The Wendigo Spirit and Windigo Monster
The Wendigo is one of the lesser known entries in the encyclopedia of cryptozoology. Most of us today probably know the term as a result of the 2001 horror film, the Algernon Blackwood story or the comicbook character. There is some confusion over the names wendigo and windigo. The two terms are often used as the same, however they are actually different, one being a weird living creature the other a spirit.
A Wendigo Spirit Story
Fort Kent - 1920, A young doctor and his wife had moved to Fort Kent during the war From England. He started up an in-home practice to help the people of Fort Kent, since The Cold Lake Air Force and weapons base was only 20 minutes away. His practice was successful until a swarm of rats came into the town carrying a plague of small pox and infected half of the town with this plague. The Doctor treated these people but couldn't do anymore as he knew they were going to die. The Doctor's wife happened to get the plague as well, and when she died he locked himself in his house, not accepting any patients, and he built a shrine with his wife's lifeless body. As the Indians of the area have warned people in this town about the spirit of the "Wendigo" which preys on weak souls, possesses them, and when such a thing possesses you, you tend to crave and eat the flesh of your own beings… humans. The doctor became insane, and the townsfolk didn't know the doctor's wife had passed away. The doctor slowly invited one person after another to his home, killed them, and ate them. Once the town's people started to notice more and more people were going missing, they were suspecting. So the doctor went on a rampage on the town of Fort Kent. He killed and ate all but 11 people in 1921. He ate their flesh, and left a pile of bones. In 1921 it was recorded that 150 people had lived here, and no one had seen the doctor. It's told that he ran off into the woods leaving everything in his home behind, and that he was possessed by the Wendigo. The townsfolk of Fort Kent say that you can hear him screeching with laughter at night in the woods.
The Windigo Monster
The legend of the windigo has a long history. It was part of the folklore of the Native American tribe Algonquian - and is found in what now makes up the northern United States and Canada. The windigo is considered to be simply a version of Bigfoot or Sasquatch. The monster's origin is more complex - it's a cross between a werewolf, Bigfoot and a troll.
The wendigo is a beast that lives alone in the northern forests, feeding whenever possible on human flesh. The wendigo originates as a human being. However the person is then possessed by an evil Wendigo spirit and transforms into the beast. The most common reason for becoming a wendigo is if one eats human flesh. For this reason, it has been suggested that the wendigo legend came about in order to prevent tribes from descending into cannibalism during times of food shortage. Some say that those bitten by a windigo will begin to develop a craving for human flesh and eventually become possessed themselves. There is no cure. The wendigo is also known as the "spirit of the lonely places". It is certainly a lone creature, again possibly a reference to the casting out of those who break tribal taboos. The wendigo hides in the forests and tracks you silently, always just out of sight. It waits, biding its time until it can pounce.
The History of the Wendigo Spirit
While this creature is considered by many to be myth or folklore, this woods spirit is, very real to many in the northern woods and prairies of North America. Many legends and stories have circulated over the years about a mysterious cannabalistic creature who has been encountered by hunters and campers in the forests of upper Minnesota. One such story proclaims, the creature could only be seen if it faced the witness head on, because it was so thin that it could not be seen from the side. The spirit was said to have an an insatiable hunger for human flesh and the many forest residents who disappeared over the years were said to be victims of the monster.
The American Indians had their own tales of the Wendigo, dating back so many years that most who were interviewed could not remember when the story had not been told. The Inuit Indians of the region called the creature Wendigo, translated, it means "the evil spirit that devours mankind". Around 1860, a German explorer translated Wendigo to mean "cannibal" among the tribes along the Great Lakes.
Native American versions of the creature spoke of a gigantic spirit, over fifteen feet tall, that had once been human but had been transformed into a creature by the use of magic. Though all of the descriptions of the creature vary slightly, the Wendigo is generally said to have glowing eyes, long yellowed fangs and an overly long tongue. Most have a sickley yellowish complexion but others are said to be matted with hair. They are tall and lanky and are driven by a horrible hunger for human flesh and blood.
