Brent Swancer January 6, 2022
The U.S. state of California certainly has its fair share of strangeness. From haunted places, to UFOs, to lost treasures and beyond, there seems to be no end to the mysteries this place holds. Certainly ranking high among these are all of the strange and bizarre mystery beasts said to prowl the wildernesses here, with some of them even weirder than others. Here we get into tales of the various desert dwelling ape-men, bipedal humanoids with goat horns, and reptilian lizard-men that supposedly lurk here.
One of the more well-known cases of strange encounters with humanoid beasts in the wilds of California comes to us from the remote Anza-Borrego Desert, which is a vast wasteland that sprawls out over 585 thousand acres of San Diego County. Within this sun scorched, burning wilderness is a place called Borrego Sink, 45 mi SE of Borrego Springs, California, from where there have long been reported terrifying encounters between man and mystery beast that is reported as being 8 feet tall, covered in yellowish to white hair, and has come to be called the “Borrego Sandman.” Natives of the region have long had stories of such creatures, but it really came to the public’s attention in April of 1876, when a prospector by the name of Turner Helm came across one of the beasts at a place called Deadman’s Hole, located 7 miles from Warner Springs on Hwy 79, and scared it off with his rifle when it began to approach him in a threatening manner. In another incident at Deadman’s Hole, a string of vicious, unsolved murders supposedly occurred back in the 19th century that have long been blamed on a malicious, marauding Sasquatch. In 1858 the first victim was killed under mysterious circumstances, followed by more slayings over the years; a Frenchman who was slaughtered in his cabin, a prospector named David Blair who was killed by what looked like a knife attack, and a woman named Belinda who was strangled and mutilated.
Image by Steve Baxter
The story may have just been chalked up to an insane killer on the rampage had it not been for a curious story that surfaced in 1888. Two hunters were out hunting in an area known as Dark Canyon when they came across a cave full of the scattered remains of various mutilated animals. As they investigated the dank cave, the hunters reported being attacked by a huge, man-like beast covered in matted black hair and with huge hands and feet. According to the hunters, they opened fire on the beast and killed it, after which its body was apparently moved to San Diego and shown to police. At the time, a paper called the San Diego Union ran the story and claimed that the rampaging mystery creature had been the one responsible for the murders, causing quite a public stir in the process. Oddly, the paper ran a story the following day dismissing the article as a mere April Fool’s joke. It is unknown if there was ever really a body or if the creature really existed, but what is known is that the mysterious murders remain unsolved.
Another incident occurred in 1939, when a man was camping alone in one of the many dry gulches of the area. The man was awoken in the middle of the night by a band of two-legged hairy creatures stalking about his camp on the fringes of the campfire’s light. The beasts were described as having white or silver fur and possessed piercing red eyes that glowed in the dark. The pack of creatures circled the camp menacingly for some time but seemed to be somewhat afraid of the fire and kept their distance until they finally slunk off back into the desert. In more modern times, in 1964 there was the case of a father and son who were camping in the area when they were accosted by a “shabby ape like beast” with white fur that hurled rocks at them. In 1968 in the same region, a man by the name of Harold Lancaster had his own frightening encounter as he was camping in a place called the Sink. Lancaster described how an enormous, hair covered, bipedal creature stalked out of the wilderness and lumbered straight towards him in an intimidating manner. The man, fearing that he was about to be attacked, fired his revolver into the air in an effort to scare the monster away. Whatever the creature was, the gunshots did the trick and the thing reportedly jumped around 3 feet into the air before glaring at Lancaster and running off into the brush. In the 1960s there would be another encounter widely publicized, in which a Charles Cox and Edward Dean supposedly hunted the beast down and shot and killed it, although what happened to the body is a mystery.
Image by Steve Baxter
Such sightings of hairy creatures in the desert wilderness have been reported in California as well. Around this time there was a string of sightings of all sorts of strange phenomena near the Edward’s Air Force Base, about 22 miles (35 km) northeast of Lancaster, in the Antelope Valley of the western Mojave Desert in Southern California. Here there were numerous reports of base personnel sighting hulking humanoid figures in the dark, which allegedly used a series of underground tunnels to move about. Oddly, there were many purported UFO sightings in the area at the same time, but whether or not this has any connection is unknown. One of the more far-out reports from the base was collected by Bigfoot researcher Edwards Bobbie Ann Slate, and concerned one of the creatures that apparently had bright blue eyes. The report was given by a base policeman, who said:
Heading back to the main base, I noticed maybe 200-300 yards to my left, these large blue eyes. I do a lot of night hunting and it was strange — they were larger than anything I’d ever seen before. The [blue eyes] had to be about four inches apart and seven feet off the ground. I stopped the truck and sat there watching them. It was too dark to see any body shape to the thing. The blue glows proceeded toward my truck at a right angle for about 100 yards and then stopped. The movement of the eyes was extremely fast. Another thing that bothered me was that they didn’t bob up and down. It was like two lights on a wire moving from one point to another.
This particular creature, nicknamed “Blue Eyes,” has apparently been regularly seen by base police and has been widely discussed amongst them right up into the present. Several other personnel at the remote desert base at the time also came forward to anonymously report that large, Bigfoot-like creatures had been routinely spotted through night-vision equipment skirting the perimeter of the base, often with red glowing eyes, walking through it, or even venturing into the many underground tunnels in the area. The witnesses explained that the presence of the creatures was officially classified, and that they had been specifically ordered not to fire upon them. There had allegedly been several instances of catching the creatures on surveillance cameras at the base, but this footage was labeled as classified and never released to the public.
