The Wendigo is a demonic spirit believed by Algonquin-based Native American tribes to possess humans and turn them into cannibals.
The term “Wendigo” or “Windigo” is used to describe both the evil spirit as well as the creature that humans can become when possessed by the spirit.
The “monster” version of the mythical creature is human-like, but very tall and gaunt, with deeply sunken eyes and yellowish, decaying skin. They are impossibly thin and have an unending hunger that craves only human flesh.
The best known way to become a Wendigo is through cannibalism. By eating another human being, even out of necessity for survival, a human can be overcome by these spirits and be transformed into one. The fear of turning into this creature was so strong that it was preferable to kill one’s self rather than resort to cannibalism.
The Wendigo legend was prevalent in the northern United States and Canada, and particularly roamed around woods and forests in the coldest areas where food was scarce and survival was challenging.
There is a condition known as “Wendigo Psychosis” under which people who have reasonable access to other food sources would inexplicably become overcome with the need to consume human flesh. One such person, a Cree man named Swift Runner, famously slaughtered his entire family in 1878 and ate them, despite being only 25 miles from the Hudson Bay Company’s supply post.
In 1907 a Oji-Cree man named Jack Fiddler and his brother were arrested for killing over 14 people who he claimed were Wendigos or about to become them.
As tribes have been more and more influenced by surrounding culture, the reports of the Wendigo have declined over the years, but as with most evil spirits, it is doubtful that this creature is gone for good.