At first glance Mike Rugg seems like your typical grandfather: a friendly, mild-mannered and soft-spoken gentleman, a little stout, with a big white beard and a cap covering a curly mop of long white hair. Like other grandfatherly types, Mike Rugg has devoted his days of retirement to an impassioned avocation and when given a chance, Mr. Rugg will gladly sit down to tell tales of his experience and expertise in his pursuit to prove the existence of Bigfoot.
Bigfoot, that elusive, bipedal hairy hominid of the Pacific Northwest, has been made a part of the common consciousness by numerous front page covers on grocery store tabloids and Hollywood hokum such as Harry and the Hendersons. This same Bigfoot is what has inspired Mr. Rugg’s life work, which, after you get the chance to discuss with him, you’ll find is more Odyssean than Quixotic. His work is mostly of his own undertaking, aided amongst a network of like-minded individuals. Mr. Rugg is one of the foremost experts on the subject of cryptids and cryptozoology, operating the non-profit Bigfoot Discovery Museum that doubles as a roadside curiosity in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Upon entering the museum, you’ll be delighted by the best scientific evidence to date explaining the origins and whereabouts of Bigfoot as well as other Bigfoot-related knickknacks and curios, such as trading cards, comic books, and even the Groovie Ghoulies’ Running with Bigfoot seven inch record.
Kepi Ghoulie was kind enough to play a benefit show for Mr. Rugg’s museum last summer. This summer more bands friendly to Mr. Rugg’s endeavors, decided to get together to raise some sorely needed funds to keep the museum afloat. So, on July 1st and 2nd in the Santa Cruz Mountains, please join the Paul Collins’ Beat, Mean Jeans, Shannon And The Clams, Personal And The Pizzas, and many others as they bring attention to and try to better understand the mysteries and mythos behind Bigfoot, while also honoring and celebrating Mr. Rugg’s work in achieving those goals.
Interview by Ricardus
Introduction by Jeff Proctor
Ricardus: Well, what do you say we get down to it and you start by telling me a little about yourself, education, experience, and what got you into all this?
Mike: [laughs] Well, as far as education, I would have to say most of it I learned from the school of hard knocks. After sixty-some odd years on this planet, I have seen and heard a few things and think I can discern between reality and fantasy. I’ve been studying this full time for seven years now, and the past fifty years of research has only been backed up and supported by the previous six years of full-time study.
Ricardus: Well, why Bigfoot?
Mike: Well, I had an experience when I was younger, and since then I studied as much as I could in my spare time. When I got into college I tried to take it seriously and study it as a complete line of study, but they wouldn’t allow that. I was warned that I would receive a failing grade in my anthropology class if I continued to study this. So I was pretty discouraged with the dogma involved, and said screw it, I’ll just keep doing it on my own and didn’t bother getting my degree. I left one language credit short of completing my anthropology degree. I was so pissed off with the established science that I thought, “What’s this all about? So, you have a degree, what does that prove?” Proves you got dogma and you don’t want to be open to new concepts. So I became somewhat of a heretic when it came to academics. But, I do have a brother who is a professor emeritus now, from Cal State Long Beach—I believe that’s what it’s called. Anyway, so I was kind of heading in that direction but I became so frustrated with the attitude that I gave it up and became an artist.
Ricardus: What a bummer. So, what then? Head out to the woods, find old sassy, and open up a museum?
Mike: Well, not exactly. I left school in ‘68 and my mother told me that the property was available if I wanted to use it. So I said “Hell yes” and came here and went into business for myself building music instruments, mainly mountain dulcimers. I did that for roughly twenty years, met a woman, fell in love, and got married. She already had children, so all of a sudden I had a family and making money was more important to me. A friend introduced me to a Macintosh computer and I spent the next twenty years as a graphic artist. I was working forty hours a week in a cubicle pushing pixels and essentially hating every minute of it. Well, eventually I was laid off from the fat, city job and ended up back here in Felton.
I looked for work in the area and found out that I was old and in the way, and they weren’t about to hire me to do the same thing I had been doing for the previous fifteen years, especially when they had someone fresh out of school who would do it twice as fast for half the pay. So, I decided to listen to the little voice in the back of my head which kept telling me I was collecting all this (Bigfoot) material for a reason, and that there would be a time in my life when I would know it was right.
