The Bigfoot evangelist: Inside Colorado’s Sasquatch museum and the mind of a believer
Article from The Gazette (gazette.com) by Amanda Hancock firstname.lastname@example.org Oct 27, 2019
Opening the store
Myers knows what it’s like to believe in something that takes faith. The 57-year-old was born in Kenya to parents who were missionaries. He had spent most of his life working in Christian ministry overseas.
Then, he needed a change.
He and his wife, Daphne, moved to the small town of Bailey, about 75 miles northwest of Colorado Springs, in search of a new chapter.
When they first opened the store in the 140-year-old building on Main Street, they sold groceries and called it the Bailey Country Store.
Two years later, in 2015, the groceries weren’t selling. Myers went home to his wife with an idea.
That was a couple of years after Animal Planet’s “Finding Bigfoot” filmed an episode in Bailey and after a friend told Myers she had seen Bigfoot nearby.
“It seemed like there was enough interest to try something,” he said.
Drawing on a lifelong, back-of-his-mind interest in Bigfoot, he renamed his store The Sasquatch Outpost and filled it with memorabilia relating to the mythical (or not mythical?) creature. There are mini bottles of Bigfoot hair, socks, lots of T-shirts designed by Myers and bumper stickers (visitors can choose between one that says, “I Believe” and one that says “I Want to Believe.”)
The store is what Myers calls the “fun part.” The serious part — the museum in the back — opened in 2016 and makes the case that Bigfoot exists through photos of tracks and molds of footprints, recordings of mysterious sounds and tree branches broken and twisted in shapes that would perhaps require superhuman strength.
“There’s nothing else that does that to a tree,” Myers says, when he looks at the branches. “You can’t attribute that to a bear or a raccoon.”
There’s an enlarged screen grab from the 1967 film taken by Bob Gimlin and Roger Patterson of what they characterized as Bigfoot. The footage is considered the most solid evidence of Bigfoot’s existence. Near the end of the exhibit is a U.S. map with multicolor pins, each marking a Bigfoot encounter as told to Myers by a museum visitor.
Those pins, and the stories behind them, are what changed the mind of Myers’ wife, Daphne. She wasn’t a believer when they first opened the store.
“She goes, ‘These are totally normal, rational people,’” Myers said. “‘Why would they make that up?’”
Those stories similarly convinced Myers’ friend Gayle Ludeman, who was recently in town from California to visit and help around the store.
“I can’t help but believe,” Ludeman said. “When you really look at everything, it’s like, you can’t fake that stuff.”
Her twenty-something daughter, on the other hand, thinks it’s all a “bunch of hooey.”
Since it opened, 17,000 people have gone through the museum. At the exit, each person places a token in a box indicating if they believe in Bigfoot or not. There’s also a “maybe” option.
“I want them to leave thinking about it in a way they didn’t before,” Myers said. “After going through this, you can’t say they don’t exist. You can say, ‘I’ve never seen one.’”
Jim Myers’ Sasquatch Outpost is one of at least seven Bigfoot museums in the country. Myers is also making a movie about Bigfoot.
Not alone in believing
Of course, plenty of people who come into The Sasquatch Outpost believe in Bigfoot. Others are skeptical. Some just want to poke fun at the idea.
“I make fun of it, too,” Myers says. “It’s a funny idea that there’s a hairy human-like creature out there.”
He knows it’s weird, he’ll say. In the next sentence, he’ll talk about the morning when, on a fishing trip, he saw a Bigfoot in the distance. He’ll share about the times he has heard the creatures talk to each other and the times they’ve thrown rocks at his tent.
All day, he has conversations like this. Joking about Bigfoot. Saying something serious about Bigfoot.
Strangers lean against the counter, holding a pair of socks to purchase, and pick his brain about a new documentary or tell him about an encounter they had or tell him the whole thing is crazy.
“Most people are not neutral. They either love it or they hate it,” Myers said. “I think I’ve heard every argument for and against.”
He enjoys talking to anyone about Bigfoot, except for some of his religious friends, the ones he knows from his time in ministry. They have come to his store, but they haven’t exactly been open-minded.
“A lot of my friends from that part of my life think I’m totally nuts,” Myers says. “It’s funny. It’s like they were afraid I was going to convert them into a religion.”
Myers is fine with fielding questions. He’s not fine with feeling judged by his life choices.
“I don’t enjoy showing them the store,” he said. “They don’t ask questions or seem interested. I get tired of that. As a Christian, the least you can do is try to understand. You could at least embrace my enjoyment of it.”
Myers has a theory on why some people seek to understand and others don’t.
“Some people don’t want to know the truth,” he says. “People don’t want to believe it because it brings up too many questions and they don’t want to question things. It would make them uncomfortable to question something they thought they knew wasn’t real.”
Bigfoot believers are comfortable with questions.
“I’m open to so many things that I wasn’t before,” Myers says. “Something like this… it changes everything you knew about everything. And that’s OK.”
As for some of his Christian friends?
“They want to stay in their tiny bubble,” Myers says. “The world is a very small place if you only believe in your small world.”
Myers is happy with his world. His Sasquatch Outpost is one of at least seven Bigfoot museums in the country and he’s working on expanding the store by 1,500 square feet. He’s also making a movie about Bigfoot to “correct all those terrible movies about Bigfoot.” The town of Bailey has embraced him and the store, which brings visitors to town who find out about it on Tripadvisor. Down the road, Mad Jack’s Brewery has a Sasquatch beer on tap.
Obviously, he’s not alone in believing. Sometimes it might feel that way.
Whenever that happens, he reminds himself of something. It’s a motto he has followed for much of his life.
Some things just take faith.