All over the world there have long been stories of hairy “wild men.” They seem to be prevalent across geographical and cultural boundaries, and have gone by numerous names such as Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Yeti, Yeren, Almasty, and many, many others. As pervasive as eyewitness accounts are, they have managed to elude us as far as any concrete evidence goes, although they have tantalized us with footprints, video footage, and other frustratingly vague circumstantial evidence. It is often said that the only way we will ever know for sure if any of these mysterious creatures exists is through a body or specimen, and this has been sort of the Holy Grail of cryptozoology. However, while capturing a hairy hominid of any type has not officially come to pass, there are actually a fair few accounts that claim to have done just such a thing, with these beasts not only being caught, but brought in alive. Here are some of the more curious of such tales.
One of the most widely known cases of a purported captured Bigfoot is the story of a young, ape-like creature that was supposedly caught in the summer of 1884 in the wilderness near Yale, in British Columbia, Canada. The story goes that a small, hairy creature similar in appearance to a gorilla was sighted by a crew of railway workers while traveling along a remote area of the Fraser River, and they actually managed to capture it. The crew then had it shackled and moved in a box car, after which they reportedly kept it captive in a jail cell for several days, feeding it berries and naming it “Jacko” in the process. This whole fantastic tale was first reported on in the July 4, 1884 edition of the Daily British Colonist, which described the creature thus:
He 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 one inch long…he possesses extraordinary strength, as he will take hold of a stick and break it by wrenching it or twisting it, which no man could break in the same way.
After word got out about this curious beast, droves of curiosity seekers apparently descended upon the jail looking to get a glimpse of it, only to be told that Jacko had since escaped back out into the wilderness. The original article was uncovered and brought into more mainstream knowledge in the 1950s by a news reporter named Brian McKelvie, who also claimed that this was the only remaining report on the Jacko story, as the others had all been destroyed in a fire. This already puts up a red flag, because it makes that Daily British Colonist article the only known media reference to such a presumably remarkable event, with no other media corroboration. McKelvie then shared the story with researchers John Green and René Dahinden, who further wrote of it and the story took off, gaining even more popularity when it was published in legendary cryptozoologist Ivan T. Sanderson’s 1961 book Abominable Snowman: Legend Come to Life. Over the years the incident has become a fixture in the world of cryptozoology and has been written about and referenced continuously to this day.
Although the Jacko account has long been held up as a true story of a captured Bigfoot, there are those who would disagree for several reasons. First, if there really was a creature captured out there, then the appearance described fits more in with an escaped chimpanzee or other ape more then anything else. The description is not necessarily of an unidentified hairy hominid. There is also the fact that cryptozoologist and author John Green found several critical follow-up articles from other newspapers of the period that threw some serious salt on the claims, such as the Mainland Guardian saying “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,” as well as other barbs, and this apparently caused Green to take the story with a grain of salt, eventually deciding that it was all a piece of fantastical journalistic fiction. After all, it was not uncommon for newspapers of the day to exaggerate or even flat-out fabricate wild stories to grab the readers’ attention. Renowned cryptozoologist Loren Coleman has also had his reservations, and has said of the Jacko tale:
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.
It is not completely understood if this is really the case or not, and there are many who still discuss it and hold it up as a genuine account. However, with so many red flags, such as the facts that the alleged specimen was never actually seen by those who went to get a look, other newspapers mercilessly blew off the story, and that there is only the one newspaper account making these claims with a lack of any other concrete evidence at all, it is hard to think of the Jacko case as anything other than stuck in a limbo of speculation at best, and a downright journalistic hoax and modern myth building at worst. Nevertheless, the persistent tale of Jacko just refuses to die and is still picked apart to this day, with theories suggesting everything from that Jacko was truly a Bigfoot, to that he was an escaped chimp, to even the idea that he had really become the circus sideshow attraction Jo-Jo the Dog-Faced Boy after being purchased by PT Barnum. Is the tale of Jacko real, pure myth, or some bizarre mixture of the two? It is hard to say.
Another well-known case of a captured hairy hominid has also had its fair share of speculation and criticism over the years, and revolves around a mysterious wild woman captured in 1850 in the Ochamchir region of Georgia in Russia. According to the tale, Russian hunters came across a hairy, towering woman measuring 6 feet 6 inches tall, and managed to capture her alive, after which she was taken to village of T’khina in the Republic of Abkhazia and sold to a nobleman there by the name of Edgi Genaba. Later named Zana, the bizarre woman would remain in captivity for the rest of her life and was widely believed through the years to be a relic human ancestor such as a living neanderthal, or even an actual living specimen of the Russian version of Bigfoot, which is often called the Almas or Almasty.
Zana was most typically described as very muscular and having decidedly ape-like features, a deep brow, wide forehead, and a layer of thick hair covering her body, as well as excessively thick fingers, broad powerfully built shoulders and an enormous chest. She was also known for her sheer ferocity, growling, snarling, and grabbing and snapping at anyone who approached the cage she was kept in. It was also said that she was insanely, superhumanly strong, and that she was fast enough to outrun a horse if she ever got out in the open.
