In August of that fateful year, Jerry Crew, a bulldozer operator
employed by Mr. Wallace, found prints of huge, naked feet on a road
being built in Humboldt County, CA. Eureka, CA's Humboldt Times
(today the Times-Standard) ran a front page story on the footprints
and coined the term "Bigfoot."
if you find yourself talking about Bigfoot, someone is likely to
say, "Didn't the guy who started the hoax die recently?"
Whether they read it, saw it, heard it, or simply heard of it, everyone
knows that Bigfoot was a hoax all along. After all, it was in the
news. Those footprints they found were fakes. In fact, many newspapers
printed photos of the Wallace clan proudly posing with Ray's very
own homemade wooden Bigfeet, the stompers that started it all. Some
newspapers even printed the photos of Wallace's fake feet right
alongside the famous 1958 photo of Jerry Crew posing with plaster
casts taken from the tracks found on the construction site. Oddly,
few people seemed to notice that Ray's strap-ons and Jerry's casts
were not the same shape...in other words, the former did not create
it is true that the term "Bigfoot" never entered the public's
vocabulary prior to 1958, sightings of giant, hairy "Ape Men"
go back at least as far as 1850. Native Americans had been sensibly
avoiding them countless years prior to the unwitting arrival of
Reports of sightings come from a variety of people. Some of these
people, it is true, seem a little attention hungry and their stories
are therefore suspect. But many reports are made by honest, earnest
individuals, who appear to have things other than Bigfoot on their
minds before they find themselves face to face with the animal.
And most of those people certainly have better things to do than
make an ass of themselves by perpetrating a hoax.
And what a hoax! Footprints and sightings are reported across the
breadth of our great continent, and all over the world. Ray Wallace
must have inspired a lot of copycat pranksters. And a good number
of them have faked evidence that has fooled the experts. When I
say experts, I'm talking people whose life work involves wildlife,
and nature, and life sciences. Even Jane Goodall, the world's most
famous primatologist, has publicly admitted having an open mind
regarding Bigfoot. A hoax that good doesn't just happen. Organization
is required if faked evidence is to maintain a consistent pedigree
of believability for such a long time. Is it really possible that
for the last 45 years we have been fooled by carefully orchestrated
anecdotal and circumstantial evidence? Or is it more likely that
an unknown species of primate exists in remotes nooks and crannies
of our world? Which possibility do you find more likely?
have already accepted as fact that Sasquatch's existence is finally
disproved. Being a skeptic however, I find that notion dubious.
I made several attempts to contact and interview the Wallace family.
My efforts were entirely unsuccessful. So I decided to talk with
a couple of those afore mentioned experts who, like me, still find
the notion of a Bigfoot Hoax more preposterous than the notion of
LOVE THAT ANOMALOUS EVIDENCE
email interview with Jeff Meldrum.
Jeff Meldrum is a physical anthropologist at Idaho State University.
In 1996 he was shown a fresh line of sasquatch footprints in southeastern
Washington. He found them compelling enough to prompt the undertaking
of a more systematic review of footprint evidence. Over the past
seven years, Dr. Meldrum has examined hundreds of casts and photographs
of alleged bigfoot tracks. His position on the possibility of bigfoot's
existence is firm:
Olsen: Based on the studies you have conducted, what conclusions
can you draw with certainty?
Meldrum: Science is by nature tentative - a point that many overlook.
However, one conclusion I can personally and professionally make
is that "something" is leaving large bipedal footprints.
Convincingly faking a line of animated footprints is not such a
simple undertaking as many would assume. Yes, there have been fakes
- these are generally transparent. On the other hand there are tracks
that have borne up under scrutiny by experts in primate anatomy
and locomotion, such as me, and expert trackers who are familiar
with the nuances of a "living" track.
I still maintain that the tracks indicate the presence of some animal
that has not been fully accounted for.
Do you ever examine tracks on location?
Yes, when and where possible. Otherwise, I refer the incident to
some of my collaborators in that region to investigate. I have examined
fresh tracks personally on at least 5 occasions.
What do you look for to distinguish faked footprints from genuine
In addition to the anatomy of the footprint I look for those dynamic
signatures that indicate a "living" track, i.e. pressure
ridges, tension cracks, slide-ins, drag-outs, variation in toe flexion/extension,
How many casts have you examined? Of those, how many do you believe
to be authentic?
