October 1958: Bigfoot’s 50th Anniversary!

Posted by: Loren Coleman on October 3rd, 2008

Blue Creel Wallace Hoax Comparison

The Ray Wallace-created wooden tool is compared with an often-published “Bigfoot” print, the Blue Creek track. Wallace’s fakes have hurt the database of hominology.

ray wallace

Ray Wallace.

It has been five decades since the first broad-based use of the term “Bigfoot” was used, and began to replace “Sasquatch” to describe large, hairy, bipedal hominoids in the Pacific Northwest of North America, and extension the world.

In the recent past, almost two years ago, I shared the following article written by Mark A. Hall, with his permission. He had published it in his limited edition newsletter Wonders, after Ray Wallace’s death in 2002. I am reprinting it today, near the milestone anniversary of these important events. Significantly, the Wallace issue continues onward, during this 50th year of the “discovery” of Bigfoot in the USA.

Wallace Track

October 1958 in The History of Bigfoot

by Mark A. Hall

The month of October 1958 had a special impact upon the history of the Bigfoot phenomenon. The idea of giant footprints associated with tall and hairy forest beings at large in North America became established in the public mind during that month. The very same being was identified and even famous as the Sasquatch in Canada for the previous thirty years. But the news media had not embraced that tradition. It was given a spotty treatment, and then ignored for long periods. The reason for the differing reactions is fairly obvious. The creature known as Bigfoot was not only a giant seen crossing a road at night but also it was the maker of gigantic footprints. And there were casts requiring several pounds of plaster of Paris to show everyone how huge those feet had to be.

Two traditions were launched in that fateful month. The first was that of the forest giants with great strength, a powerful smell, and those humongous feet. The second tradition was altogether different. It was an extended prank of leaving imprints of huge feet in imitation of the forest giants genuine traces.

The first tradition was eventually combined with the Sasquatch history. Together they propelled the people of the 20th century into facing the continuing presence of remarkable hairy primates of several types living in the wilds of North America. This has been shown to be in accord with what the American Indians have been saying for centuries. [1] The late-comers to North America (the Euro-American settlers) were not listening to the Indians for three hundred years, but they are listening now.

The second tradition had a long-lasting impact as well. That tradition should have died two years ago. In December of 2002 the heirs of Ray Wallace displayed the tools of hoaxing that extended back to 1958. Only after Wallace died in November of 2002 did his kin come forward with the sets of foot forms that the man had been using to create foot-like imprints. Wallace himself, they said, had been afraid of the reaction of the people he had fooled. And some people, by their own choice, continue to be fooled to this very day. They have refused to recognize the Wallace tools as the source of some of the imprints made in the years from 1958 to 1967 and perhaps even beyond that time. Since Ray Wallace made no confession of his own, that fact has been used as an excuse. They demand that someone make Wallace’s confession for him. Sasquatch promoters in the Pacific Northwest have sat on their hands rather than try to sort out the worthless tracks of Ray Wallace from genuine Bigfoot tracks.

Few people are still around who were on-site to view the fake tracks. This has been used as a second excuse to continue to embrace the worthless casts made over the years showing Wallace creations. We have been told that people who were not there are just Aarmchair experts. In April of 2003 I had an exchange of e-mails with John Green, now a primary defender of worthless casts. I had to point out to him then that the public would see for themselves in the records that do exist that those were photographs of Wallace fakes and that: They were not there. I was not there. We could not all be there. The careful placement of false impressions along roadways and the stiff and uniform impressions of the Wallace imprints are evident in the photographs made in 1967 at Blue Creek Mountain. The posting of more photographs of those 1967 impressions on the Bigfoot Forums website in 2005 served to reinforce the photographic record that has been around for over 30 years.

