It was a story that surfaced in 1884; a story which, if true, suggested something deeply strange was afoot in Yale, British Columbia. On Independence Day 1884, the Colonist newspaper published a story titled: “What is it? A strange creature captured above Yale. A British Columbia Gorilla.” Supposedly, the curious creature had been caught on June 30 and held in a nearby jail. The startling saga began: “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.”
The story continued: “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 beast was quickly named Jacko and a legend was born. The newspaper told its no doubt amazed readers that Jacko “…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 Daily Colonist concluded: “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!”
Five days later, the article was denounced by the British Columbia newspaper. Its staff was very vocal about how the Daily Colonist could have fallen for such a tall tale. The Mainland Guardian had similar, sharp words for the Daily Colonist’s story, too: “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 strange story, is strange.”
Today, the case of Jacko is one that is still championed by a handful of Bigfoot researchers and wholly dismissed by many others. Some are situated somewhere between both camps, chiefly as a result of the fact that regardless of whether or not the Jacko story has merit, British Columbia has a long tradition of man-beast encounters of the Bigfoot variety. The final word goes to Bigfoot authority, Loren Coleman. In his 2003 book, Bigfoot! The True Story of Apes in America: “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 Saquatch are real. But in reality Jacko seems to be a local rumor brought to the level of a news story that eventually evolved into a modern fable.”