The death of Ray Wallace also marks the passing of a famed
species from our midst
This is an article from the Jan. 20, 2003 issue
Among the shadowy creatures that haunt our forests and
imaginations, few loom larger than Bigfoot. First sighted 45
years ago in Northern California, the shaggy, stinky,
camera-resistant beast helps satisfy some strange need for
wilderness in our lives.
This backwoods answer to the Abominable Snowman has inspired
dozens of books, documentaries and Weekly World News headlines,
including I WAS BIGFOOT'S LOVE SLAVE, IDAHO FAMILY EATS 600-POUND
BIGFOOT and, most astoundingly, AUSTRALIAN BIGFOOT DIGS NEIL
Well, something is stirring in the leafy glades of the Pacific
Northwest, but it may only be the final twitchings of the
Sasquatch saga. To the chagrin of millions of true believers,
Bigfoot has been exposed as a "hoax" perpetrated by Ray Wallace,
a prank-loving logger. Who would have guessed?
Wallace, who died in late November at age 84, supposedly got a
friend to carve 16inch-long alderwood feet that Wallace could
strap on, and then he stomped around his Humboldt County logging
camp in them. After a bulldozer operator saw the footprints
encircling his rig, the Humboldt Times ran a front-page story,
dubbed the critter Bigfoot and gave birth to both a legend and an
Over the years Wallace tracked down herds of Bigfeet and milked
them for all they were worth. He recorded their cries and love
calls (Sweet Caroline was not among the selections), photographed
them throwing rocks and eating frogs and Frosted Flakes, and
offered a $1 million reward for a Bigfoot baby. "Bigfoot used to
be very tame, as I have seen him almost every morning on the way
to work," he wrote to the Klamity Kourier in 1969. "I would sit
in my pickup and toss apples out of the window to him. He never
did catch an apple, but he sure tried."
The most famous "evidence," a blurry 1967 home movie of a
startled specimen striding into a thicket, also may have been
Wallace's work: possibly his wife, Elna, in an ape suit. "Ray L.
Wallace was Bigfoot," his son Michael confessed last month. "The
reality is, Bigfoot just died."
Or perhaps it was just stunned. At least a few cryptozoologists
still believe that Bigfoot is alive and well and that Wallace's
real hoax was getting people to think he invented the animal. "If
Wallace faked prints, so what?" asks Don Keating, director of the
Eastern Ohio Bigfoot Investigation Center. "What about the other
different-sized prints discovered all over the country through
the decades? Did Wallace travel extensively 365 days a year with
several wooden feet and fake all those tracks? Not likely."
Craig Woolheater says his faith in the big guy remains unshaken.
"I have seen one personally," claims the director of the Texas
Bigfoot Research Center. He recalls driving to Dallas from New
Orleans on May 30, 1994. "My wife and I both saw a tall, hairy
being walking 20 feet from the road."
It looked grayish, at least in the glare of his headlights, and
was headed in the same direction as the car. "We only saw the
backside," Woolheater concedes. He wanted to turn around, his
wife didn't. "We were in an open convertible," he explains.
Academic support for Sasquatchery has diminished some with the
recent death of Grover Krantz. The Washington State anthropology
professor had long maintained Bigfoot is an undiscovered primate.
For lack of a corpus delicti, he advocated shooting the
evolutionary missing link on sight. Environmentalists were
outraged: Bigfoot, after all, would be an endangered species.
"Dr. Krantz would have found outlandish the speed with which
Wallace's claims were accepted," says Idaho State anatomy prof
Jeff Meldrum. He hopes DNA tests on 15 alleged hair samples will
provide proof that there's a gorilla, or something like one, in
our midst. --Franz Lidz
Renowned conservationist Michael Fay survived his own brush with
big feet--of the nonfictional variety. On New Year's Eve, Fay and
the group he was leading through a national park in Gabon were
charged by a female elephant. A veteran of many such encounters
from his decades of work in Africa, Fay stood his ground, the
recommended response. Uncharacteristically, however, the elephant
continued its charge, whereupon Fay began to run but tripped and
was pinned to the ground. Desperately grabbing the elephant's
tusks, Fay fended off the mammal's attempt to spear him in the
head and ultimately wriggled free. Despite the attack, says the
biologist, who suffered a punctured right biceps and some
lacerations, "Elephants will always be my friends."
Days it took Canadian cyclist Perry Stone to complete the
8,800-mile Race Across Australia, a race record for a cyclist
traveling without vehicular support. (He pulled a small trailer
attached to his bike.) Stone had held the record for the fastest
finish by a one-man supported team (41 days, in 1999).