If the Bigfoot enthusiasts had come clean on this issue two years ago, it would be scarcely mentioned by now. But they have continued to publish Wallace fakes in slick books. [2] And they have told the few people who are willing to throw out this trash to “take a hike.” In the absence of due diligence by these people to remove this trash, I will present more information newly uncovered about what was going on at the time this hoaxing began. I have already written two articles on this particular subject. [3] Those are in addition to having written two books and numerous articles on the variety of wildmen reported in North America. I have entirely revised The Yeti, Bigfoot & True Giants in 2005 to reflect recent history and views on wildmen. I have shared what I know, even though many Bigfoot/Sasquatch enthusiasts have been unable to come to grips with the diversity of what lies behind “Bigfoot” reports. For some the fantasy of AHarry and the Hendersons@ is akin to a documentary. Their views are simplistic. And, if they continue to look the other way when hoaxes like those of Ray Wallace are revealed, they will find fewer and fewer young people willing to listen to them. Evidence that is obviously faked should not be put forth as indistinguishable from genuine data.

When we look at unusual footprints in North America, we are venturing into well-trod territory. The ground has been disturbed by both track makers and track investigators. All manner of tracks have been found. Some of the track makers were hoaxers out to fool the rest of us. And that funny business appears to have been going on for some eighty years. So an introduction to this subject should include some history. In this way we can see the context for the pursuit of valuable but problematic traces of wildmen in North America.

The activity of gathering evidence of peculiar footprints in North America owes its birth to the Bigfoot legend that arose in 1958. While there was long-standing interest in the Sasquatch of Western Canada, the pursuers of the Sasquatch did not often find tracks that went on record. But we must go back much further than 1958 to find the beginnings of this business. The pranks that led up to the birth of Bigfoot and the pranks that followed must be sorted out from the records of genuine traces of large primates that were known to the Indians and were leaving tracks found by others in the 1800s. The finding of giant footprints in snow was noted as part of British Columbian accounts published in 1934. [4]

Large manlike footprints were part of the lore of giants among the American Indians in the American West. Also, at least since 1829, they were part of the stories of encounters with giants by the non-Indians who were settling the American landscape. Giant footprints were what caused an ill-fated expedition into the Okefenokee Swamp in 1829. Nine men had the misfortune to find what they sought, and only five men returned from their meeting with a True Giant. [5]

A serious interest in the subject of Sasquatch (much later to be called Bigfoot) was stirred up by John W. Burns in British Columbia in the 1920s. Around the same time people in the USA were also hoaxed by their fellow citizens with false imprints of giant feet. No one took much interest in those pranks at that time. The jokes were recalled much later only when the issue of finding genuine footprints of giants arose in 1958. [6]

At that time the name “Bigfoot” became attached in popular knowledge to the presence of the Neo-Giants in the West. Neo-Giants is a better and more well-defined term for the maker of the famous tracks we are considering here. Early in that year a road-building sub-contractor named Ray Wallace bought a pair of fake feet from a man named Rant Mullens. Mullens’ claim to have sold these carvings to Wallace was confirmed in 2002 when Wallace’s Oregon relatives produced the fakes as part of the post-mortem on Wallace’s jokes. Wallace, according to one of his employees, was concerned about vandals at his worksites. The giant footprints when left in the dirt around his equipment would help to scare them off. We do not know if Wallace made his own imprints with the Mullens carvings. He expressed his disdain for the appearance of them. [7] What is most significant is that early in 1958 he was at least already contemplating depositing fake imprints of large feet for the purpose just stated.

But there seemed to be more than just vandals in the woods of Northern California. Heavy items B pieces of culvert and truck tires B were tossed about. Then giant footprints that did not look at all like the fake Mullens feet were found, preserved as casts, and photographed. In October of 1958 the American version of the Sasquatch, the legend of Bigfoot, was born. The tracks found at this birth of Bigfoot were seldom found and turned up in a few isolated places in later years. But the man who had been concerned about the vandals around his remote worksites was about to start leaving a different kind of track that would be seen often and easily.

