Sometimes it happens that an idea is raised as a complete absurdity, and only within the context of a joke. But as the joke lingers and settles in amongst the minds of increasingly more people, the irony and absurdity fades away. Eventually the initial bemused amusement that at first infected people at the idea fades into a more sincere “But what if…” reaction. Soon enough, the idea that the idea could become reality is entertained ever more seriously and ever more without entertainment. Then it becomes reality, and the initial joke and absurdity is long forgotten. Some may regard the initial joke as part of a larger strategy of implementation.
I am referring to the idea of human-ape hybrids, which seemed absurd and incomprehensible for quite a while, until it wasn’t.
I had some interest in the topic, researching it on the side (though it had nothing to do with my academic studies). The degree to which the topic has been suppressed or unacknowledged rather surprised me. Certainly it used to be a reality but ceased to be some time ago, so it remains to most an odd sort of mythical footnote of recent history. It is something that can be dismissed as part of the insanity of the past. But I didn’t want to dismiss it– I wanted to know more. Hopefully, those of you intrigued enough to read about this are as curious as I was. Which is why I’ll recount my recent trip to the now closed and defunct “Ape Museum”, the culmination of my interest in the topic. This should answer all of your questions about it, as if it were the most comprehensive database of knowledge on the topic.
The Ape Museum is located in a small town in upstate New York, almost in the middle of nowhere. Coming across it is rather jarring; with so little surrounding it, it is an odd sort of oasis.
It was a rainy day when I decided to go– the perfect weather to visit a museum. I couldn’t find anyone else who wanted to go with me, so I just went by myself. Parking was free and a non-issue; my car was one of the few parked in an unnecessarily large parking lot.
The building itself, made entirely of overbearing, drab concrete, was a classic example of Brutalist Architecture, something that seemed to belong in a city rather than the middle of nowhere. But city museums, with a few exceptions, do not deal as much with the more shameful aspects of history, which I suppose is why it was built where it was. It was federally funded when it was open, but that became no longer the case.
Even being federally funded, they still required an admission fee of twenty dollars, unless you wanted to pay extra for full-time membership (as a thought experiment, I wonder if anyone was so absorbed in the topic that they would be willing to fork over the money for such a membership). I paid the woman at the front desk, one of the few staff members I actually saw there. The museum, like the surrounding area, was eerily devoid of people.
It wasn’t a large museum, but it had a few densely packed rooms. The first one I entered had an anatomical statue of a man made I think out of fibreglass. This was atop a pillar in the first room– and another pillar stood opposite the man. This was a gorilla– a real, taxidermied gorilla, hunched over atop the pillar, with noble, marble eyes. The two pillars flanked the doorway into the next room. This was my first image of the exhibitions, and it seemed to mask the horror that lay deeper within.
This first room had information about the biological human, or homo sapien, as well as the gorilla, or gorilla gorilla. I skimmed over some of this information, though I didn’t consider it to be of much importance. If it interests you, you can look at some of this information yourself, but suffice to say that the homo sapien and the gorilla gorilla share a common ancestor and are genetically fairly similar. That is, similar enough that the two could crossbreed.
The rest of the room described some of the history of this practice– the subject of the Ape Museum. The idea had been entertained as a sort of absurd experiment, but it had been dismissed as an actual experiment. Until it wasn’t.
There were excerpts of articles about it, before the phenomena took place. One argued that cross breeding apes and humans would be a good idea simply because it would spite all of those who believed there was something special or unique about humans. Discrimination against non-human species could be brought to an end, another biologist argued.
These were only fringe scientific views at first. However, the issue, like most things, eventually became political. In an effort to win over a more scientifically curious generation, as well as to align more with our European counterparts, known for being more lax about these sort of issues, a bill to legalize human-ape cross breeding was introduced. I can’t even remember who introduced the bill, of which party he belonged, but the idea was laughed off before it started to gain traction.
