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Odd Encounters with the Mysterious Little People of Alaska

All across the world, in almost every culture there have long been reports of so-called “little people,” and it is so common throughout geographical or cultural boundaries that it is a phenomenon in and of itself. Gnomes, Elves, Trolls, Duendes, they go by many names, and curiously they tend to share not only vast similarities in the general appearance of such creatures, but also the genuine sightings reports from these places that seem to pull these entities out from the realms of pure fantasy or fairy tales and into the real world. I have written of this here at Mysterious Universe before in general, and also more specifically on this phenomenon in places as far flung as South America and Japan, and such accounts never cease to amaze. One area with its own tales of mysterious little people is the frigid, far-northern land of Alaska, in the United States. Here, as in many other places around the world, strange little people roam about, and they are seen by the populace as being every bit as real as you or I.

Out in the wilds of the northern U.S. state of Alaska, the native tribes of the region such as the Inuit and Yup’ik have long had their own tales of little people living out in the forests and frigid tundra here. Depending on the tribe or tradition these enigmatic creatures go by many names, such as the Ircinrraqs, Inukin (also often spelled “Enukin” or “Inukun”), Ircenrraat, Ingnakalaurak, Egassuayaq, and the Paalraayak, although they seem to most commonly be collectively referred to as the Inukin, or Enukin, and for the purposes of this article they will be referred to as such.

The Alaskan wilderness

Prominent in the lore of many of these northern peoples, although there are different details depending on the tribe, the Inukin are most often described as being between 1 to 3 feet in height, typically dressed in animal skins and with pointed heads and elfin ears. The Inukin are mostly said to prefer to stay underground or hidden away in the mountains during the day, only venturing out at night, and are mostly characterized as being mischievous, bed-tempered, and mean, seeming to enjoy tormenting people. It is commonly said that they will intentionally try to get travelers lost or throw rocks at them, and that they have a bad habit of stealing the kills of hunters, with caribou said to be among their favorites, and they are also hunters themselves, using bows and arrows. At their most sinister, the Inukin are thought to abduct women or children and drag them off to never be seen again. They are usually credited with having superhuman strength and a host of supernatural powers such as shapeshifting, invisibility, and the power to sow confusion in the minds of those who see them. One old Inupiaq man named Majik Imaje said of these little people and their strength:

They live in the old ways to this very day they dress in caribou skins. They still hunt with bow & arrow. They live underground, and in caves all throughout this vast area. They possess super human qualities that you will never believe. They are incredibly strong and they can run, very fast; they sneak around the villages stealing food. When any hunter shoots and kills a caribou, it requires two adult Inupiaq men to lift that caribou to place on a sled. It only takes ONE Ingnakalaurak or Enukin to pick one up and RUN WITH IT, over his head. Hunters, experienced hunters, often talk about caribou that they have shot & killed. Dead and the caribou will disappear before they reach it to dress it out. Make no mistake, these people are very good in what they do, they are perhaps the best hunters in the world.

Imaje also claims that this is why some bush pilots have reported seeing the strange sight of caribou running on their sides, only to fly lower and see that they are actually being carried along by an Inukin. These beings are also said to sneak into villages at night when everyone is asleep to steal food and goods, but interestingly, although they are mostly avoided and for all of their more malevolent tendencies, these creatures are also said to have a benevolent side as well. For instance, it is supposedly good luck to receive a gift from them when they are feeling generous, and on occasion instead of playing pranks they will take pity on a lost soul out in the woods and guide the way.

It is interesting how many of the details of the Inukins match the lore of other little people from various other cultures around the world, such as their general appearance and similar habits and powers attributed to them, as well as their curious mixture of both mischievous, prankish behavior and contradictory more benevolent tendencies, which is a common trait in such creatures in a great many other cultures as well. Also, just as with other cultures, although outsiders may see these little people as surely purely mythical constructs, the natives of this region see them as very real indeed, with many insisting that the Inukins actually exist. Supporting these claims are the various real sightings and encounters with such beings, which blur the line between reality and what must seem like fairy tales to many.

