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Bigfoot and Controversial Hoaxing

Within the domain of Bigfoot research, there are hundreds, possibly thousands, of credible sightings of Sasquatch and similar creatures. Unfortunately, some of the cases that have gone down in monster-hunting circles are those born not out of credibility, but out of hoaxing and infamy. There is no better example of this than the controversial life and career of a man named Ray Wallace. Born in Missouri in 1918, Wallace was someone who, today, is an integral part of Bigfoot lore, although most certainly not from a positive perspective. The story is a long and winding one, a story that could easily be the subject of an entire book itself. In summarized form, it goes like this: back in the early months of 1957, Wallace was appointed contractor on a new road construction-based project based at Bluff Creek, California. The foreman happened to be Wallace’s brother, Wilbur. A large team of workers, running into dozens, was brought in to complete the project. Reportedly, as the work was proceeding, a number of strange events occurred, such as huge oil drums being thrown around the area, with no real culprit in sight.

One year later, in early 1958, enormous footprints were stumbled upon at the Korbel, California-based Mad River. It was not only a place of similar construction; it was also a construction site run by Ray Wallace. At the same time, work was still continuing at Bluff Creek. One of those brought on board was Gerald Crew. As August 1958 rolled around, something very strange and unsettling occurred at Bluff Creek: after a weekend spent back at home in Salyer, Crew returned to work, only to find nothing less than huge footprints all around his bulldozer. Although his first thought was “hoax,” he felt it was wise to tell both Wallace brothers of his discovery. It wasn’t long before the press picked up on what was, ahem, afoot. More prints were found, the press coverage increased, and, thanks to a journalist named Andrew Genzoli – of the Humboldt Times – the term “Bigfoot” was created.

Although the story, and the attendant events, were big news, some of the leading figures within Bigfoot research, such as Ivan T. Sanderson, found the whole thing fascinating – due to the fact that there was a history of hairy, man-beasts in the area – but had deep worries that Ray Wallace may have engaged in trickery of a kind that was now running wild. Certainly, Wallace was a man of a controversial character. All of which brings us to 2002.

On November 22 of that year, and at the age of 84, Wallace died of heart failure. The media had a field day of astonishing proportions when Wallace’s family claimed that he had engaged in widespread faking, which included case reports and even footprints. That Wallace did engage in faking and outright lying is not in doubt. The biggest issue of all, however, was that, for some unfathomable reason (perhaps laziness and a lack of willingness to address the claims to a deep degree was the cause), in 2002 the media didn’t just portray Wallace as someone who may have engaged in a few hoaxed events. Instead, he was presented as the man who practically gave birth to Bigfoot. In other words, the inference of the media was that because Wallace birthed Bigfoot, and he had engaged in hoaxing, then this meant Bigfoot itself was a hoax – as in period.

As a perfect example of this, the Seattle Times ran a story titled Lovable Trickster Created a Monster with Bigfoot Hoax. No. What Wallace had actually done was to insert himself into a controversy that – as numerous old, American newspaper accounts cited in this very book clearly demonstrate – has actually been publicly reported on since the early 1800s. In that sense, Wallace didn’t create anything in the slightest. He was a bandwagon-jumper who saw a way in which he could become part of an already existing, and enduring, mystery. Despite the press’ over the top and misleading claims, Wallace “created” nothing.

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Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.
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