S. F. Chronicle: $100,000 Bigfoot Scam? John Green’s Challenge

Posted by: Loren Coleman on February 22nd, 2007

Ostman Green

John Green (right) interviews Albert Ostman about Ostman’s 1924 Sasquatch abduction incident in British Columbia. Green, who turns 80 in 2007, has been involved in many foundation cases, needless to say.

Recent discussions here have been about the Blue Creek Mountain – Onion Mountain tracks found in 1967, by John Green and others. Green feels very passionate about keeping these tracks within the realm of what are seen as genuine prints, despite mounting evidence that they were pranked or hoaxed by Ray Wallace and/or his associates. Everyone has an equal say about this affair. John Green, who is greatly respected in the field and very much so by me, wants to bring his previous challenge about the hoaxing into this, so let’s look at that “$100,000” reward.

First, here’s John Green’s message about this sent to me and to Cryptomundo on February 21, 2007:

The carved wooden feet that Loren and others think were used to make the 15-inch” tracks at Bluff Creek, Blue Creek Mountain, etc. in the 1950s and 60s still exist and there are plenty of photos and casts of the tracks that were supposedly made with them. There is also $100,000 waiting for the Wallaces or anyone else who can demonstrate that those wooden feet (or anything else) can successfully be used to produce the sort of tracks that those photos and casts show. Until someone does that, and so far no one has even cared to try, claiming to find proof that those tracks were faked with those feet is just armchair speculation, nothing but blowing smoke.John Green

As Green knows, it was mentioned and discussed at the time of his original $100,000 challenge, several requirements within the criteria are set up to the benefit of the pro-Green judges (who could hardly be expected to be objective). The exact conditions for 1958 in Bluff Creek or 1967 at Blue Creek Mountain – Onion Mountain, as to the same weather, the same surfaces, and more will never be available for such a challenge because there are only hearsay records of those conditions. Green knows that.

When asked by CNN stringer and Bigfoot believer Scott Herriott how such a test would be done, John Green answered:

It means nothing unless you do it under the exact conditions of the tracks you are studying.John Green, 2005

To which Scott replied:

That’s the point John. What were the “exact conditions” of the tracks involved? Besides some people telling you what they were, how does a scientist quantify this? Human trust has no place in the lab. This is not to necessarily imply or even suggest lying, just the always present possibility of human fallibility. Plus, there was no quantitative analysis of the soil done. This, it should also be noted…My concern is with scientifically verifiable evidence, which means physical evidence. Not thoughts and ideas and recollections from people which, we all know, can either be mistaken or presumptive. Scott Herriott, 2005

Besides, those of us that say the Wallace fakes are part of the database are not saying that the Crew track cast or the Patterson filmsite casts were produced by probable Wallace fakes.

Green sets up a strawman situation just as James Randi does about his “reward” challenges in the skeptics universe.

Various people have also called for the Wallace fakes to be turned over for “inspection,” with the theory being that looking at them more closely would “settle the question.” Ray Wallace’s nephew, Dale, appears to have the fake feet in question that are the source of the Blue Creek Mountain – Onion Mountain 1967 prints.

However, from what is generally understood, Dale Wallace does not wish to provide the wooden feet. Why would he wish to use what are now valuable historical artifacts for such a “test”? There is a very real fear of damage to these wooden fakes, as has occurred, for example, with the Homo floresiensis skull when it was turned over to a skeptical examiner.

You will note that the Skookum cast remains in private hands and is only open to infrequent viewing for similar reasoning. Indeed, Rick Noll now has a copy of the cast that he loans for exhibitions of the Skookum cast. As to the Wallace fakes, fiscal considerations that the Wallace family are now under the assumption they might receive, and their distrust of “Bigfooters” has also come into play regarding the Wallaces’ refusals. Dale Wallace has no reason to walk into such a firing squad situation with people he sees as highly subjective when examining these wooden tools (Bigfoot fake feet).

The $100,000 Challenge, as noted, has existed since 2003. A California newspaperman predicted what would happen regarding this reward.

