12.07.02/10:18 p.m./bigfoot, the big, giant... man in a suit
SEATTLE (Dec. 7) - The man who used 16-inch feet-shaped carvings to create tracks that ignited the ``Bigfoot'' legend has died. He was 84.
Ray L. Wallace's family admitted his role in the creature myth after his death Nov. 26 from heart failure.
``The reality is, Bigfoot just died,'' his son, Michael, said.
In August 1958, a bulldozer operator who worked for Wallace's construction company in Humboldt County, California, found huge footprints circling and then leading away from his rig.
The Humboldt Times in Eureka, California, coined the term ``Bigfoot'' in a front-page story about the phenomenon.
Family members said Wallace asked a friend to carve the wooden feet that he and his brother Wilbur wore to create the tracks.
The nation - fascinated by tales of the Himalayan Abominable Snowman - quickly bought into the notion of a homegrown version.
``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,'' Mark Chorvinsky, editor of Strange magazine, told The Seattle Times.
Wallace cut a record of supposed Bigfoot sounds, printed posters of a Bigfoot sitting with other animals and provided films and photos that purported to show the creature eating elk and frogs, Chorvinsky said.
Chorvinsky believes the family's admission raises serious doubts about key ``proof'' of Bigfoot's existence: the so-called Patterson film, with its grainy images of an erect apelike creature striding away from the camera operated by rodeo rider Roger Patterson in 1967.
Wallace said he told Patterson where to spot a Bigfoot near Bluff Creek, California, Chorvinsky recalled. ``Ray told me that the Patterson film was a hoax, and he knew who was in the suit.''
Michael Wallace said his father called the Patterson film ``a fake'' but claimed he'd had nothing to do with it. But he said his mother admitted she had been photographed in a Bigfoot suit, and that his father ``had several people he used in his movies.''
The disclosure is not fazing others who study such creatures.
Jeff Meldrum, an associate professor of anatomy and anthropology at Idaho State University, says he has casts of 40 to 50 footprints he believes were made by authentic unknown primates.
``To suggest all these are explained by simple carved feet strapped to boots just doesn't wash,'' Meldrum said, noting 19th century accounts of such a creature.
Chorvinsky says those early reports were mistakes, myths or hoaxes.
12/05/02 22:18 EST
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