Posted by: Craig Woolheater on July 17th, 2013
‘Huge, scary, aggressive, fast, and threatening’. These terms are used to describe several Bigfoot-like creatures said to inhabit the desert regions of southern California. These mysterious giant apes go by many different names, The Borrego Sandman, The Speedway Monster, Zoobies, Devils, and the Yucca Man.
It may come to the surprise of those who follow stories about Bigfoot and other mysterious creatures that the first report of these creatures by European settlers did not come from the East Coast, Midwest, or even the Pacific Northwest. It actually came from southern California. In 1769, Spanish priests founded the first mission in San Diego. Local Gabrieleno Indians told the padres about “harry devils” that lived nearby. In fact according to written accounts, the Indians lived in fear of these large, foul-smelling, “wild-men” and refused to anywhere near their reported home called “towis puki” (camp of the devil) on the southern bank of the Santa Ana River.
The area of “Deadmans Hole” near Holcomb Village, just west of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park was a water stop on the old Stagecoach lines during the mid to late 1800s, and is the reported site of several alleged murders blamed on Bigfoot. In 1876, one the passengers who ventured out of the safety of the coach while it’s horses stopped to take a drink reported seeing a large, naked, hairy “thing” watching him from behind some scruff. After that, several people met their demise at the site, either strangled or beaten to death by an unknown person or thing. They blamed the monster of course, regardless of the fact if it actually killed them or not.
In April of 1876, the San Diego Union reported an encounter with a “missing link” near Warner’s Ranch, also west of Anza-Borrego, by a young man named
Turner Helm. According to Helm, the creature had dark fur like a bear and a face like an American or Spaniard.
In March 1888, two local hunters, Charles Cox and Edward Dean, set out to hunt down the monster and finally put an end to the murders. According to the San Diego Daily Transcript the pair found, and killed, what they were looking for. A creature described as a gorilla with the face of an Indian and fangs like a bear. The creatures’ body was to be transported to San Diego where it was to be on public display but mysteriously disappeared before arrival.
Undoubtedly, it was the discovery of gold deposits that first lured the white man to this desolate area and it is from one of these fortune hunters that the first report of Bigfoot or the Borrego Sandman as it has been called in these parts, originated. Reportedly in 1939 a prospector, who when interviewed in the 1970s wished to remain anonymous, was attacked by a large group of ‘upright-walking-apes’ as he camped near the Borrego Sink. The frightened man described the creatures as very large, covered in white fur, with glowing red eyes. The only thing said to have saved the man was the fact that the monsters were afraid of his campfire.
Another report of giant footprints from that same general area came from a man named Victor Stoyanow in 1964. His story, re-told in a famous article in SAGA magazine entitled, ‘America’s Terrifying Woodland Monster-men’ in 1969. The piece also featured the story of Harold Lancaster, a miner who encountered the Sandman in 1968. Here is an excerpt:
“Gold prospectors and treasure hunters frequently seek their lost bonanzas in isolated areas. Since 1964, treasure hunters in the Borrego Valley desert in California have whispered about “the Abominable Sandmen of Borrego.” The arid area is near the Mexican border, it is virtually uninhabited. There are many fissures, caves, and crevasses in the Superstition Mountain region and prospectors say the Cocopah Indians have told of a subterranean labyrinth under the mountain, Maj. Victor Stoyanow was seeking an access into the Superstition Hills in January 1964, when he noticed large, humanoid tracks in the sand dunes. “The prints ran in pairs, generally parallel and averaged about 14 inches in length, and nine wide at the instep,” Major Stoyanow declared. He returned to the desert on several other occasions, made plaster casts of the prints, and snapped photographs. “Curious as I am, I hope that the person who discovers what kind of beast it is doesn’t happen to be me.” Major Stoyanow said after his thorough investigation into the tracks.
The San Diego Union ran an unverifiable article some years ago of a “sandman” that was shot by hunter Frank Cox at Deadman’s Hole, near Warner, California in San Diego County. The beast, described as a cross between ‘a man and a bear’. The head was rather small, with protruding teeth and powerful jaws. The muscular creature had feet that measured 24 inches in length and the body weight estimated to be 400 pounds. Harold Lancaster, treasure hunter, was prospecting in the Borrego Sink, east of the settlement of Borrego Springs, California in July 1968, when he saw a ‘sandman.’ “I was camped up on a mesa one morning when I saw a man walking in the desert,” he reported. “The figure came closer and I thought it was another prospector. Then, I picked up my binoculars and saw the strangest sight in my life. It was a real giant ape-man,” Lancaster said. “I had heard about the screaming giant ape-man up in Tuolumne County that frightened people for a couple of years. Another person and I even went up there to look for the thing. I decided it was a hoax and never expected to actually see one.” As the “sandman” drew closer, Lancaster became worried. “That thing was big. I was no match for it,” he reported. “I had a .22 pistol on my hip but it would have been like shooting at a gorilla with a pea shooter. I was afraid the beast might get too close. So, I fired a couple of rounds into the air. The sandman jumped a good three feet off the ground when the sounds of the shots reached him. He turned his head, looked toward me, and then took off running in the other direction! “Why didn’t Lancaster shoot the alleged sandman? “ I was afraid,” he admitted. “They should be protected. They are a form of a human, a primitive species. It would be murder to kill one. They should be studied.”
Read the rest of the article here.
Co-founder of Cryptomundo in 2005. I have appeared in or contributed to the following TV programs, documentaries and films: OLN's Mysterious Encounters: "Caddo Critter", Southern Fried Bigfoot, Travel Channel's Weird Travels: "Bigfoot", History Channel's MonsterQuest: "Swamp Stalker", The Wild Man of the Navidad, Destination America's Monsters and Mysteries in America: Texas Terror - Lake Worth Monster, Animal Planet's Finding Bigfoot: Return to Boggy Creek and Beast of the Bayou.