Sunday, June 28, 2009

Friends Making Headlines

My good friend and frequent field partner Bart Cutino made the news recently. Here's the article, including a few pics from my collection.

Cliff with Bart and Kim Cutino

Monterey's Bart Cutino sets sights on Bigfoot
Searching the forest for creature
By DENNIS TAYLOR Herald Staff Writer

The wilderness is pitch-black at night and Monterey's Bart Cutino says he and his colleagues like it that way as they try to solve one of the enduring mysteries of folklore.

Cutino, 35, is an unabashed, unapologetic member of The Bigfoot Research Organization, a diverse group of about 200 researchers and adventurers. They wander through the deep woods for days at a time in search of a legendary creature — indeed, they believe there are thousands of them — inhabiting the forests of North America and the world.

The vast majority, they're convinced, are in the Pacific Northwest. Cutino says there have been at least 10 sightings over the years in Monterey County, the most intriguing by a University of Southern California psychology professor who says he saw one at dusk at the Fort Hunter Liggett military base while boar hunting in 2002.

"Sometimes I'll just drive through the forest with the headlights off, moving at about 4 mph, using a thermal-imaging unit to see every living creature. I'll do that for seven or eight hours at a time," Cutino, who was born and raised in Monterey, says.

Other times, he and fellow researchers will go out in pairs or small groups, watching, waiting, listening and searching in the darkness for any evidence of a mostly nocturnal animal with an eternal life-span that got its nickname from a newspaper in 1958.

The "Bigfoot" moniker, he says, makes many of his fellow researchers wince because it implies to too many people that there is only one. It is believed to be a shy, enigmatic, probably mythical creature that reveals itself for precious seconds at a time, almost always to somebody without a camera or a camcorder.

Misinformation and pranksters have further belittled the ongoing quest to find the real-life Sasquatches, believed to be wood apes.

'It wasn't scary'

Cutino, an associate with NCW Group Wealth Management in Monterey, believes there are actually about 6,000 to 7,000 in North America alone — and is convinced that there's nothing mythical about them.

Indeed, on Aug. 18, 2007, he feels certain he saw one on Chinook Pass, near Naches, Wash., during an outing he took with about 14 friends, including several other Bigfoot researchers.

According to a report he filed that summer for the Bigfoot Research Organization, he was standing a short distance from his campsite around midnight when he heard the breaking of a branch. He decided to check out the sound with a hand-held thermal-imaging unit, a device that uses body heat to make living things visible in the darkness.

What he saw 50 yards down a path appeared at first to be human being peering at him from behind a large tree, peeking first around one side of the trunk, then the other.

"About 20 to 25 seconds later, it stepped out from behind the tree and dropped on all fours, knees on the ground, arms extended and did this little head rotation in my direction," Cutino says. "At that point I knew what it was, and it was surreal. It wasn't scary. I just couldn't believe it was happening."

He says the Sasquatch propped itself momentarily onto its right shoulder and inched itself forward, at which point Cutino began snapping his fingers, trying to get the attention of a colleague who was 30 yards away, near a truck containing recording equipment.

"Every time I snapped my fingers, this thing would make a full-body, convulsive-type movement — very agile, very animalistic — and it would pause-freeze every time I stopped snapping my fingers," Cutino says. "Then it rotated back onto its right shoulder, put a hand up next to its face, and splayed out the hand so I could clearly see all five digits on the hand."

The creature stood up, went down again, then stood again before Cutino made a decision to run in the opposite direction, toward his friend with the recording equipment. By the time his colleague got the complicated recording equipment set up and directed, the Sasquatch was gone, Cutino says.

He's convinced

Based on measurements taken later, using a 6-foot-3, 175-pound colleague as a model in the same location, Cutino estimates that the creature stood about 7 feet tall and weighed up to 575 pounds, with the vast majority of the weight in its upper torso.

The head was relatively small and unusually round, and its arms were an astounding length, perhaps even longer than its legs.

That there is no photographic evidence is disappointing, but Cutino says it didn't temper his exhilaration that night.

