The Wendigo: The Cannibal Beast Known as the Spirit of Hunger and Famine
The Algonquin legends tell the tale of the wendigo, the spirit of hunger and famine that is always on the prowl looking for human flesh to feast upon, a beast that is never full nor satisfied. Here is one of the most famous tales surrounding the legendary forest lurker.
The legend of the wendigo tells of how the beast was once a hunter that got lost during a brutally vicious winter, it is said that this man's unrelenting hunger drove him to the act of cannibalism.
The stories tell that after feasting on the flesh of a fellow human, the hunter then transformed into a crazed man-beast, with a raging desire for more people to consume.
The original story of the wendigo comes from Algonquian Native American folklore, the story does differ slightly depending on who tells the tale, some people who have reported encountering the beast believe it is a relative of Bigfoot, while others have compared the Wendigo to a werewolf.
The Wendigo is said to be a beast that thrives in cold weather and most reported encounters have come from Canada and the colder northern states in the US such as Minnesota. At the turn of the 20th century, the Algonquian tribes blamed the Wendigo for many unsolved mysteries surrounding missing people.
Most reports claim that the Wendigo stands at around 15 feet tall, with his body frequently described as emaciated, skeleton-like, and appearing to suffer from malnutrition.
This runs in line with the story that the Wendigo can never fulfill his hunger and his obsession for hunting new victims, never satisfied unless he is feeding on human flesh.
A native author and ethnographer by the name of Basil H Johnston once described the Wendigo in his work, The Manitous, it read:
"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."
An ethnohistorian called Nathan Carlson said that the Wendigo has huge, sharp claws and massive eyes, similar to that of an owl, however, some other reports have described the Wendigo as a skeleton-like figure with ash-toned skin.
Whichever description you go with, the Wendigo is clearly not something you wish to bump into while in the forest, nor anywhere else for that matter.
As with much of the stories regarding the Wendigo, different versions speak of differing agility and speed, some tales claim that he is extremely fast and can trek for long periods of time while hunting in the very harshest of weathers, while others say the beast walks in a haggard manner, as if he is falling apart.
The Wendigo, however, unlike many mythical man-killing beasts does not rely on chasing down its prey in order to kill it, it is said that it has the ability to mimic human voices, allowing him to lure people towards him and away from safety, once they are isolated in the depths of the harsh wilderness he will attack and then feast on their body,
The Algonquian people often referred to the wendigo as the "spirit of lonely places."
The word Wendigo can also be roughly translated to mean "the evil spirit that devours mankind." This translation is related to yet another version of the Wendigo that is said to hold the power to be able to curse humans by possessing them.
Once he has infiltrated their minds, he can turn them into Wendigos as well, instilling in them a similar lust for human flesh.
The story of the Swift Runner, who was a Native American man who murdered and ate his entire family during the winter of 1879, during his trial he claimed that he had been possessed by a "Wendigo spirit" that caused him to commit this horrendous act of violence - he was later hung for his crimes.
Terrifyingly, over the years there have been quite a few different stories of the spirits of Wendigo's possessing people in local communities, many were very similar to that of the Swift Runner case.
Most reports of Wendigo sightings were made throughout the 1800s and up until the 1920s, there have been very few reports since then.
Most recently in 2019, strange, mysterious howls in the Canadian wilderness led some to question whether they were listening to the infamous cannibal beast.
One hiker who was present said, "I’ve heard many different animals in the wild but nothing like this."
To this day, the legend of the Wendigo certainly lives on strong in certain communities. Black Shuck: The Legend of the Demon Dog, the Hellhound of England That Warns You of Imminent Death