Mr. Borrego Sandman, Bring Me Canteens

Mr. Borrego Sandman, Bring Me Canteens

The Yeti and abominable snowman have movies, books and a 1991 Windows game. Sasquatch and Bigfoot get movies and an Animal Planet show. Now it's the Borrego Sandman's time to shine like a mirage in the desert!

For hundreds of years, there have been stories of humanoids living in the deserts of San Diego. Internet cryptozoology sites reference a story about “towis puki” (Camp of the Devil). They say the local Native Americans (because Gabrielino is the broad name given to several tribes who were massacred by the Spanish) told the 1769 Spanish missionaries there were “harry devils” by the southern Santa Ana River. This story is unlikely because the tribes did not believe in devils or Hell until forcibly indoctrinated by the Spanish, plus the river dumps in Huntington Beach which isn't really close to San Juan Capistrano. Perhaps there are harry devils in Huntington Beach after all?

However, in 1876, prospectors Turner Helm and his unnamed friend claimed they came upon the “missing link” ten miles east of Warner's ranch. They wrote to the San Diego Union that there was a harry man sitting on a boulder who rose to meet them. They tried to communicate “first in English and then in Spanish, and then in Indian, but the man remained silent.” The harry man started to advance and they drew their guns, which caused the man to run away. This account describes a man “covered all over with coarse black hair, seemingly two or three inches long, like the hair of a bear; his beard and the hair of his head were long and thick; he was a man of medium size, and had rather fine features—not at all like those of an Indian, but more like an American or Spaniard.” To me, it sounds like the poor guy had hypertrichosis, also known as “werewolf syndrome.”

In 1888, following a string of missing people and unsolved murders near Deadman's Hole, Edward Dean and Charles Cox submitted their harrowing tale of an encounter with an ape-man to the San Diego Union. This account tells of “an immense, unwieldy animal, that from a rear view resembled a bear” whose “legs were long, and they were used with such ease and facility in climbing over the rocks and logs, that, on second thought, the animal appeared more like an immense gorrilla. Its hair was dark brown, and it was at least six feet in height. The front legs, from their use, resembled arms, and the beast moved almost uprightly, like a man or monkey. Its body was quite round and covered with extremely long hair” and “entirely devoid of a tail.” Also “the arms and hands of the beast greatly resemble those of a human being.”

Cox and Dean, toot their horn by going on to describe how they pursued, shot and killed the creature. Upon further inspection of the corpse, they decide the facial features “were unmistakably Indian in character,” but the teeth “were plainly those of a carnivorous animal.” Cox and Dean decided the 400 pound creature is clearly the perpetrator of the murders around Warner Springs and intended to take the body to the city, but it conveniently disappeared.

An anonymous prospector describes his 1939 encounter as a pack of giant red-eyed silver-haired beasts that appeared to be afraid of his campfire. Sadly, no one believed him until he was interviewed in the 70's after “well-respected” Harold Lancaster was accosted by a strange desert creature that he shot at

All of the above stories seem to be just that: stories. Maybe even April Fools jokes published by the San Diego Union. Enter Marine Major Victor Stoyanow. An in-depth article from the July 1964 issue of Desert Magazine describes how he was wandering around the desert and came upon splayed three-toed tracks that ran parallel. He returned later with friends to photograph and make plaster molds of the prints, noting a hillside with badger-like claw marks in it.

After the article was published, Anza-Borrego State Park was flooded with tourists. Park Rangers were exhausted from winching stuck cars out of the sand. Editor of Desert Magazine, Choral Pepper, later went in search of the Borrego Sandman. Down in the Borrego Sink, she saw a steer and a dry cow pie. She kicked over the cow pie and saw that the print left by the cow pie resembled the footprint photo taken by Major Stoyanow. To Choral Pepper, that's the end of this Borrego Sandman nonsense.

Perhaps these are all tales by dehydrated prospectors, men high on Jimson Weed, or April Fool's jokes and gullible people. Nevertheless, it's nice to have a desert companion for Mr. Yeti and Mr. Sasquatch.


Closing Credits

"Darwin Confirmed. The Missing Link - Interview With a Man-Gorilla." The Louisiana Democrat [Alexandria, Louisiana] 12 Apr. 1876: 3. 

"Dead-Man's Hole. A Tough Tale of Northern San Diego." The Los Angeles Times 8 Apr. 1888: 12.

Pepper, Choral. Desert Lore of Southern California. San Diego: Sunbelt Publications, 1999.

Stoyanow, Victor. "The Abominable Sandman of Borrego." Desert Magazine July 1964: 9 . Print.

Woolheater, Craig. "A Brief History of Bigfoot in Southern Calfornia." Cryptomundo. N.p., 17 July 2013. Web. <>.

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