SEATTLE - The man whose prank launched the "Bigfoot" legend in 1958 has died - and family members say they can now reveal the truth.
"Ray L. Wallace was Bigfoot. The reality is, Bigfoot just died," said his son, Michael Wallace, whose father died of heart failure Nov. 26 at a nursing facility in Centralia, about 80 miles south. He was 84.
"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.
"He did it just for the joke and then he was afraid to tell anybody because they'd be so mad at him," explained nephew Dale Lee Wallace, who says he still has the carved-alder feet that Wallace used to kick off the legend.
The disclosure is not fazing Bigfoot's biggest fans, who say the legend dates back to the 1800s.
In August 1958, bulldozer operator Jerry Crew, who worked for Wallace's construction company in Humboldt County, Calif., found huge footprints circling and then leading away from his rig.
The Humboldt Times in Eureka, Calif., coined the term "Bigfoot" in a front-page story about the phenomenon.
Family members say Wallace asked a friend to carve the 16-inch-long feet that he and his brother Wilbur slipped on to create the tracks.
The nation - fascinated by tales of the Himalayan Abominable Snowman - quickly bought into the notion of a homegrown version.
"The Abominable Snowman was appropriated by Ray Wallace. It got into the press, took on a life of its own and next thing you know there's a Bigfoot, one of the most popular monsters in the world," said Chorvinsky, who received several hundred pages of correspondence from the father of Bigfoot.
Wallace milked the prank for years, he said - cutting a record of supposed Bigfoot sounds, printing posters of a Bigfoot sitting peaceably with other animals and providing films and photos that purported to show the creature eating elk and frogs, sitting on a log and munching on cereal.
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, Calif., Chorvinsky recalled. "Ray told me that the Patterson film was a hoax, and he knew who was in the suit."
Wallace never received proper credit for his role, Chorvinsky said. Why?
"Because it hurts the case for Bigfoot if you talk too much about Ray Wallace."