In August Gerald (Jerry) Crew found tracks around his equipment. They came down a steep hill and circled his machine. And then they went off into the woods. He was determined to gather evidence of what he was seeing. He learned how to make casts of footprints. His opportunity came in early October.

Jerry Crew

Crew took his cast to the local newspaper. Andrew Genzoli published his illustrated story in the Humboldt Times on 5 October. The publication of that picture of him holding an enormous foot-shaped plaster cast was a turning point in the pursuit of wildmen in North America. Everybody wanted to see whatever was making such imprints.

The wonderment at those large feet was captured at the time by Betty Allen, a correspondent for the Humboldt Times in Eureka, in the Oct. 9 edition of the Times. She writes of seeing the tracks on Friday, 3 October.

Willow Creek – This is my story about Bigfoot! Idle words about wanting to see the huge tracks which have been appearing on the access road construction job to Bluff Creek caught up with me Friday morning at 7 o’clock. Philip Ammon, a neighbor, knocked at my door reminding me of the journey ahead.Checking with the Jess Bemis family we found there were new tracks to see. In the light traffic of early morning we were soon rolling into Hoopa Valley with its light curtain of blue smoke hanging low. On the way to Weitchpec, fives cows lay in peaceful contentment on a small turnout beside the road. A loaded logging truck passed within inches of their noses. On the one side the road drops in a sheer descent for hundreds of feet to the Trinity River. On the other the rock cliff towered high above us. On down the road a mother pig and three half-grown piglets brought us to a full stop.

On over the Weitchpec bridge and up along the Klamath River, we were soon climbing the easy grade out of the Canyon on the Bluff Creek road. Though a wide road and well-watered we traveled slowly, for this this was totally new country to us. A driver of the water truck directed us to take the lower road around Onion Mountain to the construction site.

The country is standing on end in steep ridges that rise higher and higher. Here and there were rough rock in tremendous cliffs, but it is all slide country. No sandstone or cave formations. Bluff Creek is a good sized stream and looks like it would be fine for fishing. The ranger at Orleans says for some reason, it is not.

We talked briefly to Charles Donle who was operating a tractor, and he offered us the use of his pickup truck. We never could have made the remaining six miles otherwise.

Here was a man’s busy world. Heavy dirt movers working, but allowing us through. Jackhammer men had to pull their air hoses out of our way. Extremely rough in some places, the road was unexpectedly smooth in others.

What did we expect to see? Maybe one track and we could say it was all a hoax B or maybe, an unexpected inner sight might give us the answer. Jerry Crew directed us to the location of the tracks.

“I’ll show you those tracks, Crew said. I could tell that some of the construction men were quite skeptical. I am told that some of them wouldn’t even go and take a look.

The first actual line of tracks definitely jolted me! On the hard ground where Philip Ammon’s number 12’s made a very light imprint, the track of Bigfoot sunk a half, to three quarters of an inch in depth. Twenty clear deep footprints marched along the side of the traveled portion of the road. Eight more were seen at intervals where the tracts had not run over them.

We followed them down the road for some distance and found them in both hard and soft earth. Gravel rolled out of the cut bank to the side of the road and I quickly looked that way. I was nervous and realizing that I was in the middle of forest growth. I looked back to see how far the men and the equipment were. The thought passed through my mind, “Just what on earth is a peaceful old rocking-chair grandmother doing here, anyway?”

We measured and studied the tracks. Could they be a hoax B feet on the end of sticks? Rubber feet? Watching the activity of the men and how hard they were rushing their work to finish this portion of the road before winter, I could hardly see any of them putting in time at night making three quarter of a mile of tracks of any kind.

Bigfoot’s tracks are in perfect proportion to what one would expect in their stride of sometimes 60 inches, 52 inches, or the one short step over a small mound of dirt, which was 40 inches. Even the depth to which the track had been pressed into the ground was in keeping with their size.

