(LONG) Bigfoot Is Dead
Daniel B. Wheeler
dwheeler at ipns.com
Wed Dec 18 13:33:57 EST 2002
>From The Oregonian, Dec. 6, 2002, p A1
Bighoax: The abominable truth can finally be told
The family of Ray L. Wallace goes public with his monstrous prank
after his death at age 84
By BOB YOUNG, Knight Ridder News Service
Bigfoot is dead. Really.
"Ray L. Wallace was Bigfoot. The reality is, Bigfoot just died," said
Michael Wallace about his father, who died of heart failure Nov. 26 in
a Centralia, Wash., nursing facility. He was 84.
The truth can finally be told, according to Wallace's family members.
He orchestrated the prank that created Bigfoot in 1958.
Some experts suspected Wallace had planted the footprints that
launched the term "Bigfoot." But Wallace and his family had never
publicly admitted the 1958 deed until now.
"The fact is there was no Bigfoot in popular consciousness before
1958. America got its own monster, its own Abominable Snowman thanks
to Ray Wallace," said Mark Chorvinsky, editor of Strange magazine and
one of the leading proponents of the theory that Wallace fathered
Pranks and hoaxes were just part of Wallace's nature.
"He'd been a kid all his life. He did it just for the joke, and then
he was afraid to tell anybody because they'd be so mad at him," said
nephew Dale Lee Wallace, who has what he says are the alder-wood
carvings of the giant humanoid feet that gave life to a worldwide
It was in August 1958 in Humboldt County, Calif., that Jerry Crew, a
bulldozer operator for Wallace Construction, saw prints of huge naked
feet circling and walking away from his rig.
The Humboldt Times in Eureka, Calif., ran a front-page story on the
prints and coined the term "Bigfoot."
According to family members, Wallace smirked. He had asked a friend
to carve the 16-inch-long feet, then he and his brother Wilbur slipped
them on and created the footprints as a prank, family members said.
His joke soon swept the country, which was fascinated by rumors of
Himalayan Abominable Snowmen in the 1950s, Chorvinsky said.
"The Abominable Snowman was appropriated by Ray Wallace. It got into
the press, took on a life of its own and next thing you know there's a
Bigfoot, one of the most popular monsters in the world," he said.
Wallace milked the prank for years. He offered to sell a Bigfoot to
Texas millionaire Tom Slick and then backed out when Slick made a
serious bid. Wallace later put out a news release saying he wanted to
buy a baby Bigfoot for $1 million, said Loren Coleman, who has written
two books about Bigfoot.
Wallace also cut a record of supposed Bigfoot sounds and printed
posters of a Bigfoot sitting peaceably with other animals, said
Chorvinsky, who received several hundred pages of correspondence from
But Wallace's chief contributions to bigfootery were films and photos
he supposedly captured of the creature in the wild.
There were depictions of a Bigfoot eating elk and frogs, of a Bigfoot
munching on cereal.
"Ray's contribution was a study into the actual behavior of Bigfoot,
what it eats, how it acts," said Ray Crowe, director of the
International Bigfoot Society in Hillsboro.
Chorvinsky says the Wallace family's admission creates profound
doubts about leading evidence of Bigfoot's existence: the so-called
Patterson film, the grainy celluloid images of an erect apelike create
striding away from the movie camera of rodeo rider Roger Patterson in
1967. Wallace said he told Patterson where to go - near Bluff Creek,
Calif. - to spot a Bigfoot, Chorvinsky said.
"Ray told me that the Patterson film was a hoax, and he knew who was
in the suit," Chorvinsky said.
Michael Wallace said his father called the Patterson film "a fake"
and said he had nothing to do with it. But he said his mother admitted
she had been photographed in a Bigfoot suit. "He had several people he
used in his movies," Michael Wallace said.
Wallace never received proper credit in the Bigfoot community,
Chorvinsky said. "He got it off the ground, and he kept getting
glossed over. He's been consistently marginalized or ignored by
authors," Chorvinsky said.
Why? "Because it hurts the case for Bigfoot if you talk too much
about Ray Wallace," he replied.
The Wallace family's revelation does not faze some Bigfoot experts,
and the debate about Bigfoot's existence rages on.
"These rumors have been circulating for some time," said Jeff
Meldrum, an associate professor of anatomy and anthropology at Idaho
Meldrum said he has casts of 40 to 50 footprints that he concludes,
from their anatomical features, come from authentic unknown primates.
"To suggest all these are explained by simple carved feet strapped to
boots just doesn't wash," he said. Even if the Wallace family's claims
are true, Meldrum added, there are historical accounts of Bigfootlike
creatures going back to the 1800s. "How do you account for that?"
It's easy, replied Chorvinsky; the historical accounts were mistakes,
myths or hoaxes. "I would like to see the evidence beyond the
anecdotal. Jeff Meldrum's job is show us the beef, something beyond
old newspaper articles."
As for Meldrum's claim about authentic footprints, Chorvinsky said:
"Jeff Meldrum is not an expert in creating hoaxes. I was a
professional magician and special-effects film director; anything can
Michael Wallace said family members knew about his father's hoax but
never let on.
"The family just sat back and grinned," he said. "He didn't mean to
To them, it was just another one of Wallace's jokes. Like the time he
dropped a powerful firecracker down the chimney of a bunkhouse while
loggers played cards inside. Or the time he convinced his crew that
wild cats with bushy tails were living in fores treetops.
To his family, Bigfoot was a small part of Wallace.
A rugged rogue with a big laugh and generous heart, Wallace was born
in Clarksdale, Mo., and came West as a boy. He spent much of his adult
life taming the country. He built part of Highway 1 in coastal
California, he cut trees when they were so big that trucks carried
one-log loads, and he opened a free petting zoo near Chehalis, Wash.
In 9142, he married Elna Sorensen and moved around the Pacific
Northwest as his company built logging roads and cut timber. His four
adopted sons spent much of their childhood in logging camps.
"Sometimes we lived in the middle of nowhere. You couldn't ask for a
better life as a kid," said Michael, his oldest son, now a home
builder in Castle Rock, Wash.
In 1961, he settled down in Toledo, Wash. Shortly after, he opened a
free zoo, the Wild Animal Farm, off Interstate 5. It stayed open for
about 13 years. He wife ran an adjacent hamburger stand to help
support the zoo.
"I didn't have normal pets," Michael Wallace said. "I had cougars,
raccoons, deer and bear cubs."
Wallace was preceded in death by son Gary, who died in a logging
accident. In addition to his wife and son Michael, Wallace is survived
by sons, Larry, of Winlock, Wash., and Richard, of Toledo; 10
grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Comment by poster: while the article covers most of the recent
"sightings" of bigfoot in the PNW, it doesn't address the first
referenced bigfoot, associated with the "Lost Cabin Mine" of
Washington, first reported in The Oregonian in the 1870s, I believe.
Daniel B. Wheeler
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