"At the time, I'd been going out there looking for one of these for about four years, and wasn't 110 percent convinced that they really existed, even though I had talked to a lot of people who said they had seen one," he says. "But after that night, I'd bet everything I love and I'd sit back and smile, knowing that Bigfoot is real. That's how certain I am of what I saw out there."

Cliff, Bob Gimlin, and Bart on expedition in Washington

Legendary Sasquatch

Cutino hails from a well-known Monterey family. His father, Bert, is co-founder and chief operating officer of the Sardine Factory restaurant and a principal in Cannery Row Co. and Foursome Development Co.

His late uncle, Pete, was a Hall of Fame water polo coach at the University of California-Berkeley. Both of his grandfathers, first-generation Sicilian immigrants, were fishermen on Monterey Bay during the heyday of the sardine era.

"Both of my nanus — my mom's dad and my dad's dad — used to see our version of the Loch Ness Monster out there in the bay. All the fishermen called it 'Bobo,'" Cutino says. "Looking back at all the reports, I'm guessing that it might have been an oar fish — a very lengthy, serpentine-like fish that looks like it has a mane."

Those tales, plus an interest his brother, Mark, had in Bigfoot, captured Bart's fascination when he was only 6. He began reading everything he could about the legendary Sasquatch, watching TV reports and later scouring the Internet for information. Over the past six years, he's spent over 200 nights in the forest.

Sightings have been reported in every state except Hawaii and Rhode Island, numbering in the thousands, with Washington (465) and California (411) at the top of the list. Nine Canadian provinces, and seven other countries — led by Malaysia, with 36 — also have turned in reports.
Skeptical scientists

The vast majority of the scientific world considers the Bigfoot phenomena to be largely bunk. Scientists have expressed doubts that such a species could exist in numbers great enough to perpetuate itself, wondered how such a creature could find enough food to sustain itself and noted that nobody has ever found the remains of a Sasquatch. They have also questioned the validity of the famous Patterson-Gimlin film, shot in Bluff Creek in 1967, that purports to show a female Sasquatch retreating from her pursuers.

But Bigfoot researchers have arguments to combat each of those concerns.

"People have a right to be skeptical, especially when you consider an evidence pile littered with hoaxes, and what a poor job we've collectively done presenting our case as researchers," Cutino concedes. "However, even sifting through the debris, one will find more viable, intriguing physical evidence and eyewitness testimony than 99 percent of our court systems receive."

Technology, he says, is finally catching up with the needs of researchers, and he believes irrefutable images of a living Sasquatch are likely to be captured in the next few years.
Until that happens, and as long as his family — including his wife and baby daughter — remains supportive, he intends to continue his quest.

"My idea of a good time might be unpopular, being a Peninsula resident, but everybody else can have their tee times," Cutino says. "Just put me in the middle of a dark redwood forest at 3 a.m. and I'm the happiest guy in the world."

Cliff and Bart discussing casts with Dr. Meldrum

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Sometimes I get distracted. Often, actually. Usually I'm distracted by bigfooting, but every once in a while I get distracted from bigfooting.

I have recently been swamped with a godzillion things, such as the end of the school year, friends visiting from out of town, business projects I'm working on, and even a little bigfoot stuff I won't go into at this time. Needless to say, I've been very busy. It's not over yet, either. This week's all tied up with good friends, but there are plans to get into the woods for a night. I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, here's a short video of something I put together. I hope this ties you over until I can focus on sharing more of my bigfooting life with you.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Laughing With us and at Us

Bigfoot researchers, including myself, sometimes fall into the habit of anthropomorphizing sasquatches. This makes sense on several levels. After all, we are trapped in the human experience, so we relate to other animals and objects as if they are human(ish) too (ever yell at a dog or even a computer?). Besides, bigfoots are very similar to us in morphology (body structure), which suggests that they may be very similar to us in sentience and thought, but this remains to be seen.

When a news item pops up showing similar behaviors between apes and humans, I take notice. After all, biologically, I am an ape, as are you. I have thumbs, shoulders made for brachiation, no tail, and (aside from some gentle "manscaping") I'm pretty much covered with hair. Sure, we're special apes, but apes nonetheless.

