Essay

Enter Sandman

Who wrote “Footprints”?

by Rachel Aviv


Illustration by Marianne Goldin.

I. The pencil had a life of its own
A few years ago Burrell Webb, a retired landscape artist living in Oregon, discovered that a poem he wrote and never copyrighted had become one of the most widely circulated verses in the English language. He says he composed the lines in 1958, after leaving the navy and being dumped by his girlfriend. “I was stressed, distressed, and single,” he says. “When I received those divine words, I broke up the lines and made a kind of poem out of it.” The finished product, which he published anonymously in a local newspaper—he felt it was God’s work, not his—tells the story of a man who has a dream that he and God are walking along the beach. When the man asks why sometimes there is one set of footprints and other times there are two, the Lord says he has been carrying him through his struggles.

Forty years later, Webb was alarmed when his son informed him that the poem was on napkins, calendars, posters, gift cards, and teacups. Usually “Footprints” was signed “Author Unknown,” but other times the credit was given to Mary Stevenson, Margaret Fishback Powers, or Carolyn Joyce Carty, who have all registered copyrights for the poem. (Registration does not require proof of originality.) The three versions differ mostly in tense, word order, and line breaks. With no way to prove that the work was actually his, Webb paid $400 to take a polygraph test. Now he routinely sends the results (“No deception indicated”) to those who question his claim.

Although several people have suggested to Webb, as consolation, that God gave the idea to multiple authors in order to more efficiently spread His Word, Webb is unsettled by the idea that “the Lord would be the author of confusion.” However the verse came into being, its message has reached all over the world. “Footprints” is the kind of poem we all seem to know without remembering when or where we first saw it. We’ve read it dozens of times, never paying attention. The verse is dislocated from context, so familiar and predictable that the boundary between writing and reading seems to disappear.

Yet the authors who claim to have composed "Footprints" have memories of the precise moment when they dreamed up these lines. Mary Stevenson, a former showgirl and nurse, said she composed the verse in 1936, following the death of her mother and brother. According to Gail Giorgio's 1995 biography Footprints in the Sand: The Life Story of Mary Stevenson, Author of the Immortal Poem, Stevenson was inspired by a cat's footprints in the snow and scrawled out twenty lines, as if the "pencil had a life of its own." She was so pleased with her work that she handed out the poem heedlessly, jotting it down for anyone she met without thinking to sign her name. (Early in the book her father tells her, “Poetry’s nice to read, but essentially it’s just rambling words on a piece of paper.”)

Powers, a Baptist children's evangelist, was more savvy about licensing the verse—she sold it to HarperCollins Canada in 1993—and she describes “Footprints” as the culmination of a life of religious devotion. In her memoir, Footprints: The True Story behind the Poem That Inspired Millions, she enthusiastically recounts all the tragedies she endured while never losing her belief in the Lord. In the course of 100 pages, she gets struck by lightning, develops spinal meningitis, gets hit by a truck, and has a near-death experience with a bumblebee. Her daughter gets crushed by a motorcycle and later slips down a 68-foot waterfall while her husband, watching, has a heart attack. In the hospital room a nurse pulls out “a little piece I have here in my pocket” and recites “Footprints” to ease the family’s pain. When she casually mentions what a shame it is that no one knows the poem’s author, Powers’ husband croaks from his bed, “It’s my wife.”

Far from dead, Powers currently travels around the world giving sermons about the power of faith. She has licensed the poem to nearly 30 companies, including Hallmark Cards and Lenox Gifts. Her lawyer, John A. Hughes, a self-described atheist, won’t say how much Powers has earned from her publications, except to guess that “Footprints” might be the “best-remunerated poem in history.” When pressed, he compares its success to that of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” He has written more than 100 companies, requesting that they replace “Author Unknown” with his client’s name. “I am completely satisfied factually that Margaret is telling the truth,” he says. He acknowledges that “Footprints” is not entirely consistent with Powers’ other poems, which are composed of rhyming couplets, but he’s confident it’s within her range. (To prove that “Footprints” couldn’t be written by Stevenson, he contemplated hiring Donald Foster, the forensic literary analyst who studied the letters of the Unabomber.)

"Footprints" is far less of a stylistic aberration for Powers than it is for Mary Stevenson, who wrote sporadically, or Carolyn Joyce Carty, who struggles with punctuation and spelling. Carty is the most hostile of the contenders and she frequently issues error-ridden cease-and-desist letters to those who post the poem online. (She signs her e-mails “World Renowned Poet.”)

Carty wrote “Footprints” in 1963, when she was six. She says she based the idea on a poem written by her great-great-aunt, a Sunday school teacher. More than 20 years later, she copyrighted the verse as part of an 11-page document of stream-of-consciousness prose (“the gift, who are you, where have you come from, where are you going! I am a writers inkhorn that stands beside the sea”), which concluded with the text of “Footprints.” She declined to be interviewed but characterized her writing style in an e-mail: “I like common denominators in subjects, I always look for the common bond when trying to create a universal message.”

In describing her literary taste, Carty also articulates the intangible draw of “Footprints.” The poem reads as if it were written by consensus. Light, peppy, and moderately Christian, “Footprints” succinctly dramatizes an idea that will never be original: When we think we’re alone, we’re not. God is here. The footprints metaphor is so ubiquitous that perhaps the authors absorbed the message at some point without realizing it, then later sat down and wrote it out again, seeking to appeal to the largest number of people.

II. Do I know you?
In “Cryptomnesia” (1905), a paper about accidental plagiarism, Carl Jung argues that it’s impossible to know for certain which ideas are one’s own. “Our unconsciousness . . . swarms with strange intruders,” he writes. He accuses Nietzsche of unwittingly copying another’s work, and urges all writers to sift through their memories and locate the origin of every idea before putting it to paper: “Ask each thought: Do I know you, or are you new?”

In the realm of Christian poetry, the process of distinguishing which ideas are original is significantly harder—the same body of collective epiphanies has been passed down for years. When artists open themselves up to the inspiration of the Lord, it’s not surprising that sometimes they produce sentences that sound as if they’ve been uttered before. The first line of “Footprints,” which varies slightly among versions, seems to announce the authors’ access to the collective unconscious: “I had a dream,” “One night a man had a dream,” “One night I dreamed a dream.”

