The Real Bigfoot and Genuine Bigfoot Tracks
Part 7: Hoaxing Revealed
by Mark A. Hall
Loren Coleman has called my attention to a chapter in a book of reminiscences by Steve M. Matthes. In 1960 Matthes was seconded by Tom Slick, the wealthy Texas oilman, to participate in Slick’s expedition to find Bigfoot in California. In a privately published book that appeared in 1988, Matthes told of his identifying faked Bigfoot prints right off the bat in the summer of 1960.  Had his experience been shared with the community of Bigfoot-seekers at that time, much of the success of track hoaxing that came in the next decades could have been avoided.
The false footprints turned up one morning on a road to a logging deck. When he put his dogs on the scent they went nowhere beyond the road where the tracks appeared. He took a second look at the prints and realized why. The tracks were fake. There was nothing to follow beyond the roadway. He called this to the attention of the others in the group, Peter and Shirley Byrne, Bryan Byrne, and Jim Crew.
The straight and measured placement of the tracks and the specific qualities of individual prints tipped Matthes to their having been faked.
Days later Tom Slick arrived and was presented with this evidence. Matthes wanted to give up the search immediately. He considered the entire matter to be a hoax. He was persuaded by Slick to remain and search for traces of the real thing. But none were found that year according to Matthes. Only more bogus prints turned up.
The team kept quiet about knowing the tracks were fake. They put out a story that they were expecting to find tracks on the sandbars in the area. That did draw the faker out to deposit more prints. All the fakes were the imprints of the Wallace foot forms illustrated (in the second set of Wallace fakes). Matthes put a photograph of a sample cast of the fake beside a scale in his book.
While there is no reason to doubt the accuracy of Matthes’s personal experiences, his conclusion that the whole thing was a hoax was uninformed. He ignored or never knew about the Jerry Crew prints two years earlier. Also he got the history of Bigfoot backwards. He suggested that the idea of a Sasquatch came into existence after the birth of a mythical Bigfoot.
His team spent months searching the waterways that ran into the Klamath River. As he put it, “the theory was that Bigfoot, being a humanoid, would search for the food along and in the streams.” Somehow it never occurred to this team that an intelligent “humanoid” would observe people searching the streams in that area and avoid them while they were there.
As far as we know Slick kept this specific knowledge of the fakes to himself. His reasons for keeping quiet could have been that he did not know who was doing the faking and he wanted to find out; he didn’t want them to change their tactics; or even that he did not want to publicize fake tracks as the only results of his endeavor. In any case, the opportunity for him to share it ended with his untimely demise in a plane crash on 6 October 1962 in Montana.
The Mullens-type of fake is so rectangular and flawed in the appearance of the toes that it has had little impact on discussions of Bigfoot. The same cannot be said for the Wallace fake (from the second set). It was probably styled in imitation of some real prints found in October of 1958. It began to be utilized around Halloween of 1958. While recognized by a few people as a fake two years later, it was still put to use many times to punch its image into the Western woods.
The relatives of Ray Wallace are likely to sincerely believe that this fakery and other fakes are the basis for the legend of Bigfoot. They were also hoodwinked by Uncle Ray. He could regale them with the tales of his outings to fake prints. But he was there when Bigfoot emerged with mysterious tracks that were found by Jerry Crew and later by his own hired men. This fact answers the question of why Ray Wallace never claimed for himself the fame that might have come had he truly fathered a legend. He could never answer the questions about the Jerry Crew tracks: With what were they made and how?
A confession from Ray Wallace would have been welcomed to add to the historical record. But we will never have that. All we will get is hearsay from his relatives who know only what they were told after the fact as an entertaining story. They have no interest in sorting out the embellishments on the matters of dates, places, and methods of hoaxing. To the contrary, they now have the audience that Ray Wallace craved. It is one that swallows everything they say, even though they were not even born when the hoaxing started.
For all the angst that the furor of December 2002 has given people, his relatives have done a service to the public by presenting the tools of the Wallace legacy. Those prints can put aside with the certain knowledge that their origin was bogus.
Ray Wallace told many extravagant stories about Bigfoot. But in his own peculiar way, he has earned a place of distinction in the history of Bigfoot. When Bigfoot emerged in 1958, he was the only person who did something about it. He actually paid two men to go out and look into what was behind the big sensation of October of 1958. He then used the information from that venture to become a Bigfoot booster by leaving trails of tracks where none would otherwise have appeared. The shy and retiring Bigfoot creatures were being outed by something they had avoided doing, that is, leaving long trails of giant footprints in the woods and on dusty logging roads. Wallace had his joke not only on the people around him but also on the Bigfoot creatures as well.
Other hoaxes have been claimed. In 1971 a man living near Colville, Washington, was boasting that he had executed fake Bigfoot prints in three sizes. More and better fakes will be attempted in the future. That is only human nature. Why would we expect otherwise?
Tomorrow – Part 8: The Tracks of the Sasquatch
Originally published in Wonders for December 2002 (Vol. 7 No. 4) pp. 99-125.
©2003 by Mark A. Hall. All rights reserved.