In the San Francisco Chronicle for March 13, 2003, Tom Stienstra, an extremely open-minded and pro-Bigfoot-friendly staff writer wrote a column and mentioned what he called a “Bigfoot scam,” as it was termed in the headline. He wrote:

Sounds like a scam: I’ll predict right now that the $100,000 reward announced last weekend for anybody able to create fake Bigfoot tracks that could fool experts is a publicity stunt for the Willow Creek Museum, the capital of Bigfoot Country. I predict nobody will ever get paid the money, no matter what anybody comes up with. Tom Stienstra
San Francisco Chronicle, 2003

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

12 Responses to “S. F. Chronicle: $100,000 Bigfoot Scam? John Green’s Challenge”

  1. Rick Noll responds:

    Hogwash about anybody thinking the wooden feet are historical artifacts… since they were clearly shown as being worn in a muddy field by a news reporter tripping over them when the story first broke… which kind of brings into question the surface condition of the wooden feet now and then doesn’t it… say when was that split in the heel made? The real reason is that anything that might degrade the family story, have would-be movie contracts get stomped out of existence or be the final nail in the coffin to this last hoax is simply out of the question. I know this because that is pretty much what I was told on the phone when asking to come down and document with photographs and measurements all of the wooden feet at their home.

  2. Loren Coleman responds:

    Rick is correct on that one too. I’d forgotten about movie contracts that the Wallaces have in the works too. Could be one of the reasons the Wallaces feel it is not to their benefit for them to show off their fake feet right now. The Wallaces have better things to do with their historical artifacts than have the wooden feet get muddy because the museum in Willow Creek wants to see the Wallace family stamping around with those fakes.

    As Rick knows from all the agreements he’s had to sign in the last year and all the news he’s kept quiet about the documentaries and trips he’s made to Asia and elsewhere, contracts do call for confidentiality.

  3. ozestrange responds:

    “There is a very real fear of damage to these wooden fakes, as has occurred, for example, with the Homo floresiensis skull when it was turned over to a skeptical examiner.”

    Drawing a long bow with that analogy.
    Fake wooden feet and real skull. 🙂
    You could apply a layer of silicon on the base of both feet, peel it off and have an exact replica of the bases.
    It would not damage a thing, I do it all the time with original plaster items and the resulting silicon mould/base could be poured with plaster and compared with any prints you like.
    Its interesting to have a dodgy test with $ involved to test a dodgy bit of wood that has $ involved. 🙂


  4. Loren Coleman responds:

    Well, mike, as I indicate after being reminded of the movie contract facts by Noll, there is no reason for the Wallaces to feel now is the time to again bring forth the fakes.

    Actually, the real skull is a good analogy to this now infamous and historically significant one-of-a-kind fake wooden feet. You know and I know that if anyone ever put those fakes up on eBay, they certainly would go for more than a piece of toast with the image of Jesus on it. 🙂

  5. DWA responds:

    and this is what you get stuck with when you argue 50-year-old tracks.

    I can see some serious scientists thinking: on the other hand, maybe the world NEEDS another Malagasy mouse lemur.

  6. slowwalker-32 responds:

    When someone offers a lot of money, and $100,000 is a conciderable amount, there are people that will go to the extreme. Never underestimate the desire of some, not only sometimes just for the money, but to scam someone who is really trying to find the truth. I don’t think I would want one of them as a friend.

  7. dbdonlon responds:

    Loren, there’s a sense in which your complaint about the prize is a red herring. If the question here is whether it’s possible Wallace faked the Onion Mt. tracks, this is a question that might be probed through experiment and the answer would be its own reward. I know you live too far away to easily oversee such a thing, but there are folks who read your blog, no doubt, who are close enough to take it on if the inspiration strikes. Is it really feasible to create fake tracks the way that Wallace claims to have done it? Perhaps you can make a call for just such an experiment to be done when the weather is appropriate. If the experimenters are careful to document everything they do, the results should have some influence in this discussion.

    As John Green noted earlier, there is an argument that the resemblance between the Onion Mt. tracks and a photo of Wallace’s fake foot carvings are superficial. I have seen a comparison made between one of the tracks and one of the fakes — I believe it was done by Rick Noll but it’s possible it was done by another in a thread he started on the Bigfoot Forums. A demonstration was made that the similarities indeed were superficial — that the two pictures could not be made to line up. I have never seen you address this point, or make a showing of your own that the fake and a particular track do line up, or an explanation for why they don’t line up even though the one was used to create the other. Do you have any comments about this? It would seem a direct comparison by superimposing the picture of the fake foot with a track would make short work of Mr. Green’s assertion that your analysis was superficial. If it’s not possible to make a direct comparison like that, do you have any explanation for why it won’t work?