Then I went through a bit of a life crisis when I lost my job and realized I was already older than my father when he had died. I saw a bunch of my old cronies die, guys who had been hunting Bigfoot for years. They died with this still being a mystery, and I said, I don’t think I want that to happen to me, so I think I’m going to have to become “the Bigfoot guy” and do this full time and see if I can’t damn well solve this mystery once and for all. So, here I am. Never been so poor in my whole life, but I’ve had a hell of a good time the last six years. It has been the happiest time of my life. I’ve met so many interesting people and learned so much. So now I’m the Bigfoot guy. It doesn’t pay well, but it is very rewarding, especially since that tooth that we were looking at—it may be the final proof that I have accomplished what I set out to do.
Ricardus: Geez, sounds like the road to Sasquatch has been anything but smooth. How about you take me on the nickel tour of the museum?
Mike: All right, what we do is we start with local history. The concept (of the timeline in the museum) is that nothing in the world is static and in a vacuum. Everything we do is somehow interconnected with everything else, over time. So I thought, well, the museum is existing here. There’s a reason for that. I am into this subject at the level I am and there’s a reason for that, so how can we tie all this together with time and space?
The time line is an attempt to bring this all together with time and space and Bigfoot, starting here with Bigfoot crossing the land bridge and coming into North America, and we end up with us starting our Bigfoot museum here, so to speak, and there are all these facts to show how it all fits together.
I don’t know if you know anything about DNA, but they can trace the genealogy of DNA back in time and tell you where your strand of DNA originated in time and space. Just like our timeline here, that’s the same concept. So they can take your DNA and say, for instance, you’re in haplogroup F2, so your mother is from this region of the world twenty thousand years ago and your father is from that region of the world thirty thousand years ago. So they’ve more or less got it figured out for most humans on the planet, and they are going to be talking about Bigfoot on that level real soon because that’s what this stuff is going to show that they are working on right now in that lab.
So that’s what this is about and we wanted to connect it up with the local community somehow so that the people here would see that what we are doing is something other than a scam or just a roadside attraction. On that same token, we wanted to have that roadside attraction feel because there used to be a lot of them here in the Santa Cruz area. There was Santa’s Village, the Lost World, and the Tree Circus. When I was a kid, we loved to come to the Santa Cruz mountains because there were dinosaurs, Santa Claus, and all kinds of stuff, before the county planners decided they didn’t want any of that any more and made it so difficult that they put all those places out of business. So this was also a monument to the good old roadside attractions of the past.
Ricardus: Wow, that’s really something. I will definitely say that as I stepped into your museum for the first time, I was reminded of the brown theory of time travel suggested by Scott “Crappy” Carapino, and as I closed my eyes and took a deep whiff of the past, I was immediately reminded of the fall of ‘87. Anyway, can you tell me a little about this manual on display?
Mike: So then we have a very old anatomy book, showing the anatomy of a gorilla foot with handmade drawings. It’s about a hundred-year-old book. It tells about the history of the gorilla, and how that was denied by science for a long time. [In a high pitched voice mocking the scientists] “No such thing as a gorilla. Those people living in those grass huts don’t know nothing. They’re savages. They’re not educated. They make that shit up.” Of course now the gorilla is known to everyone.
We have an area dedicated to popular culture, and for something that doesn’t exist, it sure has had an impact on culture. There are so many artifacts dedicated to it, and this is only since 1951. That was the year a mountain climber, Eric Shipton, took the famous photo of a giant human-like foot print in the snow next to his climbing axe. That photo was run in most major publications of the time.
So, as we move along, this display shows different cultures from all over the world and how Bigfoot fits in the lives of many different peoples, from medieval times, to Native Americans, as well as cave drawings. Here we have a book written by an archaeologist studying Native Americans and Bigfoot. So I contacted her and said, “Kathy, I believe we have found Bigfoot in the Felton area, and I have a feeling they’ve been here for quite a while.” Kathy told me that according to her research the local tribes of the area did have a Bigfoot story. Takakuna, the personal name of the Choontonah (Bigfoot) lived on a flat north of Felton called Choochano.
Ricardus: Really? So, what would that mean then? At some point in recent history, man and Bigfoot had some sort of rapport going?
Mike: Well, the Indians of British Columbia were the first to discuss this with Westerners. They told them that they (Bigfoot) were another tribe. They spoke in the Douglas dialect and they made hunting and territory agreements. But sometimes they’d break these treaties and steal food and occasionally a woman or two. What’s interesting is the Indians would say that sometimes the women would return and give birth to hairy little babies. They would in turn take these babies to the forest and leave them for the Sasquatch to raise. This is what they said in the 1920s and current research is pointing at that as being very probable.
Ricardus: If that is the case, why haven’t I heard anything about this? Especially if there is, or at least was, some line of communication with Bigfoot?