One of the earliest articulations of the poem’s premise—the idea that God reveals his presence through marks in the sand—comes from an 1880 sermon by Charles Haddon Spurgeon, a noted Baptist preacher.

And did you ever walk out upon that lonely desert island upon which you were wrecked, and say, “I am alone, — alone, — alone, — nobody was ever here before me”? And did you suddenly pull up short as you noticed, in the sand, the footprints of a man? I remember right well passing through that experience; and when I looked, lo! it was not merely the footprints of a man that I saw, but I thought I knew whose feet had left those imprints; they were the marks of One who had been crucified, for there was the print of the nails. So I thought to myself, “If he has been here, it is a desert island no longer.”


Spurgeon’s formulation, more nuanced than the Footprints poem, rehearses the same fear of being “alone, — alone, —alone,” and then happily resolves it.

In other uses of the metaphor, the footprints image speaks to man’s omnipresence, not God’s. This seemingly banal metaphor has become a truism in secular writing as well. In an 1894 essay about composing his first book, Robert Louis Stevenson (whom Mary Stevenson, coincidentally, claims as a relative, and whom Carty cites as an influence) refers to footprints in the sand when acknowledging how hard it is to avoid borrowing from previously published work. After admitting adopting characters from Washington Irving (“But I had no guess of it then as I sat writing by the fireside”), as well as “trifles and details” from Daniel Defoe and Edgar Allan Poe, he invokes the footprints image. It’s as if he already associates the phrase with authorial confusion:

I am now upon a painful chapter. No doubt the parrot once belonged to Robinson Crusoe. No doubt the skeleton is conveyed from Poe. . . . These useful writers had fulfilled the poet’s saying: departing, they had left behind them Footprints on the sands of time, Footprints which perhaps another—and I was the other!


The “poet’s saying,” which Stevenson refers to, is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “A Psalm of Life”: “Lives of great men all remind us / We can make our lives sublime, / And, departing, leave behind us / Footprints on the sands of time.” It’s fitting that in defending himself against plagiarism, Stevenson deploys a quote that has spawned so many interpretations. “Footprints on the sands of time” is a perfect image for cliché: terrain trod over and retraced, flattened with overuse.

But those claiming to have written “Footprints” argue that the image came to them as suddenly and surprisingly as a new gift. Burrell Webb rejects the notion that he somehow inherited an existing metaphor. It’s far more likely, he says, that people are trying to profit from his work. “I’ve never heard of the fellow [Spurgeon], so he couldn’t have possibly inspired me,” Webb says. “That allegorical poem was strictly a prayer relationship with myself and the Lord when I was feeling bad and crying for help and whining a little bit, which everybody goes through.”

Although nearly all of these authors claim they wrote the poem in longhand, dictated by God, the controversy didn’t surface until everyone began putting their versions online. There are hundreds of “Footprints”-inspired Web sites. One has a soundtrack of waves lapping against the shore; another features lines of the poem jiggling to the beat of Christmas songs. In Andrew Keen’s 2007 book The Cult of the Amateur, he writes that the Internet has induced a state of communal amnesia; we’ve lost “our memory for things learnt, read, experienced, or heard.” Perhaps the "Footprints" writers are living a version of this peculiar situation. There's not only an abundance of amateur authors, but they've all written the exact same thing.

Along with Webb, Carty, Stevenson, and Powers, at least a dozen other people have claimed, less rigorously, to have penned this poem. None of their accounts are particularly convincing, yet they all seem to genuinely believe they wrote the poem. They describe the words coming out effortlessly, even uncontrollably, as if they were finally articulating something they’d always known.

Originally Published: March 19, 2008

COMMENTS (63)

On November 21, 2007 at 10:00am Levi Stahl wrote:
This is great! In the Bible Belt--the uppermost fringe of which I grew up in--"Footsteps" is inescapable, and I wondered many times where it came from. I'm impressed at how odd the story of its origin is.

On November 22, 2007 at 7:19am Cristobal Crisosto wrote:
This is interesting. A few days ago, I typed a part of a poem in Google, to find out if I could find my own blog. It was just a frase about breathing in one other´s neck. Amazing! I found a lot of work, mainly poetry, with the same exact idea.

I´m sure I didn´t copy that body of work, and I´m pretty sure they have never read me. But I do believe that certain experiences are very common: breathing on a neck, footprints,.....like the surprise to find a handprint in a cave or the smell of small babies. I guess it´s just in us...in us all.

On November 23, 2007 at 9:57pm Arnold Zilban wrote:
I agree; metaphoricaly speaking, if in a certain culture, one such as ours, and, over a certain period of time, if the earnest fields of consciousness are plowed, fertilized and seeded with enough of certain fervent, primal, romantic narratives then how odd will it be that a number of individuals sprout shoots of words, phrases and/or ideas similar to each other? Just look at the conforming writers and poets of Communist regimes like say, North Korea; they all sound the same. To that extent many could have seized on some elements of the juicy 'Footprints on the Beach' visual, independantly and voluntarily, of course. Then to that, add our very high predisposition to the Jerusalem Syndrome, the drive toward fame and immortality, (a long, eternal 15 minutes) and the most primal seductress of all time--the drive to profit, and, well...? Here we go... Now you have the I, Me, Mine Bulls running down the streets of Ego Pamplona thru Via Dolorosa down to Hollywood Walk of Fame by way of Wall street. But the hoofprints speak volumes for themselves. Not to mention the heavy musk of Bull**** left behind. I'm with Mr. Webb--he ain't heavy; HE'S MY POET! On these grounds it is highly probable that the authentic inkprints of authorship of 'mysterious' "Footprints" trod over by likely hoof prints of narcissistic babble, are most probably Mr. Webb's.

On December 2, 2007 at 12:44pm Bjorn wrote:
Most major inventions during the last 150 years has had 5 to 10 people in different parts of the world claiming it was their idea, and having people around to prove their 'obcession' to the idea too.

It seems as thoughts are never 'original', unless when inventions has been accidental discoveries, such as for instance was the case with penicillin.

