pointed out, the Colonist never disputed its critics. Green (with Sanderson's widow) wrote of the Jacko story as a piece of historical journalistic fiction in the article, "Alas, Poor Jacko," Pursuit 8, 1 (January 1975), pages 18-19.

Despite John Green feeling "it doesn't look good for Jacko," people have uncritically reported the Jacko story, with elder citizens' remembrances of the media attention to it, as if that is evidence for the reality of Jacko, for years.

Unfortunately, a whole new generation of hominologists, Sasquatch searchers, and Bigfoot researchers are growing up thinking that the Jacko story is an ironclad cornerstone of the field, a foundation piece of history proving that Sasquatch are real. Jacko may have more to do with local rumors brought to the level of a news story that has evolved into a modern fable. Is it a fable of caution, really, not of reality?

(1) In North America, at the end of the 19th century, the use of "gorilla" in article references (as I detailed in a Fortean Times column in 1997), is directly related to the media attention about gorillas whipped up by Du Chaillu's sensationalistic travels in Africa and his book that came out in 1861. Vernon Reynolds (
The Apes, 1967. p. 137) writes: "After (Du Chaillu's) trip, which lasted from 1856 to 1859, Du Chaillu returned to the United States, where he received widespread acclaim." In 1863, another famous gorilla/travel book was published, written by American explorer Winwood Reade, after he spent five months in gorilla country. Nineteenth century articles about "strange creatures" - whether real or imagined - often thus labeled them as "gorillas."

Paper-clip02 The original story published in the Daily Colonist
newspaper, July 3rd 1884.
The headline WHAT IS IT? can be read.