I have assemble a sample that numbers in excess of 150 casts, and
half again as many photographs of casts and footprints. Frankly
the majority are quite credible.
Do you examine other kinds of evidence?
Yes, as an anatomist and student of primate locomotion, I examine
films and photos that allege to depict Sasquatch. In collaboration
with other researchers I also examine dermatoglyphics, hair, scat,
Do you think the Roger Patterson film is authentic photographic
evidence of a sasquatch?
film I refer to is the famous shakey shot of a female Bigfoot walking
across a dry riverbed and disappearing into a forest. Shot at Bluff
Creek, CA in 1967, this piece of film, even today, remains a point
of contention between believers and skeptics. The media coverage
of Ray Wallace's Great Prank has vaguely implied that Wallace had
a hand in the film's creation.)
I am convinced of the authenticity of the Patterson film. If based
on nothing other than the footprints associated with that film,
it appears to be authentic. The dynamics of the footprints correlate
with the kinematics of the foot evident on the film itself to the
careful observer, which in turn correlate with the particulars of
gait and anatomical distinctions exhibited by the film subject.
Have you had the opportunity to look at casts of the prints made
by the animal depicted in that film?
Definitely. Patterson cast a pair. Others were photographed by a
FS timber cruiser shortly thereafter. Later Bob Titmus cast a series
of ten footprints. These are very informative and speak volumes
to the authenticity of the film.
Much is made of Roger Patterson's character issues. It is frequently
mentioned that he knew hoaxer Ray Wallace, that Wallace told him
where to go to see a sasquatch. It is also said that Patterson had
(As a filmmaker, I am aware of how frequently people assume that
use of camera equipment along with time spent in Southern California
automatically mean "Hollywood connections".)
In short, many skeptics have opined that the circumstances surrounding
this famous piece of film are too convenient for it to be true.
In your opinion, does any of this weaken the possible veracity of
Or are these details being blown out of proportion?
Patterson's dealings with "Hollywood" have been scrutinized
extensively and there is no "smoking gun." He was at Bluff
Creek on the heels of a track find the previous month that was investigated
extensively. His stated intent was to get film footage of fresh
footprints for a documentary he hoped to produce to fund further
field research. It has been said that Wallace told Roger where to
go to get Bigfoot on film, but those who spoke to Wallace said it
was obvious he was unfamiliar with the particulars of the area in
question. The site was examined by the FS timber cruiser, Lyle Laverty,
and companions shortly after the incident and Mr. Laverty has told
me that he saw nothing in the tracks to indicate anything had occurred
other than what Roger and Bob recounted. The Wallaces themselves
have stated openly and publicly that Ray had nothing to do with
the Patterson film and they have no knowledge of whom or what is
on that film. Mrs. Wallace did admit to donning a costume so her
husband could film her, but rather than show that admittedly hoaxed
footage the media instead repeatedly aired a clip from the Patterson
film, or implied that the Patterson film was Mrs. Wallace in a costume,
without bothering to explain how the diminutive Mrs. Wallace filled
the stature of the Patterson film subject. The Wallace claims only
undermine the credibility of the Patterson film in the minds of
those ignorant of the facts or grasping for a simplistic explanation
for an anomalous event.
Many people have asked, and will continue to ask: Why hasn't a body
been found yet? Or bones?
Assuming a model from great ape natural history, these animals are
rare, long-lived, slow developing, infrequently-reproducing, top-of-the-food-chain,
animals. A death would be a rare event by comparison to common animals
in the mountains such as deer. A more appropriate analogy would
be to ask how may wolverine carcasses are discovered by outdoorsman?
In the moist forests of the northwest, the soils are very acidic
and are not conducive to the preservation of bone.
It has been argued by some that the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest
cannot have enough food to sustain a creature as large as sasquatch.
Simply nonsense. By all accounts it appears this animal is a generalized
omnivore having been seen eating everything from "nuts and
berries" to deer and elk. If a large black bear can sustain
itself it is reasonable that a large omnivorous primate could as
well. I have discussed the edible plant foods with a Hoopa Indian
woman knowledgeable of traditional plant foods and she enumerated
the many foods available to one who knows what to look for.
Why haven't we found any feces or hair? Seems like every time someone
claims to have found such specimens, they turn out to be fake or
from another animal.
