The Centre for Fortean Zoology was founded in the UK in 1992 - nearly 20 years ago. Over the past two decades it has expanded to become a truly global organisation. We opened our American office in 2001, our Australian office in 2009, and now - in our 19th year - we are proud to welcome CFZ Canada to the CFZ global family.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

You Don't Know Jacko

George Tilbury was a real person, born in England in 1853.  He really did live in Yale, BC.  Just a few years after this below article appeared, he was living in Vancouver.  He arrived in Quebec City in 1879, having come from England via Liverpool.  Just 5 years later, he would be in BC, acting as caregiver to Jacko, the BC gorilla.

Daily Colonist ran the story of a small hominid captured by a crew of railway workers in British Columbia during the summer of 1884.  It was described as “Something of the gorilla type standing four feet seven inches in height and weighing 127.”  Jacko had long hair, black and about an inch long, and looked human except for this hair which covered everything except hands and feet.  His forearm was reportedly much longer than a human one, and that is probably what gave him a gorilla image.  The beast was captured while lying hurt next to the railroad tracks and taken to the local jail, where Mr. Tilbury was to care for it.

The Mainland Guardian of July 9, 1884 (New Westminster, BC), 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 (also a New Westminster newspaper) reported that some 200 people had gone to the jail to view Jacko, but that the “only wild man visible” was a man, presumably Tilsbury, who they laughingly called the “governor of the goal [jail], who completely exhausted his patience” answering questions from the crowd.  He is said to have told them the injured Jacko escaped just prior to the arrival of the townsfolk.

During the 1950s, a BC news reporter named Brian McKelvie became interested in Sasquatch reports of his current day that were being carried by his local papers. McKelvie searched for reports from the beginnings of the locality and found the Colonist article. McKelvie then told researchers John Green and RenĂ© Dahinden.   At that time it was believed that this was the only record of the event due to a fire that had destroyed other area newspapers in archive.

John Green continued digging, however, and discovered microfilm of British Columbia newspapers from the 1880s in the University of British Columbia, as listed above.  He then spent several years interviewing old-timers in Western Canada about their earlier Sasquatch encounters.  One of the interviewees was August Castle, who confirmed the story had been popular in his youth.

Later, Dr. Myra Shackley conducted research on hominoids and it has been widely reported that Dr. Shackley “did perhaps the most exhaustive effort in the search for Jacko.”   Her work, however, is simply an overview of the work of John Green. The claim that it is hers shows a failure to do actual research. The Castle interview was conducted in 1958, by Green, when Castle was 80 years old.  At that time, Dr. Shackley was 13 years old and living in England.  While her research on Neanderthal populations in Mongolia might warrant the title “exhaustive”, those who attribute the Jacko findings to her are mistaken.
Some enthusiasts continue to retell the story of Jacko as if it was a real report, but most serious researchers have labeled it “news fiction”, not unlike our modern day tabloid stories.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Newbies in the Midst

Paranormal Conference season has begun for 2013 and I’m pleased that people are taking a real interest in Cryptozoology.  In the past, these conferences have leaned toward psychic readings and ghost gadgets.  In the past few years, though, serious researcher in all facets of the field are making a difference;  in spite of the demoralizing representation on television.

A couple of weeks ago I spoke at a conference in Lynchburg, VA.  The topic of crypto was new to them.  Certainly they had heard of Bigfoot et al, but they had never heard of the very real, very serious study of such phenomenon.  It was a bit like seeing a baby take its first step.  Grown adults soaked in the wonder that is Fortean zoology with almost desperate thirst.  I felt honored to be the water-bearer.

The questions at these events continue to be more thoughtful.  Gone are the “Do you think bigfoot attacks people” questions.  Now, they ask about how to recover evidence and what sort of testing to do.  We talked about potential diet of lake and sea creatures.  We talked about the aerodynamics of a creature who, like Mothman, could fly without flapping its wings.  We talked about bone structure, and of course DNA.  It was a joy to behold.

Several years ago when I first started lecturing on the topic, a self-proclaimed skeptic challenged my opinion.  The crowd waited expectantly for me to get angry and rebut.  Instead, I asked him what his opinion was and we talked openly about it.  Both of us learned from that, but more importantly the onlookers learned that professionals can have different—even conflicting—opinions and that the research is far from standard.  That is something that is glaringly missing in most paranormal specialties.

Cryptozoology grows, and the researchers grow.  The findings become more important, more tangible.  Then the onlookers start getting intrigued.  Could funding for real research be far behind?