Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Monstrous Profiles - #1 - The Wendigo

It's Halloween season. What better time to do a few profiles of monsters? (Human monsters not included.) First up, the Wendigo.

You are walking through a lovely forest in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan one evening. The sun is starting to go down and the shadows of the forest are growing.

It's getting dark and you don't want to get lost, so you turn and begin heading back towards your cabin; about a twenty minute walk away. Suddenly, in the woods behind you, you hear an otherworldly cry that make you writhe, and then in front of you appears the creature that made the cry. It is tall, and emaciated, with a mouth full of needle-like teeth, bloodstained lips, and hands and feet edged in sharp talons. It's eyes are glowing red as it shrieks again.

You take off running as fast as you can, hoping to escape from the creature, but it knows every rock and shrub in the forest, and to your horror, you can't escape it.

You've just met the Wendigo. For the first, and last time.

Name: Wendigo, variations include Wee-Tee-Go, Windigo, Witigo, Windago, Wihtikow, and many others.
Location: The upper U.S. and Canada.

The Wendigo is a creature of Native American design, most often seen among the Ojibwe/Chippewa, Cree, and Innu Indians. it is a cannibalistic being that was once a human, but became transformed into a monster after the person ate flesh of another human.

Descriptions of the creature tend to vary, but all of them agree that the monster is tall, thin, mean, and is always hungering for human flesh. By and far, the best article about this monster comes from Monstropedia:

The Wendigo is a purely anthropophagous beast, hungering for human flesh. It will go to any lengths to procure this food, no matter the risk or possibility of injury. The Wendigo craves human flesh and is constantly starving for it (indicated by the beast’s lean, wiry frame). The Wendigo is known to have its preferences: the sweet fat of children, the soft skin of women, the course muscles of men (especially warriors and hunters), or the brittle bones of the elderly. In preparation for long winters (when few travelers are out and about), the Wendigo will stash away large pots filled to the brim with human remains in the highest tree branches. On rare occasions, it will take humans alive and hide them away in its lair, allowing the beast to feed whenever it wants. The Wendigo is more intelligent than many humans, and thus understands the value of storing and saving its food. However, it will only resort to this when food is scarce and it becomes desperate.

Since the Wendigo constantly hungers for human flesh, it wreaks destruction in its pursuit of its chosen prey. It crashes through the forests, all the while uprooting trees, causing game animals to stampede, and causing whirlwinds. The monster is often thought to be the cause of ice storms, tornadoes, and violent winds. All of these weather-related phenomena are believed to signal the Wendigo’s presence.

When the Wendigo hunts, it stalks the victim for long periods. The chosen victim only has a dreadful feeling of being followed. However, the Wendigo has a sadistic streak. It prefers to terrify its victims before moving in for the kill. When it has had enough of stalking the victim, it lets out a growl or a shriek, which resonates through the forest and terrifies the beast’s prey. They panic, firing weapons haphazardly into the brush as the dense forest closes in on them. Eventually, the intended victim succumbs to insanity, running wildly into the forest with abandon. In such a state, they are easy prey for the Wendigo.

The Wendigo has been known to enter cabins and other dwelling, unlocking them from the outside and slaughtering the inhabitants, then proceeding to convert the cabin into its own lair. The Wendigo tends to hibernate for long periods, ranging in length from a few months to years at a time. Once they awaken, they go into a feeding frenzy, and after having eaten enough humans, it retreats to its lair and falls back into hibernation once again.

The Wendigo inhabits the forests of the Great Lakes and Canada. The dreaded Wendigo King lives near the Windigo River in Quebec. Kenora, Ontario is thought to be the “Wendigo Capital of the World” because so many sightings and incidents have taken place there, and it attracted Wendigoes originally because it used to be tribal grounds, with many Native American settlements scattered throughout the area. Most caves, gullies, and canyons in central Canada will provide shelter for the Wendigo.

A Wendigo is rumored to live in the Cave of the Wendigo, near Mameigwass Lake in northern Ontario. Any other area named after the Wendigo, such as Windigo River and Windigo Lake in Ontario, is bound to be inhabited by this monster as well.
The Wendigo has supernatural speed, strength, endurance, and senses. In knows every rock, tree, bush, and shrub of its territory. It can rip humans apart with ease, and moves faster than the human eye can see. All wounds inflicted on it heal quickly, except for those that, in a probable crossover with vampire legends, are inflicted by silver bullets and weapons. It is capable of surviving in harshest climates, and as mention before, has hearing, sight, and smell above and beyond that of a normal human. It is said to be able to see clearly in total darkness, and hear so well that it can hear it's victim's racing heart, which causes it to anticipate its meal that much more.