These bits of physical evidence have been recovered. Many of these
finds defy identification. After all, there is no known sample of
hair or scat or DNA against which to compare the samples in question.
My colleague Dr. Henner Fahrenbach has assembled over fifteen samples
of hair collected in association with sasquatch encounters that
display consistent and distinct characteristics that cannot be matched
to any known animal.
Why aren't there more films or photos that are at least as convincing
as Roger Patterson's film?
There are a few others worthy of consideration. Most encounters
are fleeting and unexpected. It is hardly surprising that there
are so few films or photos taken and those that are, are generally
With the amount of interest there is in sasquatch, why hasn't something
conclusive been found by now?
Armchair interest does not produce evidence. There are no funded
sustained field projects by professional wildlife biologists or
When and how did Jimmy Chilcutt, the forensics investigator from
Texas contact you?
He saw me on a documentary and looked me up. After spending a morning
in my lab with the casts he was convinced we were dealing with a
Did the results of his investigation change any assumptions you
had about the evidence you had already examined?
No, it confirmed my impressions about the significance of the few
examples of skin ridge detail I was aware of, and reinforced suspicions
about some questionable evidence. It has better educated me on the
distinctions of the dermatoglyphics evident on the sasquatch footprint
Have you received much criticism from other members of the scientific
community? Has there been a lot of positive feedback?
Reactions have spanned the entire spectrum. I am disappointed by
the closed-minded presumptions of some of my colleagues and gratified
by the increasing number of scholars from varied disciplines that
have stepped forward to engage the data, as befitting a scientist.
Do you ever doubt the existence of Sasquatch?
I continue to question the evidence and our interpretation of it.
That is how science proceeds.
Do you think Sasquatch's existence will be verified sooner or later?
Is there a chance we'll never know?
I anticipate that it will. It is difficult if not impossible to
prove that something does not exist. If sufficient funds and sustained
effort are never directed at the question, it may languish unresolved
indefinitely. Jane Goodall didn't catch her first glimpse of chimps
for months, and they were a gregarious boisterous lot contained
essentially in one valley. Yet, I am criticized by some for not
collecting conclusive evidence of a relatively solitary reclusive
far-ranging primate in a vast habitat on a given unfunded weekend
excursion. Go figure.
If all these footprints, reported sightings and so on aren't evidence
of a real animal, what are they evidence of?
If not evidence of a real animal then the footprints must be the
result of a coordinated network of hoaxes that have systematically
incorporated consistent features that distinguish these footprints
from human footprints and that are highly correlated with the particulars
of the way this animal is said to walk as reported by hundreds of
independent eyewitnesses with no background in the biomechanics
of human or primate locomotion. Taken as a whole, they are certainly
not the product of some unsophisticated carved feet strapped to
a hoaxer's boots.
ALL ABOUT THE DERMAL RIDGES
interview with Investigator Jimmy Chilcutt
Chilcutt is a latent fingerprint examiner, and a crime scene investigator
for the Conroe, Texas Police Department. He also happens to be the
foremost expert in the field of ape and monkey dermatoglyphics.
With the help of zoos and primate research centers, he has collected
and established a substantial database of primate fingerprints.
In 1999, Chilcutt contacted Jeff Meldrum and offered to bring his
specialized knowledge into the field of sasquatch footprint research.
Olsen: What brought Jeff Meldrum's work to your attention?
Chilcutt: I was watching TV one Sunday afternoon and - I think it
was the Discovery Channel - and they had a program on Bigfoot, and
Jeff was talking about dermal ridges. And I got to thinking: there's
very few people who know the difference between a gorilla's print
and an orangutan's print and human prints. And what I felt is that
if this was really a primate then I should be able to tell the difference
and tell maybe what species it was from by looking at the prints.
And so I called him and told him my expertise and what work I was
doing, and he invited me up to Idaho. I went up there a few months
later, it was in April of '99 I think, and we started examining
some of the castings - he had over a hundred castings in his lab
- and I started examining them. Pretty soon I found a couple of
castings that had real good dermal ridges, and they weren't human,
nor were they known primates. It was actually a species in itself.
Did you have any expectations before you examined these prints?
Did you start with an attitude of skepticism?
