| Each day in the life
of Ron Olson is like one of those terrible frustrating dreams in which youve
been somewhere like the Planet of the Apes, only to return home and discover
that nobody believes your story. Olson, however, claims his story isnt
a dream. And he insists his apes are right here on Planet Earth.
"They are out there" he days "huge, hairy, humanoid creatures
that walk erect on two legs and leave gigantic tracks in the forests of
the Pacific Northwest. "If you ever run across one," Olson says,
"youll easily recognize it by it size (7 to 10 feet tall), its
smell (an unmistakable stench) and its call, a shrill terrifying whistling
Nobody on record has ever caught or killed such a beast. Many scientists
probably dont even believe the creature exists. But Olson does.
That is what makes his life so frustrating. "I believe in it,"
Olson declares not with the bravado of a newly converted Christian but
with an obvious trace of embarrassment at how foolish his declaration
of faith may seem and how vulnerable it makes him to public ridicule.
I believe in it as firmly as I believe that Im sitting here
saying it. Its like a religion to me."
By now youve probably heard the lavishly publicized legend of Olsons
creatures, known originally as Omah or Giant Hairy Apes, but known more
commonly today as Sasquatch or Bigfoot.
Although there is no scientific
proof that the creatures exist, many people over the years have reported
finding enormous tracks allegedly made by Sasquatches. Ron Olson has done
none of these things. But so firm is his faith in Sasquatch that for the
past five years he has been devoting his life to the study and anticipated
capture of the creature.
He is the founder and head of a Eugene-based
corporation, North American Wildlife Research, (NAWR) the major Bigfoot hunting
outfit in the United States.
"As far as a capture goes, right now
it depends largely on coincidence" says Olson, a 3l year old (now
57 yrs old) Vietnam veteran with the build of a welterweight boxer and
the perpetual suntan of a man who spends long hours outdoors."With good fortune," he says, "a capture could come tomorrow,
if it happened by accident. But a planned capture is at least another
year down the road."
Olson, and a team of several dozen volunteers
throughout the Northwest are cooperating with Bigfoot hunters in British
Columbia in programming a computer with data collected since the early
1800s, when white settlers began hearing the legend from Northwest
By weeding out hundreds of apparently fraudulent or mistaken
bigfoot sightings, Olson says the researchers hope the computer study
will spew out a pattern indication the creatures migratory behavior,
feeding habits, population density and so forth. "I might be able
to tell you someday that we figure on June 1, 1976 or some such specific
date that at this certain point on the map, at this longitude and this
latitude, theres going to be a Sasquatch pass through," Olson
At this point in their introduction to Olson, the skeptics quite
understandably begin identifying him with the saucer-seer and the sťance
sitters. But hold on. Even the toughest cynics eventually find themselves running
into something slightly disarming about this man who chases Bigfoot.
has something to do with the honest face and the sincere way he has about
him and with the intelligent eyes, the articulate explanations and the
professional manner in which he discusses his work.
Nowhere in sight
are the eccentricities and personality quirks we look for in kooks. This
man dresses conservatively, goes to church, votes Republican, keeps his
lawn mowed and lives in a typical house in a typical Springfield neighborhood.
In a word, Ron Olson just isnt a weirdo. He comes across more like
a competent forest ranger or police sergeant, somebody who has to win
the publics trust with solid common sense. And herein lies a puzzle
as intriguing as the Bigfoot legend itself.
Why would a man of Olsons age and attributes give up various opportunities
in business to chase a creature that most people dont even believe
in? Why does he believe he believe in it? What can he possibly hope to
gain if he should prove himself right? Olson didnt always believe
He first heard of the legend when he was a twelve years old
pupil at Goshen Elementary school and saw a newspaper story about somebody
finding enormous human-like tracks around a diesel tractor that had been
left overnight on a forest road. "I was really intrigued, but I didnt
think much about the story and I didnt pursue it," Olson recalls.
"At that time I dont really feel I could say I was believer."
Bigfoot was nothing more than an incredible tale to Olson during years
he attended Pleasant Hill High School. After graduation, he enrolled at
Southwestern Oregon Community College for a few terms and later for a
full year at the University of Oregon. He took liberal arts courses, "hopefully
to find a field I really wanted to pursue, but it just wasnt there," he said. Instead of completing college, Olson went into the Army, serving
from 1964 to 1966, most of that time in Vietnam.
Meanwhile Olsons father, Frank, a Pleasant Hill farmer, became financially
involved in a film distribution company, (ANE) AMERICAN NATIONAL ENTERPRISES,
INC of Salt Lake City. ANE was owned and run by Russell Neihart, a Bishop of the Mormon Church and his friend Jerry Romney also the Mormon who first claimed he was the man-in-the suit in the ANE Bigfoot film.