What brings Bigfoot into the area? My guess is that the gasoline lantern light at the cook’s tent attracts the wanderer’s interest. There are workers living in both small tents and trailers close by the road.

Now, is this a phoney? A human hoax? Or a fact? I do not know. If it is a prank, it is so natural. Anyone with stilts with feet, would have to have both foot impressions, but it isn’t that easy to maneuver in the soft earth. If they are wearing novelty store feet, how do they weight them to get the right effect? And when a man works hard all day, does he feel like prowling about at night, missing his sleep, to make funny footprints?

Of Bigfoot, one of the bosses said, “We have an agreement, the thing and I. But he doesn’t know about it. If he leaves me alone, I’ll leave him alone.”

We returned home, definitely no wiser, only knowing we had seen 38 perfect tracks, at least 16 inches long and 7 inches wide. We saw them, we measured them. We are still puzzled. . . by Betty Allen, Humboldt Times, Eureka, California, Oct. 9, 1958.

Wilbur and Ray Wallace were victims of these disturbances. They had been going on for months. Now they began losing workers who quit and went elsewhere. Ray Wallace would have seen that the tracks did not look like the Mullens feet. He hired two men to look into the source of his headaches. Ray Kerr and Leslie Breazeale were the two who went looking for evidence. They saw a creature for themselves and found its tracks on 12 October 1958. The press reports gave them the distinction of being “the first persons to claim they have seen the ‘thing’ believed responsible for the huge footprints.”

Here is how United Press International reported their experience:

Kerr and Breazeale said the naked “beast” leaped across the road in two bounds Sunday night as they were driving toward the [construction] camp. “It was all covered with hair and it didn’t have any clothing on,” Kerr said. “It looked eight or 10 feet tall to me. I don’t think it was human, but it was not a bear or any animal I’ve ever seen.”The two men said it crossed the road about 40 feet in front of their headlights, covering the 15-foot width in three leaps. They said its “long hairy arms” swung in wide arcs as it ran. “It all happened so fast it’s hard to give a close description,” Kerr said, Abut I was raised in the brush and I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Despite the fact that they were “scared to death” the two men said, they got out of the car with a flashlight and inspected the tracks, which appeared identical to those seen elsewhere in the area.

Ray Wallace, the co-owner of the construction firm, said 15 men have quit work in the primitive timber country because of the mysterious footprints. “I’ve got three tractors sitting there without operators,” Wallace said, “and my brush cutting crew have all quit.”

The stride of the “thing” has been measured at 50 inches, and according to Kerr varies with the terrain, as a human stride would. [7]UPI, October 15, 1958.

On the 15th of October the Eureka Standard published two photographs showing recently discovered tracks and some of the men who took the time to examine them and make casts of the tracks. See Figs. 1 and 2. Among them was Wilbur (Shorty) Wallace, a brother of Ray Wallace. He examined some 16-inch footprints and came away with a cast.

At the very least then, Ray Wallace would have had access to this particular cast of a genuine track as a model for making what his heirs have presented as his hoaxing tools. Until this newspaper record from the Standard was found, it was unclear what models were available to Wallace other than the Jerry Crew casts. But we can see in the newspaper photographs from October 15, 1958 the impressions of a 16-inch track with an hour-glass shape. And a cast was obtained by Wilbur Wallace who was photographed at the scene of the track find.

From that point until the end of October there was time for someone to carve the alder-wood tools that have become famous.

What is known from the historical records is that at the end of October fake tracks similar in size and shape to genuine footprints began to appear at Bluff Creek near the new road. Some were found on November 2nd. [8] Identical imprints turned up in later years nearby. Tracks found in 1960 were immediately seen to be bogus. Tracks that were found in 1967 at Blue Creek Mountain became celebrated as evidence for Bigfoot. These fake impressions can be explained by wooden tools like those held up for photographers by Dale Lee Wallace in 2002.

