There are many native legends and lore I heard over the years, growing up in northern Ontario. One I always been fascinated with, was about an entity that dwell within the depths of the forest, called the Windigo. The legend, told by Algonquin tribes, described as either a monster or a spirit with claws and fangs, possessing supernatural abilities, roaming the woods with an endless hunger for human flesh. The story also hold a warning, if anyone possessed by the Windigo would forever turn into a cannibal. Many natives feared this creature deeply, they would put those believed possessed to death, as there was no means to save them.
Today, the legend is view more of a means the natives used to explaining their taboo about cannibalism. Modern psychologist, diagnose such a condition as “Windigo Psychosis”, where an individual with access to food would suddenly want to consume human flesh. There are several recorded cases involving murder where the belief in the Windigo was a cause. In 1879, a Cree trapper from Alberta, named Swift Runner, was executed for murdering and consuming his family in the winter of 1878. He expressed remorse for his actions believing he became a Windigo. In 1907, Canadian authorities arrested Jack Fiddler, a native shaman, and his brother for the murder of woman they thought was transforming into the creature.
There is this one case I came across but have yet to find any historical documents to verify it. The only references I found were several websites, a few books and a TV series. Whether its real or not remains unknown, but I think is one of the more interesting stories of the Windigo. In 1920, a young doctor named Thomas Burton. moved to Fort Kent, Alberta with his wife to open a medical practise. During the winter, his wife was overcome with disease and dead throwing the doctor into a deep depression. As the account goes, Thomas became possessed by the Windigo and went on a rampage through the small town. Only a few would survive the massacre, as the doctor disappeared screaming into the forest never to be seen again. If I every do find some historical documents on this case I post them in future blog.
Sources of Information
“Wendigo” Ghost of the Prairie”. November 20,2013. http://www.prairieghosts.com/wendigo.html
Pitt, Steve. “Beware the Windigo”. Legion Magazine. November, 30, 2013. http://legionmagazine.com/.
Vale, Allison. Hell House: And Other True Haunting Around the World. New York: Sterling Publishing Inc. 2008.