Maybe Carl Jung and the ones who claim their right to this poem is just describing what we as well could call 'The common SENSE' (in it's literal meaning). Most people can 'sense' the atmosphere in a room they enter or have experienced that someone they have just been thinking about is calling or mailing them.

It would be interesting to know whether the basic idea of this poem could be found in cultures which are not predominantly Christian. My guess is that there are many variations on the poem/story, with other deities being the supporting part, to be found.

On December 2, 2007 at 3:42pm Tom Buckner wrote:
Bjorn is right. Look at it this way: Leonardo da Vinci, living 500 years ago, had notebooks filled with ideas no other human had ever had. He lived in a world of about 450 million people, most of them unlettered and rural folk, with communication difficult even a hundred miles away.

Now we live in a world of 6.5 billion and instantaneous communication. I'd bet there are nearly as many college-educated people in the world today as there were humans alive in 1500. We all draw from the same well of pre-existing ideas. New ideas are often combinations of old ones, such as: What if you could have auctions, but on the Internet? And eBay is born. If cockleburs cling to fabric, perhaps you could make an artificial cocklebur from plastic. And then you have Velcro. Playing about with novel combinations of familiar things is an old human strategy. Sticks are easy to hold; sharp bits of flint are hard to hold. Tie the flint to the stick with sinew and pine sap, and you have invented the hafted tool, one of the first great human inventions. Even now you use hafted tools, from shaving to eating to raking the leaves.

For these reasons, I propose a Law (like Murphy's Law, Gresham's Law, and so forth): "If you have just had a great idea, act on it immediately; someone in China probably had the same idea this morning." I would call it Buckner's Law, but probably someone in China already thought of it.

On December 2, 2007 at 8:22pm oldfatslow wrote:
If only the tide would come in.

ofs

On December 3, 2007 at 1:20pm Bjorn wrote:
Heh, Tom, it would have to be 'Bjorns Law' then. I was first, at least in here! :-)

Seriously, I am sure that also thousands of people, if not million, must have been studying for instance birds and trying to figure out what humans would have to do to fly, before Leonardo saw the possibility. The difference is that he was first, what we know, to take such 'preposterous' ideas to the drawing table.

However, I believe you are perfectly right in that the best strategy when having a really good idea, and the means to see it through, is to shut up and then to run for the patent office.

As with everything else, it isn't to be right that is the hard part, it is to get it right that is.

On December 3, 2007 at 7:12pm Ed Longstreth wrote:
I remember reading a story from many years ago by Spider Robinson. It had a science-fiction setting, but the plot and action were entirely based on the need to have copyrights expire, because there is only a limited number of possible combinations of words, notes, et c. And without the illusion of originality, humanity just wouldn't bother with anything anymore.

On December 5, 2007 at 6:45pm Burrell Webb wrote:
My thanks to Arnold Zilban. In every rush to say something about what ever the current topic might be it seems there is always someone who rises above the herd to speak the truth, or at least a near truth. Thanks again Arnold!

On December 9, 2007 at 10:58am Carolyn Joyce Carty wrote:
There truly is only one set of footprints in the sand. The free book is available to all for download at http://faithweb2.tripod.com

just look for the free Footprints poetry download link. God is not the author of confusion but of Peace. Footprints written by Carolyn Joyce Carty was a Contribution to Society and is registered as such with the United States Library of Congress. Robert Louis Scharring-Hausen Founding Father of Library Week wrote the famous first line of this great poetry; One night a man had a dream.

Robert Louis Scharring-Hausen was a Nature Columnist for the Sunday Trenton Times. I thought it was important to include this historical information to the article.

Carolyn Joyce Carty

Child Prodigy-World Renowned Faith Poet-Author

On December 29, 2007 at 1:14pm Carolyn Joyce Carty wrote:
I'd like to clarify this statement posted by the poetry foundation about Footprints authorship. The poetry Foundation wrote that Usually “Footprints? was signed “Author Unknown,? but other times the credit was given to; as written by Rachel Aviv. Footprints was published As Anonymous and was copyrighted As Anonymous on it's official copyright forms. Unfortunately most people make the common mistake to assume that because the work is "anonymous" that it means Author Unknown. Onamastics which means word meaning can clarify this common mistake for those of us who understand the English language.

Publishers only used this tag line out of ignorance. Footprints was infact published as Anonymous on purpose

to be considered eligible towards earning a Nobel in Literature. It is nice to know that my contribution has made a great impact on society. For that I feel well rewarded in doing the Lords work.

Author Carolyn Joyce Carty

On December 31, 2007 at 6:49pm DanielB. wrote:
The quirky story of "footprints" is so

much better than actually reading the

hackneyed nostrum of a poem! Thank

you for the entertainment, Poetry

Foundation, as well as the interesting

implications of the 'collective

unconscious' for authorship, though I

am not as charitable toward obvious

fakery as others. And Ms. Carty, my

dear, of the numerous grammatical

errors and compositional

embarrassments in your comments

(really? "Child prodigy" is on your

signature?!), there are a few that beg

to be addressed publicly: the notion

that a work must be anonymous in

order to be considered for a Nobel is

wrong on several accounts, not the

least of which being that the Nobel prize

in literature is awarded to an author for

his or her collective body of work, and

not to individual works; Nor must these

works be anonymous (though they

must at least be good-an

insurmountable criterion for

"Footprints"). Oh, and by the way, it is

a perfectly fair assumption that an

author's name is unknown if a work has

been attributed to "anonymous." And,

alas, "onamastics"[sic] does not mean

"word meaning" as you declare, but

rather "onomastics" is the study of

proper names and thus, "anonymous"

is not strictly a fit object of

onomatology. Oh well, better luck on

your next plagiarized poem (I hear that

"Beowulf" hasn't been taken yet!).

On January 5, 2008 at 12:49pm Carolyn Joyce Carty wrote:
It is true that my grammar skills have changed since I was a child. I became disabled as a young adult...most people may not be aware of that. I find your comments about rather rude. And the private goals of earning a Nobel has nothing to do with your opinion. Get real!

What have you accomplished in your life?

On January 5, 2008 at 1:10pm Carolyn Joyce Carty wrote:
Who were Author Anonymous Most Famous Unknown Authors who wrote the poem Footprints also known as Footprints in the Sand? Ella H. Scharring-Hausen, Educator and Sunday School Teacher wrote the Footprints in the Sand poem June 6, 1922.