Ray Wallace never made a confession to what he did in 1958 and to what he did in years after when those same bogus tracks appeared in 1960 and 1967 at nearby locations in California. It has been noted that Wallace moved away to Toledo, Washington. But that would not keep him from returning to California and executing hoaxed tracks such as were found in August of 1967.

He died in November of 2002. Only then did his family come forward with the wooden tools that made those fake tracks. His Oregon relatives had in their possession a pair of the fake feet known to have been carved by Rant Mullens. As I have observed before, those were fakes that Ray Wallace himself derided. He is unlikely to have used them to execute hoaxes. But his closest family members had the 16-inch-long tools that had been put to use since October of 1958.

In the absence of a confession from Ray Wallace we can only take the few clues given us to speculate on the key questions people ask about this history.

How did he do it? Wallace seemed to be able to impart a cleverness to his pranks that helped put them over on people who were not looking for any cleverness. He may have used cables normally employed in hauling logs out of the way in road-building to make some imprints. They would have allowed him to plant deep imprints made with weighted fake feet into sandbars. To deposit trackways along roads he had someone pulled along behind a slow moving vehicle. What if someone fell down? Easy. You just smoothed it over and started over until it looked good.

Why did he do it? By the time that Ray Wallace began to deposit his fake feet modeled on the real thing, the damage had been done to his contracting work. The workers had already quit. Bigfoot had become a sensation during the month of October. So Wallace’s pranks came later, at the end of the month, and continued on for years as he found his tracks were accepted along with the real thing. He had the newly-arrived Bigfoot-seekers casting his fakes. One of the fakes turned up in the 1961 book Abominable Snowmen by Ivan Sanderson.

Success breeds repetition. All his other wild tales went nowhere. But the one joke that worked was repeated over and over. He had his joke on the seekers of Bigfoot and on the creatures themselves who were getting more attention because of the faked prints. Charles Edson noted efforts by the creatures to conceal tracks.

In 1960 Texas oilman Tom Slick funded a search for Bigfoot in the Bluff Creek area. Ray Wallace’s fakes turned up right away. But Steve Matthes was not fooled by them. Tom Slick and his employees did not share their knowledge of the fakes with others. So Wallace went merrily along leaving more fakes.

In 1967 his handiwork turned up above Bluff Creek at Blue Creek Mountain and Onion Mountain in August. He added a second set of tracks leaving 13-inch-long impressions. He had nine years to come up with a new tool. Those imprints are unique. They have not turned up anywhere else. The impressions they made were slightly more flexible than the wooden feet. It is possible the material used was not as long-lasting as the plain alder wood feet that survived intact from 1958 to 2002. But if those tools were to turn up also they would contribute to setting the record straight. The 13-inch fakes were the ones I pointed to as “suspect” in my June 2003 article. [9] Further, it has been recently pointed out that what were once perceived as “dermal ridges” in those casts are now understood to be artifacts of the casting process.

Why did Wallace keep quiet? Ray Wallace appears to have been too successful. His relatives have said he did not want to incur the wrath of the people he had hoodwinked. He was probably wise in that respect. Even after his tools were revealed in 2002, some of the people hoodwinked have continued to insist his fakes are the real thing.

All the other things that Ray Wallace attempted with a Bigfoot theme came nowhere near the success that he had with hoaxing footprints. He became famous for telling the wildest tales possible about Bigfoot. They included Bigfoot guarding gold, UFOs, sound recordings of Bigfoot, and movies of the creatures. His widow confessed to wearing a home-made Bigfoot suit as her husband took some home movies. No one swallowed a word of it. He was suspected of creating entirely bogus and bigger than ever Bigfoot casts to sell to tourists. Periodically Wallace was interviewed by the press. His stories were colorful, but of course they were also incredible. Behind all this obvious failed showmanship there was a Ray Wallace who had successfully fooled a lot of people with his wooden fakes. But he couldn’t speak up in his own lifetime and enjoy his one successful joke.

