|"Alright everyone, Mike is back at the Museum! Feel free to stop by and say howdy!"|
We haven't seen any new videos from the Bigfoot Discovery Museum curator Mike Rugg lately so we decided to check Facebook and see how he was doing. We were worried when we read that Mike had recently suffered a heart attack on Halloween night and was rushed to the hospital.
According to the Facebook page, he seems to be OK now. The latest status update from November 21st said Mike was doing fine and he's back at the museum again. We are glad he is feeling better and can't wait to see him do another video about the latest sighings report from museum visitors.
Besides the Bigfoot Discovery Museum Facebook page and the BigfootDiscoveryProject.com website, Mike also operates a blog he hasn't updated since April 2009. Because the museum does not charge for admission and only accepts donations, Mike is constantly stressed about how he's going to keep the power on and the telephone ringing. In a post from April 5, 2009, Mike wrote an article titled "The Curse of Bigfoot?" telling us about the personal sacrifices he made to make the Bigfoot Discovery Museum possible.
It's an interesting read, and we're hoping that more people will start making plans to visit Mike and help keep the museum open.
The Curse of Bigfoot?
I lost my job at a Silicon Valley branding agency in 2002 when the dot.com boom came to an abrupt end. I had worked there through most of the 1990's, first as a freelance consultant, then as a salaried staff member. The company went from 40 to 4 almost overnight, and I didn’t survive the cuts. After nearly a year without a job it became clear to me that my age had put me out of the running for work in computer graphics, especially within the corporate market. Most firms were seeking younger employees who were more hip to the newer technologies, and much more likely to work overtime without additional compensation. For most of the few available jobs I was overqualified. For the others I was “not a good fit” primarily because I had worked for 25 years as my own boss.
It became clear that I needed to create my own job once again. I decided to reinvent my former retail art & craft business, which operated under the name CapriTaurus (with the tagline "handcrafts, fine & applied arts") from 1969 to 1994. In the ‘70’s CapriTaurus grew to staff of 14 persons, so I knew what might be done to make good use of the small commercial lot we have in Felton, located half a mile from our residence.
Another reason I made the choice to become self-employed once again had to do with my Mother (Margaret Rugg). She became unable to take care of herself around the turn of the century (at age 96). After living with my brother for a couple of years while I was working in Silicon Valley, she moved in with me and my housemate Paula Yarr. My mother was the original owner of the property but she chose to move out and live a solitary life in a small apartment by the ocean 40 years ago, a few years after my father died and as soon as I had become old enough to take over care of the property. It has been in joint tenancy ever since, so she was at that point returning to the family home for what she referred to as her "deathtime."
Paula was already under my care as she is disabled due to a series of events that started with a near fatal accident caused by a drunk driver, followed by her being diagnosed with Lupus. She is also a cancer survivor and has a number of other health issues. Her only income is from social security disability, and she is essentially unemployable due to her poor health. Because my mother was now in the household and in need of daily care, and Paula was unable to deal with her needs alone, it became even more important to create a business close to home so I could be available at a moment's notice, to take care of Mom. Paula was able to help greatly with the business plan as she is an MBA, and prior to all her current health problems had been a VP of Marketing at Union Bank of California. Preparing to embark on a new business venture, we discussed the business plan at length and agreed to pool our resources and "go for it."
In 2003, we began work on a retail store/museum/art & craft gallery with a Bigfoot(Sasquatch) theme. This is a topic I have developed particular knowledge about, and the Internet provided proof that the topic was of interest to a great many people across the world. We set up a website and remodeled the retail store to become more of a roadside attraction: a Bigfoot Museum. Then we encountered an unforseen setback: for the better part of a year we had to deal with delays caused by the Planning Department. They claimed the business property had been rezoned to residential and that we no longer had the right to operate a business there. We had to seek help from our County Supervisor (we are in an unincorporated portion of Santa Cruz County.) After a series of meetings it turned out that we did indeed qualify for a "grandfather clause" allowing us to continue to do business in the fashion we had in the past, as a retail store and art & handcrafts studio. The "museum" we had created fit the criteria as a retail store selling our own and other local art & crafts. We had also operated a cottage industry for the better part of 20 years, handcrafting musical instruments, so we still had the right to produce a "product line" as well. We had won the battle, but lost valuable time in the skirmish (our long delayed Grand Opening was June 2006.)
