Voice of America’s Crypto-Disaster

Posted by: Loren Coleman on March 29th, 2006

The Voice of America is, well, supposed to be the factual voice of America, correct? How can we trust them if they can’t broadcast a story about cryptozoology without getting it so very, very wrong?

I have taken the transcript of the Voice of America’s newly broadcast "Mysterious Creatures: Are Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster Real or False?" and have annotated their italicized text with my corrections and comments.


This is Phoebe Zimmerman.


And this is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program EXPLORATIONS. Many people in America’s Pacific Northwest believe in the existence of an animal that is half human and half ape. Other people have reportedly seen a huge creature in a famous lake in Scotland. Today we tell about these and several other mysterious creatures.


In nineteen fifty-eight a young man named Jerry Crew was on his way to work. Mister Crew worked for the Wallace Construction Company in Humboldt County, northern California. Mister Crew drove large construction equipment for the company. It had rained for the past several days and the area where the construction vehicles were kept was very wet and muddy.

The finding of footprints by Jerry Crew and others on the Wallace Construction company’s Bluff Creek detail took place over several weeks, from August through October, 1958, before the media explosion occurred. Extended rain and muddy footprints are not part of the story. The footprints were discovered in damp sand on the sandbars, yes, of Bluff Creek, but generally the construction site finds were in "loose dirt."


As Jerry Crew walked toward the vehicle he would drive that day, he saw something extremely unusual. What he saw frightened him. There, in the mud, were footprints — footprints that were almost ten times larger than a normal human foot.

Again, this is being made into a fairy tale, as it did not happen in one day, and while the footprints discovered were large – 15-16 inches long – there is no way that they can be described as "ten times larger than a normal human foot."

Newspaper reporters found out about the huge footprints. They talked to Mister Crew and took pictures of the footprints. They published stories all over California. One newspaper story called the creature that made the prints “Bigfoot.”

The newspapers did not go to the footprints, but Jerry Crew, instead, brought a plaster cast – using a technique taught to him by Bob Titmus – to newspaper editor Andrew Genzoli. To be specific, Crew took the cast to Genzoli at the Humboldt Times, and along with the words "Bigfoot," and a photograph of Crew holding the cast, it was Genzoli’s dispatch on October 5, 1958, that circled the globe. No pictures of the footprints appeared, only of one cast.


In nineteen sixty-seven a man named [Roger Patterson] used a small movie camera to take pictures of an ape-like creature moving from a clear area into a forest. Many people said this proved Bigfoot was real. The movie pictures showed a large ape-like creature walking on two large feet.

Over the years, books and magazine stories were printed about Bigfoot using photographs from Mister Patterson’s film. Large groups of people spent their holiday time searching forests for Bigfoot. Many people worked long hours in an effort to prove that Bigfoot exists.

These two paragraphs are basically correct, although the original transcript does not have Roger Patterson’s name in it. I inserted it at the appropriate location. Of course, these are set up for the big lie to be told later.


In two thousand two a man named Ray Wallace died of heart failure. He was the man who owned the Wallace Construction Company where the mystery creature’s footprints first appeared. Soon after Mister Wallace’s death, his family told reporters that Mister Wallace had invented Bigfoot. They told how he had made huge feet out of wood and tied them to his shoes. They said Ray Wallace left the footprints that Jerry Crew found. They said Ray Wallace had done this as a joke.

This is fundamentally correct. Wallace died, I told Bob Young at the Seattle Times about his passing, and the relatives told Young about the carved wooden Bigfoot tools. However, to be exact, no one in the Wallace family has ever specifically said that Ray Wallace left the exact prints that Jerry Crew found.

Wallace Track

The Wallace family said the joke became bigger and bigger. They said Ray Wallace just could not stop. He was having too much fun. For example, in nineteen sixty-seven he dressed his wife in a monkey suit with large feet. Ray Wallace and Roger Patterson filmed her walking into the woods. That film became famous among people who really believed the creature existed.

The level of detail here about Wallace having "too much fun" is VOA fantasy. Worse of all, the VOA writer gets this all wrong about Wallace’s wife and the Patterson-Gimlin footage. Ray Wallace was not involved with making any film in 1967, with Roger Patterson. Wallace and his family told of how in the 1970s, after the Patterson-Gimlin film appeared, he would take films of Bigfoot. After he died, his wife admitted she was in the costume (the very bad costume, I should point out) that was used in these films.