Its first line read; One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Ella H. Scharring-Hausens poem is now public domain property according to the copyright law of 1909. The Footprints in the Sand poem was later rewritten with permission of its owner in April Passion Week 1963 by Ella H. Scharring-Hausens great grandniece, Carolyn Joyce Carty a six year old.

The Footprints poem famous first line then became, One night a man had a dream. This first line was written by Robert Louis Scharring-Hausen, writer, editor, author, nature columnist and Founding Father of Library Week. Carolyn Joyce Carty revised the complete text into its present form, which has become known as the more popular version of the Footprints poem.

The original Footprints in the Sand poem was handwritten by Ella in 1922 at the age of 28. The rewritten version of Footprints poem was then written on an old Remington typewriter, in the living room parlor on a roll top desk of one of Hopewell’s finest Historical Homes located on Moore’s Mill Road in Hopewell, New Jersey by the six-year old child prodigy who could read and write well at the age of four. Written by Carolyn Joyce Carty often called Carrie Jo which was a derivative of her given name. The word Carrie was then underlined in the original poem and was used as her anonymous signature.

The Historical Home belonged to Robert Louis & Ella H. Scharring-Hausen. Ella Scharring-Hausen taught in Princeton. Robert Louis Scharring-Hausen was a nature columnist and wrote for the Trenton Sun Times. Robert & Ella Scharring-Hausen were neighbors to Charles & Anne Morrow Lindbergh, the Schwarzkopf’s and the Guttenberg’s all of Hopewell, New Jersey. The Scharring-Hausens often entertained quest from Princeton such as Albert Einstein, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and Dr. Linus Pauling all Nobel hopefuls.

The Scharring-Hausens & a group called The Roundabouts helped found and erect the Hopewell Museum and Library in Hopewell, New Jersey. These individuals were Philanthropist and were the first group of people in the U. S. Nation to form Library Week, the third week of May in 1922. A play called “Help Hopewell Honor Her Hero? was written. The play was based on The Founding Father of the U.S. Nation George Washington, crossing the Delaware River written by Robert Louis Scharring-Hausen. The proceeds from the Play were used to establish the Hopewell Museum in Honor of the Late Sarah D. Stout. The collection of fine antiques, were then displayed, at the Museum, which remains today.

All three individual names appear on the copyrights of Footprints also known as Footprints in the Sand. They are authors Robert Louis Scharring-Hausen, Carolyn Joyce Carty & Ella H Scharring- Hausen.

Footpints also known as Footprints in the Sand authorship is listed as an Anonymous Contribution to Society. Footprints were copyrighted in the He and I text. No other author’s text supports or substantiates any other version of copyright or use. Although many have claimed to write Footprints the poem for personal gain or notoriety, none can compare with the original collection written in 1922 and then rewritten in 1963 while each author remained alive.

Robert Louis Scharring-Hausens writings of Footpints in the sand are preserved in archives; some remain at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Scholarships for journalism were founded to Rutgers University upon the passing of Ella H. Scharring-Hausen in 1984. Carolyn Joyce Carty, (Carrie) is currently in publishing still sharing her writings with the general public, the faithful and Religious Organizations.

The Footprints of God is the short story that belongs to the poem Footprints. The Short Story written by Carolyn Joyce Carty was solely based from Bible Lesson Teachings that Ella H. Scharring-Hausens often shared with her Sunday School students from the 1920's. All poetry was written based on Bible verses & text to promote faith towards humankind without solace to promote any individual or denominational preferences. All Faiths are encouraged to share these universal thoughts, its unity of love & peace.

Carolyn Joyce Carty received Editor’s Choice Award for Outstanding Achievement in Poetry, for her poems titled Footprints, Faith & The Thirst of Christ. This author was recently nominated Best Poet for her poems titled Faith & Behold My Heart. Carolyn Joyce Carty would most like to be remembered as a Passion Writer for writing the collection of Footprints in the Sand, Literary Classic and the Youngest Philanthropist there has ever been.

Please note that Mr. Sharring-Hausen worked for the Trenton Times and was dedicated to Publishings. Robert Louis Scharring Hausen better known as "Scharry" was a Nature Columnist, and a Rutgers University Graduate. Robert Louis Scharring-Hausen was the Founding Father of Library Week in 1922, writer, editor and publisher.

Margaret Fishback Powers and Mary Stevenson (Zangare) never offered any information of Who published their so called claimed version of Footprints. They don't have an explanation for it because all they did was seek to take credit for someone else's work.

On January 12, 2008 at 11:20pm wrote:
Here is a little peice that I have run into several times in my past. I don't know who the author was but I have always admired both the work and the author.

Oh! --- what a complicated web we weave when at first we practice to decieve!

er --- author unknown

On January 19, 2008 at 8:00am LorMorkigoMet wrote:
Hello!

Nice site ;)

Bye

On January 19, 2008 at 8:41am billie wrote:
i am looking for the poem called the next time. it is set to be like it is right after footprints in the sand. it is a relious poem and i can not find it any where

On January 31, 2008 at 11:40pm lluvia balderas wrote:
i would like to know if i can find footprints in the bible if i can can you tell me were i can find it please we been looking for it but cant seem to find it

thankyou

lluvia balderas

On February 19, 2008 at 9:25am Eileen Huettl wrote:
Poem I Am.

the last 2 lines said was. I am the diamond in the cloud donot look for me in the grave I am not there. I heard the poem on tv show desparet housewives

On March 4, 2008 at 7:47am Isaiah wrote:
The Author is still unknown. Many lay clam to the title, many wish to only profit and push there name above the Lords in their pride as the author. Those that do, shame the Lord. For as the Bible says;

“ God resists the proud,

But gives grace to the humble.?

This little poam I found online sums it up quite well what the true heart of the poem should be looked at, not for profit fame or money.

Have you ever read..

A great and touching poem or statement.

And your life and heart is pounding and expressing..

Emotions contained within..

That makes you see Life..

What is really true ,

Or have you seen beauty in surroundings..

As a flower, breeze or captured in a picture of art.

Whether it be a play or demonstration..

Of events passed or future..

Then it will say" Author Unknown.".

