By far the most well-known and discussed type of hairy wild man of Native lore is none other than the mysterious and legendary entity known as the Wendigo, animalistic, hulking beasts with strange powers. These creatures have been mainstays of Native American lore for generations, their deeds well known in many of these tribal stories and legends. Into the days of settlers there were many cases of even the white man coming across these abominations, and the creatures were often blamed for missing persons. Yet, looking at some scattered accounts in modern times, it seems that people are still having harrowing encounters with alleged Wendigos, and here we will look at a selection of some of these.
To truly understand these terrifying tales, one must first perhaps know what a Wendigo actually is traditionally said to be and represent. Originating from the myths and legends of the Native American Algonquian tribes based in the northern forests of Nova Scotia, the East Coast of Canada, and Great Lakes Region of Canada, the Wendigo truly holds a place amongst the most frightening creatures of Native lore, and with good reason. Most often described as a massive, hairy brute up to 15 feet tall, with a mix of human and animalistic features, the Wendigo has long been said to partake in acts of murder, insatiable greed, and cannibalism. In lore, the creature is supposedly a gaunt, extremely tall apparition that had glowing eyes, long yellowed fangs, wicked claws, and a long tongue, often also depicted with antlers, and which was eternally en thrall to insatiable hunger, growing ever larger with each kill it made and yet never fully satiated, always skeletal and slight no matter how much it ate. One description of the Wendigo was given by Native author and ethnographer Basil H. Johnston, who wrote of it:
The Wendigo was gaunt to the point of emaciation, its desiccated skin pulled tightly over its bones. With its bones pushing out over its skin, its complexion the ash gray of death, and its eyes pushed back deep into the sockets, the Wendigo looked like a gaunt skeleton recently disinterred from the grave. What lips it had were tattered and bloody… Unclean and suffering from suppurations of the flesh, the Wendigo gave off a strange and eerie odor of decay and decomposition, of death and corruption.
There are many local traditions of the Wendigo with slightly different details in its appearance and abilities depending on the region, but it is always said to be frightening, and there are also variations in their powers. They are variously described as having the ability to turn invisible, to read minds, or to mimic human voices in order to draw victims away to isolated areas, as well as shapeshifting powers and the ability to generate waves of profound fear. Their origins also have some variations, but the main cause according to the majority of traditions, is that humans who were overcome by greed or hunger, or those who resorted to cannibalism to stay alive, were at risk of becoming Wendigos themselves. In one account of the origins of this beast, the Wendigo started as a warrior who made a deal with the Devil in order to save his tribe from some unspecified calamity, in others it is simply greed and cannibalism that does the trick, or one can also be made into a Wendigo by another of the creatures, yet in every one of them the spawn of this all is an unholy abomination that seeks constant sustenance.
Although most of the stories of Wendigo encounters occurred far back into the19th and 20th centuries and beyond, there have been sporadic reports of what could be possible Wendigos up into more modern times. One report comes from a witness on Reddit called “universemasterOnGram,” who says that he is of Native American descent and that this happened near an unspecified reservation on a camping trip when he was 13 years old. Although things started off normally, it all got rather strange when several odd occurrences began to unfold. They would find dead birds around the campground, things went missing from their own camp, and they were at a loss to explain what was going on. It escalated when they began to hear footsteps in the area, a terrible stench would sometimes waft through, and there was a constant, inescapable feeling of being watched. They nevertheless stayed at the camp, as it was a trip they had been planning for months, and on the second to last day something very bizarre would unfold, of which the witness says:
Although, these occurrences were a disturbance it did not deter us from staying for the final two days as we had been planing it for months, but one experience years ago on the day right before our departure, still haunts me to this day. I had been strolling through the forest while looking firewood when I heard rustling in the bushes behind me, as this happened it seemed that all life ceased around me because I could only hear my heartbeat and the lone heavy footsteps approaching me, then I heard my name called from what seemed every direction yet echoed from in front of me while also coming from behind.