In a matter of a decade, this formerly absurd science-fiction-esque plan started to look like an inevitability. Very quickly, those who opposed such a plan, such as a number of bioethicists and religious figures, were criticized and dismissed as ignorant hicks who stood in the way of progress, whose views belonged in the medieval period. And so, the formerly absurd bill passed, the other side having lost the culture war around the subject.
I moved on to the second room, through the columned door of gorilla and man, both intrigued and somewhat scared to see what would come next.
What did come next, in the second room, actually surprised me. I was not expecting that in the second room there would be a set of holograms of actors hired to portray the pioneers of this phenomena. The holograms made it appear as if the actors were there in front of me, which was impressive. However, the creative decisions at work here I found rather questionable.
Apparently, those in charge of creating the exhibits figured that the most effective way of portraying the first man to attempt hybridation, as well as some of his descendants, was through a sort of Broadway-esque musical number. Not to mention, of course, that the actors who were meant to portray the hybrids appeared far more human than ape (this was not the case in real life). Much of the actual footage and photographs of these men have been censored and cut out, so this musical recreation was mostly all that remained (if you are aware of the whereabouts of such photos, audio, or video, please let me know as I have been unable to find them).
The story of these figures began with John Fredrickson, a scientist who became the first to attempt hybridation through i*********e with a female gorilla (the details of which have not been made available, and frankly I do not wish that they should become available). The gorilla became pregnant with the first hybrid.
This hybrid, Daniel Fredrickson, was half-ape. He then had a son with a human female, producing a son that was one-quarter ape– Eric Fredrickson.
The musical number was a trio between these three figures. I remember it being odd and rather cheesy. Not to mention, the actors portraying the hybrids (both Daniel and Eric), looked like humans with sideburns, but lacking the hairiness that they actually possessed. In short, they did not at all appear to be part gorilla.
I promised to be faithful to what I saw, so I’ll reproduce part of the musical number here (I jotted it down, though I wasn’t able to get it all and sort of filled in the gaps). Still, I must add my own commentary as a preface, that I consider it mostly worthless and unimportant to the topic at hand. That being said, here is my approximation of the musical number between these three generations of hybrids:
Here I am, a quarter ape,
And three quarters yet a man,
Why is it that I can’t escape,
The fraction of me that is an ape?
I wish to be as other men,
Secure in their humanity,
I wish I could excise that then,
Which makes me not like other men.
I am mostly the same as any-one,
But only mostly not an ape,
I cannot fully have any fun,
Because I am not like everyone.
My father, why is it that you made,
The decision to bring forth another man-ape
Though I love you, I curse you for this pain,
And all my accurs-ed escapades!
My son I meant not to bring you pain,
I only wished to find true love,
In doing so I have brought you then,
Into the earth as a hybrid again,
Calm your outbursts, my dear son,
For you know not my suf-fer-ring!
For you are only quarter-one,
Of that wild animal without fun.
I beg you, son, to think of me,
And the pain of being half an ape.
In between two camps I be,
Fitting then into neither sea.
I have never known true joy,
Not even as a little ape boy,
So I ask you, father, why is it that,
You have produced a miserable ape like that?
My son I did not abandon you,
Or intend to bring you so much pain,
I simply wished to try again,
An experiment as those of old have done.
You see, there is much I sac-ri-ficed,
To form this little ex-per-i-ment
I wished to marry a real woman,
And with her a marriage con-sum-mate!
I am truly sorry that you are sad,
And wish for you not to remain that way,
But if anything should make you glad,
‘Tis that you have contributed to scientific pro-gr-ess!
The world will be better off from this,
Future men will look back on us with awe,
For pioneering a brave new future in this way,
To possibly bring species into bliss!
(End of the song)
The actors were trained singers and brought a vibrato to their baritone vocal ranges. However, I do think the song itself could have been reworked and rewritten– or, even better, discarded altogether.
Questionable creative decisions regardless, that was the entirety of the second room. Details of specific aspects of the lives of these figures was mostly not included, for some odd reason, rather emphasizing the pain and pathos they experienced. Perhaps this is a more interesting way to think about these figures, but I do wish more specific, concrete information was included. (I do know, from other research, that these figures are now deceased, with Eric dying before he could produce another hybrid).
