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Thursday, December 2, 2021

Decemystery (2021) 2: One-Eyed Jack

Okay, so, funny story about today’s, well, story. It was an unidentified person; I had originally had it written, completed, and ready to be posted. However, as the day drew closer, I began to dislike it more and more. The writing was rushed, it glossed over so many details, and I felt it was rather crude at times. I made a lot of stupid remarks that really made it feel like I didn’t care about what I was writing.

Though that’s probably because I was desperate to write. I wrote most of it when I was on medication that had made it an absolute nightmare to write and I was accepting literally anything I wrote as worthwhile. So, while we might not be covering the story that was intended, I did find a worthwhile replacement. It’s the story of a man known only as One-Eyed Jack. He too is an unidentified person. So come along, dear reader. We’re off to Alaska.

The Story

You know, now that I think about it: absolutely none of what I said above was funny. In fact, it’s rather depressing and I feel bad. Oh well, let’s move on.

Sometimes referred to as “One-Eyed Jack Doe”, Jack (as I’ll call him) was found dead on August 20, 1979 in Tok, Alaska. He was Caucasian with long, curly brown hair (though some depictions of him have him with shaggy hair). He stood at 6’0” (1.8 meters), he weighed about 185 pounds (83.9 kilograms), and was missing his left eye. His mandible was also missing, which means that a fair number of composites of Jack don’t show anything below his nose. The color of his eyes couldn’t be determined. Last, but certainly not least, it was estimated that he was between the ages of 25 and 35.

A fair number of items were found with Jack. Some cigarettes, three books of matches, a broken lead pencil, and his clothing—which wildlife had gotten to by the time police arrived at the scene (or so real life is horror claims). While I don’t think it’s really important to go over the clothing, I’ll still give a brief note of the items; if you want the full description, click here to visit Jack’s namus page.

Jack was wearing a large Mervyns Mark II jacket that was green and brown plaid. He sported blue jeans (which had 15 cent in Canadian currency in one pocket), and a marble in another. While the purpose of the marble isn’t fully known, many believe Jack was using it as a fake eye. Anyways, Jack was also wearing a white t-shirt, blue bandana, and blue socks. He had on brown, leather boots and his eyepatch was black–and was also made of leather.

On its own, Jack’s case would be nothing exactly noteworthy. He’s one of many, many unidentified persons in the United States (let alone the entire world). However, where things get interesting is that police managed to track down his killer—a man named Jesse Burt Bishop. They found him all the way in Nevada (at least, that’s what says), and he was willing to tell the whole story of how he met—and later killed—Jack.

Back in September of 1978, Jesse was driving through Boise, Idaho when he saw a man hitchhiking. Said man said he wanted to go to Pendleton, Oregon, but changed his mind when Jesse said he was headed to Alaska.

This man was, as you might’ve guessed, Jack—or John. Jesse said that it was one or the other, but he couldn’t remember. I’ll stick with Jack because that’s what everyone else uses. Anyways, Jesse stated that Jack said a fair bit about himself. He stated that he was 32-years-old and showed him an Oregon drivers license. This driver's license, as far as I can tell, has never been found and it’s entirely possible that Jesse lied about it. It’s also possible an animal ate it. If the latter is true, that’s some really bad luck.

Moving on though, Jack said he lost his eye in a logging accident. Medium claims that Jesse speculated that that’s how he lost his eye, but every other source I can find states that Jesse was directly told by Jack that that’s how he lost his eye. As such, I’m inclined to believe that Jack told him he lost his eye in a logging accident. How exactly, I don’t know, but I want to believe that he got poked in the eye by a stick or log and it took it out. Behold the marshmallow eyeball!

Okay, enough being silly. Jesse claims that Jack also said he was at one point married and that he had a job washing cars in Colorado or Utah. This detail is actually inconsistent: some say that he worked as a car washer, while others say he worked for a Lincoln car dealership. Some merge the two together and say he worked as a car washer at a Lincoln car dealership. I don’t know which is true, and I don’t think Jesse did either because during his questioning, he told investigators something that calls everything we went over into question.

Jack lied. A lot.

In fact, it would seem that he lied so much that the only thing we can be certain about is that Jack liked to smoke—which wouldn’t be hard to guess given he had cigarettes on him. So it’s entirely possible that Jack made every single thing about him up in order to seem like a decent man to Jesse. At the same time though, what he lied about isn’t specified on any source, so we can only speculate about what his lies were.

In spite of Jack’s habitual lying, it doesn’t appear that that’s what led to Jesse murdering him. No, instead, it was something a lot more innocuous. According to Jesse, Jack began to get on his nerves. So once the duo arrived in Alaska, Jesse pulled out a knife and stabbed Jack and strangled him. After that, he dumped him in a forest and drove off.

How exactly Jack’s skeletal remains were found, I’m not entirely sure, though it wouldn’t matter. The murder confession matched up with what evidence was found at the scene and Jesse plead guilty to the murder. He was subsequently sentenced to life in prison and died in 2003.

Although justice was served, the identity of One-Eyed Jack remains a mystery. There are a few possibilities as to who he was—the aforementioned has two possible identities listed actually. The two men in question are Steven Norman Chait and Franklin David Harder. While I’d normally go over who they are (or were) in the theories section, I’ll make a brief note of them here because, as far as I can tell, there isn’t a whole lot to go off of.

Steven was 20-year-old when he vanished from Columbia University in New York in 1972. According to Medium, he was listening to music in his dorm and then just walked out, not telling his roommate where he was going. It’s believed that, at the time, he was dealing with depression.

