"The reality is, Bigfoot just died." This simple statement, which was issued last December by no less than Bigfoot's own son, hit me like a tree falling in a distant forest. The person letting the ape out of the bag was a man named Michael Wallace (where is 60 Minutes when you really need them?). Wallace and his family and friends had been sworn to secrecy by Bigfoot himself, a.k.a. Ray L. Wallace, the family patriarch. When the big man passed last November at the age of 84, the decades-old veil of mystery was finally lifted for the Wallace clan. And even though I never met the man or the legend, I felt a wave of sorrow. If Bigfoot was truly gone, what does this mean for our other favorite myths?
For example, what about the crazy Hookman of Nashville's Percy Warner Park? I later learned that he had dozens of copycat cousins. Just how many hooks did they leave hanging on the passenger-side door handles of innocent smoochers? And what about the haunted railroad tracks of Chapel Hill, Tennessee? How exactly did they manage to have the headless brakeman swing his lantern from one side of our stranded-on-the-tracks stationwagon through the gaggle of hysterical teenagers trapped inside to the other side of the car and on down the tracks? And did he ever find that elusive head? And, more important, what about the strange and incredible legend of The Shaggs of New England and what really happened to their pal, Foot Foot?

When my friend Ben Greene (who lives north of our great Northwest, the assumed "stomping" grounds of the recently departed) mentioned that he, himself had a story of a Bigfoot sighting, this issue of SouthernReader began to move in a certain direction. Ben's essay, however, like the poor, misguided Chapel Hill brakeman, arrived headless via email. "What the heck should I call it?" he asked.

"How about 'My Pal Foot Foot'?" I replied, referring to an obscure song by the afore-mentioned Shaggs. Obscure as it was, I figured Ben would remember hearing the song in the musty confines of my Brooklyn apartment in the early 80's. (Nobody ever forgot that song once they heard it.)

Ben's response was quick and strange. When he emailed me his Bigfoot story, he had also sent a copy to his former roommate in North Carolina, both for his feedback and because he had referenced him in the article. Here is how his former roommate replied: "Great stuff. I thought for sure you might call it 'My Pal Foot Foot,' though the homage to The Shaggs would likely be lost on many."

I told Ben that some things were meant to be. Although we elected to use a different head, the "Foot Foot" subhead would be perfect for this issue's article about The Shaggs.

"And by the way," I added in my return email to Ben, "I finished the Bigfoot cover illustration one day to the minute before I read the article with Michael Wallace's "Bigfoot is Dead" statement.

Sometimes truth is stranger than myths.


Me and My Big Foot Southerner-turned-Canadian Ben Greene takes a look at the myth of Bigfoot with a special eye on the alleged Southern connection.

Philosophy of the Shaggs An account of the rise and fall (and rise and fall) of the obscure late-'60s girl group created from scratch by three sisters from New Hampshire.

The Girl Next Door Ron Burch's memoir of eloping with his next-door neighbor in the early 1960s of the American South.

The Children of the Sun Steve Batson posts a touching tribute to the fallen men and women of the space shuttle, Columbia.

The Crow Stands for Law Georgia writer David Clark explains why being a good neighbor means always taking responsibility.

©Copyright 2003 David Ray Skinner/SouthernReader. All rights reserved.