Mike: Just like in Africa when the locals were telling scientists about this huge man-like beast covered in black hair that lived in the jungle, they said, “Those black people don’t know what they’re talking about. They live in grass huts, they’re savages, heathens. They don’t know what their local fauna looks like. They’re lying.”
When the Europeans came to America, what did they do? They made war with the natives and took their lands. It was called the Indian Wars. After the Indian Wars happened and the Indians had given up and moved to reservations and so forth, they started moving across the land, from east to west, building towns. When they were doing this, they would come across these huge mounds, burial mounds. Well, they would dig up these mounds so they could put in tract houses, etcetera, and they would find examples of metallurgy that was way in advance of what the Indians were showing in their daily lives at that time.
They were also finding skeletons of seven- and eight-foot tall beings. This shows that the Native Americans were more advanced culturally than what was being shown at the present time and that they had a past. But because the founders of the country had just committed near genocide, they reduced the Indians to savages. They don’t kill humans, they kill savages. So when the Smithsonian was set up as one of the first museums in this country, it was run by racists and all this material that they were digging up that was showing that the Indians were pretty cool dudes, well they hid that away in the basement. So, that’s what is going on here.
Ricardus: What about this display featuring the National Enquirer? Don’t get me wrong here Mike, I enjoy a good read myself, but I’m not sure I understand how this fits in the museum or alongside what appears to be sassy feet cast.
Mike: This display features once-famous hoaxer Ray Wallace, who claims he alone made up the whole Bigfoot story. He would dress his wife up in a gorilla suit and shoot film of her running around the woods. He would in turn set up a sign in front of his house and sell stills from his films along with fake Bigfoot casts he would make himself. When he died, his family went to the media and announced that Ray had made the entire Bigfoot thing up himself and that Bigfoot had died with him. The media took that story and ran with it. [Laughing, he turns and gestures] So, you mean to tell me that Ray Wallace, all on his own, fabricated all of this in its entirety? It’s absurd. So the tabloids of the time jumped all over this and ran it. Some odd years ago, the media decided Bigfoot wasn’t real, and they could just write whatever they wanted and they did. And what better way to discredit a story than to run it in the Enquirer? It’s well known that the military industrial complex has been doing this for years with UFO and alien research.
Ricardus: So, are you suggesting that there is some sort of military Bigfoot conspiracy going on?
Mike: Well, of course there are conspiracies about Bigfoot. There are people who have been out on guard duty on military bases and have had occurrences with a Bigfoot. When somebody shows up on a military base and nobody knows how they got there and why, heads roll. They don’t let that stuff go by, so knowing that, I think it is quite likely that the Bigfoot has been studied by the military, that they know about them and what they are. As a matter of fact, I’ll tell you three stories that can back that up.
A man was out hiking in the woods in Southern California when he came around a bend in a path. At the end of the path was a fenced-in compound with armed military guards. He said he could see a large cage next to a building with what appeared to him to contain a Bigfoot, a big one. He said he was standing there in awe just taking it all in, when a guard noticed him and started at him. So, naturally, he took off, got off the path, and hid in the woods. He said he went back and brought some friends with him. When they got there, it was all gone. They had taken it all down and moved. Now, that’s his story. It could be all bogus and made up.
Story number two: a man in Indiana was doing Bigfoot research near his property and he said that one night a whole bunch of military had gone into the woods. He heard gunfire, helicopters. He said there was really something going on there in the woods. He said this had gone on for about an hour or so, and to this day nobody knows what was going on in there. But, there was definitely military involvement.
So, anyway, here’s the third story: A lady came in here from Redwood City. There was a young military man who was pursuing her daughter, and one evening they got to talking. He had told her that on a recent mission, his unit was flown up to the TrinityMountains in Northern California on an operation looking for Bigfoot. He told her very plainly this was a Bigfoot expedition. He never saw or heard anything and he wasn’t clear of the results, he said. They just ended up coming back and were told not to talk about it. So there are three stories for you.
Ricardus: Do you think the military has an interest in Bigfoot?
Mike: Well, it is like I said—if there is an incursion on a military base, the military has to know what it is. There’s a military base in Lompoc. I actually know a man who was on guard duty and says he witnessed a Bigfoot while on guard one night, in a restricted area. So right there is one example of why the military would have interest in Bigfoot. The military is the only group that could go out and catch one. They have the equipment, man power, and money. Even the well-equipped Bigfoot researchers and research groups today couldn’t come close to the military capability to go out and find Bigfoot. Usually, it’s just a couple of guys going out in the woods hoping to try and sneak up on one. [Chuckling] It’s so silly to think they are going to do that, but that’s enough of that conspiracy stuff.