This news item outlines some recent research into ape laughter. Since both apes and humans laugh, this would indicate that our last common ancestor also laughed some 10 to 16 million years ago. (I wonder what kind of humor was around then. "Two trilobites walk into a bar...")

Ape laughter is an interesting topic for us bigfooters. If you've been around the bigfoot game for a while, you have undoubtedly heard some peculiar stories. Some of these stories seem to follow themes that weave through the encounter reports. One of the themes that keeps rearing its head over and over is that sasquatches, on some level, seem to have a sense of humor. This might just be me anthropomorphizing them, but I would argue that this is not the case.

A Yurok Indian told my partner and I about the sasquatches that live around his property near the Klamath River in Northern California. This Indian, who I'll refer to as LB, lives off the grid with a number of other Yuroks with no electricity or phone, and grows food crops in a garden. He claims to have a number of seemingly juvenile sasquatches living in the woods around the property, and he sees them with enough regularity to have given names to certain individuals. One of the bigfoots has been named "The Joker" because of his antics. This sasquatch will see LB and his friends working in the garden, and when the opportunity arises, The Joker will dash out and steal a shovel or rake or some other unattended gardening tool. Groaning, the indians drop what they're doing, and start searching for the lost tool. The tools are usually recovered a few hundred yards into the treeline.

The owner of a property I'm researching, known as the Clackamas River Project, thinks he has heard possible bigfoot laughter from the woods. He was walking up the outside stairs to his balcony while carrying an armload of groceries one day, when he missed a step and stumbled. A strange vocalization that he described as being almost like laughter coincided with the fall. Was a bigfoot laughing at him? Slapstick humor is pretty funny, after all.

Bigfooters in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California were experimenting with "bait piles" a few years back. They would leave apple piles in prominent locations of recent bigfoot activity. When the researchers returned, the apples would often be gone, but with one apple left. There was even one occasion when a small platform was constructed in a tree some eight feet off the ground, and the apple pile was left there. Upon returning, the researchers found that the apples were taken, with one left for them, but this apple was moved three feet higher in the tree and wedged in between two other branches! Bears might get full and leave an apple here or there, but they would never wedge that last apple into the crotch of two branches.

The examples above might illustrate that bigfoots seem to have some subtle sense of humor. There are plenty of other examples of similar events that support this hypothesis even further. Now that some good folks are studying the laughter of the other apes, perhaps some new light will be shed on our undiscovered cousins.

Apes Laugh, Tickle Study Finds
Brian Handwerk for National Geographic News
June 4, 2009
What happens if you tickle a gorilla? According to a new study, the ape laughs—which would mean we're not the only animals born with funny bones.

By tickling young gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, and orangutans, researchers say they learned that all great apes laugh.

Their findings suggest we inherited our own ability to laugh from the last common ancestor from which humans and great apes evolved, which lived 10 to 16 million years ago.

Primatologist and psychologist Marina Davila Ross of the U.K.'s University of Portsmouth led a team that tickled the necks, feet, palms, and armpits of infant and juvenile apes as well as human babies. The team recorded more than 800 of the resulting giggles and guffaws.

Mapping the audible similarities and differences in laughs across the five species, the researchers created an acoustic family tree of human and great ape laughter.

The tree, they found, closely matched the standard genetics-based evolutionary tree of primates.

"So we concluded that these vocalizations all share the same common ancestry," Davila Ross explained.

But even the most casual listener can tell a human laugh from an ape laugh. Davila Ross points out that human laughter has distinct differences from ape laughter, most likely because humans have evolved much more rapidly than apes during the past five million years.

And at least one great mystery remains: What purpose does ape laughter serve?

"I'm very keen," Davila Ross said, "on learning how laughter is being used among great apes as compared to humans."

Is It Really Laughter?

It's previously been argued that chimps chuckle, but their method—"laughing" on both the exhale and inhale—had been deemed too different from the human, exhale-only laugh.
The tickle study, however, found evidence that most ape laughter, especially among gorillas and bonobos, shares key traits with human laughter.

Like humans, for example, gorillas and bonobos laughed only while exhaling—leading University of Wisconsin zoologist and psychologist Charles Snowdon, who was not involved in the study, to conclude that, "contrary to current views, the exhalation-only laughter is not uniquely human but is found in our ape ancestors."