The voice calling me was a harsh, raspy, animalistic in tone imitation of my sister’s voice, who had just recently left the trip due to stress only a few hours ago. This had sent horrendous chills down my spine, So I ran the fastest I’ve ever had back towards the campsite, while I heard the twigs and leaves crunching behind me. I had finally reached the campsite when the footsteps suddenly stopped, I was relieved and slumped over to the cabin stairs when I slipped on a rock slipping out of the makeshift fire, it had caused me to head straight into it. The blazing force of nature had almost burned my face when I was just stopped mid fall, I hadn’t gained my balance it was just as if someone was hanging on to me and pulled me back. I’m not sure what is was but my family suggests that it was my guardian angel saving me from a early death, But after that experience I have never been to the same campsite ever again, and didn’t go camping for a few years after that. Still, what really scares me the most from back then was when we had been leaving the site, I looked back from the car window and saw a figure standing at the tree line staring at me, it was lanky and looked starved to the point of having its skin wrapping tightly against its bones. But when I looked onto the pathway the footprints were completely gone, and as I blinked we rounded the corner and it seemingly vanished into thin air.
This has left me questioning what is those woods and was it a reality, but when my sister asked me why I was so shaken I told her what I experienced and her face went pale. She had told me that before leaving a terrifically gaunt figure had been watching us across the river bank, and that it had noticed her and “ran away on all four at a fictional speed” she shakily said, staying quite frightened after. Until speaking with a phrase that still haunts me today, “before I had left early, that thing had left long, deep, scratch mark on the trail sign.” It was the one that It was chased me on.
What was this thing? Wendigo or not, it is very creepy, to say the least. Another report comes from Reddit user Katzaidanj, who does not specify his exact location, but assures us that it is an area where Wendigos “could and have been spotted.” It started with finding mutilated animals around the remote property in rather grisly fashion, including dead foxes and deer that had had their spinal columns torn out and strewn around, as well as vicious claw and teeth marks and limbs rendered from their bodies. Sometimes these animals were disemboweled and their entrails found hanging from bushes or trees like macabre Christmas tree ornaments, and sometimes they were simply torn in half, with one of the halves missing. It was all very unsettling, indeed, but it was about to graduate into the horrifying. The witness explains:
So let me lay out the land for you. My house is about 100 yards from a small stream that splits the small wooded area in half. And on the far side of the stream from my house there are large trees. So I was out there one day and all the sudden I felt cold and uncomfortable. Like I was being watched. I also became increasingly paranoid that someone or something was out there with me. So I decided to head in. Plus the sun was setting and dusk would be upon me soon. So I started walking towards my house which is would mean I would have to walk uphill. So I start walking at first I was waking out of the woods like I was on someone’s yard and they had told me to get off, not a fast pace but moving with a purpose you know. Then I kinda felt like someone was really looking at me.
So I turned around and saw a large creature about 80 yards from me standing across the stream. It then proceeded to take a step towards me. And I’m not really to athletic but I’m not mega weak. I would saw that if I had to run about 20 yards uphill through the woods it might take me 30-40 seconds. Yeah I ran out of those woods in about 10 seconds. It is the most I have ever been scared and the most that adrenaline has ever flowed through me. Now I know what your wondering, could I have been dehydrated or having hallucinations. Well I’ve never hallucinated once in my life and I wasn’t dehydrated because about 10 minutes prior to this event I drank an entire bottle of water and I always make sure I’m hydrated before I go woodland exploring. And there is no way it was a tree because every time I go out there I go to where I spotted it. And there isn’t a single tree small enough to remotely look like what I saw. Since then I haven’t spotted it, but I hear it. It is believed by native Americans that wendigos call out for help like a human in order to lure people toward it. I have heard what sounds like a little girl calling for help out in those woods before. It is still terrifying to talk or think about.
Wendigo reports come from a surprisingly varied number of places around the United States, and our next report comes from the wilds of the mountains of the northern area of the state of Georgia. The witness in this case claims that he spends a lot of time camping and hiking the area with his brother Ryan, and on this day, they had headed out to a place they knew well, midway through Jacks River Trail in the Cohutta Wilderness. They searched for a good, secluded area to set up camp for a planned two-night stay, got everything set up, and after a day of hiking and exploring the Jacks River the trip seemed to be off to a great start. That night they got a fire going, had dinner, and sat chatting away until a sound caught their attention. According to the witness, they were very familiar with the sounds of the forest and this sounded off to them, as if several people were walking around the campsite trying not to be heard. Then things got bizarre rather quickly, of which the witness says:
I remember we both pulled out our flashlights and shown it in the direction we felt the sounds were coming from but that is what was so weird. Whenever we would fix our lights on a spot we thought the sound were coming from the location of the sound would suddenly change. That’s when the whistling started. At first I thought it was the wind and I remember thinking maybe the wind is just throwing leaves around and what we are hearing is nothing but the wilderness around us. Ryan looked at me and asked if I was hearing that. I didn’t answer and was trying to focus hard on each individual sound. Two consecutive notes with roughly a three to four second gap and then two more consecutive notes. Over and over again. Ryan kept asking if I heard that and I put my finger to my lips trying to keep him from talking.