I moved on to the third room. About this room, I must say I was greatly disturbed. After the odd, disorientating effect of the second room, I did not know what to expect here. This room was dedicated to another hybrid, this one also half-ape and half-man. I had heard of this one, and details about him were not similarly repressed or expunged.
His name was Alan “Apeman” Jones, and he had been a rather famous singer, performing sort of spoken-word rants, filled with anguish and frustration– with hatred. This room did not try and recreate his appearance with an actor or a rather hamfisted and awkward musical number– but it rather showed real photographs of him, and also played some of his spoken word songs in the background. The dimly lit room devoid of other people, coupled with the background music gave it an eerie and slightly disturbing atmosphere.
I looked at a photograph of him, in his twenties, and read about him. His mother was homeless and had lived on the streets, until she was offered compensation from some scientific agency for participating in an experiment. This involved (and again I do not wish to think about this very much) being impregnated by a gorilla. So she had a son, Alan Jones, who took on the name “Apeman”, and found a musical outlet for his existential anguish.
I then listened to one of his songs (I forget the name, though I imagine you could still find these songs somewhere on the internet– I would warn against it, however, as the songs are dark, bleak, and depressing). He sang with a garbled sort of voice, not quite fully human, deep, with much remaining from his ape side:
“Rock to rock, rock,
Swingin’ from vine to vine,
I damn it all each day twenty seven times,
I’m an Apeman! Neither ape nor man,
Goddamnitall! And [expletive] God’s plan!
I’m a damn monster, trap me in a zoo,
Put me in a cage, let me swing anew!
But them the gorillas they don’t like me now,
And the humans call me an abomination, ow!
Swing on a tree, but I can’t cause I’m a man,
Trouble motherfuckin’ enough to upright stand!
F**k you all, you don’t know the pain,
F**k my mom, and the scientists, don’t f****n’ do this again!”
The raw passion and semi-coherence of it rather jolted me. Suddenly, this seemed less a matter of academic research, and more like a dive into something deeply disturbing. This whole topic, and the whole museum, seemed incredibly perverse to me. I took a deep breath– I was just blown away and I wanted to leave.
I looked at his photograph: his face was very hairy, his nose was large and apelike, though he was less hairy than an ape. He wore human clothes, including a fedora and a sportcoat, but the expression on his face was murderous, vengeful and deeply sad. His eyes were incredibly stormy and he looked as if he were about to cry.
The text explained that he had committed suicide when he was just twenty-five, finding living to be incredibly painful. I don’t think I can blame him, given his state…
Those were the only rooms in the ape museum. I exited through the gift shop rather quickly and did not bother looking at anything there. I just wanted to get out of that damned ape museum, and go far away, as far as I could. I wanted off this ride– I felt like a cat killed by his own curiosity. So I left and never wanted to go back.
And I never did. Not many others did either, which resulted in the closure of the museum, and the fading away of interest in the topic. Somehow this odd, disturbing phenomena simply became erased from history. This seemed wrong to me, which is why I have decided to recount it. As you know, the bill was vetoed fifty years after its implementation, and everyone seemed to leave this chapter of recent history behind. I suppose that is a naturally human thing to want to do.
The Ape Museum is now closed due to lack of funding or interest in the museum. What became of the building now, I’m not entirely sure, though I’ve heard it has simply been abandoned and fallen into disrepair. Perhaps some will be interested in exploring it as a sort of haunted house for Halloween or something of that nature.
I wished to make it clear what happened during this dark bit of history, such that it is preserved, and no one will entirely forget about it. Even so, I still feel a little bit of relief that the topic, like the Ape Museum, has diminished significantly, to the point of being nearly completely abandoned. This seems to me a clear indication that the folly of gorilla-human hybridation will not be repeated or attempted again, and that it may be entertained only as something absurd and fantastical. I can hope reasonably that this absurd idea, having been normalized and put into practice, may remain an odd, disturbing, footnote of the past.