How Wendigoes Work

How to Escape or Kill a Wendigo

According to legend, it's nearly impossible to escape a wendigo. Hunters by nature, wendigoes are extremely fast and allow nothing to get in the way of their never-ending hunger. Even if you could escape physical damage (which is unlikely), the very fact that you'd encountered an otherworldly wendigo would leave you mentally vacant. Wendigoes hibernate for months or years but woe betide when they awaken.

Wendigoes can stealthily stalk victims for extended periods, thanks to supernatural speed, endurance and heightened senses such as hearing so profound they can pick up on panicked heartbeats from miles away. This skill comes in quite handy in the woods, no doubt.


Once the chase begins, wendigoes engage in a torturous game. They bait their prey, release shrieks or growls, and sometimes mimic human voices calling for help. When the hunt begins in earnest, a wendigo becomes all business. It will race after its prey, upending trees, creating animal stampedes (and thus more famine), and stirring up ice storms and tornadoes.

Don't be fooled into believing you're safe indoors. The wendigo can unlock doors and enter homes, where it will kill and eat the inhabitants before converting the cabins into wendigo domiciles for hibernation.

If you can't outrun a wendigo, can you outgun it? Not easily. A wounded wendigo simply regenerates. The trick is to employ silver bullets, or a pure silver blade or stake, and strike right through the wendigo's ice-cold heart. (Note: It's widely believed a silver-covered steel blade could work if you're in a pinch.)

Upon wounding the wendigo's heart, you must take care to shatter it into pieces, then lock the shattered heart in a silver box and bury it in a church cemetery.

Not one to seek a simple end, the rest of the wendigo must be dismembered with a silver-plated axe so you can salt and burn the body, and then scatter its ashes to the winds. Or, as a second option, bury the pieces in a remote location (a la Harry Potter's attempt to reclaim Salazar Slytherin's locket from the subterranean lake).

Skip a step and the wendigo may be able to resurrect itself, hunt you down and inflict a slow and agonizing death [source: Monstropedia].

Author's Note: How Wendigoes Work

Ah, the wendigo. Reminds me of stories my husband tells of his childhood at U.S. Air Force in Japan, when tales of the Kappa wove itself into his earliest memories. The Kappa, a river monster based loosely on the Japanese giant salamander, had a beak for a mouth and was known for kidnapping children. Riffing on the legend, fear of the Kappa was used to reinforce all types of behavior. In my better-half's case, it meant wondering whether the Kappa would come after him if he didn't finish his dinner. All in good fun, to be sure, but an enduring childhood recollection.

Related Articles
  • Algernon Blackwood. "The Wendigo." (Oct. 18, 2013)
  • American Monsters. "Wendigo (Canada)." Feb. 7, 2010. (Oct. 18, 2013)
  • Dictionary of Canadian Biography. "Zhauwungo-Geezhigo-Gaubow." (Oct. 18, 2013)
  • Ingliss-Arkell, Esther. "Wendigo Psychosis: The Probably Fake Disease That Turns People into Cannibals." Sept. 27, 2012. (Oct. 18, 2013)
  • Monstropedia. "Wendigo." (Oct. 18, 2013)
  • The Siberian Times. "Did Desperate Fishermen Cannibalize Their Friends in Extreme Cold in Remote Siberia?" Dec. 4, 2012. (Oct. 18, 2013)
  • Unknown Explorers. "Wendigo." (Oct. 18, 2013)
  • Yoda, Hiroko. "Face to Face With Japan's Namahage." CNN. Feb. 16, 2010. (Oct. 18, 2013)