According to the folklore, the Wendigo is created whenever a human resorts to cannibalism to survive. In years past, such a practice was possible, although still rare, as many of the tribes and settlers in the region were cut off by the bitter snows and ice of the north woods. Unfortunately, eating another person to survive was sometimes resorted to and thus, the legend of the Wendigo was created.
But how real were these creatures? Could the legend of the Wendigo have been created merely as a "warning" against cannibalism? Or could sightings of Bigfoot type creatures have created the stories. While this is unknown, it is believed that white settlers to the region took the stories seriously. At times, they even took the sightings and reports quite seriously and made it enough of the local culture that stories like those of Algernon Blackwood were penned. Real-life stories were told as well and according to the settlers' version of the legend, the Wendigo would often be seen to signal a death in the community. A Wendigo allegedly made a number of appearances near a town called Rosesu in Northern Minnesota from the late 1800's through the 1920's. Each time that it was reported, an unexpected death followed and finally, it was seen no more.
Even into the last century, Native Americans actively believed in, and searched for, the Wendigo. One of the most famous Wendigo hunters was a Cree Indian named Jack Fiddler. He claimed to kill at least 14 of the creatures in his lifetime, although the last murder resulted in his imprisonment at the age of 87. In October 1907, Fiddler and his son, Joseph, were tried for the murder of a Cree Indian woman. They both pleaded guilty to the crime but defended themselves by stating that the woman had been possessed by the spirit of a Wendigo and was on the verge of transforming into one entirely. According to their defense, she had to be killed before she murdered other members of the tribe.
There are still many stories told of Wendigo's that have been seen in northern Ontario, near the Cave of the Wendigo, and around the town of Kenora, where a creature has been spotted by traders, trackers and trappers for decades. There are many who still believe that the Wendigo roams the woods and the prairies of northern Minnesota and Canada. Whether it seeks human flesh, or acts as a portent of coming doom, is anyone's guess but before you start to doubt that it exists, remember that the stories and legends of this fearsome creature have been around since before the english walked on these lands.
The Wendigo Psychosis
The best known way to become a Wendigo is through cannibalism. By eating another human being, even out of necessity for survival, a human can be overcome by these spirits and be transformed into one. The fear of turning into this creature was so strong that it was preferable to kill one's self rather than resort to cannibalism. The Wendigo legend was prevalent in the northern United States and Canada, and particularly roamed around woods and forests in the coldest areas where food was scarce and survival was challenging.
There is a condition known as "Wendigo Psychosis" under which people with access to food sources would inexplicably become overcome with the need to consume human flesh. One such person, a Cree man named Swift Runner, famously slaughtered his entire family in 1878 and ate them, despite being only 25 miles from the Hudson Bay Company's supply post.
Wendigo Psychosis is a mental disorder in which a person intensely craves human flesh and thinks they are turning into a cannibal (despite an abundance of healthy food available). The most common response amongst the aboriginal communities in which wendigo psychosis was most prevalent, was curing attempts by traditional native healers or Western doctors. In the unusual cases when these attempts failed, and the Wendigo sufferer began either to threaten those around them or to act violently or anti-socially, they were then generally executed. While some doctors and scientists have denied the existence of this disorder, there are a number of credible eyewitness accounts, both by aboriginal communities and by Westerners, that prove that Wendigo psychosis is a factual historical phenomenon.
Jack Fiddler - To Kill a Wendigo?
Jack Fiddler was perhaps the most famous of the Wendigo hunters. He was a Cree Indian who claimed at least 14 Wendigos in his lifetime! Jack Fiddler's last murder resulted in his arrest at the age of 87. Jack admitted that he was guilty of the crime, but to his defense, he stated that the woman was cursed by the spirit of a Wendigo and would eventually murder members of his tribe.
