Lizard Men of the Desert

By Christopher O’Brien 

The first week of February is a beautiful time of the year in the northern Sonoran desert east of Tucson, Arizona. Perfect conditions for extended mountain bike excursions into remote areas that feature stately saguaro cactus, large patches of rabbit-ear and prickly-pear cactus and desert wildlife that includes, javalina, red Mexican wolves, road runners, coyotes and plenty of smaller animals that make full use of the mild temperatures. Another plus for this early springtime time- period is that the desert’s more deadly residents such as the many varieties of poisonous snakes, gila monsters and nasty bark scorpions have yet to emerge from their winter hibernation.

It was in this idyllic time period that three Tucson bicyclists decided to tackle the tough 17- mile Old Pueblo Race Course east of town the first week of February 2014. One of the cyclists, local Tucson businessman, G. Johnson described the scene to

“It’s a tough one. It is a 24-hour track, so you better come prepared with more than enough food and water. There are times you just wanna go back and wish you had never got there in the first place. But when you see what nature has to offer you here… well, those regrets dissipate rather quickly.” The cyclists set out and according to Johnson, when they had reached around the halfway point of the course when they had a highly unexpected encounter that couls have been part of a desert-tinged episode with the ‘twilight zone.’

“We had been riding for about… I don’t know maybe nine hours, taking breaks every now and then. Then Michael says he needs to stop for a minute. We are waiting for him to finish when all of a sudden we see this long figure walking across the trail. He is maybe about 6-foot tall, very very skinny, and it had an awkward gait, like a monkey …or a man with a disease, almost robotic…” The men were understandably startled and checked with each other if each of them was seeing what they were seeing.

“Then all I remember about Michael is him saying what the hell is that? Or something like that. But he sounded far away. He probably used a different word instead of hell. Thing is, we had somehow walked a little towards the thing. Don’t ask me why…maybe to look at it better, not knowing what it was.” The creature seemed out of place even though it appeared to blend into the desert surroundings. Johnson continued his description of the encounter:

“He stopped and it made eye contact with me and I could see him clearly. The eyes were kind of like a snake’s, but black and with a yellow stripe in the middle of the eye. It had green and red scales on the face and head. The red color was kind of like the same as the desert sand there, and it looked like it had a sandy texture too. It didn’t have a nose, only two holes on it. I couldn’t see any ears or hair. A red mouth that looked like it had blood around it, but it didn’t look like it was bleeding, it looked like a pattern. It reminded me of a chameleon, but it looked like a person too.”

Then it appeared to the witnesses that the creature raised up its “long arms with strange looking claws that looked like a branch full of thorns” and it gestured at them, while a loud chattering sound was heard. The sound seemed to be the creature rapidly rattling its teeth. Then it scurried away, in a way that reminded the witnesses of “a lizard trying to hide.”
“He looked like he was examining us and then he ran into the desert. We thought about going back the same way we came, but we thought it didn’t matter, since we were in the middle of the track anyway. We were scared, to be honest. None of us had ever seen anything like it. It lasted only a few seconds, but it felt longer than that, at least to me. So after we talked about it for a while, we decided to go on and finish the track.”

The men were rattled by their experience and after talking about what to do, decided to continue on their way and finish the bike course.  

“When you read these stories online or watch them on TV, well, you think man these people are crazy, on meds or something or in need of attention, but this has made me a believer. There has to be more of them out there. If there’s one, there’s gotta be two at least right? I know most people won’t believe a word I said, that’s the way I used to be. I don’t blame them at all. But they are out there. Now I’m not saying this is an alien or a chupacabra or anything like it, all I’m saying is I have never seen anything like it in my life. But I am no biologist so what do I know.”

The history of Lizard Man sightings goes back many generations, Indian legends speak of this reptoidal beings inhabiting the earth when their ancestors roamed the western portion of what is now the United States and there are quite a number of petroglyphs that have an uncanny resemblance to what look like upright, bipedal lizards.

In October 28th, 1878, the Louisville Courier-Journal featured an interesting story about a scaly “Wild Man of the Woods” that had been killed and was on display for public view. Of course today “Wildman” generally refers to a Bigfoot type creature like the Minnisota Ice Man that was briefly diasplayed in the 1960s, but this 19th century version was described as being was about 6- foot-tall, with large eyes, and covered with scales. The strange being was viewed by hundreds of the curious and somehow disappeared into history never to be seen again.

