The strange 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 comic book character. There is some confusion over the names wendigo and windigo. The two terms are often used interchangeably however some say they are actually different, one being a weird living creature the other a spirit.
The legend of the wendigo has a long history. It was part of the folklore of the various Native American tribes – especially the Algonquian – and was to be found in what now makes up the northern US States and Canada.
The wendigo is sometimes considered to be simply a version of Bigfoot or Sasquatch. The creature’s origin is more complex – it’s a little like a cross between a werewolf, Bigfoot and a troll!
The wendigo is a man-beast that lives in alone the forest. It is far from benign, feeding whenever possible on human flesh – especially that of children.
The wendigo originates as a human being. However the person is then possessed by an evil 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 wendigo 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.
Cryptid or Phantom?
If the wendigo is a mythical spirit, what is it doing in the cryptozoology section? Cryptids are real hidden creatures, not myths.
That’s true, however many myths have their basis in fact. Some believe that the legend of the wendigo is itself based on a strange Bigfoot like creature. Many unexplained disappearances have been blamed on wendigo attacks.
There have been many wendigo sightings over the years, especially in Minnesota where the creature is believed to live in the woods and prairies. In particular there was a rash of well publicised sightings around the beginning of the twentieth century; it was probably these that inspired Algernon Blackwood.
It’s interesting to note that the wendigo legend is restricted to the colder parts of the American continent and hasn’t spread south. Could the wendigo be a relative of the yeti?