A Modern Fable
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."
* Loren Coleman is the co-author of The
Field Guide to Bigfoot, Yeti, and Other Mystery Primates Worldwide
A to Z. Visit his website: The Cryptozoologist.