Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

10 Mythical American Monsters


6
Wendigo
The wendigo is always up for a bite to eat. Andrés Álvarez Iglesias/Flickr
The wendigo is always up for a bite to eat. Andrés Álvarez Iglesias/Flickr

The story of the Wendigo comes from Native American folklore and is linked with cannibalism. The creature, which tends to be found in Northern Minnesota and Canadian forests, is typically described as a 15-foot (4.5-meter) tall man-beast with large eyes and claws, an emaciated frame and an insatiable appetite for human flesh.

Many Native Americans and white settlers spoke of the Wendigo, blaming it when friends or family members went into the forest and mysteriously disappeared. Another tale says the Wendigo, also called Windigo, isn't a creature, but instead is a cannibalistic spirit that possesses people. In this myth, if a Wendigo possesses you, you'll go out and start eating people. Such was supposedly the case with Swift Runner, a Native American. In 1879, he killed and then ate his entire family. Before the noose was slipped around his neck, he claimed it wasn't his fault – a Wendigo had gotten inside of him and made him do it. He was hanged anyway [source: Animal Planet].