The Mojave Bigfoot, the Sierra Highway Devil, and Marvin of the Mojave are some of the many names used to refer to sightings of mysterious desert beings in and around the Mojave. Those who have lived in the Antelope Valley long enough may be familiar with these various names for one of our famous local cryptids, most commonly known as the Yucca Man. The Yucca Man is said to be a desert adapted Sasquatch that lives throughout Southern California, Nevada, and Arizona. He has said to have been spotted in the Antelope Valley area multiple times, from the 1970s onward. In the spirit of Halloween, we will take a look at exactly who or what the Yucca Man is and how his legend came to be.
On a night in 1971, the Yucca Man was first spotted on Twentynine Palms Marine base. The story changes slightly depending on the source, but it is said that a marine guard on duty was found the morning after his shift unconscious with his rifle bent in half. When asked what happened to him, the Marine stated that a huge hairy man had appeared out of the dark and came towards him. The Marine lifted his rifle and ordered the figure to stop but it took the rifle from him and bent the weapon in half. The Marine was then knocked unconscious (Occult Museum). The creature was stated to have glowing red eyes and smelled horrid (Stilwell).
According to the Occult Museum, both the FBI and the CIA were brought in on the investigation of the incident and it is not clear what they found out. Apparently, there were at least two other sightings of similar figures that night (Occult Museum). One sighting described that there was a 12-foot-tall figure with a smaller figure beside it. Other reports called in that their dogs kept barking at something in the neighborhood.
In Fontana, there was a racetrack north of Foothill Boulevard called Mickey Thompson’s Fontana Dragway. This racetrack ran from 1955 to 1972, when it closed after a series of deaths (Layne). Spectators of the crashes said they saw someone they called the “Speedway Monster” which was assumed to be a wild man resident of the nearby San Gabriel mountains who frequently crossed the land at the edge of the dragway.
Later reports of the Yucca Man came in 1979, when a couple from Desert Hot Springs reported that their car was stopped by a large, hairy man who stepped out into the road. They described that it stepped out from behind a yucca bush and that its chest was the size of a refrigerator with its arms hanging below its knees with long, tan hair (Occult Museum). After stopping the car, the figure then left into the desert. During the same year in Hemet, 17 possible Yucca Man footprints were found each about a foot and a half long and six feet apart (Occult Museum). What happened to these footprints is unclear.
Investigators have claimed that, like Big Foot, the Yucca Man is an ancient humanoid creature that was pushed out of his native habitat as the area around the San Bernardino mountains began to develop. Increasing amounts of sightings have taken place at Joshua Tree National Park where tents are said to have been opened in the middle of the night by stinking, unidentifiable beasts (Layne). One of the most famous photos taken of the Yucca Man was snapped at the Hidden Valley campground, showing a large hairy figure in the middle of a dirt road (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Photo of the alleged Yucca Man from 1990s (Layne)
Native Americans, who have inhabited the Antelope Valley area and greater Mojave Desert of Southern California for thousands of years, have a number of tales regarding “hairy devils”. According to Ken Layne from Desert Oracle, ‘The Tongva People living around the Santa Ana River called the devils’ hideout east of the river’s source in the San Bernardino Mountains the Camp of the Takwis, pronounced the same as the Tahquitz known to the Cahuilla of Agua Caliente. According to John Reed Swanton’s The Indian Tribes of North America, “Takwis” also survives as a site name at the head of the Santa Margarita River, at Temecula Creek. Throughout Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley, you’ll see it spelled Tahquitz — the angry specter’s unhappy home in the region is the cursed Tahquitz Canyon.’
To some, the Tahquitz are thought to be things that should be avoided, in the darker parts of the desert. According to Layne, “To the Cahuilla, the Tahquitz could be the “original shaman” and a murderous monstrosity that collected victims from Tahquitz Rock (or Lily Rock).” It is possible that these encounters could be related to what we know as the Yucca Man.
