Humans have lived in California for at least 15,000 years. In 1848, The United States acquired the area that would one day become the state of California for $15,000,000 after signing the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican-American War. California, famous for Hollywood, the Golden Gate Bridge, and earthquakes, is the most populated state in the union, and the third largest after Alaska and Texas. Outside the large cities (16.37 million people in the greater Los Angeles area) lie great expanses of desert, mountains (including Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park where Capt. James Kirk battled the Gorn in Star Trek), and forests. Despite the number of people, there’s plenty of room in California for monsters.
As with the other pieces of this series, I’m leaving out the most famous monsters (in this case a naughty girl named Patty from Bluff Creek, California), and am instead focusing on the lesser-known monsters, like the Dark Watchers.
The coastal Santa Lucia Mountains run for 105 miles from Monterey County to San Luis Obispo County. The western slopes of the mountains are covered with Ponderosa Pine, Santa Lucia Fir, and Coastal Redwood. The mountains are also home to the Dark Watchers.
The first peoples to speak of the Dark Watchers were the Chumash Indians, who once lived in the 200-mile stretch between Malibu, California, and Paso Robles. When European settlers first came to the region, they too saw these giant human silhouettes that stand on ridges, and seem to stare across the mountains. When watched themselves, the Dark Watchers fade from sight.
Legend his it these humanoid creatures rarely appear to anyone who is carrying a gun, or is dressed in weatherproof clothing, only revealing themselves to people who wander the mountains in more old fashioned garb.
Nobel Prize-winning author and California native John Steinbeck wrote about the Dark Watchers in his short story, “Flight,” as did poet Robinson Jeffers in his poem “Such Counsels You Gave to Me.”
Although people have seen the Dark Watchers looking across the Santa Lucia Mountains for hundreds of years, when approached these watchers vanish, leaving nothing behind, not even a footprint.
The Billiwhack Monster
A monster terrorized Santa Paula, California, during World War II and the years shortly after. The creature, tall and apelike with horns like a ram, frequented the haunts around the Billiwhack Dairy and ranch off Wheeler Canyon Road. Claimed to be the result of an experiment by the government, the Billiwhack Monster had long, gray hair, and was massively muscled. The beast was reported to throw large rocks at people, and pound on the hoods of witness’s cars, leaving dents.
The monster was allegedly the result of the government’s attempts to make a super soldier in an area lab, but escaped. Although seen often throughout the 1950s and up until 1964, sightings of the Billiwhack Monster have grown few and quite far between.
The Black Demon
The prehistoric Megalodon shark was as long as a bowling lane, as heavy as a Boeing 757, and was armed with six-inch-long, serrated, heart-shaped teeth designed to rip through bones and heavy cartilage. It was the largest predator to ever swim the seas, and did so from about 23.03 to 2.58 million years ago. Could the Megalodon still swim our world’s oceans? Some eyewitnesses believe so.
A 31-foot long shark (Great Whites can grow up to 17 feet) was seen off the coast of New Zealand in 2014, according to the New Zealand Herald. One that “was huge. Like dinosaur huge,” was spotted off Fish Hoek beach in Cape Town, South Africa, according to The Guardian newspaper. Naturalist David Stead reported seeing an “immense shark” in 1918, and in the 1960s, fishermen claim a shark longer than their 55-foot fishing boat circled the vessel before swimming off.
Sailors off the coast of California have similar stories, but none is as persistent as the Black Demon from the Gulf of California just south of the border. This shark is said to be greater than 60 feet long. In 2008, a fisherman named Eric Mack said his boat was rocked by the Black Demon. Although he didn’t see the entire beast, the tail fin rose five feet out of the water, according to Discovery News.
Next up: Colorado.