Ricardus: Well, what are all these skulls and what not here all about?
Mike: What we have here is replica of a skull found in a cave in Indonesia called homo floresiensis. Ten years ago, had you suggested that existed, you would have been told that’s stupid, there’s no such thing. It’s on display as one of the four species of human that existed forty thousand years ago. Scientists recently admitted that at one time there were at least four different types of human species. But, ten years ago you would have been laughed at for suggesting something like that.
The photo you’re looking at there was taken by this man here, Terry Cullen. It is the only known photograph of what was the only actual Bigfoot body on display. Terry was a graduate student of zoology in the late ‘60s and had seen this while it was being exhibited around the country as the Minnesota Ice Man. Terry couldn’t tell whether it was a fake or not. And upon doing a little research, he had found out that this thing had been smuggled out of Vietnam in a body bag. When it reached the states, it was sold to an anonymous millionaire who had hired a man by the name of Hanson to take it around and show it at side shows and carnivals.
Terry, who is now a world renowned herpetologist, was asked to speak at a cryptozoology conference about the Minnesota Ice Man. He started his speech by declaring that not only was he not a Bigfooter, but that he could not care less about Bigfoot, in fact. He went on to discuss how upon his examinations the ice was still clear, and he could not detect any indications that would have led him to believe this wasn’t a Bigfoot. He had approached seven different scientists in the area during the time the exhibition was running, but was told they would have nothing to do with it.
Eventually, he got a hold of Ivan Anderson who just happened to be meeting with Bernard Heuvelmans, the founders of International Society of Cryptozoology. They invented the term, and they said, “Of course we will come take a look at it.” They were both convinced. They tried to have their findings published in the scientific journals of the time, but nobody would take them seriously. They were eventually able to have their research published in Argosy magazine. So, that’s what that is. And, of course, here we have your obligatory gigantopithecus skull, which is what most scientists refer to Bigfoot as being.
Ricardus: And this brown tubular stuff, with what looks like twigs and fur in it—is that something? Or am I fascinated with the decor?
Mike: Well that is Bigfoot poop. It’s about seven years old now, so it’s quite dried out. But, when it was fresh and had all its fluid in there, it was about twice that size. I got that in northern California near Bluff Creek, the same area where the famous Patterson Bigfoot film was shot.
Ricardus: Jesus, with shit that big you’d almost think we could just sniff him out. Why don’t you tell me about the Patterson film then?
Mike: Well, I feel that this film is probably the best evidence for Bigfoot to have existed. When this came out, scientists immediately refused it and said that it can’t be real, that’s got to be a guy in a monkey suit. Well, you know what else they’re telling us? That even though there are monkeys and apes—and different races of people all over the Eastern hemisphere, Asia, Indonesia, Africa, South Africa—but, yet here in the Western hemisphere, the only people here are the ones who came across the land bridge and became the local tribes of the regions, and some monkeys, but no apes.
Well why are there no apes in South America? If you ask people who live in South America, the people who, like in Africa live in grass huts, they’ll tell you that there are apes in the jungle, but our scientists won’t believe it. So we have yet to discover apes in the Western hemisphere. Modern apes live in tropical regions, so they are there in Central and South America, but scientists refuse to believe that.
So, anyway, the Patterson film, as you can see here, shows that this creature has muscle movement. That should be enough. But, when scientists see this, the first thing they point out is that gorillas do not walk upright. It’s obviously a male because it has a sagittal crest, but it has breasts like a female, and that’s not natural. Plus gorillas don’t have large voluptuous breasts; they have saggy breasts that are naked and not covered in hair. First of all, they are talking about a gorilla, so none of that is correct. Secondly, sagittal crests are a function of size. Any animal that grows large enough will develop a crest to support the jaw bone muscles, and it is all taken care of by the genes. But they found all that out after the scientists declared the film a fake. I have a book I can show you with a picture of a female gorilla with hair covered breasts. They do not all look the same.
Ricardus: Those are some big ol’ gams on that Bigfoot in the film. And from this camera angle, it looks like she’s got some junk in the trunk. Rocking a body like that, it is no wonder they’ve managed to survive as a species this long. Honestly, I’m surprised there aren’t more of them. I mean, if this is how they’re building their women.
Mike: [laughs] Well, I’m not certain they developed that way as a sexual attractant trait. There was a book written around the start of the women’s movement that claimed that we had evolved by following the women to the sea shore, because women had buoyant breasts. They had evolved upright walking. [chuckles] It was an expression of the women’s movement of the time that has largely been disproved now. Her name was Elaine Morgan, the aquatic evolution of man.