  8. Loren Coleman responds:

    Straw man arguments and red herrings must share time with the other distractions. The crystal clear picture is one of a man named Ray Wallace having had a minor role in planting fake footprints that those who have found those footprints do not wish to have overturned as good evidence. Obviously, the $100,000 challenge is one of the biggest distractions around. But it has fallen flat, only to be used again and again as if it is really something that is a seriously testable experiment. It is not.

    The alignment question has been asked and answered, too. The question has been asked and addressed. It has been discussed on Bigfoot lists and forums for at least four year. Look to the link previously noted to Matt Crowley’s site for specifics, as well as the works of Mark A. Hall’s essays in Wonders. The fact is that few have read these treatments, and the words of Green, Murphy and Meldrum in support of this disputed tracks are what most people still read.

    See below for more links and discussion of this entire matter:

    The Ray Wallace Debate (Feb. 12, 2006)

    The Ray Wallace Debate – Part II (Feb. 13, 2006)

    The Ray Wallace Debate – Part III (Feb. 16, 2006)

    The Ray Wallace Debate – Part IV (Mar. 3, 2006)

    Media Watch: Wallace Again, Wrong Again (Apr. 30, 2006)

    Remove Ray Wallace’s Fake Photos (May 27, 2006)

    Wallace Fakes Revisited (Jan. 9, 2007)

    The alignment question here in this comment section is merely another distraction, as it has been asked and answered.

  9. dbdonlon responds:

    Loren, if you have addressed Rick’s specific assertion that the fake and the picture you compare it with do not line up, beyond your comment from January 10, 2007, “who says the fake foot that is being compared to the cast noted is the one that goes with that cast. Wallace made several sets of fake feet and how do we know that we have seen them all,” then your rebuttal is nowhere to be found in the links you provided.

    So, in a nutshell, your argument is this: since the Onion Mt./Blue Creek photograph resembles Wallace’s fake, without being a match, then that means Wallace once had a fake that would match it.

    Going through all those posts again I am left echoing what I said in one of your threads on May 29. 2006:

    While the one track from Blue Creek that Loren uses *does* look very much like Wallace’s fake, Rick Noll showed that it was not a direct match. So you can’t say that you know it was a fake, all you can say is that it looks like one and then hypothesize that Wallace at one time had a different version of his fake foot and used it at Blue Creek. Even with that you’ve got problems, because Loren’s only been able to show a similarity in one photograph (a similarity that doesn’t hold up to measurement, remember). He doesn’t make much of the fact that there were hundreds of prints found at the location made by different sized feet in several substrates. As Rick Noll pointed out on a now famous BFF thread, some of those foot impressions can’t be explained by our present understanding of Wallace’s hoaxing method. If Wallace used wooden feet, he’d have to have had dozens of them, swapping them out between steps. He’d have had to have some way of getting his wooden feet up and down embankments while maintaining a natural look. There are quite a few reasons to suppose that the footprints at Blue Creek aren’t hoaxed, and it appears the only reason to think they are is that one of them looks fake. And it *does* look fake. The preponderence of the evidence suggests that it probably isn’t.

    You don’t have to take my word for what Noll said and did, though, he wrote as much himself in answer to one of your blog posts on January 10, 2007:

    If you were to compare the Wallace wooden foot with the actual cast you would see that the features do not line up. They look similar but the waist is too far back towards the heel and the double ball is off in position as well. Given that these features could of moved while embedded into the soil when making a track and moving somewhat, their relationship within the track would also show this. It does not. It is obvious that the wooden foot of Wallace is not what made the cast.

    John Green’s detailed rebuttal of your position from March 10, 2006 is a powerful argument against your secondary evidence, too, so that in the end all we are left with is that superficial resemblance of the fake and the photo of a track in the ground.

    It seems to me that Noll and Green have presented the stronger case, and unless you can do better than “the footprints are fake because they look like fakes” I can’t agree with your position.

