Native American Monsters: Faces of Unnatural Death
Most people know about werewolves and vampires from Europe, but the mythology of the Native American nations is a bit more obscure. From the Lakota to the Penobscot to the Hopi, there have been stories of monsters that roam the night to prey upon the unwary and unwise. These monsters would fit right in in any monster flick that you care to name. Learn some more about these monsters, and be a little more careful when you walk around at night.
The stiff-legged bear was a monster that was famous through several eastern Native American peoples. This was supposedly a bear that was roughly the size of a small elephant, with legs that could not bend. If it lay down, it could never rise up again. It was supposed to be so large that the only thing that could satisfy its appetite was people. It would prey upon those who were out alone, leaving behind only bloody traces of where it has been. There is some evidence that suggests that the stiff-legged bear came from stories about the wooly mammoth.
The Iroquois lived in what is now the northeastern part of the United States, and one of their more terrifying tales centers around the specter of a disembodied head with wings that allow it to fly about. These heads may result from a murder victim seeking recompense or as a punishment for cannibalism. The idea of one of these heads whipping through the night to prey on hapless wanderers is truly terrifying.
Though the name of this Sioux monster translates to underwater panther, it has quite a different look. It supposedly has the body of a buffalo, one eye, and one horn. It has a deadly spiked tail, and it was supposed to be covered in red fur. It was thought that this monster drowned swimmers who were not being careful to swim safely, and disappearances near water were often blamed on it.
The Omaha and the Sioux share a monster known as Two-Face. Two-Face’s origins are in dispute, but it is most commonly thought to be born from a woman who tried to seduce the god of the sun. Because of this, one face is beautiful and the other is ugly, something that represents the departure from law and healthy tradition. Supposedly, seeing Two Face meant that the viewer would be paralyzed with fear and die on the spot. If they escaped death, Two Face would stab them to death with its amazingly sharp elbows before mutilating them.
Of all of the monsters on this list, the wendigo is perhaps the most famous. It has made an appearance in many stories and games, but the true horror of the wendigo is only mentioned briefly. The Ojibwe and the Eastern Cree nations believed that if one ate the flesh of another person, one would become a wendigo. This creature was many times the size of a regular human with dried skin stretched painfully over its bones. It had tattered lips and reeked of death. Whenever the wendigo finished a meal, it would grow that much bigger, so that it was never satisfied. Wendigos are often thought to be manifestations of the cannibalism taboo.
Skinwalkers were one of the great terrors of the Navajo people, and even today, there are reported sightings of skinwalkers throughout the American southwest. Skinwalkers were meant to be priests, but at the last moment decided to turn their powers to evil. After killing a close family member, they gained the ability to shift form. They are often accused of killing young children and eating the remains of the dead.