Bigfoot Encounters

“The Oregonian,” 
Portland, Oregon
Dec. 15, 2002

The Oregonian” has the largest circulation in Oregon and SW Washington

Ray Wallace and the 16-inch-long feet he carved from blocks of alder may have given birth to the Bigfoot legend, as Wallace’s family now claims.

But nothing, not even the final confessions of Wallace, the lifelong practical joker who died the other day at the age of 84, in Centralia, Wash., can kill the beast now.

Bigfoot, Sasquatch, whatever you want to call it, is now and forever loose, roaming the thickest, darkest corners of the Pacific Northwest woods – and of our imaginations.
It is lurking in the shadows near the Scouts gathered ‘round listening to the Bigfoot stories, shivering and trying to rub away the goose bumps on their arms.

It is over the next ridge awaiting every Northwest hunter who has ever sat around a campfire with his buddies, chatting not about politics or family, but what hunters often talk about when they get out in the woods: If you saw Bigfoot, would you shoot him?

It is in carefully preserved bits of hair, dried piles of strange-looking poop, fuzzy photos and plaster casts of partial footprints, passed down in families, handed around, studied and admired at the annual Bigfoot Conference in Washington County, which followed Bigfoot Daze in Carson, Wash.

Bigfoot is here, there, everywhere in the Northwest for the many people who take some pleasure in believing.

For all of us, the Bigfoot legend is too great to be explained away as the work of one practical joker, even a relentless one like Ray Wallace, giggling as he strapped on wooden feet and walked around logging equipment deep in the Northern California woods nearly 45 years ago. Sure, Wallace helped keep the Bigfoot lore going over the years with other hoaxes, including grainy photos of people in gorilla costumes and tape recordings of screams and grunts purported to be Bigfoot.

But is Bigfoot nothing more than a creation of Wallace’s sense of humor?

Now that’s too hard to believe.

Bigfoot is too big. He goes back too far to spring only from the mischievous mind of Wallace. It’s not just the countless modern Bigfoot sightings and stories. There are Northwest Indian legends of Bigfoot-type creatures. There are scattered newspaper reports, too, long before 1958, of shy, hairy beasts glimpsed in the Northwest woods.

Twenty-five years ago a young state representative from Eugene took to the floor of the Oregon House, wearing a gorilla suit, to introduce a resolution to prohibit “harassing, annoying or intimidating” Bigfoot, Sasquatch or any other like creature. The lawmaker in the suit was Ted Kulongoski.

Scoff if you want, but for a lot of us, from Oregon’s new governor on down, Bigfoot lives.
If the Bigfoot legend ever dies, the forests of the Northwest would feel less interesting, less mysterious. And empty.

Article courtesy Joe Beelart, West Linn, Oregon
Monday December 30, 2002

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