The fear I felt was incredible. My jaw was tight, my fist clenched, knowing I wasn’t ready for whatever was out there if it was anything at all. The whistling continued for what felt like forever but thinking it through was maybe five minutes when Ryan finally yelled out into the darkness. “HEY!” Quiet. The whistling stopped. We sat there in silence for a few minutes when the woods erupted with noise. Something or someone was running in a circle around our campsite. The whistling came back. Two consecutive notes with the same three to four second gap and then two more consecutive notes. How could someone whistle this loudly without cracking while also running? I was done. I stood up shining my flashlight in all directions trying to catch a glimpse of whatever was screwing with us. Nothing. It felt close enough to touch but we never saw a thing. That’s when the movement stopped but the whistling was still constant. It was so loud. Inhumanly loud. I looked at Ryan and told him to call the police. Now this is the part I will never forget. The part I never like to talk about. While Ryan was on the phone with a dispatcher and telling them our location and what was going on I stepped around the fire towards my tent. Inside my bag I had a six inch fixed blade that I always carried and thought I would feel a bit more comfortable with it in my hand more than just my flashlight. As I went to unzip my tent, trying to keep my eyes toward the woods, I heard some movement directly in front of me. I swept my light up in front of me and for maybe two seconds I saw it. Whatever this person or thing was, it was about five feet up in a tree.
Everything about it was long. Its arms, legs, neck, fingers, everything. And it was fast. As soon as the light hit it launched backwards off of the tree. I heard it land but it either jumped an impossible distance or landed in a thicket because I heard it but never saw. I don’t think I have ever yelled so loud. I ran back to where Ryan was and sat down. He kept asking me what I saw but I couldn’t answer. I just kept thinking about what I saw. Maybe ten minutes later we saw a couple of flashlight beams coming through the woods and about three guys came into view asking if everything was ok. I settled down a bit and started asking them if they had seen or heard anything. All they said was they heard a lot of movement and then heard my scream and that’s when they headed in our direction. I tried to explain what had happened without sounding crazy but it didn’t seem to work. One of the guys walked around a bit and came back and said he didn’t see anything. Ryan told them that we called the police and roughly thirty minutes later a park ranger showed up. Ryan and I tried explaining everything to him but he just chalked it up to either a curious animal or some campers trying to mess with us.
What was going on here? From Texas we have a report from a witness who claims this happened out in the Texas Hill Country during the hot summer months. He says that at the time he was visiting his parents’ home, who lived there with their many cats. The house was along a creek, and the witness claims that one evening one of the cats, named Topaz, who usually followed him around on his walks around the property was with him, but this evening would prove to be stranger than most. He says of what happened next:
There is a creek on that property as well, and while usually we never had any issues while down there, this one time had proven to be quite strange; Topaz the cat was unwilling to cross in her usual spot, and it was eerily quiet. I noticed a little later that she was acting as if something was threatening her, so I looked up, and saw... it. This thing had long arms, and it was tall, but I don't remember anything like talons or claws. I do remember antlers, and matted fur, but nothing gaunt or skeletal. And very large, dark eyes, oriented forward like a predators would be. The weirdest thing about the whole situation was just being entirely overcome with fear and dread, literally to the point of vomiting. I threw up and sprinted back up to the house with my cat, and avoided the creek for ages, though weirdly I felt quite certain that whatever that thing was, it couldn't cross running water. And after a month, it felt like it had gone, and it was safe to go over there again alone. Now as far as I know there is no family history on either side for hallucinations, and even of there were, this would have been my only experience with one my entire life, and it's been almost a full decade since this happened. Mostly I am wondering if anything of this description and presence has been encountered before, especially in Texas.
What is going on behind these reports and others like them, and are they even truly encounters with the legendary Wendigo at all? After all, besides some of the telltale signs such as the generation of fear, general appearance, and what seems to be in some cases an effort to trick or draw in the victim, as well as the assertion from all of these witnesses that these were "Wendigos," we are left wondering if there is perhaps something else to this all. Could this be some sort of other creature like a Sasquatch, even a supernatural entity such as a Skinwalker? Could it be just hallucinations or misidentifications, maybe even hoaxes? Whatever they are, such accounts make the rounds from time to time, and add a layer to the already rich and spooky lore of the Wendigo.