Indeed, villagers and hunters of the region have long told of seeing Inukins and having their things stolen by the creatures, and some outsiders have reported seeing such little people out in the wilds as well. Very common are reports of hunters who have shot and killed an animal, only to go to retrieve it and find it gone, without any trail of blood or trace of where it has gone. Also common are stories of having rocks come flying from the woods out of nowhere, followed by a fleeting glimpse of a small, child-sized shadow in the brush. Some of these encounters are rather amazing to say the least, such as one hunter who claimed that he one day heard a strange noise, only to follow it and find a portal in the side of the mountain, through which he could see a group of Inukins dancing. He claimed that he had only watched them for a moment, but that when he got to his sled it seemed to have aged in the elements and his game had rotted away, and when he returned home it turned out that he had been gone for an entire year. It is tale that is said to have really happened, but which seems as if it must surely be colored with some legend.

Others are more based in actual eyewitness accounts. In 1993, the Arctic Sounder published an impressive range of accounts of encounters with the mysterious Inukin, which would later be republished in the Anchorage Daily News. In one of the accounts, a villager from near the Noatak river named Kenneth Ashby recounts a rather ominous experience he had with the creatures while fetching water from the river with his brother in the summer of 1938. As they made their way through the wilderness, Ashby claims that they were jumped and attacked by a group of feral little people about 3 feet in height, with bowl-style haircuts and draped in caribou skins. After a fierce struggle they managed to escape when the creatures were distracted by the arrival of the two young men’s grandfather.

Ashby claims that that very same summer his sister chased off a group of the creatures trying to steal her catch of salmon at the river. Ashby would have another encounter with the Inukins 9 years later, when he was camping at the river with a group of relatives on a hunting trip. He reports that during the night they could hear the crunching of leaves and the Inukins communicating with each other in strange, bird-like whistles, but whenever they went to look for the elusive creatures they would scamper away, as if playing hide and seek. They played this game all the way down the river up to the village, where they were finally chased away back into the wilderness by the local men.

The series of articles also told the account of local woman in the same area named Flora Penn, who claims that she was out with friends traveling up the Noatak and at one point they stopped to pick some berries. As they did so they suddenly noticed a tiny man with a large, bulbous noise, big pointy ears, and a cone shaped head casually sitting upon a driftwood tree smoking a pipe. Penn says they watched the curious little man for a full hour, and the whole time he just smoked his pipe and looked around. Then suddenly, the creature was reportedly either spooked by something or remembered he had something important to do, and he then bolted upright to start running towards the nearby mountains at a frantic pace.

Another witness named Saul Shiedt had an encounter with one of the mysterious little people one summer as he was hunting caribou. After bagging a caribou, he set to work skinning it, and that was when he says he heard the voice of someone speaking in the Eskimo language. When he looked to see who it was, he saw that the voice had come from a diminutive man around 3 feet in height and armed with a bow and arrow. The two had a brief exchange and inspected each other’s respective weapons, with Saul himself armed with a high powered rifle. According to Saul, the Inukin’s bow was too tight for him to pull, and he imagined it must have taken immense strength to make it work. The hunter then told the mysterious stranger that he could take what he wanted from the caribou, and the only thing the Inukin supposedly wanted to take was the fatty part under the knee of the animal. Joining these tales of weirdness is a tale told by a Joe Sun, who said that one day a man had been hunting out in the wilds and had set his sights on a trophy caribou but that there was another hunter who was also pursuing it. He said of the strange sequence of events in the incident thus:

I hear from my parents in the Maniilaq area that there was this man hunting.
He had a real rifle.  (Not the old kind that you had to load through the barrel
with a rod.)  He saw a caribou he wanted to get close to, to have a shot at it.
He saw another person trying to hunt this caribou too.  When this man, a big
man, got close to shoot the caribou it changed into a little man.  The big man
jumped at the little man who escaped and began running and climbing up the
mountain.

