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Dispelling the myth of Bigfoot

For those who subscribe to the legend of Bigfoot, it must've felt like getting kicked in the solar plexus by, well, a humongous hairy foot.

But there it was, in black and white journalistic tracks across the Washington Post.

It's time people knew it was a hoax, Bob Heironimus told the paper earlier this month. It's time to let this thing go. I've been burdened with this for 36 years, seeing the film clip on TV numerous times.

Apparently the retired Pepsi bottler from Yakima, Wash., could no longer keep his secret bottled up: He says he was the man in the big monkey suit back in October 1967.

Bigfoot buffs went ape over the grainy 16 mm film shot that fall of an alleged Sasquatch caught in the buff alongside Bluff Creek, Calif.

The remote site is some 50 miles south of Happy Camp, where I spent the summer of 1968 setting chokers in the logging woods.

— The 60-second film shows a hairy, hulking creature with a pointed head and flaring nostrils looking back over its right shoulder at the whirring camera.

The monstrous thing is estimated to have been about 7 feet tall and — feet across the shoulders. Plaster casts of the prints revealed a 14-inch foot.

Heironimus, 63, now insists it was all an act by folks with average size feet aping Bigfoot. His confession is also in The Making of Bigfoot, a recently published book by paranormal investigator Greg Long.

The author even traces the ape suit to a North Carolina gorilla suit specialist, Philip Morris, who says he sold it for &

36;435 to Roger Patterson, a former rodeo rider turned amateur filmmaker.

The fact Patterson, who died in 1972, was another Yakimanian is not missed by the oh-Yeti-of-little-faith crowd.

The whole monkey business must be related to the radioactive water percolating out of the nearby Hanford nuclear reactor, they snicker.

But the admission is an abominable blow to those of us who like the idea of an elusive, mysterious creature out there in the wilds, one that always appears to be one step ahead of housebroken bipeds.

Unfortunately, the wild ape legend of the Pacific Northwest was already slipping on the banana peels of plausibility.

When retired logger Ray Wallace of Centralia, Wash., died at age 84 late in 2002, his son, Michael Wallace, told the Seattle Times that his father was the father of the Bigfoot legend.

His family revealed that the lifelong practical joker had slipped on a pair of 16-inch carved wooden feet early one August morning in 1958 at a logging site where he was working in Humboldt County, Calif. He tromped around a bulldozer, then beat big wooden feet for the woods.

When the cat skinner arrived, he saw the monstrous tracks in the fresh dirt. So did a reporter summoned from the Eureka-based Humboldt Times newspaper. The paper went ape, publishing a front-page story about what it called Bigfoot.

In journalistic parlance, the Bigfoot story had legs.

Backing up the family's story was Mark Chorvinsky, editor of Strange magazine. Chorvinsky said the senior Wallace had told him the Patterson film was a fake, that he knew who was wearing the monkey suit.

But there remained the story before the film was shot about the huge creature leaving tracks and tossing an oil drum and a truck tire over the edge of a log landing on Bluff Creek.

That tale was still being told by local loggers when I arrived at Bluff Creek that summer in 1968.

The choker setting job offered by the Ring Brothers logging company paid &

36;3.10 an hour. That was big bucks for a high school senior from the Illinois Valley.

Never mind I didn't know a choker from a chaser on the landing. Two seasoned loggers, Indian brothers Eddie and Jim who were reared along the lower Klamath River, showed me the ropes.

Although they were reticent to talk much at first, they warmed up as we sweated away the long summer days.

Not long before I returned to school early in September, the brothers fessed up.

Bored one summer day after work in 1967, they made big foot prints on the dusty log landing. They also chucked an old tire and empty oil drum over the hill.

By the time the story went national, the empty drum bulged with 50 gallons of oil; the tire grew too big for four burly loggers to lift.

But they still swore the big furry fellow was out there.

Somewhere.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at