And suddenly Sadness fill your being..

For credit and glory should be told..

How foolish! We exclaim Who..

When down inside our soul,

The answer is told...

Lies the builder and the Maker

Of all the things, past, future, and yet untold...

Is His, and yet we fail to see...

His signature...

Our Lord the creator of all..

In this I claim for His glory! Evermore.

vickie Yannuzzi

March 5, 1979

On March 6, 2008 at 10:33am Carolyn Joyce Carty wrote:
Hi Rachel, it amazes me how you turn facts around to suit your needs. Firstly the Longfellow reference of "A Psalm of Life" was not inspired by Stevenson it was inspired by me Carolyn Joyce Carty. Why do you twist these facts? I thought this was important enough for everyone to know, this specific notation referring to Longfellow is registered at the copyright office in my copyright notice. And another fact is my copyrights long existed before the days of internet marketing of any sort. Thanks for letting me share the truth without the twist. Author Carolyn Joyce Carty

On March 6, 2008 at 5:58pm Carolyn Joyce Carty wrote:
Be sure to visit the footprints poem authors web at http://faithweb2.tripod.com

Carolyn Joyce Carty

On March 19, 2008 at 9:49pm Braida wrote:
i first heard of this poem when i recieved an old poster a missionary friend gave me before her return to the field and the poster is by an unkown author and i believe it is this guy's work. i have read all of the other poems with this title and this is the one i think flows the best and personally i like the best so if you ask me it is God's poem and only he knows the right answer to this question and as a christian i truly know that is the answer and that is all that matters.

On March 25, 2008 at 8:46pm Robin wrote:
Carolyn, after every chapter or book of the Bible I don't ever recalling the phrase, "Inspired by God, Prodigy and World-Renowned Author." Shame, shame. It is what it is. Let it be. Let the poem inspire. Allow the words to seep into our souls. The bickering of authorship only lessens the powerful story within the poem, not behind the poem.

On April 4, 2008 at 3:07pm wrote:
About the polygraph.

I recently watched a program on TV where people were testing myths to see if they were true or false. In one of their tests they tried to beat the polygraph with three subjects, two of which were guilty and one innocent . The polygraph got them all.

The bottem line was that the polygraph is presently considered to be 99% accurate by tne professionals who use them.

On April 17, 2008 at 4:48pm John Hughes wrote:
Dear Ms. Aviv:

I feel I must respond to your article in the Poetry Foundation magazine entitled Enter Sandman - Who wrote "Footprints". As you know (and as noted in your article), I am the copyright and trademark lawyer for Mrs. Margaret Fishback Powers, the true author of the "Footprints" poem.

I am writing to express my disappointment with the support you give to the unsubstantiated false claims by others to being the author of the poem.

An objective investigation of the facts related to the others who claim to have written the poem clearly establish that the true author is Mrs. Powers. Your article implies that the others who have claimed to be the author are equally likely to have done so, but in each case, these claims are contrary to the actual facts.

First, Mrs. Powers is an established poet, with a substantial body of published works. Although she has employed a few different styles, her poems nevertheless have a consistent "voice," which is evident in "Footprints." This is not true of Mary Stevenson, Carolyn Carty, or Burrell Webb. Ms. Stevenson and Mr. Webb have not published any other works of creative writing, and as you noted, Ms. Carty's other writings are utterly different than "Footprints" in tone and style.

The mere assertion (or even subjective belief) of authorship does not constitute proof of the fact asserted. Unlike the Patent and Trademark Office, the Copyright Office does not investigate the validity of the claim of authorship or search prior registrations for similar works, so the existence of a copyright registration also proves nothing. This is illustrated, and Ms. Carty's veracity is demonstrated, by her claim of authorship, copyright application and registration for the lyrics of the Beatle's song "In My Life." I was disappointed that your article did not mention that very enlightening fact. As I said to you in our telephone conversation when you brought this to my attention, "the Declaration of Independence will be next." Assuming Mr. Webb's purported lie detector test was reliable (which is often not the case), it only proves he believes what he claims (the same may well be true of Ms. Carty and Ms. Stevenson) - such a subjective belief does not prove the underlying fact.

Only Mrs. Powers has verifiable public proof of the circumstance of her authorship of the poem at Echo Lake Youth Camp in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, on Canadian Thanksgiving in 1964. We have repeatedly asked Ms. Carty, Mr. Webb and Ms. Stevenson's representative for some objective proof of the existence of the poem prior to when Mrs. Powers wrote it in 1964, all to no avail.

Your article stated as if it was a clearly established fact that Mr. Webb published the poem "in a local newspaper," but when we contacted him to try to establish if that was true, he admitted that he did not know where or when it was purportedly published, saying it might have been in San Francisco (which no one in Mr. Webb's home state of Oregon would consider "local"). Conveniently for Mr. Webb, the lack of a specific date or place of publication makes it impossible for us to clearly prove the falsity of his claim.

The only person who has been able to substantiate her authorship of "Footprints" with actual facts is Mrs. Powers. While Mrs. Powers understands that others wish to pass on the important message contained in her poem, as the only true author and owner of the only valid copyright in the poem (and of the trademarks FOOTPRINTS® and FOOTPRINTS IN THE SAND®), she alone has the right to control the uses of those marks and the reproduction of the poem.

Thank you for your assistance in bringing the truth of this matter to light.

Very truly yours,

John Hughes

On April 21, 2008 at 10:07pm Burrell Webb wrote:
The whole idea behind creation of the patent office and the copyright office was to prevent wealthy people with high priced lawyers from stealing the work of less financialy able persons thereby encouraging creative effort by all people. It is too bad that these offices do not meet their respective responsibilities better. When the law was changed so that copyright became automatic to the author of a work at the time of publication the situation improved but thieves will always find a way to steal no matter how secure your valuables.

On May 5, 2008 at 6:56am Burrell Webb wrote:
(FYI)--- The polygraph is officially considered to be %99 effective and guess what!

Zangare, Fishback, and Carty all declined to submit to a similar polygraph as The one Webb submited to; that is, by a state police polygraph examiner with a reputation to protect who would not err, either accidently nor deliberately and who is used to catching criminals!

