Yucca Man: This desert Sasquatch has many a name, the Sierra Highway Devil, the Borrego Sandman, or the Speedway Monster to name a few. But no matter what you call it, if you ask the people of Southern California their thoughts, they'll likely tell you something mysterious certainly lurks about the desert. TAP TO GET PODCAST
Whether you call it the Bigfoot, the Cement Monster, the Sierra Highway Devil, Blue Eyes, the Borrego Sandman, Hairy Devils, the Speedway Monster, or simply Yucca Man, California is no stranger to Sasquatch encounters. And if you ask SoCal residents their thoughts on the Yucca man, they will tell you something mysterious lurks about in the desert.
They found him the next morning recovering consciousness and rattled to the core. Early that chilly February morning, a few soldiers were on their way to relieve the young man stationed on overnight guard duty at the gate of Twentynine Palms Marine base. But when they approached his post, they found him trembling on the ground, mumbling what seemed like delusions under his breath. They helped the man up and got him back to safety, where after calming down, he recounted this frightening tale:
The young man had been at his post for a few hours, settling into a long, frost night of staring out into the dark, nothing. But as his mind wandered, he snapped back to reality when he heard the most awful, raspy breathing followed by footsteps that began to circle his position. Alerted and curious, he stepped out of the guard booth, sidearm drawn, and walked to the edge of the clearing around his post. That’s when the breathing stopped, hung in a suspenseful focus… Then the forest floor came alive with the sound of something massive crashing through the forest at a dead sprint. The man whipped towards the sound and caught but a glimpse of a massive, hairy monstrosity barreling toward him. And that’s the last thing he remembered until his fellow marines found him the next morning. And to be honest, it would seem a hard tale for a group of men to believe. That is, had it not been for the rifle they found laying next to the guard shack, strap torn from the young man’s shoulder and barrel bent almost completely in half.
Later that same evening, two similar sightings occurred in the adjacent neighborhood. One couple claimed to see two of these monstrous beasts bounding across their yard late one night when they looked out their window to see what their dogs were barking at, and then again, a local farmer noticed one of these creatures standing next to his horse corral. But these weren’t the first sightings in the area.
Since the 1950s, residents of southern California have had run-ins with an 8-foot-tall humanoid with long, shaggy fur commonly referred to as the Yucca Man. This So-Cal Sasquatch of the desert has been known to terrorize lone individuals, attack military personnel, and leave a myriad of tracks around people’s homes, causing a reasonable amount of panic in some California communities through the decades. And as new development pushed further from the coast and into the dryer regions of the state, the sightings only grew more frequent.
Across Apple Valley and Big Bear, from Edwards to Joshua Tree, this 150-mile stretch of mountains and desert has had its share of run-ins with different monsters, all sharing a similar description.
It seems to have started, at leas tin part, back in 1955. That’s when Mickey Thompson’s Fontana Dragway opened and quickly became a racing haven, drawing in drag race fans from across the nation. But if the stories are true, it also drew in something much more mysterious as well.
It was a normal day at the track. Over 2,000 onlookers watched as drag racers blistered down the concrete stretch pushing over 200 mph. But it wasn’t just the cars that drew their attention. As spectators glanced up, they noticed someone, or rather thing – walking along the edge of the track. It walked like a man but was covered from head to toe in thick, shaggy hair. It scaled some length of the track before turning and zig-zagging off into the distant field.
Over the following decades of the track’s operation, a dozen or so sightings of the “Speedway Monster” were reported, all following a similar pattern, yet no one was ever able to get across the speedway in enough time to catch up to the creature. And even after the speedway closed, sightings around the area continued. In 1991, local residents Mr. and Mrs. Davis noted heavy footsteps out around their farmhouse late one evening. “The footfalls were so heavy-sounding the house shook,” Mrs. Davis recounted. Their youngest son told them that following morning that he thought he saw a large, gray ape walking around outside his bedroom window, and when Mr. John Davis went out the next morning to inspect what might have happened, he found that his fence had been pulled up out of the ground and some of his chickens were crushed flat like they were stomped on by a large foot. In his words, “It was as if something played hopscotch on those birds”
Later the following year, just down the road from the Davis residence, numerous separate groups of people reported seeing not one but an entire family of large, furry, bipedal creatures crossing over the train tracks towards the edge of town by the local ace hardware store. Maybe they decided they should’ve fixed the Davis’ fence from the year before.
