Thursday, October 25, 2018

The Headless Horseman of Yermo

Headless Horseman of Yermo display (MojaveDesert.Net)

By Matthew Cabe
Victor Valley Daily Press

In October 1965, Don Hughes was busy clearing land in Yermo when he inadvertently unearthed what local historian and author Cliff Walker described as a “highly mineralized axe head” in an article on the Desert Gazette website.

Near the axe, Hughes found part of a jawbone and skull buried in sand. Some 30 feet away, the skeletal remains of a man and horse were also uncovered. The man was seated atop what was left of his steed. Knives stuck out of what was left of him.

The proper officials were notified and an excavation followed. When the papers got wind, the man was dubbed the “Headless Horseman of Yermo.” In a later interview, Hughes said tests dated the bones to about 1850.

Analysis also determined the man was between 21 and 23 years old. He stood 5-feet-2-inches tall.

In a phone conversation with Walker — one that was cut woefully short by bad reception — I learned the initial theories on the horseman’s heritage.

“His teeth were ground down,” Walker said, which led him and others to believe the man was of Native American or Mexican descent. Teeth like his, Walker continued, were a common attribute of “indians and vaqueros” due to a grit-filled diet.

About five years ago, though, the director of the San Bernardino County Museum informed Walker that tests revealed the horseman was not a Native American.

“He could still be a vaquero,” Walker said.

In 1972, the horseman went on display for the first time at the Mojave River Valley Museum in Barstow, but it was in the custody of the county museum and was eventually returned. Rumor has it that the county must locate next of kin. Good luck.

This appears to be a sore spot for Walker. When he chatted with the county museum’s director, he asked about the horseman’s whereabouts. “She wouldn’t tell me,” he said before the line went dead.

Experts offered historical scenarios to explain the man’s grim fate for years after the discovery. Most involved horse thieves. More than 50 years later, much surrounding the “Headless Horseman of Yermo” remains shrouded in mystery.