On May 6, 2008 at 4:38pm NeesteLakassy wrote:

No one gets sick on Wednesdays.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

http://ebloggy.com/wesleylopezcu

On May 11, 2008 at 7:11am Carolyn Joyce Carty wrote:
I do not care for people named Burrell Webb, Margaret Fishback Powers and John Hughes. My poem titled "In My Life I Loved You More" was not written by the Beatles it was authored by me long before the song ever came out. I do however happen to like the song they later produced. Margaret Fishback Powers is not a poet she is a fraud. My poem is similiar to the fab 4's but it is not the exact same, just as Ms Powers Footprints poem is similiar but uses several different words. You cannot copyright ideas. And once again Margaret Fishback Powers did not author MY FOOTPRINTS POEM. Read the words John Hughes. I was an author long before you were an attorney! The only thing that keeps me from declaring my work public domain is because of cheats like you.

On May 11, 2008 at 4:33pm Georgia Lee McElhaney wrote:
How in the world, or where on the web, can I find the guidelines for the Emily Dickinson First Book Award? I have been three hours reading every line in your website, and following it up where applicable, Googling your website, Googling "Pegasus Awards" and finding 8 million Pegasus Awards (well, not quite) determining to find the guidelines. Is it possible for the Poetry Foundation to e-mail the guidelines to me? Thank you so very much.

Georgia Lee McElhaney

On May 31, 2008 at 10:27pm Burrell Webb wrote:
Interesting Jeff B. that you appear to have hit the nail squarely on the head. Incidently For the 49 years that the poem has been in existance. I have never asked for nor recieved any compensation for the use of my poem from anyone.

On May 31, 2008 at 11:55pm Dave wrote:
Related to Jung's idea:

Many years ago I worked as a stand-up comic. An event in the news prompted me with an idea for a new bit--material for my stand-up act. Two days later I was slack jawed in a club as I saw another comic do the same bit I had planned. It really brought home to me old adage, There's nothing new under the sun.

The Footprints idea is pretty simple. I believe many people have independently concieved it over the years, and some have written it down. Further, I believe the obvious little twist in the story that is sort of the like the punch line of the message is attractive to as many people for it's similarity to their own ideas as it is to others for it's surprise.

I think Jung's theory applies here. Well done on the part of Ms. Aviv to make this connection.

On June 1, 2008 at 3:25pm Asterix wrote:
Someone wrote:

"About the polygraph.

I recently watched a program on TV where people were testing myths to see if they were true or false. In one of their tests they tried to beat the polygraph with three subjects, two of which were guilty and one innocent . The polygraph got them all.

The bottem line was that the polygraph is presently considered to be 99% accurate by tne professionals who use them."

That the polygraph examiners have a high opinion of their practice should surprise no one. After all, that's how they make their living.

But as the US Office of Technology assessment determined, the truth of the matter is something else: See:

http://www.fas.org/sgp/othergov/polygraph/ota/

In fact, only 19 states consider the polygraph to admissible as evidence, and only then with stipulation.

As evidence in and of itself, it proves nothing.

On June 1, 2008 at 11:16pm Pippi wrote:
Aw, c'mon, quit picking on "Child Prodigy-World Renowned Faith Poet-Author" Carolyn Joyce Carty. She's obviously mentally disturbed. She can't even write a paragaph that makes sense.

On June 3, 2008 at 4:11am Carolyn Joyce Carty wrote:
I am sorry that I ever even wrote my Footprints poem. I most certainly do not appreciate any of these comments. I now know how Jesus Christ himself felt being shunned by society. People can be mean and awful, it seems truth just does not matter anymore. And no one seems to care How I feel about any of it.

Yes I have been a person of disability which obviously disappoints people when understanding that at one point and time in my life I actually had excellent writing skills.

On June 9, 2008 at 3:05am Carolyn Joyce Carty wrote:
I am sorry that I ever even wrote my Footprints poem. I most certainly do not appreciate any of these comments. I now know how Jesus Christ himself felt being shunned by society. People can be mean and awful, it seems truth just does not matter anymore. And no one seems to care How I feel about any of it. Yes I have been a person of disability which obviously disappoints people when understanding that at one point and time in my life I actually had excellent writing skills.

On June 16, 2008 at 7:27pm Sonny Marayag wrote:
No matter who claims to be the original composer, it is still God who inspires all of us... not the human author..

On June 19, 2008 at 6:04pm Edgar Allan O-Oh wrote:
Who is this Rachel Aviv? How did she get my manuscript about the authorship of Footprints? Is she willing to do a polygraph test? Even though they are not proved to be totally accurate and can't be used in a court of law, I demand that she take one to prove whether she wrote my article. How can she have written my article unless I dictated it. I deny even meeting Rachel. Has she been to Australia? I have never been to Brooklyn. That proves it doesn't it?

Seriously, this looks like a case of how do you know that you know. What's important in the end, is that the Lord knows who wrote it, and what have we that we have not received anyway.

On July 7, 2008 at 12:40am Burrell Webb wrote:
Mrs.Powers group of attorneys have made a large point of extolling the quality and quantity of evidence substantiating her claim to authorship of "FOOTPRINTS IN THE SAND" but I personaly have never seen a single scrap of evidence supporting her claim. Furthermore I don't know of anyone who has seen any evidence to support her claim either so it appears that her lawyer was just doing what lawyers do; That is, talking tall . If there is some real substantial evidence one would think that they would be eager to present it for all to see.

On August 7, 2008 at 1:35pm Douglas Turek wrote:
I wish you all luck in claiming credit over a small scrap of poetry. Please continue your amusing, self-aggrandizing squabble. The rest of us will write and read things worth reading. If I ever get to the point where I am so overly concerned about a tiny bit of poetry and getting due credit, even were it more brilliant than Shakespeare and garnered more accolades and money, I will hang up my pen. Lawyers and lie detectors have nothing to do with creativity or inspiration. Write something new, each of you.

On August 27, 2008 at 2:06am wrote:
About Shakespear;

The name "Shake spear" is part of a rable rouser that dates to antiquity. In it's completeness it says

"shake spear, rattle sabre". Also, the name "Aurther Pen Dragon" is a thinly veiled method of estabilishing the role of fiction to all works under that name.