A year after the Fontana speedway closed due to a string of accidents at the track, a new collection of sightings cropped up 70 or so miles northeast in Lancaster. In March of 73, a babysitter on her way home and a group of three marines separately on the same night reported seeing a large, hairy man on the edge of town.
The Antelope Valley Daily Ledger-Gazette ran an article that June titled, “Bigfoot Surfaces Again In Palmdale, Nine-Mile Canyon.”. Journalist Chuck Wheeler goes on to write, “The creature likes to run around houses and leave 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.”
Following the influx of sightings, two separate Bigfoot investigative groups took to Lancaster to try and score evidence for themselves. But in July, they were forced to disband after one group stumbled upon the other in the middle of the night, and in their overstimulated haste, one crew began shooting at the other, mistaking them for a family of Sasquatch. (Seriously, I kid you not.) The group on the receiving end was able to take cover and call out, just barely avoiding becoming the hunted themselves. Fortunately, no one was physically harmed.
Even still, people report run-ins with the Sierra Highway Devil, as it has been locally named. Every report seems to follow a similar flow: The driver spots a large, hairy humanoid running alongside highway 14 toward Pearblossom. And conveniently, there’s a commuter lot right at that intersection should you care to go and stake out the area for yourself. Heck, maybe you will see the Sierra Highway Devil yourself. He might even ask you for a ride into town.
There seems to be a common thread in many of these stories around US military personnel and strange sightings, and if there’s any credence to that connection, then the sightings just 30 miles north at Edwards Air Force Base are icing on the cake.
Edwards Air Force Base is no stranger to high strangeness. Between the numerous test aircraft that have first taken flight here and the secretive maze of underground tunnels that stretch far below, Edwards had a rap as a mysterious place even without the wild accounts witnessed within its borders. But we aren’t here to talk about the birth of the supersonic fighter jet or the cargo-hauling behemoths like the c130 Hercules (which about 20 fly over my head daily). Because while new aviation advancements were taking to the skies overhead, a much more ancient and mysterious force seemed to inhabit the lands below.
Over the years, countless security personnel have reported catching glimpses of large, hairy, bipedal creatures around some of the most sensitive areas of the air base. Sometimes alone, other times traveling in groups, these creatures almost seem to disappear and reappear spontaneously from one area to the next. The common theory is that they are using those tunnels given that the ground-level exits are where they are most often lost on camera, only to reappear sometime later near another exit. And can we just stop and dwell on the idea of a group of yucca-men, Bigfoot-like creatures using the partially abandoned tunnel system from a pre-World War II air base for travel? That would make a killer five nights at Freddy’s sequel.
But as crazy as it sounds, this is exactly what has been reported time and time again.
Bigfoot researcher Bobbie Ann Slate even gathered a handful of these stories from police on base to keep an open record. One record stating the following sighting: 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 of the thing. The blue glows proceeded toward my truck at a right angle for about 100 yards and then stopped. As an overpowering stench filled the desert air, Sgt. House saw the huge blue eyes again, now just 50 yards away. “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.”
Reports of “Blue Eyes,” the name given to the creature often spotted on Edwards Air Base, were finally acknowledged officially in 2009. That’s when the base newsletter inside Edwards ran a story on the reunion of the 6510th Air Police Squadron officers, recounting their time serving on base from 1973-1979. And, of course, they had plenty of Blue Eyes stories to go around.
But Edwards Air Base wasn’t just home to the Yucca Man. There were numerous run-ins with a phantom noise coined “Marvin of the Mojave” that was said to leave size ten sneaker tracks around the base. And then there were the mysterious UFO sightings, something you’d almost come to expect over a secret air force base. These extra-terrestrial orbs were said to streak across the night sky before hovering and then blinking out.
But that little bit about aliens and mysterious lights isn’t included in this episode just to spice things up. Because we found a fascinating connection to a much more native, ancient belief about these hairy Devils and those glowing orbs – one that’s worth exploring a bit deeper.
When Spanish missions began to settle the Los Angeles Valley area, The Native Tongva People living around the Santa Ana River told them tales of the Takwis. The Takwis were described as tall, bipedal, hairy creatures that roamed the countryside. The Tawkis, literally translating to “Hairy Devils,” were creatures the Tongva people did their best to avoid, staying away from the Tahquitz Canyon, which still holds that name to this day. Though, now Tahquitz Canyon is more a destination hike than a feared home to a predator ape-man. These Takwis were often viewed as an omen or, worse yet, some form of ancient shaman that had no respect for human life.