Furthermore, gorillas' and bonobos' exhaling breaths during laughter lasted three to four times longer than during normal breathing.

This type of breath control, considered important in speech evolution, had also been thought to be unique to humans.

"Play Faces" to Chimp Chuckles?

Convinced by what he calls an "admirable" study, primatologist Frans de Waal said from now on he'd use "laughter" to describe what scientists have traditionally called a chimp's play face.
The combination of common facial expressions, breathing patterns, and sounds has led de Waal to the conclusion that our laughter has prehistoric, ape-based origins.

What's more, "the primate laugh is given in playful contexts, and as such has a strong similarity to the human laugh," added de Waal, who was not involved in the tickle study.

"Tickling and wrestling are the situations in which primates laugh—and I use the term 'laugh' now advisedly, because the evidence from this study is very strong that their display is evolutionarily related to the human laugh."

Next Up: Rat Laughter?

Primates have apparently packed a lot of laughter into the last 10 to 16 million years, but there's a chance the chuckle originated even earlier: Tickle-induced "laughter" has also been reported in rats.

The idea remains controversial, but it could suggest that our funny bone evolved much closer to the trunk of mammals' evolutionary tree.

Check out the original article. It has audio samples of various ape laughter, and another excellent video on the subject. The link is here:

And finally, check out my previous blog on whistling orangutans. I love our hairy family!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Guest blogger - The Yams Reporting From the Bigfoot BBQ

New Book, New Displays Highlight Bigfoot Barbeque
David Paulides featured at the Bigfoot Discovery Museum, June 7, 2009

The local bigfooters from the Santa Cruz/Bay Area

David Paulides of the North American Bigfoot Search group signed copies of his new book Tribal Bigfoot (Hancock House Publishers, 2009) at the Bigfoot Discovery Museum in Felton, California yesterday. The museum revealed a new series of displays of bigfoot evidence as well. The event was well attended throughout the afternoon and a successful day for both the museum and North America Bigfoot Search (Paulides' group/website).

David gave a one hour presentation to a rapt audience outside the museum in the shade of a big oak tree. His talk covered the group’s interest in the Patterson-Gimlin film as well as trends they have discovered in the forensic sketches they produce during their investigations. One of the revelations is a human-look to the bigfoots being described to them by eyewitnesses. He dramatically made this point by displaying images where the artist had removed the hair from the portrait. He also shared numerous sketches with the audience much to the delight of those present.

The Cutino Clan: Kim, Bella (the youngest
bigfooter I'm aware of), Bart, and Minnie the dogsquatch.

The new publication expands on the group’s ideas about the bigfoot phenomenon. It also contains numerous eyewitness accounts. Most of these are accompanied by informative photographs and the sketch art of Harvey Pratt. Tribal Bigfoot by David Paulides is 480 pages. Yesterday it was sold in combination with a North American Bigfoot Search shirt
for $35.

It was a pleasant day at the Bigfoot Discovery Museum. The new displays expand the number of plaster casts to see and the evidence contained in the collection is now dispersed throughout all areas of the museum.

Some of the footprint casts on display.

Mike Rugg, the co-founder and curator, has created a whole new “evidentiary” feel to the museum. One notable section is the Native American wall that features a replica of the Hairy Man pictograph painted by bigfoot researcher and author, Robert Leiterman.

Ranger Leiterman's Hairy Man art and display.

- Tom Yamarone

Be sure to check Tom's blog at

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Mike Rugg, Artist and Bigfooter

I have just finished posting a new page on the website This page features the art of Mike Rugg at the Bigfoot Discovery Museum in Felton, CA. I have been blogging about Mike and the museum recently because of the BBQ that is going on at the very moment I write this. I thought it would be appropriate to post something concurrently, if for no other reason than to participate in the festivities I'm missing.

Roger, Bob, and Patty

Here are the contents of the page, directly from my website:

Mike Rugg is the owner/curator of the Bigfoot Discovery Museum in Felton, CA. He has an unrelenting passion for the subject of hairy bipeds, and has been doing research on the subject for over half a century.