On September 11, 2008 at 6:01pm Frater Plecticus wrote:
I've never commented in a poetry website before, but I just stumbled over it.

Is this an elaborate hoax?

On December 18, 2008 at 9:41pm anonymous wrote:
The only thing going on with this website and article is support for atheist and gays. All the attorneys are atheist, what a unpleasant fact! Makes ya think huh? And all this site supports in this story are written by the gays including Rachel herself. Now mind you I am not prejudice at all. Why the bashing on the straight kid who wrote the real poem. Do you have no respect for history? You made a point to ace me out of the encyclopedia by undoing my links until it suited your nasty little needs. You should be sued for your actions. Not to mention your abuse of authority to the true poetry society and those who are endeared to it. And stop hacking my websites I am tired of cleaning up after your messes!

On February 25, 2009 at 10:25pm Crustal wrote:
I strongly believe that God has intended this poem to have an unknown human author. We already know who the authentic author is. Frankly, this poem is to invite people closer to God, but people are trying to take God's glory away. If god told you to write it you are not the author you are a messenger so stop trying to benifit or profit from the work of God The "authors" of the bible did not profit (as far as material things are concerned.) from there writings they were god's messengers spreading the word of god. Stop putting yourself on a pedistal child prodigy and thank god for letting you be a messanger.

On March 13, 2009 at 2:34pm Irressadvence wrote:
Need more info about Multi stress syllable word? You are welcome! on http://metacures.biz

On March 26, 2009 at 8:51pm Rightly Garlick wrote:
Who really DID write this Footprints poem????

TO GOD BE THE GLORY !!!

knock it off all of you......

On March 27, 2009 at 4:29am Mike Ross wrote:
This article's author, Rachel Aviv, provided the possible source for the poem (being the Spurgeon sermon quotation) ...however she left out one of the most important lines that Spurgeon said!

After Spurgeon's words she quotes above, in the sermon he also then said - My object, in this discourse, will be to try to point out the FOOTPRINTS OF JESUS IN THE SANDS OF SORROW, that others of the children of God may have their hearts lifted up within them while they observe that "though he were a Son, yet he," as well as the rest of us who are in the Lord's family, "learned obedience by the things which he suffered."

Obviously, these other Spurgeon words above is just as significant as the portion Rachel quoted in her article.

You can read more from the Pilgrim Publications website (true source material) here: www.pilgrimpublications.com/footprnt.htm (Did C. H. Spurgeon inspire "Footprints in the Sand" ?)

Yes, I certainly think so!

On December 8, 2009 at 12:52pm Carrie wrote:

This website is nothing more than a farce to distract from the historical authorship of footprints. Take this site down.

On February 26, 2010 at 3:36am nils LauristonTelle wrote:
I find it quite intresting that you have looked into the poem footprints I have been writing for over Fifty years of poetry and know that poem only to well I make no clame to it except that my work speakes for itself in regards to that poem made over fifty years ago I can send you my works on the poem as there are quite a few that belong to myself and being copyrighted I have never worred much about it because it belongs to all who wish to use that poem
Regards Nils

On March 4, 2010 at 7:48pm Anita Robins wrote:
Whatever be the reason that the poem was
plagiarized, accidentally or not, let's take it
as a message from God that He's with us
always,...........through thick and thin,
guiding us and protecting us,.......and let's
stop flinging accusations and
counter-accusations at one another. That wasn't what God surely meant for us,
through the poem! Such 'literary 'brawls'
actually defeat the very intent of the
'divine' poem.

Anita

On March 19, 2010 at 11:37pm Beau wrote:
Please accept this as official notice: you
have used the words; "of" "the" "it"
"shame" and "and." Without permission
from my estate. I first used these words
(coincidently, ON THE SAME PAGE) and
have documentation to prove it. AND
copyright.
Please refrain from using these words any
more. God gave them to me.

On June 3, 2010 at 6:40am When I was a younger girl... wrote:

I knew Margaret Fishback Powers 20 years ago when I was younger. Let's just say, she lived near me. The sweet spirit that came from this woman leaves no doubt in my mind that she wrote Footprints. Her and her husband's entire lives have been devoted to the service of God. I knew she was a child of God the moment she opened her mouth. I will not reveal anymore here, but in my dealings with her I found her to be sweet, kind, and incredibly generous of spirit. And she took the time...

On June 7, 2010 at 3:19am Dennis K wrote:
It does not matter who wrote it, but who inspired it. That is God almighty.
It is a beautiful piece of literature and may I suggest as Solomon perhaps might say.

Ask all those that claim ownership, to assemble and have them all agree to not allow it's usage anymore.

The one that disagrees, may well be the one that possibly penned it.

Then keep it as the beautiful verse it is.

God Bless

On July 27, 2010 at 6:58pm Toby Jensen wrote:
I had been thinking for a week or two that I wanted to write a second verse to the famous poem, "Footprints in The Sand". You know the one.

Well, I sat down and wrote it one night. Let me know what you think.

I enclosed the original poem, “Footprints in the Sand” on the first page in case you want to read that first. Otherwise just skip to the last page.

toby

(one request when reading to a group - stop yourself from taking the one step at the end. The poem itself demonstrates the taking of that first step. Let your audience define for themselves what their first step will be or remembering what their first step was. Please stop from defining for your audience what or how the first step looks like.)

Footprints in the Sand

One night I had a dream.

I dreamed I was walking along the beach
with the Lord..

Across the sky flashed scenes from my life..
For each scene, I noticed two sets of
footprints in the sand,
one belonging to me, and the other to the Lord..

When the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that many times along the path of my life
there was only one set of footprints.
I also noticed that it happened at the very lowest
and saddest times in my life.

This really bothered me
and I questioned the Lord about it:
"Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you,
you'd walk with me all the way.
But I have noticed that during the most
troublesome times in my life
there is only one set of footprints.
I don't understand why
when I need you most you would leave me."

The Lord replied:
"My precious child, I love you and would
never leave you.
During your times of trial and suffering,
when you see only one set of footprints, it was then
that I carried you."

by Mary Stevenson 1936

The Path Ahead

On another night I dreamed again.
I was standing on monumental cliffs.
And looking across the sky
I now saw what could become.