It would apparently take several years before she became tame enough to get anywhere near her, and she was eventually let out of her enclosure to wander about on her own. Zana purportedly learned some simple tasks and manners, but was never able to master even a single word of speech, communicating only through bestial moans, barks, grunts, and howls. Zana also showed impressive tolerance for cold far beyond a normal human, although she apparently could not stand the heat. She reportedly spent much of her time naked, even in withering freezing temperatures, liked to climb trees and bath in pools of water, and she is said to have developed a taste for wine, which she would often imbibe until she passed out drunk.
It is often said that this drunken stupor led to her being sexually taken advantage of, and she would go on to have several children from different fathers, including her master. Many of the babies she birthed are said to have died, with a major culprit being that she liked to give birth alone and then bathe the newborns in frigid water, and others being stillborn. A few of the babies were taken from her and raised separately, such as her son, Khwit, and at least three others, all of who displayed dark skin, noticeable hairiness, unusual features, and enhanced strength and physical prowess.
The tale of Zana the wild woman has since gone on to become practically legendary in cryptozoology, and there have been a few efforts to try and get to the bottom of the mystery. In 2015, Professor Bryan Sykes of the University of Oxford carried out a series of DNA tests on the saliva of six of Zana’s known living descendants, as well as a tooth taken from the skull of one of her sons, Khwit. The analysis showed that Zana was apparently 100% Sub-Saharan African, although Khwit displayed certain unique physical traits such as wide eye sockets, an elevated brow ridge and an additional bone at the back of the skull, that did not resemble any known group. Sykes would go on to write the book The Nature of the Beast, in which he speculates that Zana’s ancestors may have come to the Caucasus region from Africa around 100,000 years ago in an early migration and then lived there in relative isolation, a remnant population of early humans lost to time and forgotten until she had been captured. Another possibility is that she was descended from a group of slaves kept by the Ottoman Empire. Who was Zana the wild woman and what are her origins? It still remains somewhat unclear.
Although these two accounts thus far are the most well-known, there are certainly other tales of captured hairy hominids out there. In 1840 it was reported in the Boston Daily Times that a Bigfoot measuring a massive 8’3” tall was captured by Native Americans along with its “two cubs.” It is alleged that a native hunting party had the beast cross their path as it made its way from a forest out into an open prairie. The party gave chase and was purportedly able to hit it in the calf of its leg with a shot from a rifle. When the enormous beast stumbled and fell, the natives incapacitated it with ropes, strapped it to a sturdy stretcher fashioned from branches and leaves, and hauled it back to their camp, where it howled and moaned all through the night. Eventually some shorter 3-foot tall creatures presumed to be its offspring approached the commotion and were captured too. The beast was described by a witness thus:
We went down to his rooms to examine this monster. He is a horrid looking creature and reminds us very strongly of the fabled satyrs as we have pictured them to our own mind. He is about eight feet three inches high when standing erect, this frame is of a giant proportion in every part. His legs are not straight but like those of any other four footed animal and his whole body is covered with a hide very much like that of the cow. His arms are very large and long and ill proportioned. It does not appear from his manner that he has ever walked on all-fours. The fingers and toes are mere bunches armed with stout claws. His head is covered with thick course black hair like the mane of a horse. The appearance of his countenance, is very disgusting nay, almost horrible. It is covered with a thinner and lighter coat than the rest of the body and the mouth is similar to that of a baboon. His eyes are quite dull and heavy and there is no indication of cunning or activity about them. Mr. Lincoln says he is no doubt carnivorous, as he universally rejects bread and vegetables and eats flesh with great avidity. He thinks he is of the ourang outang species: but from what little we have seen we are inclined to consider him a wild animal, somewhat resembling a man.
Although the article mentions that the creature and its “cubs” are to be exhibited, as with many old reports such as this, it is unclear just what happened to this remarkable specimen, or indeed whether it ever existed or not. You can read a fuller version of the article here. Also from the 19th century is a report from Jackson County, Florida, where in 1884 there was said to have been a Bigfoot-like creature captured at a place called Ocheesee Pond, located in a vast cypress swamp located a few miles south of the towns of Sneads and Grand Ridge.
The area had been a hotbed of mysterious wild man reports for years, and there was a spate of such sightings over the the winter of 1883-1884. The creature was often sighted eating berries and wading around in the water, as well as loosing bloodcurdling howls into the night, and an armed search party was finally launched after the harsh winter had passed in order to go out and look for the beast to either capture it, kill it, or drive it away. The search party apparently succeeded, as they came across some sort of wild man covered in hair out there in the tangled vegetation of the dank swamps. On August 18, 1884, there was a news report that said:
News brought by the steamer Amos Hays
from Lower River is to the effect that the wild
man captured in Ocheecee Swamp, near
Chattahoochee, and carried to Tallahassee,
did not belong to a Florida asylum, and that
all inquiry proved unavailing to identify him.