California Lizard Men

Lizard Man reports of humanoid reptoids have been reported for generations in California. A fortune hunter in the 1940s claimed that he stumbled on a labyrinth of a labyrinth of underground tunnels filled with gold under Los Angeles. He claimed that a race of lizard people were responsible for its construction. A January 29, 1934 article in the Los Angeles Times authored by Jean Bosquet gave its readers a thrill when it first broke the story:

“Lizard People’s Catacomb City Hunted Engineer Sinks Shaft Under Fort Moore Hill to Find Maze of Tunnels and Priceless Treasures of Legendary Inhabitants”

Busy Los Angeles, although little realizing it in the hustle and bustle of modern existence, stands above a lost city of catacombs filled with incalculable treasure and imperishable records of a race of humans further advanced intellectually than the highest type of present day peoples, in the belief of G. Warren Shufelt, geophysicist mining engineer now engaged in an attempt to wrest from the lost city deep in the earth below Fort Moore Hill the secrets of the Lizard People of legendary fame in the medicine lodges of the American Indian.

So firmly does Shufelt and a little staff of assistants believe that a maze of catacombs and priceless golden tablets are to be found beneath downtown Los Angeles that the engineer and his aids have already driven a shaft 250 feet into the ground, the mouth of the shaft being on the old Banning property on North Hill street, overlooking Sunset Boulevard, Spring street and North Broadway.

And so convinced is the engineer of the infallibility of a radio x-ray perfected by him for detecting the presence of minerals and tunnels below the surface of the ground, an apparatus with which he says he has traced a pattern of catacombs and vaults forming the lost city, that he plans to continue sending his shaft downward until he has reached a depth of 1000 feet before discontinuing operations.


Shufelt learned of the legend of the Lizard People after his radio X-Ray had led him hither and yon, over an area extending from the Public Library on West Fifth street to the Southwest Museum, on Museum Drive, at the foot of Mt. Washington. “I knew I was over a pattern of tunnels,” the engineer explained yesterday, “and I had mapped out the course of the tunnels, the position of large rooms scattered along the tunnel route, as well as the position of deposits of gold, but I couldn’t understand the meaning of it.”

Then Shufelt was taken to Little Chief Greenleaf of the medicine lodge of the Hopi Indians in Arizona, who’s English name is L. Macklin. The Indian provided the engineer with a legend which, according to both men, dovetails exactly with what Shufelt say he has found.


According to the legend as imparted to Shufelt by Macklin, the radio X-Ray has revealed the location of one of the three lost cities on the Pacific Coast, the local one having been dug by the Lizard People after the “great catastrophe” which occurred about 5000 years ago. This legendary catastrophe was in the form of a huge tongue of fire, which “came out of the Southwest, destroying all in it’s path,” (continued on Page 5, Column 2) “…the path being several hundred miles wide.” The city underground was dug as a means of escaping future fires.

The lost city, dug with powerful chemicals by the Lizard People instead of pick and shovel, was drained into the ocean, where it’s tunnels began, according to the legend. The tide passing daily in and out of the lower tunnel portals and forcing air into the upper tunnels, providing ventilation and “cleansed and sanitized the lower tunnels,” the legend states.

Large rooms in the domes of the hills above the city of labyrinths housed 1000 families “in the manner of tall buildings” and imperishable food supplies of the herb variety were stored in the catacombs to provide sustenance for the Lizard folk for great length of time as the next fire swept over the earth.


The Lizard People, the legends has it, regard the lizard as a symbol of long life. Their city is laid out like a lizard, according to the legend, it’s tail to the Southwest, far below Fifth and Hope streets, it’s head to the northeast, at Lookout and Marda streets. The city’s key room is situated directly under South Broadway, near Second street, according to Shufelt and the legend.

This key room is the directory to all the parts of the city and to all record tablets, the legend states. All records were to be kept on golden tablets, four feet long and fourteen inches wide. One these tablets of gold, gold having been the symbol of life to the legendary Lizard People, will be found the record of history of the Mayans and on one particular tablet, the southwest corner of which will be missing, is found the “record of the origin of the human race.”


Shufelt stated he has taken “X-Ray pictures” of thirty-seven such tablets, three of which have their southwest corners cut off.

“My radio X-ray pictures of the tunnels and rooms, which are subsurface voids, and of gold pictures with perfect corners, sides and ends, are scientific proof of their existence,” Shufelt said. “However, the legendary story must remain speculative unearthed by excavation.”