For more adventure, go to siadventure.com and check out these
--Flashback: The U.S. strikes gold in Olympic snowboarding
--Gear: What it takes to go surf kayaking
--Find your winter wonderland with our ski-trip planner
JAN. 30--FEB. 4
ABC, ESPN AND ESPN2
Winter X Games VII
Milk, it does a body good. Such is the mantra for the more than
250 athletes who will take on Aspen's Buttermilk Mountain, the
site of this year's Winter X festivities. The games are a snowy
smorgasbord featuring skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, Moto X
and UltraCross (a relay that combines skiing and snowboarding).
Among the participants to watch: 1998 Olympic moguls champion
Jonny Moseley, who will compete in the Ski SuperPipe; Torah
Bright, Australia's 16year-old snowboard star; and anyone in the
Evel Knievel--inspired Moto X Big Air, in which competitors on
motorbikes will attempt to become the first to land a backflip on
snow. (Mike Metzger and Carey Hart both nailed backflips on dirt
at X Games VIII in Philadelphia in August.) ESPN will air a daily
highlight show from 12--1 a.m. EST, and there will be an
across-the-dial, all-day orgy on Feb. 1 that will include Skiing
Slopestyle (2:30 p.m., ABC), Snowmobile Snocross (5 p.m., ESPN2)
and Men's and Women's Snowboarding SuperPipe (9:30 p.m., ESPN).
All's calm on the once-raging Ocoee, and that's not good
A river still runs through it, but the roiling rapids that made
Tennessee's Ocoee Whitewater Center the aqua-mecca of
recreational and world-class paddlers alike have gone flat. Built
for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta at a cost of
approximately $26 million, the center had struck a long-term deal
with the Tennessee Valley Authority under which the TVA continued
to release enough water into the Ocoee's upper section to produce
some of the friskiest man-made Class II to V swells in North
America. That contract, however, expired near the end of last
year, and the TVA chose not to renew it, electing instead to use
the water to generate more electricity for the region--and more
cash for its coffers.
WHAT IT TAKES
With the new snowboards, looks aren't everything--but, boy, are
Between them, Boston physicians James Eadie and Bart Kane have 25
years of experience freeriding in the backcountry of Montana,
Vermont and Wyoming. SI took the two downhill docs to Vermont's
Stratton Mountain to test six of the hottest snowboards on the
market. Here's how the pair rated them on a scale of 1 to 5 for
performance and--that all-important category--menacing looks.
Don series 157
MENACE FACTOR: 5
You have to respect a board that features a tommy gun and mug
shots of real 1930s Chicago gangsters and comes in its own body
bag. This versatile freestyle board, sculpted with superpipe
sidecuts for serious jibbin' in terrain parks, navigates
effortlessly through soft mogul piles and spring crud. The
graphics are as sophisticated as the wood-core technology. This
is a board meant to take a whacking.
MENACE FACTOR: 4
There's something really creepy about strapping into your
bindings and having a gigantic eye staring at your crotch. The
upside is that this wide mountain board retains an edge in the
steep stuff and makes you feel as though you're gliding when
riding over death cookies. Despite its size, the board feels
light and will do for Colorado's ungroomed terrain. Burton
tailored this board for the heavier rider with size-12 to size-14
Danny Kass Kassket 146
MENACE FACTOR: 2
The Grim Reaper graphics are pretty amateurish. But that hasn't
stopped 15-year-olds from pestering their parents to buy them the
Kassket. Thanks to Danny Kass's Salt Lake City success, the board
sold out before the 2003 season. This freestyle board, designed
for park tricks, has a springy nose that helps riders catch icy
landings and pop into their next 1080 in the superpipe, but
expect a chattery ride in the powder.
Diorama series 157
MENACE FACTOR: 2
Capita's founder, Jason Brown, is a big Star Wars fan, and when
it comes to performance, this all-terrain board is light-years
ahead of its competition. The stiff core pulls you through the
powdery stuff while the flexible nose allows for smooth sailing
through hard-packed snow. The board begs to be ridden fast by
advanced boarders, so don't be afraid to use the force and push
warp speed in Whistler's backcountry.
MENACE FACTOR: 2
The oversized skull gets the death message across, but once you
throw on the bindings, the board's surface looks like a lame
lunar landscape. The all-mountain board has steel sidecuts and
transfers well from edge to edge for an aggressive rider who's
trying to outrun the ski patrol. Inexperienced riders trying to
make slalom turns, however, will get frustrated with its stiff,
rigid nose and find themselves skidding out on icy terrain.
MENACE FACTOR: 5
This board was meant for the middle-aged Iron Maiden fan who
commands respect from the gang in the terrain park. If you're an
intermediate to advanced snowboarder looking to grow into a
board, this will take you anywhere--the mogul fields, the rails
and even through wet snow. With its deep sidecuts and slant
walls, the Crawford gives control on quick turns and responds
best when barreling down a mountain.