The man who runs the Bigfoot Museum in Northern California

He notably believes that Bigfoot roams freely in the woodlands and mountains of the Pacific Northwest, hunting deer for food and hiding from the humans who would inevitably destroy him.

Rugg says he has first-hand experience with Bigfoot, who he says is a bipedal primate species. At age 4, while camping with his family somewhere in Humboldt County, Rugg saw the creature with his own eyes. His parents dissuaded him from doing so. But the memory reappeared in a flashback several years later, spurring a lifetime to search for the elusive beast.

“Bigfoot is a lot more aware of you than you are of him, because he lives in the forest,” Rugg said recently over the phone. “All he has to do is stand behind a tree, and you can’t see him. … It’s as simple as that.

The Bigfoot myth is deeply rooted in American culture. The world can perhaps be divided into two camps: those who believe that humanoids exist and those who do not. This is the first category that interests us here. How to continue to believe in something when science – and doubtless the majority of the living inhabitants of the world – denies its very being?

Much of what we know about Bigfoot comes from anecdotal evidence, as well as countless photographs, videos, audio recordings, and plaster casts – most of which have been debunked as hoaxes.

Bigfoot’s history dates back hundreds of years.

“Reports and legends of hairy humanoids in North America preceded the arrival of Europeans,” writes Brian Regal in “Searching for Sasquatch.” “Beliefs in savage men and allied creatures date back thousands of years in Native American folklore and, in the global context, at least to the ‘epic of Gilgamesh’ and possibly the earliest days of humanity.”

Discovery Museum owner Michael Rugg poses for a photo on Saturday, December 18, 2021. “/>

Bigfoot Discovery Museum owner Michael Rugg poses for a photo on Saturday, December 18, 2021.

Adam Pardee / SFGATE Special

Regal suggests that “the modern field of anomalous primate studies” began around the 1940s or 1950s, when countless stories of sightings and encounters began to emerge from obscurity and into the mainstream. The Bigfoot field of study was born.

One of the defining moments of Bigfoot’s study came in 1967, when Rugg was a full fellow at Stanford University. If you’ve ever jumped into the Bigfoot Rabbit Hole yourself, you’ve undoubtedly stumbled upon the Patterson-Gimlin footage. Some say the pictures are indisputable proof of Bigfoot’s existence. Others write it down as a simple hooey. At Rugg’s Bigfoot Discovery Museum in Felton, California, the images are taken like a gospel. It plays in a loop in the small, single-storey building, which is just off Highway 9.

Rugg, who has seriously studied Bigfoot for the past 16 years since he first opened the museum, believes Patterson-Gimlin’s footage is real. But he has some unusual theories on his subject. The famous Sasquatch, he conjectures, is a woman, he told me, because “you can see her breasts.”

When I asked Rugg how he knew which Bigfoot reports are real and which are hoaxes, he had a moving response: “If I get the report, and I can look the person in the eye and question them, I can say it, “he said. .

Whether you believe in Bigfoot or not, Rugg’s charisma and passion for the bipedal is extremely contagious. He knows every inch of the creature, of its scent – “Imagine a skunk that had rolled around in dead animals and was hanging out in garbage pits” – what its call sounds like – “like going down the Matterhorn [at Disneyland]. ”

He believes the Bigfoots have a language, similar to Morse code, that allows them to coordinate hunts and the young to find their parents.

The Bigfoot Discovery Museum in Felton on Saturday December 18, 2021.

The Bigfoot Discovery Museum in Felton on Saturday December 18, 2021.

Adam Pardee / SFGATE Special

“Bigfoot have a language,” he told me. “Their screams are a way to connect with another Bigfoot.”

During his many years of hunting, Rugg heard the screams and smelled the stench himself. He even captured footage of the elusive animal, “but it’s 80 yards away, in the trees.”

“It could be a person,” he said. “We know it’s a Bigfoot because of the scream and the smell.”

I asked why Bigfoot sightings are so rare, and as always, Rugg had a simple response: “They are so good at hiding.

“These animals realized that if they weren’t hiding from us, we were going to murder them all,” he said, underlying the modern anxieties that plague all environmentalists today: the fear that what you love the most may one day be destroyed by mankind.

As to why scientists do not accept the existence of Bigfoot, Rugg attributes it to an “oversight.”

“They follow a doctrine. They are stuck with the concept that there are no more hominids alive at a certain point in time except homo sapiens, ”he said. “And obviously that’s not true.”

Inside the Bigfoot Discovery Museum.

Inside the Bigfoot Discovery Museum.

Adam Pardee / SFGATE Special

Rugg himself suffered doctrinal retreat at Stanford. He said he wanted to write an article describing the importance of studying Bigfoot, only for his teacher to make it difficult at every turn. This professor gave the article an F.

Despite these early setbacks, Rugg continued. He finally put aside the study of hominids to “sit in a booth and push pixels” in Silicon Valley. In 2002, he lost his job when the dot-com boom hit. It was time to pursue his true passion: to open a museum for people around the world to experience Bigfoot.

Rugg has had to suspend his weekly Bigfoot hunting trips lately. He suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and must carry a reservoir of oxygen wherever he goes. It remains in the museum, which contains so many artifacts – Bigfoot sculptures, Bigfoot dioramas, Bigfoot books, Bigfoot plaster casts – that Rugg doesn’t even know how many he owns.

While running the museum, Rugg encountered what he calls a group of figures – “I became one myself,” he said – and, in many cases, remained non- believers. But a quick read of the museum’s Yelp page underscores its convicting power.

A collection of Bigfoot prints at the Bigfoot Discovery Museum in Felton.

A collection of Bigfoot prints at the Bigfoot Discovery Museum in Felton.

Adam Pardee / SFGATE Special

“The Big Foot Museum gives me life itself,” wrote one woman. “I have never seen anything so real. I am flabbergasted. Before I came here I believed Bigfoot was nothing more than a fairy tale or folklore.

Others were not so convinced but appreciated the kitsch and wonder of the place: “As a science teacher, I am afraid that modern science may disagree with some of its facts, but it is was still fun to listen to, ”wrote one reviewer.

The museum currently operates solely on donations and Rugg fears for its future. Although he owns the building, he is having trouble paying his mortgage. He and his supporters raised around $ 12,000 towards a goal of $ 92,000 to “Save the Bigfoot Discovery Museum”. He may have to sell the museum or give it to the bank if he doesn’t have enough funds.

In the meantime, Rugg still makes his journey from his home in Felton to his little treasure chest – not every day, but Friday through Sunday, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., when the museum is open to the public. If there’s one thing he’s more passionate about than Bigfoot, maybe it’s just sharing his traditions with others.

At the end of the day, he concluded, “Studying Bigfoot is just a fun thing to do. ”

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