In October 1907 Jack Fiddler and his brother were arrested for killing over 14 people who he claimed were Wendigos or about to become them. Jack Fiddler became a famous shaman for his alleged ability to conjure animals and protect his people from spells. Most importantly to the people of the region, he could allegedly successfully defeat the wendigo, a cannibalistic spirit that would possess people during all-too-frequent bouts of famine and disease. In his life, Jack Fiddler claimed to have defeated fourteen wendigos. Apparently some were sent against his people by enemy shamans, and others were members of his own band who were taken with an insatiable, incurable desire to eat human flesh. In the latter case, Fiddler was usually asked by family members to kill a very sick loved one before they turned wendigo. In some cases, the "wendigo" him or herself would ask to be euthanized according to the necessary rites. Fiddler's own brother, Peter Flett, was killed after turning wendigo when the food ran out on a trading expedition.
In early 1907, two members of the North-West Mounted Police visiting Island Lake heard of Jack Fiddler's power against the wendigo from Norman Rae, an in-law of the Fiddlers. Seeking to introduce Canadian law in the North, the Mounties went to the Sucker camp at Deer Lake and arrested Jack and Joseph Fiddler for murder. Before leaving, they took an eyewitness and declared that each man must give up any extra wives. For most of the Sucker people, the Mounties were the first whites they had ever seen. The elderly brothers were charged with murdering Wahsakapeequay, Joseph's daughter-in-law, the year before. They were held at Norway House to await trial. Meanwhile, newspapers across Canada picked up the story and printed sensational headlines of murder and devil-worship. Across the country, people demanded convictions, while the police conducting the trial saw an opportunity for fame and advancement.
On September 30, Jack Fiddler escaped captivity during a walk outside. He hanged himself nearby and was found dead later in the day. Robert Fiddler, son of Jack Fiddler and successor as chief of the Sucker peopleJoseph Fiddler still went to trial, however. Angus Rae, the eyewitness, testified that Wahsakapeequay was killed while in deep pain and incurably sick according to the custom of the people who were not aware of Canadian law. Pressed on the wendigo issue, Rae admitted that it was a belief among his people and that Jack and Joseph were the ones who were usually asked to euthanize the very sick and prevent wendigos. Despite some other unreliable testimony from Rae, and the pleas of missionaries and HBC traders, Joseph was convicted and sentenced to death by Aylesworth Perry, the stipendary magistrate. Further appeals secured his release, but the order came three days after his death in 1909.
Wendigos are notoriously hard to kill. "This thing is a good hunter in the day, but an unbelievable hunter at night." The Wendigo have few weakness, as far as weapons are concerned it can only be killed by iron, steel and silver. The most gruesome method of disposal is by shattering the creature's ice heart with a silver stake and then dismembering the body with a silver axe.
650 years ago, an entire civilization and culture vanished without a trace; this is the mystery of the Anasazi and it has puzzled many archeologists over the years. Causing "absurd" theories of this mysterious disappearance to sprout up, especially among New Age and UFO groups. After over 20 years of arduous research, archeologists now believe they hold the answer.
The ancestors of the Anasazi came to Angel Canyon at least 10,000 years ago and they had become a peaceful farming society. But, modernization brought about its destruction. Society soon became centralized as political/religious leaders took control, built roads to outlying the colonies and trade routes to other civilizations. Then, about 800 years ago the economy collapsed, the land had become overworked and the leaders became tyrannical. The Anasazi moved their homes into caves high in the cliff walls and prepared to defend themselves. To add to the troubles was a gang of roaming Toltec outlaws that often invaded their small communities, terrorizing, murdering and even eating members of the Anasazi tribe! Rather than fight back, the Anasazi responded with a mass exodus- just walking away and leaving their troubles behind them. The Anasazi migrated South, eventually building a new culture and religion that we know as the Hopi.
As tribes have been more and more influenced by surrounding culture, the reports of the Wendigo have declined over the years, but as with most evil spirits, it is doubtful that this creature is gone for good. So the next time you are alone, hungry, and you don't feel like eatting, be afraid be very afraid. The Wendigo may be near.