In 1973, there were many sightings of the creature in the area of Lancaster as well, such as a sighting made by three separate Marines and other disparate witnesses as well. It got to the point where in this year there was a near tragedy when two search parties were out Bigfoot hunting in the wake of the mysterious reports and almost opened fire on each other. Sightings in the vicinity continued, and in 1979 there was an account given by an elderly couple, who claimed that the beast had stepped right out in front of their car to tower over the vehicle, before lumbering off into the night, leaving enormous tracks behind. In that same year there were two additional sightings from Hemet, California, of a massive 10-foot-tall creature that left behind footprints a foot and a half long.
Image by Steve Baxter
One of the most bizarre and unsolved cases of a desert humanoid creature of some sort is an enormous beast that has come to be known as the Yucca Man. The tales seem to originate in the 1960s, in the vicinity of the of the Twentynine Palms military base, located in the Mojave Desert of southeastern California and southern Nevada. Here in this remote, desolate location there would be a series events that has remained unexplained for decades, and which hints at some sort of desert-roaming humanoid entity. The first sighting that really put the phenomenon on the map allegedly occurred in 1971, when a Marine from the base who was on guard duty reported hearing something out in the desert scrub, which sounded like heavy breathing from some very large creature, as well as grunts and growls seemingly circling his guard station. When he warily went out to investigate, expecting to see some wild animal, he claimed to have been confronted by a gigantic, 8-foot-tall hairy ape-like creature with glowing red eyes. In some versions of this account the Marine is knocked down by the beast, only to awaken hours later and find his rifle twisted and bent like a pretzel.
This would be far from the last anyone would here of the strange creature, with frequent reports of dogs going haywire, and of hikers encountering a fetid stench beginning to come in at a steady rate in the following years, and there was a spate of such odd occurrences at Joshua Tree National Park throughout the early 70s, with numerous campers telling of a large beast rummaging through their campsites and even attempting to open their tents, as well as park employees telling of sighting monstrous man-like forms prowling the desert that were estimated as being up to 12 feet tall. There were also massive footprints found and several indistinct, predictably blurry pictures of the creature or creatures were taken. Such sightings made their way into several Southern California news publications at the time, and one June, 1973 report from the Antelope Valley Daily Ledger-Gazette described the creature and some reports thus:
The creature likes to run around houses and leaving footprints. That is its MO in the East Lancaster area where footprints were found around several houses recently. One woman reported that the creature ran around her house and scratched at the door. A small boy sent to tell his father supper was ready was found hours later crying near the corral. When asked what happened to him, he answered that a big, furry man would not let him pass.
Image by Steve Baxter
Weird stuff, to be sure. Another desert dwelling monster apparently dwells in the around the area of Santa Paula in Ventura County, and which is reported as being a bizarre hulking brute with long claws, gray hair, and ram-like horns on the top of its head. Called the “Billiwhack Monster” because it was often seen at the Wheeler Canyon Road near what once was the Billiwhack Dairy and Ranch, it has been apparently sighted since the 1940s. The creature is supposedly very aggressive, lobbing heavy rocks at vehicles and carrying around a large club that it is apparently unafraid to use. In the 1950s and 60s there were reports of the creature accosting and attacking motorists and hikers through the area, and there were even reports of people engaging the beast with firearms, to little effect. A lot of lore would build up around the monster, mostly related to the history of Billiwhack Dairy and Ranch, which was established in 1924 by Swiss immigrant August Rubel, who had served in the American Field Service in France from 1917 to 1919. Legend has it that he was also involved with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), which was the precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency, and that he was involved with some sort of secret experiments at the farm in a complex of tunnels and secret rooms rumored to be buried away beneath the earth there. The story goes that when Rubel went off to fight again the ranch became abandoned and the creature escaped to roam the countryside. The reports of the creature would peter out and stop in the 1960s, and we are left to wonder just what the monster was, and if this is all pure urban legend or something else.
Bigfoot-like creatures are one thing, but altogether stranger are reports of what seem to be some sort of reptilian lizard people. In 1958, there was a sighting of just such a beast near Riverside, California. On November 8, 1958, a witness named Charles Wetzel spotted a bipedal, reptilian like creature as he was driving on North Main Street near the Santa Ana River. The monster was described as standing 6 feet high, with “scaly, leaf like skin,” two long spindly arms, no nose, no ears, bright eyes, and a beak like mouth, and it also was apparently very aggressive, attacking Wetzel’s car and even jumping on the hood to claw at the windshield. He would claim that he had managed to shake it off and run over it, but no body would be left behind. The very next night, another motorist would report that a dark, reptilian figure had also attacked his car as he had passed through, which would allegedly leave claw marks behind on the vehicle. The creature would not be seen after this, leaving us to wonder just what was going on here.
Such cases seems to show that there are certainly some strange humanoid creatures supposedly prowling the wilds of California. What are they and where did they come from? Are they undiscovered creatures of some sort, aliens, interdimensional interlopers, all of the above, or merely hoaxes and figments of the imagination? There is no way to really know, and they certainly add to the many strange phenomena that call the Golden State home.