'I've always believed there is a Bigfoot'
By Paul Fattig
Mail Tribune, Southern Oregon's News Souce
September 3, 2006 -- Despite popular belief, the legendary Bigfoot trap west of Applegate Lake was never designed to capture the elusive creature for public display.
"I wouldn't ever want to see Bigfoot held in captivity," stresses Ron Olson. "The idea was to learn about him. We wanted to put a transmitter on him. We wanted to find out how they evade people and where they migrate to."
Olson ought to know about the massive trap: He, along with his late father and a friend, built it in 1974.
"We weren't going to kill it — we had a tranquilizer gun," he explains. "We had a sled built to put him on. We even had big manacles ready if we got one and the tranquilizer started to wear out. We had it pretty well organized."
Olson, now a businessman in his native Eugene, was — and is — a Bigfoot believer. He figures what crypto-zoologists have dubbed Gigantopithecus americana is out there, even if he was never able to prove its existence.
"I've always believed there is a Bigfoot," he says.
And he was tickled to learn two weeks ago from the Mail Tribune that a group of volunteers in the U.S. Forest Service's Passport In Time program were restoring the wooden structure, which had been grazed by a storm-driven tree. Although most projects in the program involve historic or archaeological sites, the Bigfoot trap, which draws hundreds of curious humanoids each year, was unusual enough to be included, observes Jeff LaLande, archaeologist for the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.
Located in the Applegate Ranger District along the Collings Mountain Trail a half mile west of Applegate Lake, the Bigfoot trap is believed to be the only one of its kind in the nation, perhaps on the planet.
Measuring 10-feet-by-10-feet, it's a wooden box built of 12-inch wide and 2-inch thick planks. A heavy expanded metal grate served as the trap door, triggered by the big fellow reaching a hairy hand for the bait — a deer or rabbit carcass — hanging at the rear of the structure.
Heavy metal bands binding the planks and telephone poles anchoring it to the ground were meant to keep the burly beast from breaking out. Citing safety concerns, the Forest Service bolted the trap door open in 1980. Uncle Sam didn't want tourists trapped, bigfooted or not.
A Eugene-based filmmaker when the trap was built, Olson was the director of an group called "North American Wildlife Research" which received a special use permit to build it. The group's letterhead read "Bigfoot/Sasquatch: The Search for the World's Most Intriguing Mystery."
It all began back in the summer of 1968, when Olson, who was then distributing wildlife films, met a fellow named Roger Patterson. Bigfoot buffs will know Patterson, who later died from cancer, as the fellow who shot film footage of an alleged Sasquatch along Bluff Creek, Calif., in October 1967. Bluff Creek flows into the Klamath River about 50 miles south of Happy Camp.
"Roger had been looking for it for a long time," Olson recalls. "I met up with him and talked about doing a movie. But we needed more data information.
"When he was ailing, he would call me up and ask me to check out a sighting," he adds. "I covered several sighting for him."
Olson became known for his work and established the now-defunct research center. He figures they investigated some 300 sightings.
"Unfortunately, there are some imaginary sightings," he says. "But we had some real ones, too."
It was the story Patterson asked him to check out by longtime miner Perry Lovell that brought Olson to the upper reaches of the Applegate River. Lovell reportedly found 18-inch human-like tracks in his garden near the river. The tracks told the story of a creature with a 6-foot stride.
Although the old miner had apparently died by the time Olson arrived, his tales left big tracks.
"The fellow I talked to told me this great story how Perry would go to his mine right up the trail there from where we put the trap and he would see these things," Olson says.
"He said it was always in the fall when they would come in," he adds. "He would look across the canyon and see them. They appeared to be crossing through there that time of year."
Lovell's story, coupled with Bigfoot tales in local Indian lore and computerized predictions, convinced Olson that was a good place for the trap. Remember, this was back before Applegate Dam was built, before a road skirted what is now the west side of the lake.
"We rented a Cat and pulled it up there," he says. "I hired an old miner and gave him a tranquilizer gun and a movie camera and put him in the cabin."
He was referring to what is now a dilapidated shelter about 200 feet back down the trail. The miner would be alerted about a Sasquatch in the trap by an electronic signal.
"We managed to catch two bears so we knew it worked," Olson says. "It was a good trap."
A year after installing the trap, Olson wrote and produced the movie, "Sasquatch, the Legend of Bigfoot." The flick was distributed throughout North America.
"I've been on a lot of really good sightings," he says of first-person accounts. "But over the years you get off it. You have a wife and kids. You put things on hold."
Someday, he says, he would like to re-edit the film, perhaps even put in footage he left out.
"It was a very enjoyable time in my life," he adds. "It was fun to be able to make a movie about Bigfoot and build that trap."
And leave a legacy that still traps imaginations.
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