Ricardus: [laughs] Well, it is definitely a theory. So, what’s new with Bigfoot? You keep trying to tell me about some tooth you have. So, break it down to me and let’s hear it.
Mike: Well, here is our local area map. Now, when I first moved here, I was very skeptical of there being any Bigfoots left in the area. I figured between all the logging, home development, and tourists in the area they’d be long gone. Well, when we opened, the local paper announced it and immediately people started coming in with their stories. This section was our first and it’s the Felton map. Here we have our first reported sighting. A man had come in. He had been riding his horse on his property when the horse came to a stop. The horse stared up the hill and as he looked, there was a Bigfoot. He thought it was a very large dog at first, because it was hunched over. But, as it stood up, he clearly saw what appeared to be a Bigfoot. Interestingly enough, in the same area during the ‘70s, the locals were talking about the Ben Lomond dump monster. There was something living off the trash there that people would report and could hear its screams at night.
Ricardus: Dumpster monster. So what about the tooth?
Mike: Well, I believe I have what is a Bigfoot molar. A few years ago, veterinarian nurse Matt Bento was hunting for shark teeth on a ridge near Felton when he came across this tooth. At first he thought he had what might be a pig tooth fossil, but upon further examination and research he realized he had no idea what he had. It much closer resembled a human molar more than anything else.
So he brought it here. Now here is an example of a human molar thanks to yours truly. Can you see the resemblance? I took this to five different practicing dentists in the area, and not one of them can identify it. Three of them stated that they thought it looked very much like a human molar, only bigger! So a civil engineer in L.A. recently got a hold of me and said he heard I had some evidence that might hold some DNA. I said, “Yes, come down.” He flew me to L.A., had a specialist remove some material, and sent it to a lab in Texas, where it is currently awaiting further testing. The last I heard, they had started the genetic sequencing of it, but that this was being done in Louisiana because they have so much fresh material and that would prove current existence, whereas mine could have been dead for some twenty-odd years or so. So, they did guarantee that they’d test it. [whispers] God, I hope they tell me this is real. How great would that be? It would vindicate all the research I’ve been doing and I could die a happy man—along with all the people out there who have been told they’re crazy and such.
Ricardus: Wow, I hope you’re going to keep me in the loop on that. Well to wrap this up, if I, your above average person, were to go chasing Bigfoot, what would I take? What does a Bigfoot hunt entail and when can I go?
Mike: Well, ideally, you would have infrared cameras and listening devices and such. But all that stuff costs big money. I am fortunate enough to have had some of that equipment donated to us. There is a Bigfoot research group out of L.A. that is privately funded by a multi-millionaire who wishes to remain anonymous. Anyway, he heard we were having trouble with funding for equipment and decided he would donate his old equipment to us, which has been really helpful.
There is no way I could afford this five-thousand dollar camera. Our funding here consists of my social security and whatever donations we receive from people stopping by. So, yes, you can go out with a flashlight and some warm weather gear at night and just wait. But, realistically, you will need more than that if you really want to find and study this creature. But why don’t you come along sometime this spring and see for yourself? That same group from L.A. has also donated some motion-activated cameras. My buddy and I are going to set them up on a trail we think may be used by a Bigfoot. And then in the late hours of the night we are going to start at the top of a nearby ridge and ride some 50cc dirt bikes down the trail to flush them out.
Ricardus: You had me at but. Well, thank you Mike and I look forward to terrorizing Bigfoot on mini-bikes with you soon.
Update: The BigfootDiscoveryMuseum has had recent setbacks that have all but forced Mike into having to consider closing down soon. The closure of Highway 9 last summer (where it is conveniently located) has taken its toll on the museum, as well as Mike. It would be a shame to see this happen. What can you do to help? First, find him on Facebook—BigfootDiscoveryMuseum, (http://www.facebook.com/BigfootDiscoveryMuseum). Second, stop by and check out the museum. Mike is there seven days a week ready to rap about Sasquatch with anyone who has an open mind. Now, I know you’re thinking, “But, Dick that’s all the way in Santa Cruz, America. I can’t drive there just for that.” Well, open your calendars and start planning your Memorial Day weekend by participating in the BigfootDiscoveryMuseum benefit show: two nights and ten bands, featuring acts such as Tiltwheel, Behind The Wagon and eight other of yours, mine and Bigfoot’s favorite bands. For booking and what not e-mail me at [email protected].