He had been swimming in Ocheecee Lake,
from island to island, and when taken was
entirely destitute of clothing, emaciated, and
covered with a phenomenal growth of hair.
He could give no account of himself, and the
theory is that he escaped from an asylum of
some other state, and spent his time in the
woods, living on berries.
The strange man or creature was never identified, and it is unclear as to what became of him after this. Also from the 1800s is a report from the US state of Tennessee, where a mysterious hairy beast was often spotted roaming and lumbering about the wilderness of McNairy County. The creature was often described as being around 7 feet tall, covered in reddish hair, and with beady eyes that were red in color, as well as wreathed in a cloud of noxious stink that followed it about. According to one report, a circus showman managed to capture the creature, after which he imprisoned it within a cage and displayed it to a paying public until it managed to break free and escape. Again, it is unknown what happened to the supposed creature after that or if it ever really existed in any form at all.
Such mysterious reports come from other parts of the world as well. Another report from the 1800s was written of in Bernard Heuvelmans’ book On the Track of Unknown Animals, and describes a report from the island of Sumatra, where a mysterious hairy humanoid referred to as the Sindai was allegedly captured. The creature in this case was said to be a female that measured around 1.2 meters in height, possessed very long fingernails, and was covered with hair. Not much else is known of what happened in this case, as a revolution apparently broke out in Sumatra at around the same time and the story was subsequently lost to history.
Even odder than Sumatra are reports of hairy hominids being captured in the United Kingdom, which is perhaps that last place anyone would expect to find such beasts, but where there are actually quite a few sightings of Bigfoot-type creatures. In April of 1801, there was a very bizarre report printed in London newspaper Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, concerning a ship called the HMS Rambler, which was arriving from a voyage to Newfoundland and reported to be carrying a very strange prisoner indeed. One of the news articles read:
There is now, in the River an astonishing large Hairy Wild Man, caught four hundred miles from the Cape of Good Hope, brought over in the Rambler, South Sea Whaler; he is of astonishing muscular strength, a specimen of which had nearly proved fatal to one of the Custome-house Officers, who inadvertently went too near him; he seized hold of the man, twirled him about two or three times with the greatest velocity, and then threw him over the side. Luckily the man escaped with a horrid fright and a sound ducking.
The creature was oddly called “The Great YO-HO!” and it is difficult to figure out just what is going on here. One theory is that since the Rambler had just engaged in a battle with a French vessel, a particularly large prisoner was misidentified as something more and the damage to the ship blamed on the creature running amok. Another was that since traveling menageries of exotic creatures from far-away lands were en vogue at the time, then perhaps this was an instance of some unfamiliar primate captured and brought back from some corner of the world and getting out of control. There is also the possibility that, like so many news reports of the time, this was just a fictionalized account conjured up for some excitement on a slow news day. Or did the ship and its crew really capture something remarkable out there? If so, what happened to it? We’ll probably never know for sure.
Cryptozoologist Jonathan Dowes was told a story in 1982 from an ex-staff doctor at the Royal Western Counties Hospital, Devonshire, England, who related an incredible tale indeed. According to the doctor, in 1948 a patient was brought in who had been allegedly been captured out in the wilderness of the Dartmoor countryside. The patient was accompanied by seven police officers who did their best to shield their charge from public view, and when the doctor himself saw him he described the patient as “a hair-covered caveman.” The bizarre patient was whisked off to an isolation unit and closed off. The doctor would describe his strange new patient thus:
The beast stood slightly over six feet in height and was completely naked, with a heavy brow, a wide nose, and very muscular arms and legs. In addition it was covered with an excessive amount of body hair that enveloped its whole body apart from the palms of its hands, the soles of its feet, and its face, and had a head of long, matted hair.
Not too long after arriving, the creature was suddenly moved to a supposedly secure location in London to be examined further. The beast was reportedly highly sedated at the time and tied down with extra thick, heavy duty straps that the doctor had never seen used for any other patient. The beast was moved under heavy guard to a waiting police wagon and then whisked off into the night to me secret location, after which it was never seen again. It is unclear just who or what this mysterious patient could have been or where they went. What are we dealing with here? Was it a mysterious hairy hominid captured in England? If so, why did they bring him to a hospital and what happened to him after that? Was it just some especially hairy naked and weird-looking derelict? It is all frustratingly unclear.
Frustration seems to be a key word when dealing with these sorts of reports. As amazing and intriguing as these bizarre accounts are, and with the promise that strange creatures from beyond our scientific knowledge were actually captured alive, we are nevertheless still left with basically nothing but these testimonies and a whole lot of unanswered questions. Who or what were these things discussed in such cases? What ever happened to them? Were they ever even real at all? We may never know. Accounts of captured Bigfoot and similar hairy hominids lure us with the promise of final, hard proof of their existence, but until now they have ultimately left us disappointed and with nothing but whirling imaginations and speculation. Perhaps one day there will be a captured or even killed specimen that will put it all to rest, but despite these tantalizing reports, with their hoaxes and lost opportunities, that day has yet to come.