The Voice of America is spreading incredibly incorrect information here. Wallace and Patterson, other than having met when investigator Patterson interviewed Wallace about his 1950s experiences, never had anything to do with each other. Roger Patterson took his footage in 1967, and Wallace’s wife was not involved.


Our story about Ray Wallace and his joke should end here. But the Bigfoot story has not died with Ray Wallace. Many people say the Wallace family is lying. They say Ray Wallace never made the footprints. They say there really is a Bigfoot creature. They say someday someone will find the creature. These people plan to continue their search for Bigfoot. Several organizations of people are still searching for the creature. If you have a computer that can link with the Internet, you can find many stories about Bigfoot.

Wallace’s family’s claims about Wallace using fake feet to make Bigfoot tracks probably are true. There has been plenty of evidence in others’ testimony and the matching of the fake wooden instruments with photos of old tracks found in early Sasquatch books. But Wallace’s family also have clearly said they had nothing to do with the Roger Patterson-Bob Gimlin footage.

Bigfoot’s reality and the truth of the Ray Wallace fakes are both possible. The VOA is creating an all-or-none exclusive argument that is not necessary. Bigfoot may exist, and Wallace may have faked some footprints. Both are possibilities.

Skipping some introductory statements about Lake Monsters, let’s go to the next series of mistakes in this program.


In nineteen thirty-four Robert Wilson took a photograph of an unusual looking animal he said he saw in Loch Ness. The photograph and a story were printed in the London Daily Mail newspaper. That photograph provided the best evidence of the creature for the next sixty years. It showed an animal with a long neck sticking out of the water. It looked like some kind of ancient dinosaur.Doctor Wilson’s photograph can be seen in books, magazine stories and on many Internet Web sites about the famous Loch Ness Monster.


In nineteen
ninety-three a man named Christian Spurling admitted that he made the monster in the famous photograph. Mister Spurling said this as he was dying. He said it began as a joke with his brother and father. His brother really took the famous photograph. Then they asked Robert Wilson to take the photograph to the newspapers. The Loch Ness Monster became extremely famous after the photograph was printed.

The so-called "deathbed confession" of Christian Spurling is a joke. It took the Nessie debunkers his tall tale two years before he died. What proof does Spurling have that Wilson was part of the game of hoaxers? None.

As Princeton University administrator Richard D. Smith points out in a letter to the Skeptical Inquirer about this matter: "Self-proclaimed conspirator Christian Spurling waited more than a half century before claiming to have helped stepfather M. A. Wetherell use a modified toy submarine to fake a ‘Nessie’ image in 1934; he never presented a shred of corroborating evidence to support his allegations; he was suspiciously vague when asked about a second, lesser-known photo; and he even failed to identify the bay where the hoax supposedly took place."

Of course the Voice of America merely pushes along the Spurling story and that of the involvement of his stepfather (not "father" as they have it), without any concern for the facts in the case, while demeaning the agnostic position that Dr. Robert Wilson has always taken on the matter.

Thousands of people came to Loch Ness each year in hopes that they too would see the famous creature. Each year about one hundred thirty people report that they have seen Nessie or at least something unusual in the lake. Loch Ness has hotels, museums, and boat trips that provide holidays for people hoping to see the Loch Ness Monster.

What grand statistics that is. Where did the VOA get a figure like "130 people report" seeing Nessie or something unusual "each year" in Loch Ness?

The rest of the program is mostly generalities. However, one statement did stop me in my tracks.


Scientists say reports from people who claim to have seen unusual creatures are interesting. Photographs reportedly taken of such creatures are also interesting. However reports and photographs are not scientific evidence.

The scientific researchers who are promoting the videotape of the re-discovered ivory-billed woodpecker might wish to disagree with this sense of the worth of "photographs as scientific evidence."

Researchers say some claims have led to real scientific research. However, no one has found the body of Bigfoot or Nessie or the many other creatures reported by people around the world.

All cryptids found are not Bigfoot or Nessie, and indeed, "many other creatures" do turn out to be scientifically proved because a body – living as well as dead – are found. Books on cryptozoology are filled with examples, as are the pages of Cryptomundo.

This program, one of the EXPLORATIONS programs in Special English on the Voice of America, was written by Paul Thompson. It was produced by Caty Weaver, with reporters Steve Ember and Phoebe Zimmerman.

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.

9 Responses to “Voice of America’s Crypto-Disaster”

  1. krifle responds:

    Unbelievable. Thank heavens for Loren Coleman.