While developing the retail store and museum I had hoped to augment our income by taking on occasional graphic art/illustration contracts. But over the course of the next three years these jobs dwindled as I lost my contacts within the industry. Rapid changes in software and other aspects of computer technology took place and I was officially "out of the loop." Contracts were scarce and the need to be close to home became even more critical as my mother's condition began to deteriorate. She required full-time observation and nursing care in 2007, as she was entering into dementia and unable to even recognize her own family members. Needless to say caring for Mom pulled a lot of my time away from the work I needed to do to further develop the business and institute our marketing. Then, in October of 2007, Mom passed away.
Besides the extreme drain this had been over the last several months on our minds and hearts, it also resulted in a precipitous drop in our household revenue pool. The drop in revenue, combined with the lack of graphic art contracts, and the steady decline in the economy was rapidly draining our savings and operating capital. Realizing our income was now unable to cover our obligations, we decided to take drastic steps to augment the revenue flow. In April 2008 we began repairing and remodeling our home to convert it into income property. The ground floor has a studio apartment, which for over 20 years had been unusable for anything other than storage due to flood damage. We decided to invest the last of our savings and capital to repair the apartment for our own use as a dwelling, leaving the entire second and third floors available for rental space. We also invested in home improvements—like new paint and flooring—to upgrade the part of the house that was to be rented.
I had planned to integrate the residence with our commercial endeavors from the beginning. Originally I expected to utilize the downstairs carport and storage as workshop space for the product line we plan to produce. But once Mom was gone and all the children were grown and had moved out, we realized the most realistic way to increase revenues dramatically would be to market the space as a vacation rental. That way we could still occupy and protect the property and still have use of the space for conferences, meetings and so forth in association with our museum. By then we had over 100 paid museum "members," all of whom receive a monthly newsletter. Many of our local members have volunteered their time to help us produce two major conferences and several smaller events, which have put us "on the map." We have rented the space several times since mid July, but we were too late for the main tourist rush of summer because people reserve these spaces in advance and ours wasn’t available yet. In October, 2008, one year after the death of my mother, the economy took a turn for the worst right as we ran out of funding. Our business is seasonal, with 75% of our revenues typically happening between April and September, so we fell behind quickly as Winter approached.
Our first major bigfoot event took place in August 2008, called Bigfoot Discovery Day II. During the course of a weekend our “Bigfoot Riveride Retreat“ was the host to nearly 40 bigfoot researchers including Dr Jeff Meldrum, Richard Noll, Bob and Kathy Strain, and Bob Gimlin. Dave Paulides, Craig Woolheater, Monica Rawlins and Dan Perez were also present at the event and a great time was had by all. Local members who helped host the event included Tom Yamarone, Mike Barrow, Matt Bento, Mellow Russell, Ralph Jack, Bobo Faye, Bart Cutino, Cliff Barackman and others. As it turns out the first “bigfoot bash” at our newly created retreat will also be our last at that location, because our home is now in foreclosure and scheduled for auction on the 9th of April. So we’ll not have the opportunity to develop the place into a bigfoot conference center as we hoped. But the museum is still going on, and our local research is actually beginning to produce evidence of a bigfoot presence in our area. (We recently shot video and recorded audio of what might actually prove to be a bigfoot, and we have a tooth of unknown origin.) The Bigfoot Discovery Project will continue, undeterred by this setback, but we are now seeking funding help from outside sources.
One of the things a “professional” bigfoot researcher has to put up with is the tendency for critics to put down researchers who receive any revenue from their work. Our plan was that the museum would generate enough income to pay back the mortgage that supported it for 5 years, while sustaining its ongoing research projects. My conviction that bigfoot is real, based on my own personal experience and a lifetime of research, convinced me that this was an important cause and worth the risk I was taking in pledging my home as collateral for the project. In other words “I put my money where my mouth is!” I’ll also point out to critics who accuse me of “doing it for the money,” that I have never charged an admission fee for people to visit the museum, as our mission is to educate the public about the likely reality of bigfoot, while quietly seeking proof. Nonetheless it does take money to keep the power on and the telephone ringing so we can receive the 1.5 bigfoot encounter reports that come in to our museum per week (on the average).
Anyone out there with some discretionary cash who wants to help us prove bigfoot is real?