To a nation fed on checkout-line tabloids, "Bigfoot" and "hoax" go together like chips and dip. Mike Rugg, the proprietor of a Bigfoot museum in Felton, Calif., disagrees. "People are sent to...
SAN JOSE, Calif. To a nation fed on checkout-line tabloids, “Bigfoot” and “hoax” go together like chips and dip. Mike Rugg, the proprietor of a Bigfoot museum in Felton, Calif., disagrees.
“People are sent to death on less evidence than we have for Bigfoot,” Rugg said.
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His Felton museum opened in July and is in what he calls “the analog version” of what he hopes it will be: an old-fashioned roadside attraction. It’s a little red house and assorted outbuildings on Highway 9, just down the road from the entrance to Henry Cowell Redwood State Park.
While the evidence for Bigfoot’s existence is almost exclusively anecdotal, believers and even some who claim to be neutral cite the consistency of hundreds of sightings, eerie shrieks in the woods and casts of huge footprints. Even primatologist Jane Goodall has said she wouldn’t be surprised if an undiscovered primate like Bigfoot exists.
Bigfoot is a Humboldt Times reporter’s word, circa 1957, for the big, hairy biped whose most frequent California sightings have been in Northern California’s Humboldt County. Sasquatch, the preferred name in some circles, is a North Coast Indian word for the barely glimpsed creature; Rugg said most Native American languages have a word for such a creature.
If Bigfoot exists, it probably strode across the prehistoric land bridge between Siberia and Alaska about 13,000 years ago, said Arizona zoologist J. Richard Greenwell. An adult male is reckoned to be up to 8 feet tall and 800 pounds, measurements deduced from strides and footprints, of which even Rugg’s little museum has a few casts. Rugg has collected enough facts to confirm his boyhood belief that Bigfoot exists and roamed, indeed, still may be roaming, the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Almost the first thing you see at Rugg’s museum is a collection of tabloids, many of them from the gifted writers at the Weekly World News: “I WAS BIGFOOT’S LOVE SLAVE,” reads one.
“Anybody that’s working on a documentary about Bigfoot goes out and buys a gorilla suit,” Rugg said. “That’s what I’d do, too.”
If you somehow miss the big new sign CapriTaurus’ Bigfoot Discovery Museum Art Gallery Gift Shop outside the museum, look for the little Bigfoot sculpture chained to the front railing or the big one in progress alongside.
Artist, musician, computer guy and lifelong Bigfoot buff, Rugg, 58, is a round, gray-bearded man who was laid off from his graphics job two years ago and is happily devoted to his obsession.
He’s got a digital copy of the 1967 Patterson-Gimlin film: 60 seconds of Bigfoot bliss for aficionados, sheer hokum for nonbelievers; some books for sale and lots more just for research; a collection of taped sounds; plenty of stills from “Harry and the Hendersons,” a 1987 Bigfoot comedy starring John Lithgow as Henderson; maps with colored pins representing local Bigfoot sightings; and a huge, blurry blowup of the most famous still from the Patterson-Gimlin film.
Rugg is an Oakland, Calif., native whose family moved to Felton when he was 13. By then he’d been fascinated by Bigfoot for about eight years.
As an art major at Stanford University, he crafted a course of study that would have led to a second major in paleoanthropology. But he dropped out in disgust after he wrote a paper, “A History and Discussion of the American Sasquatch Question,” for an anthropology class and got a C on it with the comment, “This is still in the realm of UFO.”
Rugg said “Bigfoot” is singular and plural, like “moose,” although in conversation he uses “Bigfoots,” as in “Bigfoots come in all sizes.”
This last is in reference to Homo floresiensis, the 3-foot-tall hominid whose skeleton was re
cently found on a remote Indonesian island. Rugg said that discovery makes a convincing case for Bigfoot and other so-called cryptids: to quote TheFreeDictionary.com, “rumored or mythological animals that are presumed to exist, but for which conclusive proof does not yet exist; or are generally considered extinct, but occasionally reported.”
“Now,” Rugg said, “we have bones!”
“There’s just no reason why all these things can’t exist,” Rugg said. “There’s just a vast wilderness out there where these things can easily hide.”