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SoCal’s Abominable Sandpeople

Posted by: Loren Coleman on October 26th, 2007

Do Bigfoot roam Southern California?

Ken Coon, a former deputy sheriff for Los Angeles County collected many stories during the 1960s and 1970s, and most source material goes back to him. It appears one well-known paperback writer from that era used some of Coon’s material.

Warren Smith in his 1970 book Strange Abominable Snowmen wrote about the “Abominable Sandman of Borrego,” regarding a hominoid that terrorized treasure hunters and gold prospectors in the isolated Borrego Valley desert of California.

Unfortunately, Smith had a tendency to first lift material uncredited (as from Coon) and the fictionalize his “expert” sources, so I am not sure how trustworthy such quotation as the following one is about the elusive “Sandman”:

Major Victor Stoyanow was seeking the entrance to [an underground] labyrinth in this area in January 1964, when he noticed several huge, human-like footprints in the sand. “The prints ran in pairs, generally parallel and they averaged 14 centimeters in length and 9 wide at the instep,” Major Stoyanow declared after his investigation.” by Warren Smith, Strange Abominable Snowmen, page 91.

Likewise, what Smith wrote about the “Abominable Sandman of Borrego” in the July 1969 issue of Saga may or may not contain material that needs to be double-checked for something of worth:

As my continuing research seems to point out there is defiantly a connection between the underground cavern and tunnels systems and the elusive creature know as Bigfoot.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 was 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 was 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. 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 apeman,” Lancaster said. “I had heard about the screaming giant apeman 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’re a form of a human, a primitive species. It would be murder to kill one. They should be studied.” – Warren Smith

As Brad Steiger recently told me, Smith had a tendency to make up “experts” so his publishers would be happy with what he submitted. It is doubtful if a “Major Stoyanow” ever existed.

Ken Coon’s files contained much that he did share with other researchers. I remember him sending out typed carbon copies of his lists and findings long, long ago. Coon was in contact with many of us, because he was so active.

John Green devotes most of his chapter 16, “So Close to Hollywood,” in Sasquatch: The Apes Among Us to Ken’s material. Re-read it, folks.

Ken Coon did discover some gems from Southern California, and was one of the first to write of three-toed tracks often being recently found there. Ken in later year would call these “Sandpeople” by the name “Zoobies.” Ken also came across old records too.

For example, there was the 1939 report from Borrego Sink, California, about a man prospecting alone in that desolate area one night. The prospector was confronted by a pack of hairy, two-legged creatures covered with silvery white hair, and eyes that appeared to glow in the light of the man’s fire. The creatures surrounded his camp and menaced the prospector for some time but were kept at bay by the blazing campfire.

Don’t forget, furthermore, it was soon after the Jerry Crew – Bluff Creek activity in 1958 that the first major media strange creature flap occurred in Southern California, when Charlie Wetzel’s car was attacked by something near Riverside, California, in November 1958. Wetzel’s car was crossing a small overflow on the road at the time, so a flashflood may have driven that bizarre bipedal beast in his direction.

Lizardman

About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013.


17 Responses to “SoCal’s Abominable Sandpeople”

  1. scotsman responds:

    Did anybody ever call this guy Coon on his alleged expert material? It seems that mixing those kind of ficticious sources with geniune material is somewhat more of a story teller than a true investigator of cryptozoology. Although I am not an expert of the subject and have only recently become interested in the subject enough to pursue literature, so therefore I guess my opinion is a little underweighted.

    But still its nice to learn of a new type of cryptid that I had never known about previously. “Zoobies” I quite like that actually, simple, non aggressive, neutral. Good name for a cryptid.

  2. mystery_man responds:

    This brings up a theme that has been brought up here before, and that is the idea of a desert dwelling Bigfoot. It is interesting to speculate about.