The Lizard People, according to Macklin, were of a much higher type of intellectuality than modern human beings. The intellectual accomplishments of their 9- year-old children were of equal of those of present day college graduates, he said. So greatly advanced scientifically were these people that, in addition to perfecting a chemical solution by which they bored underground without removing any earth and rock, they also developed a cement far stronger and better than any in use in modern times which they lined their tunnels and rooms.

Other locales in California have also produced reports over the years. The follow decade in the 1950s a man driving Man on a road near Riverside, California claimed he narrowly missed hitting a Lizard Man crossing a road.

The Mount Shasta area has also been the site of reports of underground dwelling Lizard Men. Other Southern California stories also mention humanlike reptoids including some that sound like large upright iguanas that are often associated with caves of tunnels. There are also reports of a water dwelling lizard-type that are said to live in Lake Elsinore. Described as having spines running the length of their spines and an extremely shy disposition, these creatures have elicited reports of “water monsters” and “spinybacked water lizards.” Indian legends and some vaguer reports have also surfaced in the lower Colorado River, but these rumors have no documentation to substantiate them to my knowledge.

The Black Mountain Reptoid Encounter

Desert encounters with so-called “lizard-men” that lurk in secret around the world are rare, but they are occasionally reported. Case-in-point: 

In 1977 Cherry Hinkle lived on the outskirts of Henderson, Nevada and she recalled a strange encounter reported by her 13-year-old son Marc and a friend who were exploring near the slopes of Black Mountain that is home to many TV, radio and communication towers that feed the Las Vegas region. The area is dotted with abonadoned mines and caves and the place was off-limits to the boys. But, boys being boys, they decided to explore the area. According the Hinkle, in a 2010 article published in, they perhaps wished they hadn’t:

“They hiked maybe the scant one mile across the desert and climbed the little hills in front of Black Mountain. On the backside of one of the little hills, Marc and Harry located a cave. They had to squirm into the narrow opening, and belly crawl through the cave to the larger room and turned on their small pocket flashlights. They saw a circular room roughly nine feet across. Near the back wall, they spotted a large deeper hole. They found several large branches that someone had dragged a couple large branches about a mile from closest tree, and tossed the branches into the hole creating a makeshift ladder to climb down into the lower pit.

The pit was roomy, with a short annex. Occasional debris littered the rocky floor, like a tin can or two, a battered teen magazine perched on a small outcrop of rock that served as shelf. The boys explored to main cave, then turned their attention to the short tunnel or annex…[and] heard the sounds of a voices and maybe the distance humming of machines. Intrigued by the thought of they were mining nearby, the boys went a deeper into the tunnel. On the far end, they found a rusty metal door, and near the door a strange metal rod. The one-foot rod was lightweight and resembled aluminum, with a cap on one end and a few strange engravings on one side…

Startled, the boys heard the sound or guttural harsh voices talking, and the certain sound of approaching footsteps.

The boys became frightened by the strange vocalizations and high-tailed it to their makeshift ladder and headed up toward the cave entrance on the upper level. As they exited, they heard what sounded like the metal door opening, its old metal screeching. They crawled out the tunnel opening and ran away from the cave entrance. Thinking they were safe, they breathed a sigh of relief.

Without a warning, they heard a loud threatening growl. Harry and Marc looked back at the cave entrance and to their horrified eyes; they watched as a very large greenish humanoid struggled to force his big body out of narrow cave. The boys screamed and started running down the slope of the hill, running top speed! They didn’t look back until they were near my back yard.

The two boys excitedly told Cherry of their encounter and produced the strange metal rod for her to see.

The rod was approximate one and a half inch across, maybe a foot long with a slight indentation at one end and a plain gray cap on the other. I looked at the bizarre symbols engraved in a three-inch section of the rod. It was just symbols, from spirals, circles of different sizes, a few triangles, and a few unknown symbols. There were no levers or buttons, and the cap at the end didn’t seem to move. The rod, with its professionally created symbols and smooth to the touch, I knew it was not a toy, but nothing I recognized.

One would think that this would be the end of the encounter, but as it turns out, according to Hinkle, the Lizard Man wanted his rod back! After the excitement of the encounter, it was difficult to get Marc and her other three kids to bed, but after some convincing, they went to his bedroom to get a much-needed night’s rest. Then the nightmarish events began in earnest:

“It must have been around two in the morning when Marc shook me whispering harshly that someone is trying to get into his bedroom window. I hoped it was just a nightmare, or his nerves were still on edge. Quietly we slipped into his bedroom and listened to the sounds of scraping at the window edge! He was not mistaken—in the light of the moon I could make out the silhouette head and shoulders of a man.