As is obvious by the samples on this page, Mike is an extremely talented graphic artist. He uses computers and hand-drawn illustrations to show us what lurks in his mind's eye.

Mike is also an accomplished dulcimer musician and luthier.

The Moment

Mike's artwork is available for purchase. (I own some myself.) Here's the info on buying some:

The Moment (11x14 color)--$20.00 postpaid
Roger, Bob & Patty (11x14 B&W)--$15.00 postpaid
PayPal address is (include shipping address with order)

Here's a brief bio on Mike:

Michael Rugg is co-founder of the Bigfoot Discovery Project (BDP). The BDP accepts the subject of the Patterson/Gimlin Film as the type specimen for the Pacific Coast Bigfoot or Sasquatch and seeks to create a dialogue about the implications of the impending "discovery of bigfoot" by conventional Western science. Via the Bigfoot Discovery Museum in the Santa Cruz Mountains of Central CA, he attempts to educate the public at large about the probability of bigfoot and the current best guesses as to its habits and its place in the natural world. He is also involved in field studies as he has discovered that the local mountains have a history of bigfoot sightings beginning in the 1870’s and continuing to the present day.

As a child, Rugg spent many weekends and holidays on fishing, camping and hunting trips with his parents throughout central and northern California (his father once owned a lumber mill in Laytonville). On one of these outings (circa 1950) he saw a bigfoot. He has been collecting information and artifacts--while studying unknown bipedal primates--since 1951, when the first photos of Yeti tracks on Mt Everest appeared in Western newspapers.

While an undergraduate at Stanford he delved further into bipedal primate research and in March of 1967, he wrote a paper for an anthropology class stating that the "Abominable Snowman Question" deserved further scientific research, despite the negative attitude of his professor. Unimpressed with academe, Rugg abandoned his plan to pursue a second major in Paleoanthropology, left school, and opened an art studio next to his brother's woodshop in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Working in collaboration, he and his brother provided creative services ranging from antique restoration to graphic arts and photography starting in March of 1969 under the name CapriTaurus. The mixture of fine and applied arts had evolved into a full-fledged cottage industry when the Rugg brothers "discovered" the Mountain Dulcimer and began manufacturing the instruments full time in 1974. Michael Rugg stayed in the folk music business until the early '90's as an entrepreneur, performer, columnist and recording artist.

Introduced to the Macintosh computer in 1985, Rugg was also working as a part-time digital graphic artist, freelancing for clients such as Apple, Atari, Time-Warner and Hallmark by the end of the '80's. During that period, Rugg split his time between learning computer graphics and stepping-up his study of the "paranormal." He attended conferences, workshops and symposiums. He joined organizations like the Society for Investigation of The Unexplained, Mutual UFO Network, the International Society of Cryptozoology and the Society for Scientific Exploration, delving into all manner of Forteana from Cryptozoology to Ufology.

In September of 2003, at the International Bigfoot Symposium in Willow Creek, Michael Rugg and Paula Yarr (his fiance) launched the Bigfoot Discovery Project.

Dr. Jeff Meldrum and Mike Rugg

Congrats to the Bigfoot Discovery Museum on what I'm sure will be a successful BBQ today!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Bigfoot in Santa Cruz? You Betcha!

The Bigfoot Discovery Museum in Felton, CA has received some press coverage lately. An article (reprinted below) on KION News has been published, and there is also a short video featuring Mikke Rugg, the owner/operator of the museum, speaking about his perspective on some local sightings.

Remember, there is a Bigfoot BBQ this Sunday at Mike's Museum. It would be a very good use of your Sunday to attend. If you do, hug Mike and his life-sized bigfoot models for me.

Who's more huggable?

Click this link to see the video, or read the story below:

Big Foot In Santa Cruz Mountains?

FELTON, Calif.,- Deep in the heart of the Santa Cruz Mountains exists a place where a legend lives.

In parts of the world it is known as the Yeti, in others it's Sasquatch, but just about everyone at some point or another has heard of Big Foot.

The question is, does Big Foot really exist in the Santa Cruz Mountains?