I'm a police officer and a crime scene investigator, so I have to
approach anything I do with an open mind. Not have preset notions
of what I'm going to find or not going to find. So I had no idea.
Just curious to see what the evidence would show?
Yeah...the evidence speaks for itself, I don't try to make anything
more or less out of what the evidence is saying.
When you refer to "dermal ridges" are you talking about
the same sort of thing that fingerprint whorls are?
Yes, friction ridges. You find 'em on the bottom of your feet, the
hands, the palms, those are called friction ridges. And only primates
Humans, apes and monkeys.
Right. Non-human primates and human primates. Not many people know
this, but all monkeys have the same fingerprint pattern, which is
an elongated whorl. Monkeys, no matter where you find them in the
world, from India, Africa, South America, all monkeys have the same
pattern - they're all unique and individual to each animal, but
all have the same general pattern - elongated whorl. That's all
they have. Humans have arches, loops, and whorls. Great apes - gorillas,
orangutans, chimpanzees, and gibbons - they have loops and whorls.
Was there anything different about these particular friction ridges?
Yeah, once I decided they could not have been faked I started looking
at the texture and the ridge-flow pattern. I found in all the sasquatch
foot casts I examined that the ridges flow up and down the side
of the foot...in humans the ridges flow across, and in primates
that we know of they flow at an angle.
So this is something completely different from both apes and humans?
Yes. I've never seen a print where the ridges go up and down the
side. And once I determined what this animal's print looked like,
it was easy to examine the others and be able to tell a fake from
a real one.
Because you established a foundation from which to work.
Right. There's three castings in all that are the basis (of
for the dermal ridges - there's the one from California (found on
Blue Creek Mountain Road, near Willow Creek) which was the first
one I examined, then there's one from Walla Walla, Washington, also
there was one other from Southern Georgia. A deputy sheriff cast
it, I think in the nineties. This cast shows some real good dermal
ridges and the flow pattern was the same as the ones in the Pacific
An interesting thing about the Washington one...it had scars on
it. Now, when human skin is cut below the foot and it starts to
heal, the friction ridges will curl inward toward the scar... When
I saw this casting it had a bunch of ridges and it had scars on
it, the first thing I looked for was the curling of the ridges,
and they did, which is something that is virtually impossible to
fake because you'd have to know that. You have to have an intimate
knowledge of biology and science and dermal ridges. Not only did
the scars look authentic, the ridge-flow and the texture was the
same as the one from California. And that Skookum cast, I'm sure
you've heard of the Skookum cast...
September 22nd, 2000, an apparent body print of a sasquatch was
discovered in a patch of mud in the Skookum Meadows area of Gifford
Pinchot National Park in southern Washington State. The print seems
to contain impressions of buttocks, a thigh, a forearm, an elbow,
heels, and hair patterns. It has been examined by many prominent
sasquatch researchers, including Jeff Meldrum.)
You examined the Skookum cast?
I examined the achilles heel, actually two parts of the heel, and
even though there wasn't a lot of ridge detail, the flow pattern
was the same as the others. It was the same type of animal.
When you examined Dr. Meldrum's prints did you have any specialized
technology that you were able to bring to bear on the situation?
When I brought them back to my lab I used the laser on them just
to trace the contrast of the ridges. But, other than strong lighting
and a camera and my knowledge - that's all I had with me.
So, basically, you brought the prints' texture into sharp relief
to better examine them?
Right. I brought three castings back from Idaho with me. (The ones
from California, Washington, and Georgia.) I examined those in my
lab for nearly a year.
Approximately how many different prints did you examine altogether?
Over a hundred castings...but only about six had good enough dermal
ridges to say yes, they're definitely dermal ridges. And two of
those, the Washington one and the California one, were cast around
the same time.
So only six had definite dermal ridges?
That's a pretty good percentage, because out in the woods, the forest,
it's real hard to get a print that shows dermal ridges because of
the vegetation, the leaves and the grass. Just about every one of
them that had dermal ridges was cast in a creek bed, or in real
soft soil. I think one of them...was in volcanic ash dust, and it's
the clearest actually, it's the best print. The best cast.
Have you examined other kinds of print-related evidence, like photos,
or have you gone out to examine prints in the field?
No. I'm not into that. In fact, to make my position perfectly clear,
I'm not a researcher, going out to hunt for the sasquatch or anything,
in fact I'm not even interested in it. My position is of support.
