The Little Museum That Can

Little Museum That CouldWe opened the Bigfoot DIscovery Museum in 2004 in an attempt to educate the public with the facts and current best guesses as to the true nature of Bigfoot. The plan included creating the museum in the form of a roadside attraction in the hopes that visitors’ donations and purchases of souvenirs and educational materials would fund the ongoig attempt to gather proof of the existance of Bigfoot.. This was to be an uphill climb at best, but I had no idea what a struggle it would be.


Our first obstacle had to do with zoning. It took two years to jump through the hoops required to make everything OK with the Planning Dept. Even though I’d been doing business on the property since 1968, they claimed the return to retail as a museum was not OK because they had changed the zoning to residential. They intended to force us out of business to be compliant with their wishes. We gave them proof of our right to invoke the grandfather clause that enables us to continue operating as we have been prior to the zoning changes. Whew, that wasted a lot of time and money, but we got past it. By this time we already thought of ourself as the “Little Museum That Can.” Meaning we CAN climb the mountain of ignorance–and actually become self-sustaining while doing so–in spite of all the skeptics, nay-sayers and obstacles to the truth.
The first amazing thing we discovered by opening the museum, was the presence of Bigfoot in Santa Cruz County right up tho the present day.The roadside attraction model did indeed work to attract visitors, including local eye witnesses. Unfortunately some folks were reticent to pay admission to view what they thought might be a “scam.” Very few hardcore bigfoot skeptics ever come into the museum. I figured I’ll be able to set the record straight by telling the truth in the museum and by maintaining a neutral attitude and point of view.  I also had to deal with the expenses inherent in such an endeavor, which includes showing copyrighted materials. Playing of the Patterson Film can cost thousands of dollars in royalty fees. By asking for donations rather than an admission fee, everyone has access to the materials, whether they pay or not. As my accountant advised over and over “You’ve got to charge for the service you are providing with an admission fee,”I adhered to the donation concept, so everyone has equal access to the facts, and to make it clear we are not doing this for the money. Many times have I heard that criticism thrown out in an attempt to discredit any researcher who tries to leverage his own funding. “He’s in it for the money.”
Besides the inherent difficulty in fundraising due to the usual skepticism, two events occured that sent the public acceptance of Bigfoot back 20  years. 1) Ray Wallace died. 2) Greg Long wrote a book attacking the credibility of Roger Patterson. Wallace had created fake bigfoot artifacts including carved wooden footprints from which he cast duplicates that he sold to tourists as real along with still photos from a film he made of his wife in a bigfoot costume. His family told the media “bigfoot is dead,” ’cause their Dad created it singlehandedly in 1958. (Since hairy wildmen have been described all over the planet since the beginning of recorded history, this was obviously a ridiculous claim.) The misinformation got even worse when they (network news channels) started showing the Patterson Film on screen while talking about Wallace’s antics, In the end an urban myth was created by the newsmedia that there was a deathbed confession by Patterson and his film was now known to be an admitted hoax. That is a bald-faced lie.
Next came the worst book ever written about bigfoot The MAKING OF BIGFOOT”.This unfortunate attempt at “investigative journalism” turned into an ad hominin character assasination of Roger Paqtterson and Bob Gimlin. Backed by rumours and inuendo, two men claim to have aided Patterson & Gimlin in creating the creature. One man claimed he made the suit, while another swore he wore the ‘suit” seen in the film. Problem is they don’t even agree as to what the suit was made from nor its configuration!. When asked to give details to back up his story the man who supposedly wore the suit had no idea where the film site was nor its relationship to other neighboring towns. He claimed a five minute drive from Willow Creek to Bluff Creek film site, which in fact is more like a two hour drive. Other mistaken details of the story have been corrected over time between successive interviews; this is easily traceable online via archived interviews. Even sceptics (bigfoot non-believers) agreed the book was an abomination. But it had a very detremental effect on the public acceptance of bigfoot none-the-less.
So by 2008 we were fighting against all this media misinformation and disinformation on a daily basis. Five to Six days a week, 52 weeks a year for the past 8 years I have been speaking out and making the public aware of the facts concerning bigfoot. Almost everyday I had to tell folks the truth about the deathbed confession and the untrue hit piece against Patterson & Gimlin. Then came the worst hoax of all. Two men with law enforcement backgrounds (one was a Deputy Sheriff on leave) claimed to the world in a huge press conference in Palo Alto, CA that they had possession of a dead bigfoot and the carcass was to be turned over to “Bigfoot Hunter” Tom Biscardi for study and monetary exploitation. A few days after the press conference the truth was revealed and the men admitted the hoax but blamed it all on Tom Biscardi. Here we go again,,, more misinformation revealed to the public which had the result of creating additional attacks aginst all bigfoot researchers.
In the meantime our data base of sightings here in Santa Cruz County continued to grow. We went out as often as possible for a number of years looking for bigfoot especially when we had a fresh local sighting to investigate, and found more and more bits of evidence to support the reports in the local area. We tended to keep a low profile as we didn’t want get accused of being in it for the money. But by 2008 I had run out of money. I lost my home to foreclosure as it was one of many bad loans that went wacky when the banking system crashed. We managed to get rid of the upside down burden with a short sale, but I also borrowed money using the museum property as collateral. That’s why the museum has a loan payment to make each month and a balloon payment that recently became due and payable. But with the help of donations from a number of members and supporters of the museum we were able to pay the back taxes and make it possible to extend the note for two more years. Had you folks out there not helped, the museum would be closed now. Overcoming all the monetary struggles since 2008 while fighting to counteract all the media misinformation and the academic backlash against the subject has been a long climb up a steep hill. But I keep telling myself I can, I think I can…  I think I can!
Then in 2010 CalTrans closed Highway 9 four miles south of us for the entire tourist season from June thru  October.(revenue stream dropped 50%.) Most museums are supported by the local citizens via fundraisers and donations. Not so easy to do when many are still convinced that bigfoot is a joke. In Willow Creek CA their bigfoot museum has been a major tourist attraction since the late sixties, and even though a great many residents don’t believe in bigfoot, the whole town supports the museum and helps to keep it going. Its not like that here. We do have some volunteer help from time to time by individual locals, but there is no recognition for the tourist impact we’ve had and very little recognition by educators and county organizations who are in the dark on this subject. When Dr Jeffry Meldrum wrote a book on Sasquatch, sixty of his peers at Idaho State University signed a petition that suggested he be fired. Most scientists are convinced that the slightest interest in bigfoot can be a career killer. Most people who visit the museum and actually talk to me (the curator) are very complimentary and astonished at all the information we have to offer, but only a few have expressed their gratitude with more than $20. We have been advised by some to become a nonprofit corporation while others have warned us against it: the fact is, we are nonprofit, so we might as well make it official.
I’m convinced the study of bigfoot has reached the top of the discovery climb. After 60+ years of study bigfoot is indeed currently undergoing the discovery process. Something this controversial couldn’t be accepted overnight. But in spite of the overall ignorance of the subject there are more scientists of stature looking into this than ever before. I believe its an easy down hill coast from here (to the final announcement of reality) but the big question now is what happens next and will we be around to be a part in it? I feel great satisfaction for the part we’ve had in the discovery process, but without ongoing occasional funding help we are not likely to continue to be a part of the discovery. It doesn’t take a lot of money to keep this museum open, however, and I’m confidendent all our dedication and hard work–with a little help from you–will payoff in the end because we are The Little Museum That Can.
Mike Rugg
Director & Curator
Bigfoot Discovery Project & Museum