EUGENE M. MCCARTHY, PHD
Two men, Sessions and Thomas, exhibited at Lake City last week a monstrosity of a human shape, in a boy, who, they say, resembles an alligator in form and motion.
—The Weekly Sumter Republican (Aug. 29, 1873)
The actual occurrence of alligator-human hybrids was alleged in numerous 19th-century news reports, and such individuals were even the subject of articles in medical journals.
But more interesting is the existence of what just might be a specimen of such a hybrid, Jake the Alligator-Man, a mummified curio in the collection of Marsh’s Free Museum in Long Beach Washington. They keep Jake in a glass case there, and photos show him with the head and torso of a human being, but the lower body and tail of an alligator (see image right). As can be seen in this photo his lower torso, tail and hind legs are exactly like those of an alligator. Verbal descriptions his teeth are sharpened points. And as can be seen in the pictures, his hands are withered and claw-like. To my knowledge, no scientist has ever subjected Jake to molecular genetic analysis.
The founder of the museum, Wellington Marsh, Sr. bought Jake for $750 from an antique dealer in 1967. According to an online inflation calculator $750 would be equivalent to $5,470.13 in 2017. So it seems, paying that much money, Marsh must have thought he was getting the more than a taxidermist’s fake. The reference to an antique dealer suggests Jake is old. But how old? No one seems to know.
Unfortunately, just from the way Jake looks, it's easy enough to imagine a hoaxer taking the upper half of a real Egyptian mummy (there are literally millions of them available) and attaching it to the back end of an alligator. I could do the job myself. Look at this photo. It looks human down to the waist. All you'd have to do is plug the human torso into the alligator back end and voila!
Since Jake, the only available specimen of human-alligator hybrid, could easily have been faked and has never been genetically tested, this cross is poorly documented indeed. There are certain other, equally distant crosses that are far better substantiated, for example, chicken x human.The glaring problem with most reports about human-alligator hybrids, beyond the large disparity between the proposed parents, is that there is a lot of hearsay, that is, the reports talk about what other people have seen in other places, and provide few specifics. A reliable report about any type of hybrid cross, should at a minimum specifically identify the author of the report and any other witnesses, and state exactly where the hybrid(s) can be found. Without such information, especially in a wide cross like alligator-human, a report becomes dubious indeed.
One report that goes beyond hearsay, and actually does give first-hand descriptions is that of Betty the Alligator Girl, shown at right (see: Medical Summary, 1915, vol. 37, p. 293). But in her case the symptoms of alligator heritage are not nearly so marked as in the second-hand accounts quoted below. In Betty’s case, there is no long alligator tail, no love of water or long basks in the sun. Her similarity to crocodilians seems to have been limited to a peculiar scaly skin condition and a certain degree of mental deficiency.
Another report from a medical journal, The Alligator Boy — A Case of Ichthyosis (Fox 1884, p. 97) discusses an individual, that from the description given, seems more like Jake than Betty, but the accompanying picture of the child (see image right) seems to document nothing beyond a severe skin condition. However, the physician’s verbal account reads:
But there are in fact many reports that go much further. The earliest report located to date about an alligator-human hybrid appeared on page 2, column 4, of the December 17, 1873, issue of the Juniata Sentinel and Republican, a newspaper published in Mifflintown, Pennsylvania (source):
Another early report appeared on page 5, of the November 14, 1879, issue of the The Cincinnati Daily Star (source):
The following report, which originally ran in the Jacksonville, Florida Times Union appeared in papers across the country, the transcript given here is taken from page 4, column 6, of the October 25, 1883, issue of the Daily Los Angeles Herald, a newspaper published in Los Angeles, California (source):
A story about the same pair ran in the Memphis Appeal (p. 4, column 4, September 25, 1883) and read as follows (source):
In the next report an alligator boy goes to court. The story appeared on the front page, column 3, of the August 16, 1892, issue of the Southwest-Sentinel, a newspaper published in Silver City, New Mexico (source):
The next report describes a pair of alligator-human hybrids residing in the swamps of south Georgia (U.S.). It appeared on page 3, column 3, of the November 12, 1896, issue of The Hocking Sentinel, a newspaper published in Logan, Ohio (source):
So all and all, the evidence for alligator-human hybrids, though rather copious, over-the-top and entertaining, is really quite iffy. Some eyewitness reports and well-characterized specimens would be nice, please.
The ancient Egyptians reportedly practiced sexual congress with the crocodile (Masters 1962; Ramsis 1969). During this ritual, which was thought to bring prosperity and increase the potency of the participating male, the female crocodile was turned on her back, which rendered her helpless. Herodotus (The History, Book II, 69) wrote that “The crocodile is esteemed sacred by some of the Egyptians, by others he is treated as an enemy. Those who live near Thebes, and those who dwell around Lake Moeris, regard them with especial veneration. In each of these places they keep one crocodile in particular, who is taught to be tame and tractable. They adorn his ears with ear rings of molten stone [i.e., glass] or gold, and put bracelets on his forepaws giving him daily a set portion of bread, with a certain number of victims, and, after having thus treated him with the greatest possible attention while alive, they embalm him when he dies and bury him in a sacred repository.”
By the same author: Handbook of Avian Hybrids of the World, Oxford University Press (2006).
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