“I was alone with my four kids, no husband to protect us, so I grabbed my flashlight; suddenly tossed the curtains open to face the man. There was a glare from the flashlight on the window, but past glare that I could clearly see a large head with ridges on the top, other ridges on his cheekbones, and the glow of golden eyes. Marc and I stood still, unmoving, both fear and shock kept us frozen. The Lizard Man didn’t move either his hand still poised in his attempt pry the window open. He hand was large, with webbed rough, gnarly looking fingers, with powerful claws.

“After a couple minutes, not seconds, but long agonized minutes with our hearts pounding I knew I had to do something. One hand still holding the flashlight beam on his face and my eyes still locked into those golden eyes, I fumbled around in the dark with my other hand, hoping to find something to use as a weapon, is needed. He glanced at my hand, looked back into my eyes. He turned his head a little, as if he was asking a questioning, he slightly opened his lipless lips, displaying four of his pointed teeth, and suddenly he turned and ran off into the desert.”

As with the vast majority of “stories” that feature physical evidence and accounts too high strange to be believed, the frightened mother of four decided that the rod must be returned to the cave.

“Later in the morning, we decided the reason the Lizard Man was breaking in the house was to reclaim that metal rod. Marc and I hiked back to the cave and placed the strange rod beside the cave entrance.” Of course my first question would be, did they take any photographs or video of the rod, or attempt to shave off any of the metal for later analysis? The article does not mention any attempts to document their seemingly unbelievable account. But does mention hearing of other sightings of weird humanoid types in the area. We are given no dates, names or descriptions.

Lizard Man of Scape Ore Swamp

The most sensational and well-known Lizard Man reports was a series of sightings of what became known as the “Lizard Man of Scape Ore Swamp” (also the Lizard Man of Lee County). This East Coast version is a reptilian humanoid cryptid thought to inhabit areas of swampland in and around Lee County, South Carolina. Some speculate that the creature(s) also utilize the sewers and abandoned tunnels in towns located near the swamp. According to Wikipedia:

The Lizard Man is generally described as being 7 feet (2.1 m) tall, bipedal, and bulky, covered in dark hair with scaly lizard-like skin on its hands, feet and face. It is said to have three toes on each foot and three fingers on each hand. The creature has an incredible degree of strength, more than capable of ripping into a car. A few witnesses have reported seeing a tail, although in the majority of cases, a tail was not seen.

Texas crypto-hunter and researcher Lyle Blackburn has recently published an excellent book on the Scape Ore Swamp Lizard Man of South Carolina titled: Lizard Man that details the various sightings and encounters of a strange reptoidal being. The first official sighting of the creature was made by Christopher Davis, a 17-year-old local, who claimed he encountered the creature while driving home from work late at night on June 29, 1988. Davis had stopped on a road bordering Scape Ore Swamp in order to change a tire and as he was finishing he heard a thumping noise from behind him, turned around to see the frightening-looking creature running at him.

He said the creature tried to grab at the car and then jumped on the roof as he tried to drive away. Davis swerved from side to side in an effort to throw it off the top of the car but the creature managed to hang on for a distance. When he returned home, Davis’ found that his side-view- mirror was damaged, and scratch marks were found on the car’s roof.

“I looked back and saw something running across the field towards me. It was about 25 yards away and I saw red eyes glowing. I ran into the car and as I locked it, the thing grabbed the door handle. I could see him from the neck down—the three big fingers, long black nails and green rough skin. It was strong and angry. I looked in my mirror and saw a blur of green running. I could see his toes and then he jumped on the roof of my car. I thought I heard a grunt and then I could see his fingers through the front windshield, where they curled around on the roof. I sped up and swerved to shake the creature off.”

Davis went to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office on July 16, 1988, and filed a report with Sheriff Liston Truesdale after hearing of another similar encounter that had been reported.

Strange Car Mauling

On the morning of July 14, 1988, deputies made their way to the residence of Tom and Mary Waye, located in a small rural community known as Browntown on the outskirts of Bishopville, South Carolina. The couple showed the officers the vehicle they claimed had been mauled. The chrome molding had been torn away from around the fenders, the sidewall tires were scratched, the hood ornament was broken off, the antenna was bent, and upon closer inspection, it appeared that parts of the molding had actually been chewed, as if an animal had used its teeth to inflict the damage. The Wayes pointed out clumps of reddish colored hair and muddy footprints that had been left all over the car. News of Sheriff Truesdale’s visit spread around the neighborhood and other locals came forward with stories. Truesdale told reporters later: “While we were there looking over this situation, we learned that people in the Browntown community had been seeing a strange creature about seven feet tall with red eyes… Some of them described it as green, but some of them as brown. They thought it might be responsible for what happened [to the car].”