But what I find to be interesting is the belief that these ancient beings, when not in their physical form, would take the form of bright green balls of light that would streak across the night sky – not unlike how our Edwards Air Base Blue Eyes often disappeared without a trace and would often be followed by sightings of strange lights in the darkened sky. I’m not normally a proponent of the whole, Bigfoot came down in a UFO bit, but hey, if it worked for the natives, maybe it can work for us too.
And just when you’d think there couldn’t possibly be more experiences with this Yucca Man, Even more sightings came forward.
In May of 1979, a young couple was leaving their apartment just north of Palm Springs when a large, hairy creature stepped out from behind a large Yucca tree that was adjacent to their car. The driver noted that the creature had “a chest the size of a refrigerator and arms that hung down below its knees.” And that it was covered in tan-colored hair.
Later that same year in Hemet, two separate accounts of a large, 12-foot, ape-like creature were documented, accompanied by 17 separate tracks, each measuring 18 inches in length and spaced around 6 feet apart.
Close to a decade later, in 1988,
In March of 1988, two Marines were returning to Twentynine Palms base from Big Bear ski resort after a much-needed vacation when they witnessed a large, hairy shadow next to the entrance to an old Cole mine. Ken Fox, one of the Marines, wrote, “From the left side of the road, something very large seemed to stand up on two legs and run across the road. The bottom half looked human, covered with hair. The top half wasn’t very visible but appeared monsters, scary in other words. The headlights only got the bottom half, and the damn thing ran out about 150 feet in front of us. It made it across the road in three strides. I distinctly remember seeing the arms pumping back and forth, just like any of us would do if sprinting across the road in front of a car. It appeared to be 8 feet tall.” Ken’s friend recognized the creature to be what had been coined the Cement Monster due to the proximity of sightings near the local cement factory. The duo attempted to pursue the beast but lost it not long after.
More recently, in 1999, this report came in: Over Easter break, I was camping and rock climbing at Joshua Tree with two friends. We stayed in the Hidden Valley Campground. At some point during the trip, I took a picture of our campsite, which was backed up against large rocks with a famous climb overhead. Between the rocks was a deep crevice (although not a full cave). You guessed it. When the pictures were returned to me, there was a primate-type face peering out of the darkness of the crevice. It wasn’t super clear, but distinct enough that everyone I showed it to notice it. I showed it to a friend who used to ranger at Joshua Tree, and she said, “That might be Yucca Man,” which was the first I had heard of him.
And then, if all that isn’t enough, if you travel a short distance south to the Borrego Desert, there are a whole host of other sightings of what is locally referred to as the Borrego Sandman. And honestly, these tales could be a whole episode in and of themselves, but to name a couple:
In 1876 a prospector named Turner Helm supposedly witnessed a large, bipedal, white, hairy creature near Deadman’s Hole. He attempted to communicate with the beast in multiple languages but when it became aggressive, he pulled out his rifle and scared it away with a warning shot.
Supposedly in 1888, Charles Cox and Edward Dean killed one of these creatures, but a body was never revealed.
In 1939 a local shop owner claimed a group of these desert snowmen approached his campsite but wouldn’t come near the fire he had lit.
Then in 1964, a father and son out hiking claimed to stumble across the shaggy beast and startle it, causing it to hurl rocks at them until they retreated back the way they came.
And the list goes on and on and on. And normally here on Cryptids Across the Atlas, we do our best to offer a skeptical view but in all honesty, what more could be said? Hundreds, if not thousands, of people over centuries worth of time have reported seeing a similar thing in a relatively small area. Could there be a band of wild men out there in the desert? Was it a mirage? Dehydration? Exhaustion? A bear? A Prank? A dehydrated bear playing a prank? – Sure, any of those are possible. But whether you call it Bigfoot, the Cement Monster, the Sierra Highway Devil, Blue Eyes, the Borrego Sandman, Hairy Devils, the Speedway Monster, or simply Yucca Men, I think it is safe to say that there is something out in the desert of California and if the stories are true, despite our curiousness, I think it would prefer to be left alone.
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Thanks for touring Cryptids Across the Atlas. Until next time, keep your eyes open. You never know what you might see just on the edge of the road.