This creature is considered by many to be the creation of horror writer Algernon Blackwood in his classic terror tale, "The Wendigo." But it is very real to many in the northern woods and prairies of Minnesota, a part of Native American legends. Way before Blackwood’s story.
Many legends and stories have circulated over the years about a mysterious creature encountered by hunters and campers in the shadowy forests of the upper regions of Minnesota. One variation has the creature so thin that it could not be seen from the side and only those who faced head-on could see it. This creature is said to have a voracious appetite for human flesh and that many forest dwellers who disappeared over the years believed to be victims of the monster.
The American Indians had their own tales of the Wendigo from long ago. The Inuit Indians of the region called the creature by various names, including Wendigo, Witigo, Witiko and Wee-Tee-Go. Roughly translated, it meant "the evil spirit that devours mankind." Around 1860, a German explorer translated Wendigo to mean "cannibal" among the tribes along the Great Lakes.
Indian legends described a gigantic spirit, over fifteen feet tall and lanky. It 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 a long tongue. Most have a sallow, yellowish skin but others are said to be matted with hair. They are driven by a horrible hunger. Also the lore says 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 and the legend of the Wendigo was created.
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, Minnesota’s North Star City in the late 1800's through the 1920's. Each time that it was reported, an unexpected death followed and finally, it vanished one day.
A true story about the Wendigo concerned a Cree Indian named Jack Fiddler. He claimed he had killed at least fourteen Wendigos in his lifetime. The 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. Both men pleaded guilty to the crime and defended themselves, stating that the woman had been possessed by the spirit of a Wendigo. Their story went that she was about to transform into the monster. According to their defense, she had to be killed before she murdered other members of the tribe.
Stories are still told of Wendigo's 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 is belief that the Wendigo still roams the woods and the prairies of northern Minnesota and Canada.
The Wendigo has fascinated us enough to be a character in Marvel Comics universe, novels, television series, movies, artwork, and so much more. It's just another legend to enjoy, but next time you go hiking in the woods during winter, be sure not to get lost and get back. Otherwise, if it snows heavy and you are caught out in it and you hear a howl, beware, the Wendigo might be stalking you, or worse, it just might want to possess you and make you the Wendigo!
If in a mood to enjoy a story about a Wendigo, check out the movies and books below:
"Wendigo" by Algernon Blackwood (free):
Year of the Wendigo by Ernest DeVore (Kindle-99 cents)
Wendigo (Kindle-99 cents) by Joseph Sweet
The Wendigo by Lijah Phoenix (Kindle—99 cents)
Wendigo: A Joe Bell Short Story by Alan Stanford (Kindle-$2.99)
Frostbiter: Wrath of the Wendigo (also known as ‘Wendigo’ too): http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0116371/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
Wendigo (Season 1 of Supernatural): Sam and Dean follow the coordinates left in their father's journal and land in the middle of the Colorado woods where they investigate the disappearance of several campers.
Who, What, Where, Wendigo (Season 2 of Haven): Audrey and Nathan lead a search party into Haven's sprawling woods when a local teen goes missing - and find they are not alone out there when a local supernatural legend seems to be more than a story.
Wendigo, Dogma, Wolfman (Season 2 of Monsters and Mysteries in America): Hybrid beasts are not legends in Michigan. They are real. Across the state a Wendigo transforms men into cannibals; in the countryside a man-wolf preys on one road; and in the city a bloodthirsty manimal confronts Jeff Cornelius.
Others Wendigo appears in an episode, is of Grimm, X-Files, and many others to put down.
Pet Cemetery by Stephen King (available at Barnes and Noble, Books A Millions and your local independent bookstore)
Night of the Wendigo by William Meikle
The Curse of the Wendigo by Rick Yancey
Wendigo by Jeremy Terry (Kindle-99 cents)
Warden (Book 1: Wendigo Fever) by Kevin Hardman
Wendigo by Raven Bower (available at Barnes and Noble, Books a Millions and your local independent bookstore)
Shadow of the Wendigo by Dale T. Phillips
The Witchy Wolf and the Wendigo by Rose Anderson and Gordon Bennetto
Cry of the Wendigo by C.W. James
The Curse of the Wendigo: An Agate and Buck Adventure (Vortex Books) by Scott R. Welvaert and Brann Garvey
Flesh by Dylan J. MorganEdgewise by Graham Masterton (available at Barnes and Noble, Books a Millions and your local independent bookstore)
Where the Chill Waits by T. Chris Martindale