Just a stone’s throw away from the mega city of Los Angeles, California and its vast urban sprawl is the more sparsely inhabited Ventura County. Here within this county is some of the most picturesque, rugged mountainous terrain to be found anywhere in the state, and its unspoiled natural beauty includes large swaths of national forest land, which compromises over half of the county’s total area. Here one can find numerous wilderness areas such as the expansive Los Padres National Forest, including the Chumash Wilderness, the Sespe Wilderness and portions of both the Dick Smith Wilderness and Matilija Wilderness, with the northern part of the county practically uninhabited. Ventura County is certainly full of natural splendor, but in addition to this it also has its fair share of high strangeness and weird creatures and beings that defy explanation.
One of the odder of the mystery things rumored to prowl Ventura County certainly has to be an enigmatic monster with a humanoid, ape-like body, long wicked claws, and a head like a ram, complete with long curved horns, which supposedly prowls the area of Camulos Ranch, in Santa Paula, especially along the rural Aliso Canyon Road and Wheeler Canyon Road near the now abandoned Billiwhack Dairy and Ranch. What has come to be known as the Billiwhack Monster has supposedly terrorized the area since the years after World War II, and has long been reported by motorists and students from the nearby high school as attacking vehicles that park here and even hurling large boulders at passing vehicles, with occasional dents, claw marks, and other damage often presented as proof of these violent encounters. In some reports this ram-headed abomination has even been reported as wielding a formidable looking club, to make it all scarier than it already is.
The creature is said to lurk within the dilapidated run-down ruins of the old Billiwhack Dairy, which supposedly holds a network of subterranean tunnels within its bowels, and besides vehicles being attacked there have been other alleged encounters with the Billiwhack Monster that are every bit as frightening. In the 1950s, a 9-year old boy was purportedly attacked by the beast, which he said scratched him to leave nasty claw marks on his arm. In another case a teenager from the local high school bravely ventured into the old abandoned dairy and claimed to have seen what he rather cryptically called a “snarling, hairy man in a hole.” Indeed, the creature was apparently well known among teenagers in the area for aggressively chasing off those who would trespass near its lair. In 1964 there was a pair of hikers who claimed to have been stalked through Aliso Canyon by a looming beast with a ram’s horns for several hours.
Most reports of the creature come from the 1950s and 60s, but a more recent report of what is possibly the Billiwhack Monster was made as recently as the 2000s. In a 2007 post on the site California Folklife, a commenter related coming across something very large and pissed off haunting some abandoned buses in the area. The witness would say:
There were 2 1950s era school buses left to decay on the far side of the ranch next to a river and deep in the orchards. We decided that since no one ever came out here and it was impossible for anyone to approach the buses from the only path in or out, it would be a perfect place to drink beer. So there we were, sitting in one of the buses starting in on our first beers. The sun had just set and darkness was setting in when extremely loud and violent banging had come from behind the bus we were in. Now, the buses had been there for so long that the backs of them were enveloped in overgrowth of weeds and plants so thick that no one in their right mind would walk thru them. Not to mention the buses were made of 3″ inch thick steel, to make this type of banging a man would have to be built like hulk hogan!
About 10 minutes after the banging stopped, My sister’s boyfriend decided he was going to bravely step off the bus to take a leak.. He quickly walked about 15 to 20 feet around the side of the lemon trees to where he couldn’t be seen. We then heard very heavy foot steps march off in his direction the same time they stopped he came running back onto the bus. The foot steps then came marching right back to the back of the bus. The banging started again, but this time included a deep growl. Once the banging and growling stopped this time, We all took off running to my house from the bus. We never went back to those buses again and soon after they were dismantled for recycling.
Of course with such an utterly bizarre creature there have been attempts to try and explain what the Billiwhack Monster could possibly be, usually with the distinct air of urban legend. The most popular idea comes from the history of the creature’s supposed den, at that decrepit abandoned dairy, which was established in 1924 by Swiss immigrant August Rubel. The story goes that Rubel was in fact an operative with the precursor to the CIA, the Office of Strategic Services, and had been tasked with performing strange medical experiments in order to create some sort of monstrous super soldier, with the dairy just an elaborate front for the real operation going on down beneath in the secret underground complex extending into the dark below it.
According to this version of events, the Billiwhack Monster was made in those labs and went on to escape into the surrounding wilderness where it remained to lurk in the shadows. Other than this there is the idea that this is some sort of deformed Sasquatch or even an alien, but considering the half-sheep, half-man visage of the thing and the tales of mad scientists and military experiments gone awry in some backwoods facility, it is perhaps more likely than not a spooky urban legend born of the creepy, crumbling appearance of this old derelict dairy. Whatever it is, the Billiwhack Monster still manages to maintain a place in the eerie folklore of the area.