Certain aspects of Steven match up well with Jack, but a few things don’t. For starters, Steven wore glasses while Jack did not. Also, something that Medium doesn’t state is that Steven’s mother received numerous telephone calls in the years following his disappearance (though they ceased in 1997). Although the caller never spoke, Steven’s mother is adamant that it was her son. According to her, she told the caller how much she loved him and begged him to come home. However, within seconds of receiving the call, the caller would hang up. So if the caller really was Steven, that puts the theory of him being Jack to rest. Though it then raises a bunch of other questions about why he was calling his mom for years after he ran off, only to hang up on her. Though that’s a story for some other day.

The second person that Medium proposes—Franklin Harder—fits the bill a little more. He disappeared in Grangeville, Idaho on April 23, 1978 at the age of 25. He was described as “eccentric” and was said to be “a bit of a loner”. As such, nobody noticed he was gone for ten days. Then things got real and people were like, “that’s odd”. Once he was reported missing, a search party was put together, but it was also quickly called off because the weather was really bad. Given that it’s Idaho, I’m guessing it was likely due to snow. This could possibly mean that, if Franklin had run off and got lost, he froze to death, but I digress. That isn’t the point of this.

No, what the point is is that there are a fair number of things that Medium lists which are very convincing. For starters, Franklin was 6’2” (1.8 meters) and he also weighed 185 pounds. While he may have been two inches taller than Jack, he’s still within the same range. Franklin was also in the same state where Jack was picked up. There’s also a photo of Franklin on the Medium article which shows him dressing in a similar manner to Jack. Have a look.

However, I would like to point out that there are a few problems with the theory. For starters, Medium states that the five-month gap between when Franklin went missing to when Jack was picked up and subsequently murdered would be “enough time to move to other states”. That is true, though it would require a lot of moving around; going from Idaho to Oregon to Colorado/Utah is a lot of hitchhiking. It’d also require one to get a variety of jobs, which even back in 1978 would’ve likely required some time. I doubt you can just get a job at any sort of logging job without training.

However, even if all of that was true, a Reddit user stated that someone on websleuths said that Franklin had been ruled out as Jack at some point via dental records. Though even with that in mind, I want to go over one thing since I think it’s important you know about it.

Losing an eye isn’t easy—not in the slightest. Whether it’s in an accident or it has to be surgically removed, you’re losing one of your eyes. You’re losing depth perception and a great many other things. Now admittedly, I don’t know exactly how long it takes one to fully recover from losing an eye in any sort of accident, but the average amount of time needed to adjust to losing an eye—according to the British Columbia Medical Journal—is one year. Here’s the paragraph where they talk about that:

The recovery period (adaptation) from sudden loss of one eye is typical­ly 1 year or less. Those who experience sudden loss of vision in one eye re­quire more time to adapt to their monocular status than those who lose their vision gradually. If peripheral vision in the affected eye is preserved, adaptation time is usually much shorter.

Because of this, I’m a bit skeptical that anyone who went missing in the immediate lead up to their disappearance would’ve been callous enough to immediately do anything and not have gotten used to his life with one eye. I think that Jack would’ve been living with one eye for a bit longer than mere days/weeks/months. So I think that, if we’re to speculate on who Jack was, it wouldn’t be someone who vanished not long before he wound up dead.

Though with that said, Jack’s story comes to an end. It’s certainly a tragic tale, and it’s one with few leads to go off of. Because of that, I want to simply ponder who he might have been as a person and not with any specific names. Not that I can really put two and two together; I’m terrible at guessing who an unidentified person is/was. Anyways, tally-ho!


1. He was looking to start a new life

The first theory is that he was just someone who wanted to start over. He was trying to create a new image and it just so happened that he was picked up by the wrong person who couldn’t put up with him. The only thing this theory doesn’t really answer is why he lied so much, but it’s possible he was adjusting to keeping that new image up and it fell apart.

2. He was a transient

Whenever it comes to any story like this, the idea that the victim was a transient is typically the go-to theory. Someone was hitchhiking and they died; before death, they said they were a state/country far away. You’d be hard-pressed to not think that they were a transient/drifter/nomad.

In this case, Jack was just that. He was going from place-to-place, but maybe he wanted to go home, or maybe he wanted to go to another part of Oregon. The idea of going to Alaska was pleasing though because maybe he had family or friends there. Not much else to go off of.

3. He was at the wrong place at the wrong time

The third and final theory is that Jack was just some guy who wanted to go to Oregon, decided that going to Alaska wasn’t a bad idea, and just got pissed off Jesse and he was killed. Nothing more, nothing less.

My Take

I genuinely don’t really know about Jack. I lean towards him being a transient and I definitely think he lost his eye at least a year before he was murdered. However, I’m unsure as to the specifics about him. I doubt he was a bad guy, but I can’t quite explain why he (supposedly) lied. As such, a part of me thinks he was trying to start a new life. Why? I don’t know, people start over for a plethora of reasons. A terrible home life because of abusive parents or an abusive spouse or they simply feel like their current life is horrible. Maybe that was the case for Jack. I don’t know, but what I do know is I hope a genealogy company takes up his case to lay it to rest once and for all.


If you have any information available on who Jack might have been, you can contact the Alaska Medical Examiner’s Office at 907-334-2200, or the Alaska State Troopers office at 907-269-5511. Until next time, stay happy and stay healthy, and thank you for reading!

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