American Monsters: Wendigo
Fans of “Until Dawn” might appreciate this post, as does one of our writers whose favorite monster is in fact the Wendigo.
Wendigos, or sometimes Wendigoags, are creatures with an insatiable hunger from Native American lore; it is largely tribes within the northern United States and Canada who mention this monster. Wendigoag are said to roam the forests in the North, and those who become lost within the forests are said to have been eaten by the beasts.
Wendigo, in a rough translation, means “the evil spirit that will devour mankind” the wording is very specific as this is a monster who is said to come about in order to encourage cannibalism, and the Wendigo themselves have an insatiable desire to consume human flesh, although regardless of how much they eat, they always remain hungry.
There appearance is reflective of a beast plagued by starvation. They are deathly thin with gaunt features, often they are extremely tall, depicted as being anywhere from 9 to 15 feet tall, and they have yellowish decaying skin, with thin matted hair; their sunken in eyes are said to glow and the possess big, sharp teeth, and an overly long tongue. In drawings Wendigos are often depicted to be part deer or moose, as their feet are hooves and they possess antlers and in some depictions, the entire skull of a deer. Whatever a Wendigo looks like now, is far different than what it started out as; Wendigos are spirits who possess those who have committed extreme sins, usually cannibalism, and the monster you see was once human.
But even evil spirits come from somewhere, right? In legend the first Wendigo came from a Native American warrior who sold his soul to the devil in order to save his tribe.
There are some people who believe that the person still exists inside the monstrous Wendigo, specifically where the heart should be. That being said there is no cure, no way to reverse the transformation, the only solution is death. Whether you want to save the person, or simply kill the Wendigo, you cannot kill one without killing the other, as their souls are connected. In the game, “Until Dawn,” its noted that it may be safer just to keep Wendigos alive, but imprisoned, as killing a Wendigo sets the spirit of the master free, and just creates the chance for a new person to be afflicted.
Believe it or not there are several real-life occurrences of people being possessed by the spirit of the Wendigo, and whether or not you want to believe in the supernatural side of it, the condition of “Wendigo Psychosis” in which a person with reasonable access to food becomes overwhelmed by the need to consume human flesh.
Here are some examples of real life Wendigo possessions:
- In 1878, a Cree man named Swift Runner, slaughtered and ate his entire family, which consisted of his wife and their 5 children, in the middle of winter, despite only being only 25 miles away from the Hudson Bay Company’s supply post. No one in the tribe knew of the killings until winter had ended and the snow had dissipated, in what was perhaps an attempt to cover up his crime, it was in fact Swift Runner who went to the police to tell them that his wife and committed suicide and his children had died of starvation during the harsh winter. However the officers noted Swift Runner didn’t look underfed himself. Suspicious of the story the police went to investigate and eventually found the remnants of a campfire with bones and human skulls piled nearby. The bones were described to be dry and hollow, even empty of their marrow. Swift Runner was sentenced to death for his crimes.
- In 1907, two Oji-Cree men named Jack and Joespeh Fiddler was arrested for killing over 14 people with his brother, because they thought they were all Wendigos, or about to transform into them. Peter Flett, their other brother, was killed himself after turning Wendigo when the food ran out on a trading expedition. However for a long time it wasn’t an unusual occurrence for Jack or Peter. Friends and family had before asked them to kill relatives who were very sick and “about to turn Wendigo.” They weren’t arrested until 1907, because it was actually 2 non-tribe members who made the arrest, two Canadian mounties; the tribe was well aware and even accepting of what had happened, as they feared the spirit of the Wendigo.
- From the late 1800s to the 1920s there were a bundle of Wendigo reports in the town of Rosesu, Minnesota. Each time there was a Wendigo sighting a mysterious death would follow shortly after. After reports of the sightings stopped, so did the deaths.
- As recent as 2008 there have been reports of Wendigo possessions. On the Trans-Canada Highway on a Greyhound bus, a man named Vincent Weighing Li stabbed another passenger 40 times, before slicing off his victim’s head and gutting him, he them proceeded to store parts of the intestines, nose, ears, and mouth in a plastic bag. He was later accused of having eaten parts of his victim as well. As the attack occurred the bus driver as well as the other 30+ passengers fled the seen and called the police. Li was described as being robotically calm throughout the entire incident, only seeming to realize what he did after the fact. In court he remained silent and spoke once only to say, “Please kill me. This was a completely random attack.”
All of these events follow the same pattern. Successful, well-mannered, quiet, seemingly-normal individuals with jobs and family suddenly snap and commit horrible, gruesome murders, and indulge in cannibalism. They can never quite explain why it happened, what led them to it, or explain what happened in the moment, and often to them its like it never happened at all.
(As always sites we used to help us write this piece can be found under our references tab)