Bigfoot Encounters

That's Not Bigfoot, That's my wife. . .

That's not Bigfoot, that's my wife . . .By Oliver Poole in Los Angeles

Most of the pictures of Bigfoot, a giant ape-like creature supposed to live in the dense forests of the American north-west, are in reality a hoaxer's wife dressed in a gorilla suit, the man's relatives revealed yesterday.

For decades until his death last month Ray Wallace tantalised America with pictures of footprints, recordings and photographs of the creature, but his family admitted it had all been an elaborate practical joke.

To the horror of thousands of Bigfoot believers Dale Lee Wallace, the hoaxer's nephew, said: "He did it for the joke and then he was afraid to tell anyone because they'd be so mad at him."

The first "evidence" for Bigfoot, a series of huge footprints, was found by Jerry Crew, a worker at Mr Wallace's construction company in August 1958.

They were in fact created by his boss with wooden carved feet to "freak him out", but the local newspaper, the Humboldt Times in Eureka, California, ran a front-page story on the prints the next day and coined the term "Bigfoot".

The tale was taken up by newspapers across the country and the public, fascinated at the time by tales of the Himalayan yeti, eagerly embraced the notion of a homegrown version.

Mr Wallace continued with the prank for years, producing photographs of Bigfoot eating elk and frogs. These, it emerged yesterday, were, in fact, members of his family - usually his wife Elna - dressed in a hairy ape suit with giant feet stuck to the bottom.

The most famous evidence for Bigfoot's existence, the so-called Patterson film, a grainy, cinefilm image of an erect ape-like creature, was taken by Roger Patterson, a rodeo rider, in 1967. It was another of Mr Wallace's fakes, the family said - he told Mr Patterson where to go to spot the creature and knew who had been inside the suit.

The family decided finally to reveal the truth after Mr Wallace, 84, died from heart failure. A reporter for the Seattle Times approached them to ask about the rumours and if he had made it all up.

The news is a serious setback for the Bigfoot industry spawned by the legend. Dozens of books have been written, guides offer tours to search for sightings, and there is even an International Bigfoot Society in Hillsboro, Oregon.

Jeff Meldrum, an associate professor of anatomy and anthropology at Idaho State University and one of America's most prominent Bigfoot hunters, said: "There are historical accounts of Bigfoot-like creatures going back to the 1880s. How do you explain that?"

December 7, 2002 Copyright

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