    After all, there is another explanation for why Wallace’s fake foot looks so much like footprints otherwise believed to be genuine — he crafted his fake to look like that very foot. This explanation also gives us a reasonable explanation for why the left and right fakes don’t look like a match — Wallace only had one cast to copy from (perhaps using, as Noll noted back on February 13 of 2006, “one of those toy machines that were popular back then that could trace a shape and duplicate it or changes its scale”). If he didn’t want his left and right foot to look identical, he’d have to fashion the second fake without a template. Perhaps he wasn’t a capable enough artist to make them look similar. (That Wallace could have copied one real track and fudged the other was suggested by Green in the aforementioned post of March 10, 2006, where he noted that there was a resemblance between one of Wallace’s fakes and “some casts of the many “15-inch” tracks that were found, photographed, and cast over a 10-year period.” He described the other fake as “not a close representation of anything. It is crudely carved to only an approximate shape, with three of the toes not even separated.”)

    And now I see that the comment I’m replying to isn’t the same as the one I received in my email notice. The email seemed a little less heavy handed then the present version of your post.

    This is no distraction, Loren, it is the heart of the matter. If you cannot show that Wallace’s fake made the Onion Mt. track, then you are saying, based on a superficial resemblance of ONE photograph, that the trackway was hoaxed, and then resting your case. Though you claim that all has been “asked and answered”, that is not the case, and anyone who wanted to satisfy themselves on that issue need only read through the threads you linked above.

  10. Loren Coleman responds:

    Of course, I was not and never have placed myself out there as the one and only source to read regarding this subject. And I did not do that here either.

    Mark A. Hall’s treatments of the subject in Wonders, which have not been read by all the parties involved apparently, and the total output of Matt Crowley’s new work are both worthy of examining.

    I will address more of this in forthcoming blogs, but I wish to say I appreciate the time taken by DB, Noll, and Green for your counter-arguments here and yesterday.

    Thank you.

  11. Daniel Loxton responds:

    I’m afraid I have to agree that the Green challenge is bogus. When I was interviewing the MythBusters for Skeptic a couple years ago, I halfheartedly suggested to Adam that they try for the Green prize — but only half-heartedly. After all, what’s the point in trying to “replicate” a feat under conditons which are not widely agreed to have been operating in the original event?

    For example, the terms of the challenge require that the replication produce deep tracks in dense earth into which “human prints barely penetrate at all;” that tracks climb and descend steep ,overgrown slopes while showing clear variation in toe positon; and that tracks allow rocks and other hard objects to stick up above the rest of the track. Furthermore, hundreds of tracks must be produced under these conditons **under cover of darkness, and undetected by persons nearby, and in places where no machine can reach.** (If I understand it correctly, these last three conditions can be satisfied individually in three separate tests.)

    The problem with this is that there’s no sort of consensus that these in fact were the original conditions. Instead, the details are reconstructed, partly based on anecdotal accounts (and a hefty dollop of inference). Indeed, details like toe mobility are exactly the sorts of unproven claims that are at issue in these discussions.

    I assume the Green prize is offered in good faith, but I’m not at all convinced the prize would ever be awarded in any event — there seems to be tremendous interpretive wiggle-room in the rules, all in the favour of the judges.

    But it hardly matters: any outcome from the Green test, positive or negative, would be equally (and completely) irrelevant to the original claim that the tracks were made by a real live sasquatch.

    (PS: The Randi Prize, on the other hand, is entirely fair, genuine, and definitive. Rather than demanding that arbitrary conditions be met, the Randi prize merely asks, A) “What can you do, according to you?” and B) “Under what conditions can you do it, according to you?” Both parties then negotiate a **mutually acceptable and mutually agreed** protocol to prevent cheating in a formal test of the claimant’s ability, and establishing a mutually acceptable framework formally defining a successful or failed demonstration. Then the claimant attempts to demonstrate his claimed ability under the conditions he himself specified, subject to the safeguards he himself agreed to. Very straightforward stuff, really: as Randi jokes, “If they say they can play the violin, then we ask them to play the violin.”)

  12. Loren Coleman responds:

    What is amazing, too, of course, is that some of the reported conditions are based on testimony of Wallace and Wallace’s hired hands, who told stories that enchanced the circumstances of what was going on.

    But once again, the Wallace family claimed the wooden fakes were used, but it mostly has been the media that linked them to the “first” Bigfoot cast brought forth by Jerry Crew. There were other tracks, probable Wallace fakes, that look like the wooden tools left on sandbars that have more to do with the fakes.

    The prize is talking about the Crew tracks that even I feel have nothing to do with the Wallace fakes.

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