If tales of horned ape monsters aren’t weird enough for you, then how about an actual vampire? Just around 15 miles away from the Billiwhack Dairy is Ojai Valley and the city of Ojai, also in Ventura County. It is a pleasant enough place, so much so in fact that according to local lore a vampire decided to make this his home in 1890. The vampire supposedly was originally from either Spain or Italy, and appeared one evening to take up residence in a tomb hidden within a modest ranch somewhere in the vicinity of Camp Comfort County Park, from which he would make forays out into the surrounding region to terrorize the many ranchers there at the time to leave them baffled by cattle that would be found completely drained of blood and savaged as if by a powerful wild animal.
According to the tales, the vampire of Ojai was fond of taking the form of a wolf-like humanoid beast akin to a werewolf, and although he wasn’t known to feed on humans he certainly left in his wake plenty of drained or even maimed animals, and was said to be highly aggressive towards whoever was unfortunate to encounter him during his grim business. The locals became convinced that this was a vampire, and that creature of the night had to be stopped. A group of ranchers formed to head off towards the entity’s supposed lair in the daytime during its unnatural slumber, armed only with whatever weapons at hand and some Holy Water just in case.
After trudging through overgrown wilderness they came to the secluded ranch they sought, which was chocked with weeds and brush and appeared to have been uninhabited for years, but they knew better and penetrated towards the main building, even the bright daylight not enough to totally dispel the creeping sense of dread that pervaded and infected the area. Their suspicions that they were in the right place were confirmed when they entered a darkened above-ground tomb, and a snarling and very ferocious oversized dog black as night rushed forward to attack them, seemingly impervious to their weapons but cowering and running away in terror when confronted with the holy water.
Not far away was allegedly found an enormous and ancient looking stone sarcophagus covered in intricate carvings and etched with foreign letters spelled out in some alien tongue, the meaning of which the huddled, frightened men could only guess at. Someone was apparently able to finally break out of the daze of wide-eyed fear that held them in place and shoved off the top of the mighty coffin to send it crashing to the floor. Within it they found the vampire, and promptly decapitated it and burned it to leave its bones and ashes behind there in the stone coffin with its spidery cryptic words. Although this all sounds like it surely must be pure urban legend, it is claimed that the sarcophagus is still out there, buried in wild brush and weeds, and that the vampire skeleton remains there as well, although no one seems to know where the tomb actually is. Whether there was ever any grain to this incredibly dramatic tale or not it certainly is eerie.
Yet another creature said to prowl the very same area in Ojai Valley is hard to classify. Meandering through the Ojai Vampire’s stomping grounds of Camp Comfort County Park is the very spooky, supposedly very haunted Creek Road. Besides the many, many ghosts, wraiths, and spirits said to lurk here there is another very enigmatic figure that has long been said to roam and shamble about the woods of the area, in particular in the vicinity of the portion of the road spanning San Antonio Creek. What has come to be called Char Man is most often said to be a tall, hulking figure dressed in filthy, burned bandages that appear to be seared right into the flesh. The figure’s skin is blasted, charred and blackened, sloughing off the body in places, and the face is a scorched mass of pulsing cooked flesh long devoid of any recognizable face. This hideous entity is supposedly constantly ensconced with a cloud of flies and a stench of seared flesh so revolting that it is frequently reported to cause uncontrollable disgust, retching, and vomiting.
Char Man purportedly stumbles about the wilds and along the road startling people passing through, and although he is mostly seen as harmless, albeit very frightening in appearance, there are occasions where the phantom figure has been known to rather viciously attack. Specifically, he is said to become absolutely furious if one is to stop their car and shout from the bridge, dashing from the trees and letting out a groaning wail. There have even been people who claim to have had their cars pushed clear off the road by the rampaging thing, and in these incidents he is far from harmless.
Again, although most likely a scary urban legend there are plenty of people who claim the Char Man is very real, and he has been speculated as being everything from the ghost of a fire victim, to a living and very insane burn victim, to a demon, to something even stranger or even the Ojai Vampire himself, not quite as dead as the ranchers thought but not quite recovered from the ordeal. Yet another theory is that the Char Man was merely an unfortunate disfigured or deformed man with cancer who once lived in the area and took frequent walks, with his freakish visage spurring tall tales amongst the area’s youths, which eventually evolved into the Char Man urban legend. It is all incredibly surreal no matter what the case may be.
We are left with some deeply weird reports and stories that seem like something out of a horror novel. Are we looking at mere urban legends and the types of weird tales that seem to sprout up in secluded towns and regions all over the world? Are these just spooky campfire stories we tell each other to incite fear and curiosity? Or is there something more to any of this? Could these be intruders from beyond our understanding shambling about our world and skirting past explanations? It is by no means clear what is going on here, but the stories persist and Ventura County, California, certainly has its odd tales to tell.