  2. Freelancer responds:

    This reminds me of the so-called expert who appeared on “Good Morning America” a few months ago when results of DNA tests done on some hair found in Alaska by two boys who thought it was from a bigfoot, came in. She said Roger Patterson’s family had recently admitted that the 1967 Patterson-Gimlin film was a hoax.
    The hair the boys found turned out to be from a Bison.

  3. eyeofnewt responds:

    We should never forget that the VOA began life as a government propaganda organ, broadcasting a very biased “truth” across the so-called Iron Curtain. I still recall from childhood the TV commercials of a scowling Commie kicking in some helpless woman’s door, shouting “Nyet!” and smashing her radio with an axe–followed, of course, by a plea for donations to support the VOA.

  4. Roger Knights responds:

    I believe that ads appealing for donations would have been on behalf of Radio Free Europe, which was privately funded. VOA was and is government-funded and run.

    Perhaps the expert who said the Patterson family had admitted a hoax could be requested to issue a retraction of her libelous (to the Patterson family) statement.

  5. Benjamin Radford responds:

    Seems to me like pretty typical, slapdash journalism… I don’t know why anyone should be surprised.

  6. Jack D. responds:

    Journalism, in general, isn’t what it should be. Or maybe even what it used to be. This is a prime example.

  7. CryptoInformant responds:

    Gee…. I thought TB the BS King could spout some major BS.

  8. Roger Knights responds:

    I suspect the VOA picked up this version from an online archive of one of the newspapers that mangled the original Seattle Times obituary. Here’s John Green’s account of the mangling that occurred in “Bigfoot Did Not Die”.

    “The Wallaces had said, as just about every Sasquatch investigator already knew, that Ray had made fake Bigfoot photos and movies, featuring his wife wearing a fur costume. But they also said that Ray had nothing to do with the famous Bigfoot movie taken by Roger Patterson at Bluff Creek in 1967. The media fire stormed however, and eventually made Mrs. Wallace the subject of the Patterson movie, with Ray as the cameraman.”

    And here’s one such mangled version, by John M. Hubbell from the San Francisco Chronicle, 12/7/02, titled, “Bigfoot backers mourning
    But they remain Yeti loyalists despite family’s admission of hoax”:
    “Ray L. Wallace was Bigfoot,” his son Michael told the Seattle Times in a story published Thursday, a claim few sons can make beyond metaphor. “The reality is, Bigfoot just died.”
    And he said 1967’s famous “Patterson-Gimlin Film” — a grainy home movie that allegedly captures a startled specimen fleeing a streambed — may be only his obliging mother wearing a monkey suit. [The Seattle Times obituary didn’t say that—the writer for the SF Chronicle mashed it together in his mind–RK.]
    The elder Wallace had told the film’s shooters where they could spot the Sasquatch, said Ray Crowe, founder of the International Bigfoot Society in Hillsborough, Ore.
    But, that’s unlikely, since Wallace was not in the area, having moved to Toledo, WA several years prior to 1967. (According to the first page of Ch. 3 of Patterson’s book—on p. 73 of the 2005 reprint titled “The Bigfoot Film Controversy.”) Toledo is 511 miles from Willow Creek—a ten-hour drive—according to Google Maps.

  9. Loren Coleman responds:

    Yes, all this is part of what happened. I did a detailed media analysis of the Wallace fiasco that I shared with Matt Moneymaker and John Green, as well as a few others “organizing” the Willow Creek symposium.

    I tracked the chronological and geographical distribution of how the story had developed from my emails and talk with Steve Young at the Seattle Times, to the “death of Bigfoot” stupidity on the West Coast to the East Coast versions, which then skipped to the English and Scottish papers where the link between Wallace’s wife-as-Bigfoot films first became confused with the Patterson-Gimlin footage. Then I pointed out how the Scottish dispatch was picked up by the San Francisco and other California papers and the two film stories were merged in the American media’s mentality.

    My analysis and critique of the media was to be presented at the Willow Creek symposium by me. But then, due to some local disagreements about the BFRO’s role in inviting people, and the lack of power John Green had in supporting my talk, I was “uninvited” because I was from the East Coast and not a “West Coast” researcher (despite my 40 plus years of bi-coastal investigations). That’s a whole other story, and I won’t go into it deeply here. But I was shocked to see that my media analysis began showing up on websites and in others’ talks, despite my initial discoveries of how the “mangling” occurred and actually evolved.

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