No one knows for sure where Jake the Alligator Man originally came from, but Junior Marsh has heard some interesting stories.
|Jake in his display case at Marsh’s Free Museum in Long Beach, Washington|
Visitors to Marsh’s Free Museum have told the owner that his so-called half-man, half-alligator mummy used to smoke cigars and hang out in a swank New Orleans whorehouse – when he was alive and wiggling.
One Kelso couple said they saw Jake performing in a sideshow at a Texas carnival. He supposedly answered simple yes or no questions with a nod of his head. The freak even dressed in drag at a San Francisco club, according to some reports. There, he was Minnie the Mermaid.
|Marsh’s Free Museum, where Jake is located|
The Marshes first met Jake in 1967, when a local antiques dealer offered to sell them his mummified body for $750. “He knew my wife (Marian) and I liked that kind of weird crap,” Marsh said. “We found a way to buy it. We thought it would be a good conversation piece.”
Today, Jake sits in a glass case in the back of the Long Beach shop, next to a couple of nickel machines called The Throne of Love and The Drunken Dream. Nearby, other mammal anomalies – such as an eight-legged lamb, a two-headed pig and a shrunken human head – look over patrons. The shop full of souvenirs, trinkets and arcade machines sits on the main strip in town, across the street from the “World’s Largest Frying Pan.”
Jake always has been popular with tourists. More than 30,000 postcards of the alligator man have been sold in the past 10 years.
But on Nov. 9, 1993, Jake became a national enigma. On that day, The World Weekly News, a trashy national tabloid based in Florida, announced: “HALF-ALLIGATOR, HALF-HUMAN FOUND IN FLORIDA SWAMP!” The picture of the beast was taken straight from one of Marsh’s postcards.
“What may be man’s missing link – a grotesque, hissing creature with the head and upper body of a human and the dragon-like lower body of an alligator – has been captured alive just miles from here in the Big Cypress Swamp,” the story began.“There is no doubt that the bizarre prehistoric beast found basking in a marsh is an early ancestor of man that took a wrong turn on the twisting road of evolution.”
|A postcard image was used by the Weekly World News on November 9, 1993 for front-page article, “HALF-ALLIGATOR, HALF-HUMAN FOUND IN FLORIDA SWAMP!”|
Marsh said he was angry that the tabloid used his picture without his permission and without giving him any compensation. But he found the tale amusing, just as he does all the others.
So where did Jake really come from? What or who was he? Marsh says he doesn’t know and doesn’t want to. “People like the mystery,” he said. “Why ruin the thoughts?”