Palmdale and Lancaster Encounters
During the 1960s and 1970s, Yucca Man encounters rose as new housing developments took place. Chuck Wheeler in the Antelope Valley Daily Ledger-Gazette described some eyewitness reports in a June 1973 issue beneath the headline “Bigfoot Surfaces Again In Palmdale, Nine-Mile Canyon.”
According to the report, the creature was spotted at 3:45 a.m. in Palmdale, with testimony provided by a Floyd Smith. Wheeler reported that “the creature likes to run around houses and leaving 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” (Wheeler).
In addition, in more recent years, there have been multiple sightings of a large, red-eyed creature called the “Seirra Highway Devil” spotted on Highway 14 near the junction with Pearblossom Highway at night, running across the road.
Edwards Air Force Base
Our very own Edwards Air Force Base is said to have several encounters with the Yucca Man. It has been reported that there is underground infrastructure at EAFB that is monitored by the base. According to the tales, security cameras picked up images that several furry beasts were seen moving through the underground tunnels at night disappearing quickly.
Big Foot researcher Bobbie Ann Slate took reports from several EAFB basemen, including a Sgt. House, who claimed that they had seen a pair of large blue looming eyes looking at him while he was on patrol in his car (See Figure 2). These eyes were said to be about 4 inches apart and seven feet off the ground. The eyes were first noticed about 200-300 yards to his left, and then they proceeded closer to the car for about 100 yards before stopping. Then the air began to smell, and the eyes were then only 50 yards away. Sgt. House stated that: “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.” He then drove off after apparently getting another distress radio call (Layne).
According to a 2009 article in the base newsletter, Inside Edwards, the entity known as “Blue Eyes” was reportedly discussed at a reunion of the 6510th Air Police Squadron officers who worked on base between 1973 and 1979 (Layne). ‘“Attendees traded memories of their bizarre experiences on patrol such as seeing ‘Blue Eyes,’ the local version of a Yeti near South Base or ‘Marvin of the Mojave,’ a ghost who could be heard but not seen and left size-10 sneaker imprints in the sand,” Lisa Camplin of the 95th Security Forces Squadron wrote in the official Edwards newsletter.
The most recent possible reports of a sasquatch-like figure, or the Yucca Man, was in 2012 at Devil’s Punchbowl where a figure was said to be stalking hikers in Big Rock Canyon.
It is unclear if we will ever confirm the existence of the Yucca Man in the Antelope Valley, but the stories are a true local classic. Many have been inspired by the Yucca Man and have incorporated them into their own work- including a beer by an Ogopogo brewery and an annual Summer Solstice Festival known as the Yucca Man Shakedown (See Figures 3 and 4)! If you have your own Yucca Man stories, please comment them down below, and we hope you had a Happy Halloween!
Figure 2: Artistic rendering of the Yucca Man by Sverre Wilhelm Malling, entitled Yucca Man,2017. Sverre Wilhelm Malling | Yucca Man (2017) | Artsy
Figure 3: Artistic rendering of the Yucca man on Ogopogo’s Yucca Man Imperial Stout.
Figure 4: Poster advertisement for the 7th Annual Yucca Man Shakedown. Yucca Man Shakedown - A Summer Solstice Celebration - Home | Facebook
Layne, Ken. Desert Oracle: Volume 1: Strange True Tales from the American Southwest, 2015 sourced from The Known Unknown: Tales of the Yucca Man (longreads.com).
Stilwell, Blake, “The ‘Yucca Man’ is a beast that stalks Marines at 29 Palms”, We Are The Mighty, August 9, 2021, The 'Yucca Man' is a beast that stalks Marines at 29 Palms - We Are The Mighty.
The Occult Musuem, “The Mysterious Legend of The Yucca Man”, sourced from The Mysterious Legend of The Yucca Man (theoccultmuseum.com).
Wheeler, Chuck, “Bigfoot surfaces again in Palmdale, Nine-Mile canyon”, Lancaster, Ca. Daily Ledger Gazette, Friday, June 1, 1973, sourced from BFRO Media Article 103.