The Borax Man

The Borax Man

The Borax ManIn the late 1800s, borax mining was the principal business in Death Valley. Many Chinese laborers were employed in the borax mills. Lumps of borax called "cottonball" were scraped from the valley floor, crushed, and boiled in open vats made from adobe. This purified and crystallized the valuable chemical so it could be transported and marketed.

In 1885, a 7 foot, 7 inch tall Chinaman named Tong Yu was working at the Harmony Borax Works when he accidentally fell–or was pushed–into one of the large open vats of boiling borax. Workers fought to pull him out. Tong's entire body was horribly burned, and his flesh was deeply saturated with the caustic borax.

The Borax ManHe was brought into the living quarters, and a doctor was sent for. By the time the doctor arrived the next morning, Tong Yu was nowhere to be found. During the night he must have wandered away alone, perhaps in an agonized madness.

Today, visitors to the park often report a tall, thin, distant figure on the salt pan under the moonlight. Sometimes the wind plays tricks on the ears, sounding almost like a mournful cry. In 1974 a party of park rangers chased the figure on foot but could not get close. The Borax Man seemed to melt right back into the plain he came from.