Besides sheer strength and animalistic ferocity, the Wendigo is armed with formidable array of weaponry: its dreaded claws and fangs. The beast’s ... talons are designed for ripping through flesh with the slightest touch, and one swipe from the Wendigo’s powerful claws can disembowel or decapitate a human. [Its] mouth is filled with long, needle-sharp fangs, made for slicing through flesh and sinew, as well as for breaking bones. The Wendigo’s fangs can easily puncture a human skull. Far from being a stupid beast, the Wendigo has a man’s intelligence and cunning, as well as the predatory instincts of an animal. ... The Wendigo uses this advantage to stalk its victims for hours on end, never being seen or heard unless the monster chooses to reveal itself by means of a growl or a shriek. There is no way to hide from the Wendigo, and it will not stop hunting until the victim’s broken, mutilated body lies at its clawed feet.

The Wendigo excels in stealth, and it is said that the Wendigo moves on the wind and breezes in utter silence. It can fill the air with an eerie, haunting siren by forcing the air through its blood-flecked lips. The Wendigo is able to mimic human voices, which are most often cries for help. The beast’s roar is utterly terrifying, and the fear it inspires cuts to the bone. When the freezing winds rise, it is said that the Wendigo’s howls can be distinguished from the moan of the wind, letting people nearby know that a monster lurks in their midst. For its prey, these warnings occur far too late to make any ... difference.

Among the Wendigo’s host of supernatural abilities, the Wendigo Fever is perhaps the most feared. It is a terrible curse, overtaking the mind and body of the unfortunate victim. The first symptom of the curse is a strange scent, detectable only to the intended victim. After absorbing this disturbing odor, the victim experiences a long night of weeping and horrifying nightmares. Upon awakening, the victim experiences a burning pain in the legs and feet, which becomes so intense that the victim runs into the forest, shrieking like a maniac, and discarding clothing and shoes all the while. Most of the curse’s victims never return, although those who do return are irrevocably insane from their experiences of the curse and the Wendigo itself. It is thought that most of the curse’s victims are devoured by the Wendigo.

The Wendigo, although a dire threat to mankind, shares a close kinship with the forest’s wildlife, mainly predatory animals (such as the wolf, bear, raven, or eagle). The beast willingly shares its kills with these companions, and these animals have been known to travel with the Wendigo.

As the Wendigo grows older, its powers over nature increase exponentially. The beast becomes a shaman, extremely adept in the dark arts. With this power, the Wendigo can manipulate the weather, creating storms of terrifying strength, and the beast can summon the midnight darkness hours before sunset. The Wendigo may summon dangerous beasts from the deepest, darkest reaches of the forest and command them to attack its enemies, traverse enormous distances in the blink of an eye, and heal any wounds instantaneously (although injuries inflicted by silver may take longer to heal).
So how can this monster be defeated? It is possible that the monster can be killed by a silver bullet. Fire will ward it off, though not for long.

In order to permanently destroy the Wendigo, one must first find the beast. The Great Lakes region and the forests of Canada are prime Wendigo territory. Beware, for the hunter may soon become the hunted. After finding and incapacitating the beast (no easy task, be assured), a silver stake must be driven through the Wendigo’s heart of ice, therefore shattering it. The shards of the Wendigo’s heart must be securely locked in a silver box and buried in consecrated ground (such as a churchyard or a cemetery).

The Wendigo’s body must then be dismembered with a silver-plated axe, and each piece of the body must be salted and burned to ashes (which must then be scattered to the four winds), or each piece must be hidden in some remote, inaccessible location (i.e. the bottom of a lake, a chasm, the sea floor, or a well). Failure to follow these procedures exactly will inevitably result in the Wendigo’s resurrection, followed by its bloody vengeance. It will hunt down its killer, relishing and anticipating the taste of the hunter’s blood in every single moment. Rest assured, the death that follows will be both slow and painful. The Wendigo will take great pleasure in every single bit of agony it inflicts on its killer before finishing the job and devouring the remains. Beware, as according to some legends, the Wendigo is indestructible.
According to legend, one becomes a wendigo if one consumes the flesh of another human. Once this happens, a malevolent spirit possess the cannibal, and they become a Wendigo. Dreaming about a wendigo is said to be bad sign, too.

So, to wrap up, the Wendigo is a terrifying, cannibalistic creature that is nearly impossible to escape. If you run into this creature and manage to get back with your life - and sanity - count yourself very, very lucky.


  1. Great monster choice. I'll be following this series with interest.

  2. Thanks for your interest. I hope you enjoy the rest of the monster profiles!

  3. Good monster, but it seems like Wendigo to monsters is like Superman to the Justice Leage, he makes all other monsters obsolete. It's like the best parts of a vampire and a werewolf combined, and the only way to kill him is a mix between how to kill a vampire and a werewolf, with 10 billion other steps added on top of all that.... And then as if that wasn't already enough, he's also a Shaman and practitioner of the dark arts.

  4. I hadn't thought about that before, Anonymous, but you're right! Thanks for your thoughts!