The lessons of the Ray Wallace hoaxes should be learned by all who seek to make sense of unusual footprints. I won’t spell out all those lessons here, because I have no desire to aid the pranksters of this world. They will continue to do their work and we should hope they don’t learn any lessons here.

At the same time that fake tracks were so common, the genuine tracks of the Neo-Giants (that better-defined term for “Bigfoot”) have also been turning up. They have been relatively rare among well-recorded finds, but they are distinctive and associated with the very singular type of creature that has been seen in the mountains of the West and seen clearly in the Patterson-Gimlin film. It was the public’s fascination with the Bigfoot legend that gave new importance to the finds of large footprints wherever they have been found. They have been reported all over North America. Mistakenly they have all been readily and loosely termed “Bigfoot tracks.” The key thing about them is that they were noticed and recorded whereas they otherwise would have remained an obscure local event.

The record of “Wild Man” stories from the past two centuries contains many references to “strange” tracks and even some large dimensions are given. But the record of them was poor from lack of any particular interest and an absence of any organized response. No one bothered to make a cast or record full descriptions. The value of the tracks was therefore minimal. The onset of the Bigfoot legend in October of 1958 changed that customary neglect.

Among the tracks found there have been many variations to examine. There has been no shortage of apparent and demonstrated hoaxes. The publicly known and discussed Bigfoot hoaxes averaged two per year from 1969 to 1978. They are

The variety in genuine tracks has been mentioned here. The specifics of which tracks appear to be genuine and why are summarized in Appendix A to The Yeti, Bigfoot & True Giants. And the nature of the track-makers is explored in the text of that book and in Living Fossils. [10]

There is no joy in having to return to the records of hoaxes again and again. But the trash must be disposed of rather than embraced as some are doing to make it appear as if no mistakes are ever made. That is likewise the sad conduct of too many professional men and women who have maintained that scientists check on each other’s work so that no one errs. That is a false front. The professionals have a hard time admitting mistakes, and the well-meaning amateurs in Bigfoot history are exhibiting the same problem.

NOTES
1. Mark A. Hall, The Yeti, Bigfoot & True Giants 3rd ed. (Wilmington, NC: MAHP, 2005). An overview appears in “North American Wildmen in Legend and in Fact,” Wonders 9(2):35-64 (June 2005).
2. John Green, The Best of Bigfoot/Sasquatch (Blaine WA: Hancock House, 2004) as on pages 69-70. Christopher Murphy, Meet the Sasquatch (Blaine WA: Hancock House, 2004) as on pages 110-111.
3. Mark A. Hall: “The Real Bigfoot and Genuine Bigfoot Tracks,” Wonders 7(4):99-125 (December 2002); “The Bigfoot Community’s Wallace Problem,” Wonders 8(2)44-53 (June 2003).
4. Diamond Jenness, “Myths of the Carrier Indians of British Columbia,” Journal of American Folklore 47:221 (1934).
5. Hall, The Yeti, 80.
6. Hall, “The Real Bigfoot,” 107-8.
7. UPI, 15 October 1958.
8. Hall, “The Real Bigfoot,” 109.
9. Hall, “Wallace Problem,” 52.
10. Mark A. Hall, Living Fossils: The Survival of Homo gardarensis, Neandertal Man, and Homo erectus (Wilmington, NC: MAHP, 1999).

+++

Wallace Track

Compare the Ray Wallace fake wooden carved foot, on the right, with the photograph of an alleged “real” Bigfoot footprint found in many books, above. The Wallace creation would have been worn and pressed in fine dirt – thus its reverse image was left. Dave Rubert photo, used by permission.

The specific tracking of the unfolding of the “Wallace myth” in the media is chronicled in my essay in the new anthology, DarkLore Volume 1, edited by The Daily Grail’s Greg Taylor, obtainable via Amazon USA or Amazon UK.

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.





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