9 Chilling Native American Ghost Stories, From Cannibals To Evil Otters

Published October 28, 2021
Updated July 25, 2022

Wendigo: The Cannibal Of Native American Ghost Stories

Wendigo Native American Ghost Stories

FlickrA depiction of the terrifying wendigo.

One of the scariest creatures from Native American ghost stories, the wendigo, is sometimes described as an evil spirit, and sometimes as a malevolent monster. In all tales, it’s defined by its desperate, insatiable hunger for human flesh.

According to legends told by a number of different tribes, including the Algonquian Ojibwe, Eastern Cree, Saulteaux, Westmain Swampy Cree, Naskapi, and Innu, a wendigo is created whenever a human resorts to cannibalism. Indeed, their name roughly translates to “the evil spirit that devours mankind.”

These evil spirits are described as towering, emaciated beings with gray skin and deep-set eyes. The Algonquian claim that wendigo have skeletal and deformed bodies that are missing fingers and toes. The Ojibwa say that the wendigo are lipless with sharp teeth, and leave footprints of blood.

Wendigo Depiction

YouTubeThe wendigo is said to be a flesh-eating humanoid that lurks in the woods.

Some Native American ghost stories claim that the wendigo lies in wait in the woods. There, it lures unsuspecting travelers deeper into the forest by mimicking human voices so that it can devour them. But every time the wendigo eats, it grows bigger and needs to eat more.

Other tales say that the wendigo can manipulate people and force them to become cannibals, too. This was the case for a Native American man named Swift Runner who, after he murdered and ate his family in the winter of 1879, claimed that a wendigo had possessed him.

Though reports of wendigo sightings or wendigo-related cannibalism have thinned out since the 1920s, there have been eerie reports as recently as 2019, when some suspected that these strange screams they heard in the Canadian woods might be a wendigo, furious with hunger, searching for its next victim.

Kaleena Fraga
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Kaleena Fraga has also had her work featured in The Washington Post and Gastro Obscura, and she published a book on the Seattle food scene for the Eat Like A Local series. She graduated from Oberlin College, where she earned a double degree in American History and French.