I was flipping through the Aptos Times at Norma Jeans, a local coffee haunt, when I ran across the mention of a Bigfoot museum in nearby Felton.
Bigfoot! Who hasn’t seen the famous video footage of an ape-like beast strolling through sun-dappled woods, glancing diffidently over his shoulder as if to say, “I don’t give a crap whether you believe in me or not – I’m late for picking up the kids from soccer.”
And so it comes to pass that on a sunny Saturday when most locals are hitting the surf, I hit the road and drive to Felton to visit the Bigfoot Discovery Museum.
Though, as I find when I arrive, “museum” is a bit of a misnomer, bringing to mind as it does such temples of art and culture as the Guggenheim, the Tate and the Louvre.
No, the Bigfoot museum nestled in the redwoods above Santa Cruz is a humble, pine-sided hut situated a stone’s throw away from another Felton landmark, the Cowboy Bar & Grill. It’s easy enough to spot: Standing in formation, from largest to smallest, are four carved wood sculptures of the hominid of my curiosity.
I pull into one of the museum’s four parking spaces and make my way to the front door, which opens into a narrow, L-shaped foyer. No Sasquatch is on hand to greet me – a slight disappointment – but soon enough I am engrossed in enough Bigfoot memorabilia to, well, fill a museum. The collection is clearly a labor of love, likely curated from late night searches on eBay and daytime forays to flea markets. Examples include Harry and the Hendersons videotapes and books, a cardboard box claiming to contain “eggactly” one Sasquatch egg (care instructions included), the Original Bigfoot Bottle Inversion Cap, a hand-carved oak tree knocker, “Bigfoot Stepped on Me in the California Redwoods” t-shirts, plus Bigfoot action figures, comic books, mugs, stickers, collectible cards designed by a local artist, and buttons.
I round the corner into the museum’s main room, which is about as large as Melania Trump’s shoe closet at Mar-a-Lago. In the rear, sitting behind a plywood counter, is the museum’s founder and curator, Michael Rugg. He’s a beefy gent with a fluffy white beard and is sporting a black baseball hat with a strolling Sasquatch embroidered on it. He’s in earnest conversation with a thirty-something guy dressed in khaki hiking pants and a polo shirt.
Naturally, I eavesdrop on their conversation.
Khaki guy: “… this one was calling, and the other replied like, ‘hey, I’m over here!’, which made me kinda nervous.”
Rugg (spreading a map on the counter): “Can you pinpoint where you heard this conversation?”
Khaki guy: “I can tell you exactly. And the other day? I was heading up the trail and rocks came flying at me through the trees! I’ve heard they throw rocks at people. I got spooked and ran away.”
(The two confer over the map for a couple minutes).
Khaki guy (pulls out a recording device): “I want you to listen to this.” (Hits play; the room is filled with the sound of feet crunching on dry leaves.)
Rugg: “Can you send that to me? I have a collection of Bigfoot recordings.”
Khaki guy: “I have another from last Sunday, of ticking sounds. And I’ve also heard tapping and snorting.”
Rugg: “Not uncommon. Definitely sounds like Bigfoot.”
I wander away to explore the rest of the museum, which includes a nocturnal diorama featuring Bigfoot and an audio-video outside “cafe” area where you can watch assorted documentaries.
If, as I did later that day, you were to look up “Bigfoot” on Wikipedia, you’d find a treasure trove of trivia, mostly of the myth-busting variety. Also catalogued are Bigfoot hoaxes from the 1800’s forward.
On July 9, 2008, Rick Dyer and Matthew Whitton posted a video to YouTube claiming that they had discovered the body of a dead Sasquatch in a forest in northern Georgia. Tom Biscard, a long-time Bigfoot enthusiast and CEO of Searching for Bigfoot Inc., was contacted to investigate. Dyer and Whitton received $50,000 from Searching for Bigfoot, Inc. as a good faith gesture. The story of the men (sic) claims was covered by many major news networks, including BBC, CNN, ABC News, and Fox News. Soon after a press conference, the alleged Bigfoot body arrived in a block of ice in a freezer with the Searching for Bigfoot team. When the contents were thawed, it was discovered that the hair was not real, the head was hollow, and the feet were rubber. Dyer and Whitton subsequently admitted it was a hoax after being confronted by Steve Kulls, executive director of SquatchDetective.com.
The hours pass, one internet search bleeds into another, and I land on a Canadian website listing 193 different names for Bigfoot.
My favorites: The Bad-Smelling Tree Men, Boggy Boon, Cave Yeller, Honey Island Monster, and The Hairy Man Who Appears as a Symptom of Disaster.
On the other hand, if you idle around on the Bigfoot Discovery Museum’s website long enough, you might just become a believer in tick-tocking, rock-tossing, woods-wandering Yeti. Newsletters archived back to 2006 contain Rugg’s considerable research on all things Sasquatch, including local sightings (the last one, by “Ric,” took place in April, 2002 alongside Highway 1 by Wilder Ranch State Park). Conveniently, should you or your friends have a Bigfoot encounter, the website also includes a Sighting Submission Form.
I was just about to close down my computer for the evening when another item caught my eye: The Great Big Bigfoot Poll. Which I then clicked open and filled out. Basically, Rugg wants to know if you’re a believer or not. How I responded to the questions isn’t important.
What is important is this: What would you do if, finding yourself alone on a remote trail in the Pacific Northwest, you were hit by a rock thrown through the trees? And then heard snorts and ticking?
I know what I’d do: Report it to Michael Rugg.