The story of Jacko – that of a small, apelike, young Sasquatch said to have been captured alive in the 1800s – is a piece of folklore that refuses to die, despite a superb investigative article published in 1975, co-authored by John Green and Sabina W. Sanderson.
The investigation into the Jacko story did not began until decades later. During the 1950s, a news reporter named Brian McKelvie 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 July 4, 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, British Columbia, on June 30, 1884, and housed in a local jail.
McKelvie shared the Jacko account with researchers John Green and René 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.
In 1958 John Green 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 appearance in Ivan T. Sanderson’s 1961 Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come to Life propelled the Jacko incident into history. Other authors, including John Green, René Dahinden/Don Hunter, Grover Krantz, and John Napier, would follow. The story was repeated again and again.
John Green continued digging into story and finally discovered that microfilms of British Columbia newspapers from the 1880s existed at the University of British Columbia. Green then found two important articles that threw light on the whole affair.
The New Westminster, British Columbia, Mainland Guardianof July 9, 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 July 11, 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 probable historical journalistic fiction in the article, “Alas, Poor Jacko,” in Pursuit published in 1975.
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. But in reality Jacko may have more to do with local rumors brought to the level of a news story that eventually evolved into a modern fable.