    Large primates are not usually found in arid areas, but it would not be unprecedented. There is a troop of baboons in the Namib desert of Africa that seem to have become uniquely adapted to life in an arid desert environment, and able to go extraordinarily long lengths of time without water. Most of their moisture is procured from eating figs. This lack of steady water supply has affected all aspects of troop life, from activity cycles and aggression, all the way to even reproductive cycles. Granted baboons are a far cry from Bigfoot, but it does show the remarkable ability of some species to adapt to a different environment. These sasquatch may not have necessarily evolved in the desert, but for whatever reason have managed to make it their home. Branching out like this into a new habitat could also lead to speculation and a new type of geographically isolated Bigfoot. Interesting to speculate about. I would like to know the reasons for taking that route, as it is not typically a productive habitat for a large primate to find itself in, but I suppose it is possible.

    Another possibility is that they don’t actually live in the desert, but rather make forays into it. For what reason is anybody’s guess. I am interested to hear anyone else’s ideas on it. As for the stories above, I am a little suspicious about the tendency for Smith to make up experts. To me this detracts from his credibility quite a bit and I wonder how accurately we can sort out where the fabrication ends and any real information begins? Anyway, fascinating story nonetheless.

  3. scotsman responds:

    Yeah I find that his credibility is lacking due to a little bit of fiction thrown in here and there.

  4. Loren Coleman responds:

    Scotsman’s comments make me think my writings above have confused, at least, him. So, for further clarification:

    Ken Coon was a great researcher and his historical and modern material is well-documented. As I noted, re-read Green to examine a good record of Coon’s legacy.

    I recorded here the more easily accessible and thus often repeated popular culture outpourings of Warren Smith works, as per his Strange Abominable Snowman paperback and his Saga article. I did this because Smith’s popularizing of the “Abominable Sandman” name has lived on longer than Coon’s “Zoobies.”

    Also, this seemed like a good opportunity if I was going to place Southern California material here to question that part of it that has come down to us from Warren Smith.

    There are reports from Southern California, and Ken Coon’s materials are not the ones that should be challenged. But the ones changed by Smith need to be cleansed, that’s for sure. Smith, the writer, fictionalized and enhanced the material he took from Coon. Okay?

    I hope that’s clearer.

  5. mystery_man responds:

    Sorry, typo in my post above. I meant to say that branching out to a new habitat could lead to “speciation” and a new type of bigfoot. Not “speculation”. Doh.

  6. Saint Vitus responds:

    I remember reading about the Wetzel incident in the Weird California book. The creature was described as a “pumpkin-headed ghoul” or something like that. Creepy! It also said that people with the name Wetzel seem to be prone to seeing weird things.

  7. Loren Coleman responds:

    The Weird California account may have made it a bit more fantastic than it really was.

    As to the Wetzel name game, you can find that discussed in the archives here and in an expanded version in my book, Mysterious America, ha ha, since I’m the source of those findings!

    Ah, it’s a small world, isn’t it?

  8. Bob K. responds:

    Apparently Edwards AFB in SoCal has been a hot bed of nocturnal Desert Sasquatch activity, dating back to the 70s. These creatures allegedly have been captured on the bases security cameras numerous times, and military personnel are under orders to observe the creatures movements, but not to harm them.

  9. bill green responds:

    hey loren very informative article about abominable sand people or sasquatch. thanks bill green

  10. sschaper responds:

    Does anyone know why the Superstitions got that name?

    Isn’t that where the Lost Dutchman Mine is supposed to be?

    That area wasn’t always arid, as the desert grew following the ice age, animals living in the isolated ranges would have been ‘cut off’. Think of the squirrels in the Kaibab and elsewhere.

    Any large mammal would surely remember where the permanent water supplies were. That’s just to balance the valid con information previously posted.

  11. dogu4 responds:

    I think there’s a bit of a difference in how people are defining desert, and one should keep in mind that the topography of the west has a lot of variation in it which effects the local climates based on exposure and orientation to prevailing winds, sun, and water features. It would seem that a noturnal creature which preys on elk and other 4 leggeds in a place like Nevada and Southern California, particularly one suited to covering a lot of ground, would take advantage of the fact that within a few miles of almost anywhere in the Basin & Range, provided you’re not squarely standing in the middle of a big lake bed, one can go up in elevation in the surrounding mountains and find forests…and if high enough, as one reaches tree-line, alpine tundra including small lakes and even snow in the summer. One’s view of the desert might want to take into account that the Deserts of the US Southwest are not the endless wastes of Arabia’s empty quarter, even if you can find the occasionals aeolean deposits of sand in some locations. I wouldn’t be too surprised if we found that the deserts in the high country of Centarl Asia were similar and that during the pleistocene, there was a lot more arid grassland in northern Eurasia than one might presume based on the taiga forests that cover it now. I think a number of reasons that might explain why we don’t see them in open country is that the can sense us at greater distance first, they are nocturnal, and there aren’t many people travelling and hiking through these desert landscapes. And if one did see a big black or brown body out there, who’d suspect it of being anything but some beef on the hoof. It is open cattle range in lots of places there still.

