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Bigfoot’s been found! Or at least a beloved statue of him missing from museum

Deputies responded to the Bigfoot Discovery Museum in Felton, Calif. after the owner reported a statue had been stolen.
Santa Cruz County sheriff’s deputies responded to the Bigfoot Discovery Museum in Felton, Calif. after the owner reported a Bigfoot statue had been stolen.
(Michael Rugg)

Every day for the past 16 years, a squat, wooden sasquatch has stood by the side of the Bigfoot Discovery Museum entrance and greeted thousands of Bigfoot enthusiasts as they walked through the doors.

He’s made of redwood, is about 4 feet tall and has earned the nickname “Danny” due to his resemblance to actor Danny Devito. He was made with a chainsaw by a woodcarver, with the help of Michael Rugg, the founder of the Felton, Calif., museum.

Rugg established the beloved 400-square-foot museum in 2004 — decades after Rugg said he first spotted a Bigfoot in a Santa Cruz forest — to educate the public about the mysterious creatures, investigate sightings and “keep Santa Cruz weird.”

On Monday, Danny went missing.

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Rugg said he went to Santa Cruz to make his mortgage payment that day and thieves took the chance to take one of his most precious possessions.

“I was kind of in a hurry,” Rugg said. “I glanced back by the Bigfoot and saw a lock laying there. It didn’t dawn on me that was the lock that was on [his] chain. When I got back, the Bigfoot was gone.”

He called the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office immediately and they began investigating. Ashley Keehn, spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Department, said deputies believed the statue, as well as a wooden bear, had been stolen from the museum sometime between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Officers with the Scotts Valley Police Department spotted "Danny" the sasquatch Thursday morning.
(Scotts Valley Police Department)
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The Sheriff’s Office posted on social media asking the public to report the statue if they came across it.

“Keep your eyes peeled for Bigfoot!” the Santa Cruz Sheriff’s Office said on Facebook. “No seriously, please be on the lookout for the Bigfoot statue that was stolen from the Bigfoot Museum in Felton this week.”

And so the hunt began.

Of all his sasquatch statues, Rugg said Danny is special.

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“We made it because when I put the Bigfoot museum together, one of the things I did is I chose to make it look like one of those roadside attractions with redwood carvings outside,” he said. “It represents the building, Bigfoot and my knowledge of it.”

Rugg has had a fascination with the mystery of Bigfoot since he was a child, when he said he saw one for the first time. When he was 4 years old, his parents took him camping and one morning, protesting their fish breakfast, he wandered off on a trail along Eagle Creek.

“I saw this jetty sticking out into the river, so I walked onto the sandbar and started looking upstream and downstream,” he said.

Suddenly, he saw it.

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“There was a gigantic hairy man standing there. He had no clothes, except what looked like the remains of a tattered shirt on one shoulder.”

Rugg ran back to tell his parents about what he’d seen, but they dismissed him. They told him he may have seen “a tramp.”

The memory stayed with him and inspired him to open the Bigfoot Discovery Museum. Through the years, visitors from all over the world have traveled to tell him stories about their own Bigfoot sightings, something he has relished, since he himself hasn’t been able to find a new one.

He spent his first 10 years in business looking for another Bigfoot in Santa Cruz. He’s recorded their screams, made casts of footprints, but has been so far unsuccessful.

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“I’ve come close,” he said.

A Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office deputy and a Scotts Valley Police Department officer pose next to Bigfoot statue.
A Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office deputy and a Scotts Valley Police Department officer pose next to “Danny,” the Bigfoot statue, after it was recovered this week.
(Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office)

Now, Rugg said his focus has shifted as the coronavirus pandemic has affected his museum like so many others. The museum has always been free to enter, relying on generous donations from Bigfoot fans to keep it afloat.

Rugg said he has a part-time job as a caregiver and Social Security benefits, but he still fears that if the pandemic shutdown continues for another six months, he won’t be able to maintain the museum. The museum has so far survived, due in part to donations to a GoFundMe page Rugg established to “Save the Bigfoot Discovery Museum.”

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Calls from faraway Bigfoot lovers have kept Rugg’s spirits up. They ask when he’ll be open again and commiserate with him, he said.

On Thursday, Rugg finally got some good news. Early in the morning, officers with the Scotts Valley Police Department “responded to a suspicious figure in the roadway” near Glen Canyon and Green Hills Road. The statue stood there on the side of the road, unassuming and facing the sidewalk as police lights shone onto it.

“Officers arrived and spotted Bigfoot!” the Scotts Valley Police Department said on Facebook.

The statue was a little scratched up and now sports a chip in its forehead that Rugg has dubbed a badge of honor.

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Rugg may not have found the sasquatch again (yet), but at least he’s got Danny.


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