Other incidents

There were several additional reports of a large lizard like creature in the months that followed the Davis sighting, and other instances of unusual scratches and bite marks found on cars parked close to the swamp. Most of these are said to have occurred within a three mile radius of the Bishopville swamps which seemed to be the epicenter of Lizard Man sightings and alleged activity..

At the time, local law enforcement officials reacted to reports of the Lizard Man with a mixture of concern and skepticism, stating that a sufficient number of sightings had been made by apparently reliable people for them to believe that something tangible was being seen, but also that it was more likely to be a bear than a Lizard Man.

Two weeks after the Davis sighting, the sheriff’s department made several plaster casts of what appeared to be three-toed footprints—measuring some 14 inches (36 cm) in length. Blackburn mentions the media circus that erupted after the story was picked up by the wireservices:

The Lizard Man stories enthralled the public, who reacted with a mix of skepticism, fascination, and curiosity. Carloads of curious sightseers began to jam Browntown Road as they came for a glimpse of Scape Ore Swamp and, if they were lucky, the creature itself. “Traffic on the road was steady from morning to midnight, something local woodsmen say is a direct result of the sightings,”

The Item newspaper reported on July 20 [1988]. To make things worse, the WCOS- FM radio station out of Columbia offered a million dollar reward to anyone who could “bring in the lizard thing alive.” This not only attracted more outside attention, it also brought in scores of would-be hunters, who were often armed and dangerous. According to The Item article: “Four local friends, each about 20 years old, brought rifles and trucks to the bridge in an effort to do a little sight-seeing and maybe collect the reward. When asked if he would try to spare the creature and thus meet the main requirement for collecting the money, Tony White replied, ‘Damn straight, I wouldn’t have to work a day in my life.’” Reporters, television crews, and photographers also began frequenting the area in growing numbers, as they fished for Lizard Man information from the locals and shot rolls of film to accompany their articles and features. The July 20 edition of the Press Courier reported that: “The swamp was swamped with TV crews and other curious people hoping to catch a glimpse [of the creature].”

Blackburn is still puzzled about these reptoidal human sightings and in his book Lizard Man mentions the possibility that these sightings may somehow be related to swamp apes or Bigfoot:

Beyond the standard explanations that perpetually swirl around most cryptid sightings, other, more fantastic theories have been proposed by researchers for these lizardman cases. These are not specific to the Bishopville Lizard Man, rather they are intended to account for any and all scaly or otherwise reptilian humanoids. These theories include rare skin diseases, highly evolved dinosaurs, a race of intelligent subterranean reptoids, and even government conspiracies. Some of these may seem extreme in what many consider to be a purely cryptozoological case, but perhaps this is due in part to the very concept of a “Lizard Man,” one that defies the basic rules of biology. It’s not a stretch to theorize that Bigfoot (if real) is simply an undocumented hominoid, sharing traits of both ape and man, since it is presumably a creature that could naturally occur in nature. But if the Lizard Man possesses traits of both human and reptile, then this becomes more difficult to rationalize.

As with most, if not all, mysterious cryptids, it’s impossible to determine if these creatures are real, flesh and blood animals until someone is able to capture one for scientific study. And I’m not holding my breath for this to happen as these elusive creatures still mange to elude us while sparking our imaginations and wonder. Do Lizard Men live underground or lurk about the swamps of South Carolina? Do your research and then decide.

6 Responses to Lizard Men of the Desert

  1. Surviving Reptoids seems to stir my fascination with other multi-cultural archetypes such as the feathered serpent, Quetzalcoatl, and one of my all time favorite monster flicks “The Creature From The Black Lagoon.”I could hear the soundtrack playing in the background as I read this. Perhaps it tickles the reptilian portion of our brains.

  2. Stories of strange humanoid creatures have been in many a publication for many, many years. I have not been lucky enough to see one. However, I have been in over 200 mines and over 125 caves. Mines can be very large, there are many mines with thousands of miles of underground passage ways.
    Caves, formed in limestone, the most common, have up to hundreds of miles of passage ways, but those are in the few. I do not know what to think.
    There are many things that we do not know about. I do not know if it is worth the money and time to get a conclusive answer, it may be as it may give the world insight into needed information.

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