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Borrego Sandman, Borrego Badlands/ Borrego Sink, San Diego County

Old prospector stories are usually so unreliable that there is even an annual “liar’s contest” held in Borrego Springs in honor of “Pegleg Smith,” whose lost gold mine is still rumored to exist in the desolate mountains northeast of the desert town. There is however no good reason not to listen, and the dearth of stories told about the “Borrego Sandman” beg attention by any serious aficionado of the strange. The area is crisscrossed by countless arroyos, crevasses and canyons, and the local Native American tribes reportedly have told stories

of vast underground labyrinths in the area. The famous “mud caves” of Borrego are now visited by thousands every year, and may be the source of some of these tales.

The land is now encompassed by the largest state park in California, but in the 19th and early 20th century, various desert rats and seekers of fortune roamed the wilds here. One local man who requested anonymity was interviewed in the 1970s and reported that he was camped in the Borrego Sink area in 1939 when he was accosted by a tribe of giant, upright-walking apes covered with white fur. He said that the creatures eyes glowed red. They were apparently frightened of his campfire and kept their distance.

A man named Victor Stonayow was exploring the Sink in 1964 when he came across 14-inch long tracks in the sand dunes. “The prints ran in pairs,” he said, “generally parallel and averaged about 14 inches in length and nine wide at the instep.”1 Stonayow returned to the area several times to make plaster casts and take photos of the footprints, but the present whereabouts of these artifacts are unknown.

Harold Lancaster was prospecting in the area in 1968 and making his breakfast when he recalled, “I saw a man walking in the desert. 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.”2 The prospector grabbed his .22 pistol and fired some shots into the air. The beast “jumped a good three feet off the ground,” looked straight at Lancaster, and turned tail. Recent reports from hunters in the upstate New York area have described similar behavior when Bigfoot-like entities are encountered.

An article in the July 1969 Issue of the “real man adventure” magazine SAGA quoted an unnamed (but presumably open-minded) scientist’s exasperation with the phenomenon: “An actual body of one of these creatures, or a living specimen, would be shattering to science. It would create wholesale confusion in several areas of science. Biology, anthropology, and even history would have to be revised. Textbooks would have to be rewritten. I wish someone would drag in one of these things. The turmoil would be terrific.”

Although the Sandman of the Borrego Badlands has not been sighted since the late 1960s, this may be due to the fact that most of the remote area is generally left alone, or perhaps the creature has become annoyed with hordes of off-roaders encroaching on the outskirts of his stomping grounds and has moved on to some more uninhabited godforsaken wilderness.

Weird California


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