Perhaps an even stranger story was reported in the May 31 edition of the Anchorage Daily News, and which seems to address the predilection of these Inukin to abduct people. According to the report, a hunter from Marshall, Alaska going by the name Nick Andrew Jr. was out on his snowmobile hunting birds on May 7 and came across a young boy sitting alone out in the middle of a marsh. When he approached the boy he saw that the child seemed to be in some sort of trance or daze, and it was odd that there were no tracks anywhere around him. Asking other snowmobilers in the area didn’t help, because none of them had seen the boy at all. The boy seemed to have just appeared out of nowhere. When Nick asked him what had happened or where his parents were, the boy, who was obviously upset and with a face red and swollen from crying, sputtered out that he didn’t know, and was unable to provide any information at all. The hunter would say:

The boy was disoriented, dazed, confused and scared, with no concept of time. He did not appear tired, nor was he hungry or thirsty.

The concerned Nick decided to help the boy out and took him back to his village, where things would get even more bizarre. After he had come to his senses and calmed down somewhat, the boy claimed that he had been abducted by the little people and taken to nearby Pilcher Mountain, interesting since this particular mountain is known as a hotspot for Inukin encounters. At the mountain he was held captive, and claims to have seen a little girl also being held there who had vanished in the area 40 years earlier. He says that the Inukin had eventually decided to let him go, and had dumped him into the marsh. The boy displayed classic symptoms of lost time, and was unable to provide any details as to where he had been taken.

The 2013 book Myths and Mysteries of Alaska, by Cherry Lyon Jones, gives some curious accounts as well. One of them concerns what appears to have been a rather helpful Inukin. One day an Inupiaq man named Luke Koonuk was out hunting in the area of Point Hope, Alaska, but was out in incredibly remote, isolated terrain when his 4-wheel drive vehicle became stuck in a patch of muck. He was allegedly unable to budge the vehicle by himself, and with no one around for miles and miles it seemed that he was in quite a bit of trouble. After trying to move the vehicle and get it unstuck to the point of exhaustion, the panicked hunter reported that the truck had suddenly and inexplicably risen up, shifted, and then come bouncing back down out of the mud. As he looked on in bafflement, he claims that he could fleetingly see the blur of a shape of a little bipedal creature of some sort dash off into the trees.

The same book gives another account which is really hard to classify, and could be read as a Inukin encounter or one with aliens, but considering the location seems worth mentioning. The report comes from a group of teenagers in Nome, Alaska in 1988. The boys allegedly were driving along at night when they noticed an odd, pulsing light in their rear view mirror. Curious, they turned their vehicle around and went back to see what was going on, and as they approached they saw a humanoid creature between 3 to 4 feet tall, with broad, muscular shoulders standing there bathed in a greenish light. As the car approached, the creature allegedly ran away, but was quickly overcome by the vehicle and apparently run over. The boys would later find that other people had seen one or more of the same sort of creatures in the area at around the same time, either standing by the side of the road or in some cases even chasing vehicles, and there was apparently much talk at the time that this was perhaps the Inukin.

It is fascinating that such reports can be so similar to those of little people in other areas across the face of our planet, and yet still maintain their own stamp of uniqueness. Why do so many cultures throughout the world have traditions and myths of such creatures and why do they so often offer so much resemblance? Are these just some immutable feature upon the landscape of our psyche, or is there something more to all of this? What are these people seeing, if anything? Although such stories of gnomes and trolls may seem to many like something out of a fairy tale, to these people they are most certainly real. Why should that be? Are we, in our technologically advanced civilization with all of our science and shiny toys perhaps missing something? Whatever one may think about such reports, they continue to come in from all over the globe, and they hint at something very odd indeed.