I'm able to bring a discipline to bear that is very unique and has
not (previously) been used in this field.
The good casts that you have examined are spread far apart, geographically
What that tells me is that this animal, just like the monkeys, no
matter where in the world you find it, be it a Yeti or a Yowie from
Australia, and whatever the Russians have, this animal is going
to be the same species of animal. The same animal. That's why the
news media hit on that Wallace deal so hard and it was so funny.
I examined Wallace's casts and they were so obvious it didn't take
me more than a couple of minutes to look at 'em and say,"Wow,
these are fake." There's no question that Wallace did a lot
of hoaxing, and I'm sure other people have. The thing about the
(casts) I've examined and can say with 99.9% certainty are authentic,
is that there are certain things on them that are unique, that you
couldn't get in a fake, and one of those things is that the clearest
ridges are on the side of the foot, which you couldn't get on a
wooden footprint, because when the animal steps down the pressure
of its weight pushes the skin of the foot out to the sides, and
as the foot lifts up that skin sucks back in, leaving an impression.
There are also ridges on the bottom of the feet, but the ridges
to the side indicate authenticity. Wallace never even thought about
ridges. A wooden forgery, you just push straight down and pull straight
up, and the side-walls are just smooth. Whereas on the authentic
castings, you actually have ridge texture.
When you examined Dr. Meldrum's casts, did you come across any others
that were obviously fake?
Oh yeah. In fact I had a pretty good fake that was much better than
Wallace's - they had dermal ridges in it, but they were human dermal
ridges. I was able to spot that real quick because of the way human
ridges (look) - this one had been double-tapped accidentally. The
guy, whoever did the casting, tried hard but just couldn't fool
Have you seen the famous Patterson film?
Yes. Several times.
Do you have any opinion as to whether or not that film represents
an actual animal?
No. I have no opinion on that film at all, it's way out of my expertise.
If someone had brought me a cast and said, yeah, this is from the
area that Roger Patterson was in, then I could tell you.
How have peers in your field reacted to your findings?
Well, the thing about it is, there's just not a whole lotta people
in the world that have the primate expertise along with the human
expertise. Now, there's a lot of Phds who have studied primate dermal
ridges, but have no idea how to compare it to human ridge-flow pattern
and texture. I'm one of the few - if not the only one - that actually
has expertise in both areas. And that's what you need in this field,
in this sasquatch dilemma, is someone who can tell a fake.
Why is the media so quick to blow a paper-thin hoax explanation
out of proportion while virtually ignoring small, but substantial
I don't know. We have gotten a lot of publicity. I've done seven
or so Discovery Channel specials with regards to my findings. They've
been aired all over the world. I've done one for France, for England...
You know the press better than I do.
See, one thing is that my findings have never been challenged. No
one has ever said, even skeptics, no one has ever said, "well,
he's wrong." It's physical evidence...the only thing you can
dispute is the interpretation of it. And you have to have some kind
of knowledge to be able to interpret it...
Even Dr. Meldrum, I don't think, understands the - I'm sure he does,
but just - he doesn't understand the significance of those dermal
ridges like I do. 'Cause when I first saw them, I mean, you know,
wow - this is something new. And he'd had the casts for a long time.
Dr. Meldrum says your findings confirmed what he'd guessed all along.
And that was my job: to keep him sured up that he wasn't chasing
ghosts, and that there was a need for him to continue with what
he's doing. All I did was affirm that.
It's not hard for me to accept that we don't have very many people
actually seeing them or that there's no remains. When I was in Vietnam,
we were out in the jungle. You didn't see the Viet Cong until they
wanted you to see 'em. 'Cause that was their home area. Imagine
what a primate, with primate instincts could do, and how easily
they could avoid humans.
And maybe there aren't enough people out looking for them.
Right, and I'm kind of glad of that. It's enough for me just to
know that there is an animal out there, and from the physical evidence
I've examined, there's no question about it. And it just kinda sets
good with me that he's out there and avoiding everybody.
Oh, I might mention too, that Northern California cast, the best
one with the clearest dermal ridges-- that's not even a "big"
foot, it's just 13 inches. It's from a juvenile animal. If you're
gonna hoax a bigfoot, you better make it BIG. 16 or 17 inches.
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