That same day, an overly friendly reporter from the Union-Tribune called for an interview. I gave one over the phone. Then he used the information and the photos I had previously sent to enhance his piece in the next Sunday paper, which smugly mocked people who believe in crypto-zoology, crop circles, and UFOs.
One evening, a brainy scientist called and lectured me in academic detail about how this could not be possible. He ended the conversation with “But I sure would like to see it. Can you take me there?”
“Not at this time,” I said, wondering why he wanted to see it if he was so sure it wasn’t anything.
An enthusiastic man from L.A. called and offered me $200 to see the footprint. “I’ll get back to you,” I said. I still wasn’t willing to reveal the discovery site, no matter the price.
But the next day an AP photographer called. He wanted me to take him to the footprint so he could do a professional photo shoot with high-tech camera equipment.
“What will you do with the photos?” I asked.
“I’ll sell them to media outlets around the world,” he said. He was trying to impress me.
“And what will I get?”
“I’ll give you a nice set of photos.” Clearly, he was hoping that a picture portfolio would seal the deal.
But I was disappointed in the lopsided offer. “I’ll get back to you,” I said.
This Bigfoot business was like an explosion over which I had no control. Being a Christian, I prayed for guidance. Then I took the plaster cast to the Museum of Creation and Earth History in Santee. This organization had an Intelligent Designer’s point of view on anthropology. Maybe they could redirect the blast.
One of the professors left a full classroom of students behind to look at the cast. “I can’t believe it,” he said. “Can I keep this and show it to some of my colleagues?”
“Sure,” I said, “but I’m pressed for time and only have one good cast. One day only, then I’ll be back.”
When I returned the next day, the analysis was “We can’t figure out what it’s from. Maybe a Gigantopithecus or some other prehistoric ape. Extremely interesting!”
I sent photos of the print to a Bigfoot website run by a local expert, Michael Esordi. He posted them on his site, and within days, the Bigfoot people started chiming in with opinions. Dr. Jeff Meldrum, an Idaho State University expert on Bigfoot prints, said, “It can’t be. I see a quartz vein in the rock.” However, the supposed “quartz vein” was a white mineral-water stain from a seasonal flow of water. So much for the “expert.”
Another scientist from UC San Diego called and proceeded to lecture me on why this could not be. “That anomaly is caused by foreign matter that got caught in molten rock,” he insisted.
“Could a giant ape foot be considered foreign matter?” I queried back.
The silent pause was seconds long as he thought it over. “Yes, it could,” he conceded.
Other experts who reviewed the footprint on the Bigfoot website said, “It’s a bear’s rear paw print. No doubt about it.” Or “Native American Indians carved the print in the rock. I’ve seen similar work elsewhere, but not this detailed.” Still others said with that side toe, it was a giant ape.
I took the plaster cast to Michael Esordi, the Sasquatch expert in Point Loma, who runs the Bigfoot website. He made a latex mold of the cast, so he could make and sell copies on his site. I was to receive profits, but he suddenly moved to Rhode Island, and I never saw a dime, yet he kept the Ramona Bigfoot cast in his merchandise offerings for a while.
I was feeling very used by the so-called experts, who seemed to twist the Bigfoot find to fit their own perspectives, especially that shoot-from-the-hip scientist who couldn’t tell a water stain from a quartz vein. Surely, there were others out there who knew more and could better determine what the find was. But how to find them? How could I get this enigma to them?
After researching, I contacted a Dr. Thomas Raab from Los Angeles. He said his company, Interpress Worldwide, could put the story in 250 major media outlets around the world, with me retaining the rights to the story, photos, and interviews. “There would be royalties,” he assured me. Buoyed by the phone conversation, we set up a meeting at a Starbucks in Studio City.
“Now I’m getting somewhere,” I thought as I sat at an outdoor table, basking in the midday sun. The beautiful people were out in force. Every young, pretty woman who minced by on four-inch platforms was a potential starlet, and every well-dressed man with muscled physique was an onscreen action hero. This place oozed wealth, power, and dream-makers. I stuck out like the Tin Man in the city of Oz. No Bruno Magli shoes or the ubiquitous Rolex. A Bigfoot plaster cast was in a cardboard box on the sidewalk beside me, a manila folder of photos on the table. I waited without the mandatory coffee cup in hand, since I’d never acquired a taste for that dark drink.
Dr. Raab spotted me immediately. He was a handsome man, much younger than I expected, with black hair and an easygoing smile. After greeting me, he got himself a cup of coffee. I proceeded to show him the cast and photos. “Very impressive!” he said. “Now, where did you find this?” Others seated around us were ogling the plaster cast and eavesdropping on our conversation.
“Southern California,” I said, being vague on purpose, acutely aware of the others listening.
He got my drift. “I understand your reluctance to divulge the exact location, and I appreciate that you haven’t told others. Because, without exclusive control over this find, my company wouldn’t be interested.” After 15 minutes of Bigfoot banter he cut to the chase. He took a typed contract out of a folder and handed it to me. “Look this over. If it’s to your liking, we’ll promote this find worldwide, providing that it is genuine.”