As a youngster, Rictor Riolo sat riveted before the TV for an episode of Leonard Nimoy’s “In Search Of …” that looked at the possible existence of Bigfoot, also known as sasquatch.
“It was scary,” the Summerlin resident said. “There’s this monster out there in the dark, in the forest, and as a kid, I was all freaked out.”
But he was also intrigued. That show lit a fire in him, which saw him keeping up with the latest news on the mysterious creature. It prompted him to have a YouTube presence at youtube.com/Rictor, where he comments on recent sightings and interviews those in the quest for proof of Bigfoot.
In 2013, Riolo had a chance to go hunting for Bigfoot on Spike TV’s new reality show, “10 Million Dollar Bigfoot Bounty,” which is slated to begin airing at 10 p.m. Jan 10.
The TV show’s production arm contacted him after seeing his YouTube webcasts and gauged his potential for a show in development.
“They asked me, ‘Why are you interested in Bigfoot?’ Now, I’m openly gay, so I said, ‘He’s big and hairy,’ and they loved it. They were laughing so hard, I knew I had them. What gay man wouldn’t want to be out there looking for Bigfoot?” Riolo quipped.
His answer sealed the deal. Riolo was selected as one of 18 contestants. Shooting took about six weeks for the eight-episode show. Actor Dean Cain is the host.
The contestants were paired in teams of two and sent out into the wilds of Washington, Oregon and Northern California, armed with FLIR cameras, which gauge heat, as well as parabolic microphones, high-definition recorders and other equipment. Then they went off chasing after scat, hoots and hollers.
“It was like ‘The Amazing Race’ mixed with a little bit of ‘Survivorman,’ ” Riolo said.
Riolo’s teammate was Dax Rushlow of Dracut, Mass., who said he’s had two Bigfoot encounters. When he was 7, Rushlow said he was on a sleepover at a friend’s house. He said he happened to look out a second-story window to see a huge creature walking upright across the driveway and head down an embankment to the nearby river.
“I didn’t get a clear view, but I knew it wasn’t a person just from the sheer size of it and from where it went,” said Rushlow, “because I thought, ‘Nobody’s going to walk down there without a flashlight.’ “
Justin Smeja is also on the show. He claims to have shot and killed two sasquatches while hunting but said he left the bodies there when he realized what he’d done.
Being out in the wilderness was new to Riolo. He said he’d gone camping only once, along the banks near Hoover Dam, and just for one night.
“So, I did have some camping experience, just not out in the forest with a big, 8-foot-tall hairy monster that might want to rip me apart,” he said.
But Riolo said he quickly learned to spot game trails, discern which scat was not Bigfoot-worthy, avoid poison oak and think like a woodsman.
“It’s not rocket science,” he said of life in the wild. “You keep your eyes open. You learn to trust your instincts.”
He did say that he wished he’d brought more allergy medicine and mosquito repellent.
Not all of the show is hunting. The contestants were given elimination challenges and also had a chance to get a little silly — Riolo and Rushlow pulled out “Star Wars” light sabers at one point.
Contracts mean Riolo cannot reveal whether Bigfoot was actually found. But he said he’s sure the creatures are out there and that skeptics need to look at all the track casts that have been made and the decades of Native American lore about sasquatches.
“I think the Patterson tape is, hands down, the real deal,” he said. “If you look at the year, 1967, and you look at ‘Planet of the Apes,’ their costumes were so stiff. And that was Hollywood’s best that were making those costumes. … look how silly the ‘Planet of the Apes’ (costumes) look. Nowadays, you’ve got Industrial Light and Magic and (Lucasfilm), and they can create anything now, but back then, you couldn’t.”
The Spike program included an on-location lab to test the teams’ findings. While he could not be specific, Riolo said every team found something of value.
Being on the show has raised interest in his YouTube presence, on which he plans to have Matt Moneymaker of “Finding Bigfoot” appear. Riolo has also upped the ante with a Twitter account, twitter.com/Rictor_Riolo.
So … did someone win the $10 million prize? Bring in proof positive? Did they find prove Bigfoot exists? Riolo’s lips are closed, but his sense of humor was intact.
“All I can say is that no Bigfoot was harmed in the making of the show,” he said.
Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2949.