When I came back from the Army," Ron Olson recalls, "I
went right into the familys film business." (ANE = American
National Enterprises, Inc). He helped farm pole beans during the summer
but spent the rest of the year traveling throughout the country, showing
wildlife documentary films like "Alaskan Safari" and "Cougar
For the past seven years (1966 to this article date of l973) Olsons
main source of income has been the distribution, promotion and showing
of the [ANE] films, he said. But a growing percentage of his income has
stemmed from his search for Sasquatch.
That all started about five years
ago. (1968) "It was in l968," Olson recalls, "I was on the road showing
"Alaskan Safari" when an odd coincidence occurred." While
my brothers were showing the same film in Ohio, I was working up through
the Carolinas. All the way through North Carolina, I talked with the man
who was company president at that time about how rough the competition
Finally he said to me "Ron, what kind of wildlife film
could we pick out that nobody could compete with?" I remembered those
stories I had heard in Oregon, and I suggested the subject of Sasquatch
to him. He said, "Whats that?" And we got to talking about
it." Olson says he and the Film Company [American National] executive
decided to try to be the first to make a Sasquatch documentary if any
footage of such creatures should ever become available.
they reached their decision, Olsons coincidence occurred. "My brother Dean called me in February from Cincinnati and said "Ron,
pick up the Argosy Magazine."
So I went out and bought one and there
it was the whole story of how this guy in Yakima, Washington made of film
of Sasquatch in Northern California. I got right on the phone and called
him up and arranged a rendezvous in Yakima to set up a deal.
Olson says he still wasnt a Bigfoot believer at the time he contacted
Roger Patterson, the Yakima fellow who claimed to have photographed the
creature. It was the chance to produce and market a potentially lucrative
Bigfoot film that initially motivated Ron Olson, he said.
of things went up and down for a while, problems with company board members
saying "Gee, this thing is too far out and we dont want to
put the money up for that kind of film."
"But I tested Pattersons
footage on movie audiences and found the subject to be as strong as I
predicted it would be," Olson said.
A relatively inexpensive twenty-minute Bigfoot documentary was eventually
produced but Olson says it hasnt been the lucrative and persuasive
film he had hope for. And for the past five years since he obtained Pattersons
footage hes been unable to get financial backing for turning out
the kind of Bigfoot movie that he figures would make a box office smash.
Something else has happened since then though something influencing
Olson a lot more than striking it rich would have. He started believing
in the beast that he wanted to make a film about.
"I dont think I was even near the point of believing in it
until I saw Pattersons footage." Olson continued, "Not
until I had seen the film and had worked with Patterson for a while did I start
coming to the point of thinking in my own mind that there was really something
out there." Something out there? Yes, according to Pattersons bizarre film.
The film we obtained from Patterson lasted only seventeen seconds and the quality is not outstanding.
Patterson claimed he started shooting the footage after he was thrown around
from a horse [Peanuts] that was frightened by a Sasquatch which stood
up in front of them as the man and horse were crossing a clear cut logging
unit some where in Northern California.
The creature in Pattersons
film looks much like a huge gorilla as it turns its humanoid face toward
the camera and hurried away into the dense undergrowth.
Olson says zoologists have examined the film for the Smithsonian Institution
and film technicians in Hollywood and the authenticity of the footage
has been upheld. He says the experts came away convinced that the film
showed no signs that it had been doctored and that the creature depicted whatever it
was was probably not a gorilla or a man in a gorilla suit.
concludes Ron Olson, as did Roger Patterson, the beast must have been
the legendary Sasquatch of Canadian folklore.
"I think that in four years of knowing Roger, that if there had
been a flaw in the guys personality, that if he even had the possibility
of faking something like this, I believe I would have detected it.
was a congenial, quiet guy who would just as soon not talk about his film
and who never made a penny off it in his life.
"Roger Patterson died this year  of cancer. On his deathbed, he
reassured Ron Olson one last time that the Sasquatch film was no fake.
While Patterson lived, Olson worked with him gathering data on Sasquatch
sightings and trying to get backing for the production of a major feature-length
documentary film on Sasquatch. Patterson was on the ANE payroll from July 1967 until October 1, 1967 according to Clyde Reinke, who signed ANE payroll checks.
Proceeds from the enterprise would have
financed a year-long expedition in which Patterson and Olson planned to
hunt for the creature in the wilderness of Northern California, Oregon,
Washington and British Columbia.
Instead, there has been only disappointment, Pattersons footage
has been ignored by the scientific world, the documentary has never materialized
and the big expedition has been indefinitely delayed.
But Olson has been
doggedly carrying on with his North American Wildlife Research. Last year
in fact, Olson worked virtually full time as a Sasquatch sleuth and the
organizations Eleventh Avenue office - - which is dramatically outfitted
with displays of plaster casts of Bigfoot tracks, a life size Bigfoot
old painting and wall size maps filled with pins designating Bigfoot sightings
- - was staffed by a full time secretary."At one time last year we had six small expeditions out, led by
six full time guys, paid through contributions we were receiving that
amounted up to $4000.00 a months," Olson said.
