|Who or what was the Wild Man?|
If you aren't familiar with the story, the "Wild Man" was a mysterious creature captured at Ocheesee Pond south of Sneads and Grand Ridge in 1884. Some believe the incident may be one of the best documented cases ever of the capture of a Bigfoot or Sasquatch (often called the Skunk Ape in Florida).
The story of a strange hair-covered creature being captured in the swamps of Ocheesee Pond has long been part of the folklore of southeastern Jackson County, but while researching a different topic a few years ago I was surprised to find that the incident was documented at the time it took place.
|Ocheesee Pond in Jackson County, Florida|
Stories of the Wild Man's capture appeared in newspapers including The New York Times:
|Steamboat Amos Hays at Chattahoochee in 1884.|
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. - The New York Times, August 1884.
The Amos Hays was a paddlewheel steamboat that carried passengers and commerce up and down the Apalachicola, Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers. It was at the Chattahoochee wharf when the Wild Man was brought up by the men who had captured him.
|Administration Building at Florida State Hospital|
All that could ever be determined about him was that he was covered with hair, could not speak in any known language and had survived by "living on berries, &c."
The Wild Man was taken to Tallahassee where efforts to identify him continued through telegrams sent to state capitals throughout the nation. No information on his background could be found. Baffled, state officials sent him back to the State Asylum in Chattahoochee.
|Swamps of Ocheesee Pond|
And then of course, there is the question of what finally happened to him? If he was a man, did he recover enough to eventually go to his home? Or does the Wild Man rest in a grave in one of the State Hospital cemeteries in Chattahoochee? And if so, does that grave contain evidence that would answer the mystery of Bigfoot once and for all?
It is a true mystery and a fascinating part of Jackson County history and folklore. To read more about the Ocheesee Pond Wild Man, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/ocheeseewildman.