Jacko (crypto-hominid)

From Kook Science

Jacko[i] was a crypto-hominid, described as a "gorilla type," that was reported to have been captured near Spuzzum Flats in the lower Fraser Canyon of southwestern British Columbia during early July 1884. As with many news stories of such character during the period, there was no serious follow-up regarding the claims, and the incident has been generally dismissed as a hoax.

Dramatis Personae

In the original "What Is It?" coverage in the Daily British Colonist, we find the following named individuals:

  • George Tilbury, keeper of Jacko following its capture who expressed interest in taking the animal to London, England for exhibition; may have been the same as George Francis Tilbury (1839-1884), veterinary surgeon and businessman, who apparently died just over two months later following his incarceration "on a charge of insanity." Refer:
  • Ned Austin, train engineer who signalled for the train to stop at sight of Jacko; likely Edward Everett Austin (1859-1934), a noted B.C. pioneer and train engineer who was working the rail line near the Fraser river at the time.
  • R. J. Craig, train conductor who aided in capture of Jacko; possibly Robert John Craig (1859-1922), then-employee of C.P.R.
  • Mr. Costerton, British Columbia Express Company's messenger who aided in capture of Jacko; likely Clement Fisher Costerton (1858-1930), then-agent of B.C. Express Messenger Ltd. on the Canadian Pacific Railway
  • Dr. Hannington, who examined Jacko after its capture; likely Ernest Barron Chandler Hannington (1851-1916), physician and then-administrator of the hospital at Yale.
  • Andrew Onderdonk (1848-1905), railway construction contractor managing the building the C.P. line in question, employer of personnel involved.
  • Thomas White, Mr. Gouin, C. E., Mr. Major, who were all said to have seen a creature in years previous.

(A follow-up letter regarding "Indian Traditions" in a subsequent issue of the Daily British Colonist was written by one Canon J. B. Good, an Anglican minister and rector of St. Paul's Anglican Church, Nanaimo.)

Press Coverage

Local Reportage (1884)

Jacko (crypto-hominid) - A STRANGE CREATURE CAPTURED ABOVE YALE - Daily British Colonist (v. 52, n. 18), 1884-07-04, p. 2.jpg
  • "WHAT IS IT? A STRANGE CREATURE CAPTURED ABOVE YALE. A British Columbia Gorilla.", Daily British Colonist (Victoria, British Columbia) 52 (18): 2, 4 July 1884, 

    In the immediate vicinity of No. 4 tunnel, situated some twenty miles above this village, are bluffs of rock which have hitherto been insurmountable, 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 about four feet seven inches in height and weighting 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. 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 Trilbury, 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 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 baggageman and the brakesman, 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 the 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?

  • "Indian Traditions.", Daily British Colonist (Victoria, British Columbia) 52 (22): 2, 9 July 1884, 

    The Rectory,
    Nanaimo, July 6th, 1884.

    To the Editor:— In reference to the capture of Jacko on the Frazer canyon bluffs above Yale, as given in your issue last week, I may be able to furnish the public with some particulars connected with my late superintendence of the Lytton Indian Mission that may throw additional light upon this strange event, and at the same time confirm some mysterious rumors that were current amongst the entire tribe in that locality during our residence amongst them.

    On three different occasions in successive years, and in entirely different points of observation, the most startling reports were circulated far and wide, that when camping out for purposes of hunting, fishing, gathering wood and berries, certain of our Indians had been visited in the dead of night by something that seemed half-man half-beast, which had come into the tents whilst sleeping or prowled around their encampment, producing the greatest consternation and amazement.

    The idea prevailed that certain wild men of the woods were at large in the less frequented parts of the country, and were exceedingly dangerous and might one day invade the settlements.

    We, at the time, laughed at their fears and pooh-poohed the matter, considering the reports in question here on a par with their traditional stories about certain lakes and special spots being haunted and that numbers of their tribe had been found dead upon venturing a pass a night on these dread haunts of mysterious and unearthly visitants.

    It may appear, therefore, that there was more truth about some of these tales than was dreamed of in our boasted enlightened philosophy. That Jacko is destined to point a moral or adorn a tale, viz: that truth is stranger than fiction, and facts are stubborn things, specially Jacko.

    Yours, &c., J. B. Good.

  • "THE 'WHAT IS IT?'", Mainland Guardian (New Westminster, B.C.) 31 (37): 1, 9 Jul. 1884, 

    [THE "WHAT IS IT?"] Is the subject of conversation in town, this evening. 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; and stranger still, when the "Columbian" reproduced it in that paper. The "train" of circumstances connected with the discovery of "Jacko" and the disposal of the same was, and still is, a mystery. REX. Yale, B.C., July 7th, 1884.

  • "'What is it' in Jail.", Daily British Colonist (Victoria, British Columbia) 52 (25): 3, 13 July 1884, 

    The Columbian says it was reported last Tuesday that the supposed gorilla, stated to be captured at Yale, was in New Westminster gaol. The citizens immediately made a stampede for that institution, and drove the gaoler, Mr. Morseby, nearly crazy with enquiries, but the wild man wasn't there.

  • "New Westminster (Columbian)", Daily British Colonist (Victoria, British Columbia) 21 (51): 8, 24 Aug. 1884, 

    A Chilliwhack correspondent sends us a letter relating to Jacko, the wild man, who, he says, has been brought down for exhibition at Centerville. We suppose there is a good point in the joke, but we are really not able to discover it, and we are afraid our readers might be equally unfortunate.

Coverage Abroad (1884)

Latter-Day Coverage (1960s-90s)


  1. "Jacko" was a popular name for monkeys (and apes generally) within the English-speaking world during the 19th century, as exemplified by the likes of Jacko Macaco, a famed fighting monkey who was made to perform in dog baiting matches at London's Westminster Pit during the 1820s.