The expeditions turned
up nothing however and the contributions have tapered off. Now Olson
says the funds (bolstered by sales of Bigfoot books and plastic ashtrays
made from molds of Bigfoot tracks.) are barely enough to keep the office
open. To keep bread on the table at home, where he has a wife Edith and
two sons Craig 5 and Troy 2, Olson has had to renew his activity in the
film company and understandably reduce his search for the Sasquatch.
laughs at suggestions that his quest is really some kind of easy money
angle, a means of making a profit off the gullibility of the public."I would be ashamed, in fact, to have some of my friends know how
little I made last year," Olson said. "Its a matter of
pride I guess. Some of my friends make a thousand a month and that is
not the greatest pay in the world but its a hell of a lot more than
I make. We are hanging on by a shoestring."
Olson says he has passed up several opportunities in the past few years
to get ahead in the film industry, but it would have required him to abandon
his quest for the creature. "Sometimes I think a guy should know
when to quit, but I just cant.
It would just kill me to turn my
back on this after all Ive put into it in the past five years. Ive
had some great business opportunities, but Ive turned them down
because there is still a slight glimmer of a chance that this Bigfoot
thing might jell into something where I have the financial backing, an
expedition in the field, a movie under way and all these things put together."
"I think weve got to keep this thing in front of the people
to keep it alive. If we keep it out there long enough, somebody sooner
or later is going to come up with something really great - - a sighting
or maybe a film.
We always will have this hope that somebody out there
with their Instamatic Camera is going to get a picture for us." Meanwhile
Olson waits and hopes.
Unfortunately, as Olson observes, the only two existing Bigfoot movies one made by his own film people and the other produced by the BBC
are among the poorest films ever made. He says they probably damage
the legends credibility more than bolster it.
an extremely find line between fact and fantasy when youre dealing
with this subject. If you dont stay on the factual side of that
line, the people will throw rocks at you."
Nobody is throwing rocks at Ron Olson these days, but he says he has
put up with plenty of ridicule. "I used to get a lot of people laughing
at me all the time, but lately they dont laugh so much.
people seem to be getting a little more open-minded about Bigfoot. Its
really funny about people. If you can just get enough data out in front
of a person over a period of a year or he will end up admitting heck,
theres probably something like that.
If a person can stay
involved as long as I have and go through all the garbage that I have
been through, talking to idiots and talking to good people and come out
and say he doesnt believe in Sasquatch, then I believe that he has
an honest reason to say so.
But if that person doesnt give himself
a hundred per cent opportunity to look into the subject, then I dont
believe he has the honest right to say he does or doesnt believe
Olsons goal in life is to make it utterly impossible for anyone
to disbelieve in Sasquatch will just about require the capture of such
a critter. He says he is ready for the event.
"The minute that creature is captured, we will begin a well-rehearsed
procedure. Weve got an all terrain vehicle available so that if
we cant fly the thing out, which would be the number one priority,
then we can take it by ground vehicle to a secret and secluded holding
area. We have several such areas available. the ideal areas are on private
land, have one road in and no roads out and gates blocking entrances and
exits We have permission to go in and set up a chain link fence holding
facility which will take five men approximately six and a half hours to
"Weve already made contact with the Smithsonian Institution,
the Yerkes Primate Center of Atlanta, Georgia and the Craighead brothers
tracking team from Missoula, Montana the same outfit that tracked
Grizzly Bears in a project for National Geographic not long back."
"What we will do immediately after the capture is bring in the appropriate
scientific people to study the creature, make the necessary tests, take
blood and bone samples and then release the creature with a transmitter
implanted behind its neck. Then we would track it for the next two
years, probably recapturing it every six months to recharge the battery
in the transmitter.
We would set up big directional tracking equipment
to keep watch on the creature over a twenty-mile radius. The creature
will be protected. It will not be killed.
By tracking it, always knowing
where it is, we will answer all the mysteries: How far does it migrate?
Does it hibernate? What does it do? Why the hell cant you see it?"
"Roger Patterson wanted to use the creature in a sideshow - - have
the thing ride around in a cage, but I strongly disagreed with that."
Olsons idea is to take some exclusive film footage of a captive
Sasquatch then release the creature, announce the discovery and sell the
valuable film to the three television networks and any movie producers
who might be tempted. Its a glorious plan, you must admit.
There is Ron Olson, standing behind an array of microphones in the Smithsonian
Institutions auditorium in Washington D.C., with Americas
leading zoologists and major news media assembled to hear his startling
announcement. "Ladies and gentlemen, the film you are about to see
was made two days ago at a remote encampment in Oregons Cascade
wilderness where a team of investigators working under my direction is
holding the first captured specimen of the legendary creature known as
The film rolls, the audience gasps and suddenly the doubters believe
at long last.
© Eugene Register-Guard Emerald Empire October 21, 1972
News Article courtesy the files of Rene Dahinden,
Richmond, B.C. Canada
Back to Bigfoot Encounters What's New?
Back to Newspaper & Magazine Articles
Bigfoot Encounters Home/Main