  12. Abe Lincoln responds:

    Congratulations, Loren, on another fascinating and entertaining post. To correct the record, Major Victor Stoyanow (8/14/21 – 10/19/70) was a flesh and blood American hero who retired to Southern California in the early 1960s. Stoyanow earned a Silver Star for conspicuous gallantry in action with the 8th Marines, 1st Battalion in Korea and later served with distinction as the ballation operations officer gathering intelligence while undercover in Lebanon prior to the Marine landing in Tripoli in 1958. Stoyanow is buried in the Fort Rosencranz National Cemetery at Point Loma, San Diego, County. This information can be verified through Google.

    Brad Steiger may be right about Warren Smith, but Smith’s reference to Major Stoyanow appears to be the real deal.

  13. mystery_man responds:

    Dogu4- Good information as usual. It stands to reason that a creature living in such an environment would likely develop more nocturnal tendencies. I myself wasn’t speculating on Southern California’s habitat specifically. I was just generally illustrating that a sasquatch COULD adapt to harsh environments and that it would not be a first for a species to do that. Of course Southern California’s ecosystem is more complex than that, I was using the stereotypical extremely arid desert as an example only. Those baboons I mentioned, for instance, have adapted to live in one of the most arid climates on Earth. I was just expounding on the biological possibility of it.

  14. scrambeledeggman responds:

    When I used to live in Julian, right outside of Anza-Borrego, the local talk was about “Marvin the Mine Monster” and I met someone who knew someone that had seen it years before on the Reservation.

    There was also a “crazy woman” that lived in the desert at the base of the mountain that claimed that “Marvin” came and thrashed her place all the time. I did not realize that bigfoot reports came from the area, so I did not pay too much attention at the time, but now I wish I had.

  15. Gollum responds:

    dogu4,

    I don’t know where you live, but you obviously don’t know anything about the Anza-Borrego DESERT. There is nowhere within “a few miles” in which one could find any sort of “tree-line, alpine tundra including small lakes and even snow in the summer”??? Sorry. Nothing like that in this area (at least not within a few miles). Every mountain is strictly rock, with some Ocotillo, Smoke Trees, scrub trees, etc. LOTS of Cholla (the most horrible kind of cactus to hikers).

    Regarding Major Victor Stoyanow (Stoyanov); he was indeed a real person, as Abe Lincoln stated. The reason for his being in the Anza-Borrego Desert, was his obsession of hunting down old lost mine stories. Amazingly, this story ABSOLUTELY coincides with the story he was researching at that time. It was the story of a lost mine in the area of the Fish Creek Mountains and the Carrizo Slot, in the SouthEast of the desert. He even had a story published in Desert Magazine in the July 1964 issue. In his article, there is no mention of anything regarding any Sasquatch-like creature.

    Best-
    Mike

  16. Gollum responds:

    In the July 1964 issue, Victor Stoyanow wrote an article SPECIFICALLY about the “Borrego Sandman”. There are even pictures of the prints they found.

    It was a previous article he had written about a lost gold mine that contained no mention of the Sasquatch.

    Thanks

  17. fikuvern responds:

    I grew up in Jamul, CA. We used to hike in the hills above Tecate. We found a short series of footprints on the edge of a remote muddy pond. The prints were human-sized or smaller with strange pin holes in a tight pattern all the way around the foot. We figured it must be from bristly hair all over the foot. Definitely a young inexperienced desert sasquatch. There is a similar report in this area on BFRO for the Boundry Peak area.
    I suspect they walk from pond to pond.



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