Perhaps one location that you can find the answers is the Big Foot Discovery Project Museum located in Felton. Operator Michael Rugg has devoted the past 50 years in researching the elusive creature. After having experienced a sighting as a child he says they can and do exist.

"We've had about four dozen reports come in, and I'm quite confident that some of those are bogus. Some people are seeing black bears and mistaking them for big foot, some people are not seeing anything at all, it's there imagination getting carried away, and we've even had a few hoaxes pop up. To me that means we have a genuine subset of the big foot phenomenon right here in Santa Cruz," says Rugg.

When asked what he thinks of people who do not believe there is anything strange living the Santa Cruz Mountains, he says: "I say to people, try to put yourself in my shoes. You see something, it registers in your brain with your two eyes, and it says there is a large bi-pedal primate walking through the woods."

Monday, June 1, 2009

Thermal Imaging Experiments: Taking One for the Team

Until fairly recently, bigfoots have had it easy. They pretty much had the entire night to themselves. Sure, campers, owl hooters, and the like were out in the woods at night, but they couldn't see past the beam of their flashlights. Humans are, after all, pretty worthless in the thick woods after dark.

Technology is changing some of that. Night vision and thermal imaging technologies are allowing people to peer behind the veil of darkness that has hidden the world of the sasquatch from us for so long.

Just in case you aren't on the cutting edge of bigfoot technology, let me briefly explain thermal imagers and night vision. Thermal imagers ("therms") see heat, which is just infrared light. This is not the infrared light that is emitted by your Sony Nightshot camera or the cheesy IR illuminators found on many security cameras. Those are the near-IR wavelengths (which I strongly suspect sasquatches can see), and they bounce off of things like normal light does. What thermals see is appropriately named "thermal-IR" and is not reflected off of objects, but rather emitted by them because of some fancy science that is happening at the atomic level. For our purposes, it would be enough if you understood that the hotter something is, the brighter it is through a therm. Some therms have a color display, with various shades representing various temperatures, but most of the lower-end therms used for bigfooting have black and white displays where the whiter the image is, the hotter the thing is that you're looking at.

What Roger and Bob would have seen with a thermal imager.

Night vision, which is not the central focus of this article, basically gathers what light is available and amplifies it into a visible image. It is similar to how a guitar amplifier takes a small electronic signal and amplifies it into a screeching Jimi Hendrix solo. (I bet Jimi loved the 'squatch... He was from Seattle, after all.)

I have seen three video clips that might show a sasquatch through thermal imagers. I've heard rumors of more that have not been made public. With the price of thermal imagers and high-end night vision dropping, we can expect to see more possible videos of sasquatches over the next few years. (I'm certainly putting in a lot of time and effort to get a decent clip!)

In the meantime, I thought it would be a fun and useful experiment to do some filming in the woods. I have already started collecting thermal video footage of other animals, including primates. I now wanted to see what a human would look like through a thermal imager in hopes to somehow contribute to the analysis that will be done on future bigfoot videos.

When I was at the Yakima Bigfoot Round-Up, I was having a conversation with Dr. Jeff Meldrum about these experiments. He told me that whoever does these experiments would have to do it naked. "I took one for the team, Doc!" was my reply. Dr. Meldrum just laughed and shook his head.

What's scarier, the gun or the fact someone
dressed like this for bigfoot experiments?

Below is a short video clip of a human (me) running around in the woods, acting like a sasquatch being filmed through a thermal imager. I was wearing a light outer shell and jeans in the first segment, nothing but a smile and boots in the second segment, and then a ridiculous ape suit in the third segment (though without the lace skirt you see in the photo above).

The clip is just shy of two minutes in length. It was edited from a longer segment that I hope to assemble into a DVD for future release.

On a side note, playing ape in the woods makes one want to throw rocks and howl. Try it for yourself, if you don't believe me. It's kind of liberating.

Giving props where credit is due, I also found this video showing a similar experiment filmed by my friend Christopher Noel. It depicts a very cute scene filmed through a thermal imager. Chris and his daughter are tree-knocking together at about 80 feet from the thermal imager and recorder. Bigfooting, the activity that the whole family can enjoy! Videos like this make me want to have kids someday...