From dreams fulfilled of the deepest aspirations
In all the glory and splendor of a land of peace
Where all possibilities were achieved.
And time over time as I viewed what I could become
In all splendor and majesty - I saw virgin sand.
It had never been walked.

This bothered me as I remembered -
Everything that will be done has already been achieved.
The path simply must show tracks I thought.

I looked back and could see the footprints.
The single steps that brought us here.
And I wept openly as I remembered the struggles.
I also rejoiced in the strength that I had gained.

I turned and whispered to the Lord,
Who I knew would be by my side forever,
“Are we done now?”
“Have I overcome all that I might enter into your rest?”

He answered, “There is the final step before you join me.”
As He gestured to the open path that lay ahead us both
And spoke, with the greatest sadness in His eyes,

“You get to walk alone.”

And with tears in my eyes from struggles barely overcome
Or courage I accepted in faith.
I know not.

I simply took my first step.

By Toby Jensen

The Path Ahead © May 15, 2009
tobyjensen.spaces.live.com

On September 16, 2010 at 4:46pm Jackson W wrote:
What Ive become
If i could change what ive become fix all ive done wrong become someone new i would never forget who helped me through the saddness,the maddness,the change,the jail and every time i failed if i could only change what ive become i would never forget all ive done wrong allways remember who i wus and what i had become.

By Jackson Woodhouse.

On April 7, 2011 at 11:12am GORESEER wrote:
I to am being carried by jesus from cradle to grave.

On August 24, 2011 at 7:06pm Fnarf wrote:
I think the real lesson behind this bizarre story is that
religious people are crazy.

On October 9, 2011 at 12:42pm Carrie Me wrote:
Mary Stevenson never authored a poetry book, I doubt she wrote Footprints in the sand. Margaret Fishback Powers never wrote a poetry book, she quotes scripture which is biblical. Margaret Fishback Powers you did not author the Holy bible. I don't think your autobiography qualifies you as a poet. Carolyn Joyce Carty is an American Poet published for nearly 5 decades now with many new poetry book releases. Carty's legacy was handed down by her relatives of museum and library founders, teachers, educators and publishers. Christian Poetry books by Carolyn Joyce Carty http://www.footprintspublishingsinc.com/

On October 27, 2011 at 12:54pm Roger Harriman wrote:
"And said one to another:Behold the dreamer cometh. Come, let us kill him and throw him into some old pit: and we will say: some evil beast has devoured him: and then it shall appear what his dreams will avail him."
Genesis, Ch. 37, Vs 19-20

On February 9, 2013 at 4:18pm Zoltan Kurtock wrote:
No1 who is named here wrote "Footprints in the sand"!!!

On May 26, 2014 at 6:09pm Alan Brackley wrote:
s friends I know many things Margaret has written to be
factual. I totally accept without question her story of
having penned "I Had a Dream", which later became
Footprints or Footprints in The Sand. Anything I have read
here or elsewhere I treat without bias or prejudice. I
have not sought Margaret's permission to post here, nor is
she aware. I take full responsibility myself.

On October 14, 2014 at 4:54am Mike wrote:
-- Margaret Fishback Powers came to my church, First Baptist Church, in Marysville, WA, USA in the latter part of 1989. (That's 25 years ago.)
-- This is my recollection of her story from that day, so it may not be perfectly complete compared to what she shared that Sunday in church, but the details I present here I do recall with a strong degree of accuracy, because I was there and I remember. I even took pictures of Margaret & her family.
-- Head pastor, Pastor Jim Smith, introduced Margaret to the congregation as being the writer of the famous author-unknown Footprints poem. Margaret, her husband, & her daughter were all there and they each spoke to the congregation in the front of the church. Their daughter even sang a song as well. They even hanged out afterwards to greet people and answer questions. In no way did this turn into autograph session, as I don't recall seeing anyone requesting autographs afterwards.
-- Margaret's husband, Paul, spoke first told his story, as this website's author states, of his account of getting the Footprints poem recited to him from a little piece of paper that a hospital nurse pulled from her pocket, and how the nurse stated that no one knows who authored it, and Paul uttered to the nurse that it was his wife. He also talked about how his wife had developed spinal meningitis. Paul (or maybe Margaret) also talked about their daughter getting crushed by a motorcycle. Then Paul introduced his wife. (These details are also written by the website's author in the "Article" section.)
-- Margaret sat in the front and told us her story of how the poem came to be and described some of the trials her family had been through. She never spoke of competing authors of this poem.
-- She said the poem was inspired by the footprints in the sand she observed her husband leave when they were on a beach together one day. She said that she originally wrote the poem EITHER her husband OR her husband. She said she kept the poem private for many years, which was written either in a diary, a book, or on some paper, and she kept it safe in a chest or somewhere safe at home. She stated that she never intended on sharing it until she shared it with someone in whom she confided, and this person strongly urged her to share it with others because of how powerful a poem it was.
-- She talked about the many types of proof she or to the appropriate agencies, the many hoops she had to jump through, the evidence she had to provide, & the work she had to go through to prove it was her authorship. She said that the people or agencies to which she submitted her evidence accepted her evidence as enough proof to agree with her and grant their certification.
-- I most certainly agree with the description about Margaret's demeanor written here by † PoetryFoundation ID = "When I was a younger girl" on June 3, 2010 at 6:40am where she wrote:
>> "I knew Margaret Fishback Powers 20 years ago when I was younger. ... The sweet spirit that came from this woman leaves no doubt in my mind that she wrote Footprints ... I knew she was a child of God the moment she opened her mouth. ... I found her to be sweet, kind, and incredibly generous of spirit." <<
-- Margaret exhibited this very same spirit-of-goodness at my church that day.
-- I remember seeing a "Footprints" Hallmark card later that year (1989) and to my amazement it listed Margaret Fishback Powers as the author. I had to buy it and and I mailed the card to my overseas friend as a means to share Margaret's visit to our church and to share her amazing story.
-- An additional note: I have never read Margaret's memoir, "Footprints: The True Story behind the Poem That Inspired Millions," so I hope the detail I write here of my recollection of what she shared that Sunday lines up in some way to what she wrote.

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Biography

Rachel Aviv’s writing has appeared in The Believer, Bookforum, The New York Times, and The New Yorker.

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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