Bigfoot Encounters


1994 -- When Daniel Perez's father left Bigfoot articles on the refrigerator door for his son to read, he was slowly but surely creating a monster. Today, Perez is a man smitten with Sasquatch. He runs the Center for Bigfoot Studies from his parents' home in Norwalk, selling copies of the Bigfoot Times and plaster casts of 15-inch footprints taken from reported Bigfoot sightings.

When an eyewitness's story is particularly credible, the slight, 5-foot-7 Perez drives to the scene in a green camouflage jumpsuit, armed with a camera and rifle. So far, he has found only footprints. But this Bigfoot hunter's passion is not blind. Back home, Perez owns nearly every book and scholarly article on the creature and an international collection of newspaper clippings dating to the 1800s. He published a 184-page bibliography of Bigfoot sources, ``Big Footnotes,'' in 1988.

Perez derides the super market tabloids as "about 2 percent credible'' and rolls his eyes at the phony claims that pour into his home office. ``You can't just be a believer,'' Perez said. ``You've got to look at it skeptically and analytically, and it's got to fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.''

Now 31, Perez is already a veteran in his field. He has hunted and studied Bigfoot for 21 years. "I think my mom for sure thought this was going to be a phase that I would grow out of,'' Perez said. ``But it wasn't. This is what makes me tick.'' Perez was the third of four children born into a middle-class Norwalk home.

His father was an electrical test engineer for Rockwell International Corp., his mother a homemaker. Danny was an A student and cross-country runner at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe Springs. All three of Perez's siblings are now married, but Danny remains single. ``I fell in love at a very early age with the field of Bigfooting,'' Perez said. ``So I guess you could say I got married before any of them.''

Perez's first exposure to Bigfoot came at age 10, when he went with the family to see the film ``The Legend of Boggy Creek.'' The movie's paranormal implications baffled a boy whose mental curiosity had led him toward math, science and other fields where, as he says, ``things have to add up.'' ``The movie hit me like a ton of bricks,'' Perez recalled. ``I absolutely could not believe that these people were claiming to see these creatures. You're taught to believe that the bogeyman and all those creatures do not exist. So I pooh-poohed it. ``As I read more, though, I started to realize that some highly credible people from all walks of life were having sightings. I started looking at it objectively, and thinking, `There might be something to this.''' Perez began corresponding with fellow Bigfoot seekers in 1978, as he was finishing high school.

He founded the Center for Bigfoot Studies in 1984. As the pile of clippings and letters grew, he moved it from a JCPenney shoe box to a file cabinet and then a computer. Perez splits his time between homes in Norwalk and Riverside, where he works as an electrician. He's had the day job for 10 years, but considers Bigfooting far more than a pastime. ``People tell me this is a hobby,'' Perez said. ``This is not a hobby. It is a scientific endeavor.

People I know from high school often ask me, `You're still doing this?' And I tell them, `You wouldn't expect Jacques Cousteau to suddenly stop doing oceanography.'''

Perez's heroes are Cousteau, Carl Sagan, Albert Einstein and Marlin Perkins, the late host of TV's ``Wild Kingdom'' who led a much-publicized hunt for the Abominable Snowman. (The beast was never found, but Perez holds out hope that Sasquatch's Himalayan cousin will come forward someday.)

Through the Center for Bigfoot Studies, Perez trades articles with hobbyists, professors and obscure government functionaries around the world; at various times, the Russian and Chinese governments funded Bigfoot searches. Perez has been quoted as an expert in several print publications, and he said he was interviewed recently for an upcoming episode of the FOX-TV show ``Sightings.''

Sasquatch legend is as old as the Native American tribes that coined the name. But the present-day fascination with Bigfoot began with a rash of sightings in 1958. The cornerstone of Bigfoot belief is a 1967 film by Roger Patterson of Bluff Creek, Calif., whose 950 frames appear to depict a large, female, ape-like creature walking across a sand bar.

Perez said the Patterson film is to Bigfoot lore what the Zapruder film is to Kennedy conspiracy theorists. Detractors say it's a fake, but Perez believes that the creature's method of locomotion and other features are decidedly non-human. ``That was not some guy in an ape suit,'' Perez said.

Perez collects news of more recent Sasquatch sightings. The most recent credible account came in an April 17 phone call from an Indiana couple. ``They were on vacation,'' Perez recalled. ``They said they saw something on the side of the road that looked like an outhouse, like a Port-a-potty, but then they realized it was moving.'' Perez never knows for sure whether a reported sighting is genuine, but he tries to weed out the fakes via telephone. Occasionally, he visits a site himself.

Perez said he has seen Sasquatch footprints twice: once in 1979 near Hemet and again in 1986 near Mount Whitney. ``I have never had a sighting,'' he said, furrowing his brow. ``I keep my fingers crossed and hope that someday it will happen.'' Perez winces while discussing the recurrent argument that Bigfoot seekers have recovered neither hide nor hair of the beast to back up their claims. ``We don't have physical evidence, period,'' Perez said. ``If these things are for real, where are the bones? Where is the fossil record? Is this modern mythology? Are we deluding ourselves?

``But look at the other end,'' Perez said, holding the cast of an enormous foot near his own size 8 appendage. ``Nothing that doesn't exist can leave tracks like this.'' The lure to bag a Bigfoot is immense. But Perez said that if he ever sees a Bigfoot, he will shoot with his camera rather than his gun. Then, he will race to a telephone and call the authorities.

``I truly believe that the discovery of a Sasquatch here in North America would have a bigger impact than man landing on the Moon,'' he said. ``The guy who gets one first is going to go down in history.''

Newspaper: The Long Beach Press Telegram
Published: Monday, July 11, 1994 - Section: MAIN NEWS - Page: A1
By Daniel de Vise, Staff Writer

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