The Legend of the High Desert Bigfoot: The Tale of Yucca Man
Graveface Magazine, Fall 2016
In 1971, a Marine working the night shift as a guard on the base in Twentynine Palms, California had an encounter with a shadowy figure. According to the Marine, a “yeti” attacked him and bent his machine gun in half. It’s reported that the CIA and FBI were called in to investigate. According to local residents, it was a strange night: dogs were howling and horses were skittish. People looked out their windows into the desert night with some believing to have seen, what was later dubbed the high desert Bigfoot: “Yucca Man,” named after the ubiquitous yucca trees that dot the entire high desert area.
Like Bigfoot, the creature was large, hairy and walked upright on two feet. According to legend, the Yucca Man roams the Mojave Desert in Southern California, from Joshua Tree National Park to Death Valley, one of the hottest, and most remote, places in the world. Although sightings are rare, this area is known to embrace the supernatural. There’s always an abundant list of extraterrestrial sightings bouncing around. With its low population, desolate landscape, wide-open skies and nighttime darkness, the desert fuels these theories. It gets weird here.
Over the years, other sightings of Yucca Man have been reported. A couple in 1979 insisted that Yucca Man stopped them in nearby Desert Hot Springs, a city about an hour’s drive away from Joshua Tree National Park. One of the occupants detailed their story to the Bigfoot Field Research Organization (yes, one exists):
I froze there with my dim headlights on it and it too froze there completely still. I flashed my worthless high beams at it and it took two giant steps backwards and then one to my left, it's right and was gone into the dark. I was overcome with severe fear, panic and anxiety and [I] had to return home again.
I was armed with a .45 at the time and was still worried that if I shot it I would be in real trouble. [It was] enormous, with the chest the size of a refrigerator, [with] arms that hung below the knees and were still huge. I did not speak with anyone about it right away because who ever heard of a desert Bigfoot, But later found out that all the locals call him, "Yucca Man".
Another city sighting in the late 70s, this time in nearby Hemet, claims that nearly 20 huge footprints were left by Yucca Man in the dust. In the 1990s, a rock climber in Joshua Tree National Park reportedly saw a “primate-like” figure crouching inside one of the caves that climbers find while scaling the massive boulders inside the park, an activity that brings tourists here from all over the world.
Since the discovery of our local Bigfoot, Yucca Man’s been blamed for the disappearance of various women over the last few decades, his legend feeding the darker impulses of the American imagination. But he’s also seen on bumper stickers and refrigerator magnets at Coyote Corner, the local tourist gift shop. Enlisted Marines stationed at the training base in Twentynine Palms have dubbed some of the unsavory gals they meet in town as “desert yeti’s.” And there’s even a small backyard music festival named after him, the Yucca Man Shakedown, where the heavy sounds of stoner rock vibrate the Joshua trees and scatter the jackrabbits late into the night.
So if you ever visit the high desert, keep your eye out – especially under the cover of darkness. Yucca Man might be watching you…and waiting.