What’s Cliff from ‘Finding Bigfoot’ up to now? He’s got a Bigfoot museum in Oregon - The Daily Chronicle (2024)

Samantha Swindler / oregonlive.com / (TNS)

Bigfoot has been very good to Cliff Barackman.

For seven years, he was one of the stars of the Animal Planet reality TV show “Finding Bigfoot,” which followed four Sasquatch researchers across the globe on the hunt for the fabled (or, depending on your view, elusive) beasts.

Never mind that the cast didn’t actually “find” a Bigfoot over 100 episodes. The show — once described by the New York Times as “absurd but delightfully addictive” — was a hit.

After the series finale aired in 2018, Cliff settled down in Oregon with his wife, Melissa, (whom he met on the show) and their dog Xochitl (a Golden Retriever/Rottweiler mix found in the woods while they were filming an episode).

In 2019, the Barackmans founded the North American Bigfoot Center in Boring. It’s a museum, research center and historical archive for all things Bigfoot.

“Bigfoot has given me pretty much everything that’s important to me, everything I love most,” Cliff said. “At the end of the day, what I’m trying to do here with this business is give something back.”

Cliff said he got interested in the subject of Bigfoot in the 1990s while studying music at California State University, Long Beach. He stumbled into the anthropology section of the library and found a few books about Sasquatches.

“Many of these, of course, were from the cultural perspective, cultural anthropology,” he said, “and how virtually every Native culture that lives in suitable habitat has names for the giant hairy people that live outside of villages.”

Some people might see this phenomenon as evidence of mankind’s desire to hold a mirror up to ourselves against the wilds of nature, a shared, cross-cultural metaphor for what it means to be human.

But some people see this universal experience as evidence that an unidentified species of apelike creatures really exists.

“When you started looking at all these pieces of evidence over here, seemingly unconnected piece of evidence over here, another one over here, … it’s like a jigsaw puzzle. There’s this whole mosaic,” Cliff said. “Sasquatches are real. I’m 110% convinced of this. I’ve literally devoted my entire life to this.”

Cliff was teaching fifth grade at North Cascades Public Charter School in Clackamas County when he took a leave of absence in 2010 to film the first six episodes of “Finding Bigfoot” with castmates Matt Moneymaker, James “Bobo” Fay and Ranae Holland.

When the show aired to huge ratings, it was immediately picked up for another season.

“That’s when I tendered my resignation as a teacher, because I didn’t want to do that to my students,” Cliff said. “At the height of the show, I was out there seven, eight months a year on the road.”

Melissa, who is from Pittsburgh, joined “Finding Bigfoot” as a production assistant in 2015 while the show was filming in upstate New York.

“I was a skeptic in the beginning for sure,” she said. “And then, I think it was the third episode I was on, we were in Turner, Maine, and I heard one, and that was compelling. It was a very creepy growl/yell thing that I’ve never heard before. It was so strange and very scary. It made me rethink things.”

She and Cliff started dating after she left the show, and they married in 2017. Since then, Bigfoots have become a large part of her life, too.

“It’s broadened my life,” Melissa said. “It’s broadened my thinking. It’s definitely quirky, and I’m happy to be a part of that world.”

After the series finale (though there was a special episode released in 2021), they set their sights on opening a museum.

“We have a lot of Bigfoot memorabilia and interesting artifacts and things like that,” Melissa said. “We thought, there’s not really anything around here that is centered just around Bigfoot. Not just a hokey little side attraction — those are great, too — but there was really nothing out here educating anybody about Bigfoot.”

The North American Bigfoot Center opened in fall 2019. After a slow start during the COVID pandemic, the museum is now thriving, the Barackmans say.

“If you come to the North American Bigfoot Center, I think that what you can expect is a very intense Bigfoot 101 class,” Cliff said. Bigfoot “is a deep, nuanced, subtle subject, and my work here at the museum is basically trying to make a presentation worthy of that subject.”

The museum has dozens of footprints, handprints and even a buttprint cast that Cliff says are evidence of Bigfoots. There are exhibits on various photos and videos of alleged Bigfoot sightings, some shot here in Oregon. Displays tackle some of the most common Bigfoot questions: Why don’t we have Bigfoot bones? (Animals eat them.) Why haven’t we caught one? (They’re extremely rare.)

And, of course, there’s a well-appointed gift-shop with Bigfoot socks, shirts, toys and hats with the catchphrase from the TV show: “Gone Squatchin’.”

“We touch a little bit on the popular culture side because that’s most people’s initiation into the subject,” Cliff said. “Don’t get me wrong. I love the fun. I love the quirkiness. I love the ridiculous as well, but I also take it very seriously.”

Oregon is a hotbed of reported Bigfoot activity, and Clackamas County — where the museum and the Barackmans make their home –– has more reported sightings than any county in the state. Cliff noted that Timothy Lake, particularly the south side, has had numerous Bigfoot reports.

Potential Bigfoot spotters can also seek out places with suspicious names: Devil’s Meadow on Zigzag Mountain, Ogre Creek on the Collawash River, and Tarzan Springs near the Granite Peaks Viewpoint have all had reported Bigfoot sightings.

“All throughout the Mount Hood National Forest, there are great locations to go Bigfooting,” Cliff said.

On his days off from the museum, Cliff is often out in the woods. He creates videos of witness interviews and ongoing field research, shared twice a month as bonuses for museum members. He speaks at Bigfoot and cryptid conventions across the country. He and Bobo from the TV show also have a weekly podcast, “Bigfoot & Beyond with Cliff and Bobo.”

“I live a very Bigfoot-centric life,” Cliff admits.

Outside of her Bigfoot work, Melissa creates film props, with a specialty in severed limbs for horror movies. On the side, she’s a storm spotter. In June, she had just returned from a tornado-chasing trip in Texas.

“I think the theme of our family is we like monsters,” she said.

The Barackmans hope to eventually create a nonprofit arm of the North American Bigfoot Center that can conserve their growing collection.

“The first generation of Bigfooters — that’s what we call ourselves — they’re either dead or dying,” Cliff said. “And what happens to their research collection when they do pass on? Sometimes the heirs of these collections don’t know what to do with them, or don’t even think Sasquatches are real, so they get thrown out. Whether it’s newspaper clippings or interviews or taped interviews or videos, … there’s such a rich history here that needs to be preserved.”

IF YOU GO: The North American Bigfoot Center, 31297 S.E. U.S. Hwy. 26 in Boring, is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Museum admission is $8 for adults; $6 for seniors, veterans and children under 12; and free for children 5 and younger. For more information, visit northamericanbigfootcenter.com.

©2024 Advance Local Media LLC. Visit oregonlive.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

What’s Cliff from ‘Finding Bigfoot’ up to now? He’s got a Bigfoot museum in Oregon - The Daily Chronicle (2024)
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