For the Native Americans of Pine Ridge, South Dakota, there are many major issues facing their community. Unfortunately, one of those issues is group suicide, and it has been particularly bad in recent years. Because of long-standing legends and stories, these mysterious suicides in South Dakota have sometimes been attributed to a malicious spirit. He is called Walking Sam, and while that name may sound harmless, the being that embodies it is anything but.
Walking Sam the shadow man convinces teens to commit suicide by whispering to them that they are worthless, not deserving of affection or life. While we don't know much about this spirit, because those in the tribe keep his stories quiet, we do know that his existence supposedly brings on lots of suicide. And whether it's supernaturally caused or not, suicide has been a growing problem for Native Americans of South Dakota.
No matter if you believe this is some sort of cursed place, if there's an evil spirit, or if there's simply a drastic issue of mental health and societal oppression, this matter has become a drastic one. Both the facts and the legends will be enough to make your blood run cold.
Tribal Elders Take Walking Sam's Threat Very Seriously
Urban legend like this are sometimes quickly brushed off as nothing, but that's not the case at Pine Ridge. Elders and adults within the community were more than willing to bring up Walking Sam as a potential contributor to the high suicide rate within the Sioux people. At meetings, they have discussed his presence, and have noted that more people claim to have seen him recently. They warn others to stay away and not walk the streets at night, because his spirit is a dangerous one. In one case, an adult woman contacted government officials to ask for help dealing with Walking Sam. She even went so far as to give a description of the spirit: tall, with a hat. She wanted police patrols to come watch for him, because she claimed they could be picked up on police scanners.
Real or not, many adults within the tribe are treating Walking Sam as a tangible, serious issue that needs to be addressed.
He May Just Want Some Company
Still, why is Walking Sam seeking out youths and convincing them to kill themselves? One answer might have to do with the fact that he's lonely. In one account of his tale, Walking Sam is a spirit who has been punished with walking the earth for all eternity for some reason. This punishment has left him without anyone to talk to or be with, and he is now beginning to seek out companionship. To do this, he must lure people away from other companionship, which is why he tries to tell teens that they are not worthy of having friends. Young people tend to be more susceptible, so he targets them as the most likely would-be friends.
Even if his intentions are just to get new followers, he still brings with him a cloud of death wherever he roams.
He Might Not Even Be An Evil Spirit At All
Oddly enough, what stories are known of Walking Sam and the Stick People aren't actually always negative. Aggressive and violent if necessary, yes, but not exactly evil. In an account from a Pine Ridge Lakota medicine man, taken in 1983, he is spoken of almost affectionately, and depicted as something that is a usual part of life. He is even a natural part of the forest, as if he is an old forest spirit, meant to protect the land from evil rather than spread it. If people encroach on his territory, he defends it with deadly results. Other than that, he is just another spirit to be respected:
"There is your Big man standing there, ever waiting, ever present, like the coming of a new day… He is both spirit and real being, but he can also glide through the forest, like a moose with big antlers, as though the trees weren't there… I know him as my brother… I want him to touch me, just a touch, a blessing, something I could bring home to my sons and grandchildren, that I was there, that I approached him, and he touched me."
He Might Be Related To Bigfoot
If Walking Sam's possible existence is examined only from a cryptozoology (study of creatures from folklore and legend) standpoint, it might be hard to determine what Walking Sam is. He's clothed, has a hat, and resembles a man, though he may sometimes have no features. He might show similarities to Slender Man, or perhaps the Boogeyman. But in lore, he is actually often associated with Bigfoot. Not only is Bigfoot often tied to Native American legend, but there have been sightings of this famous cryptid in the Dakotas, where the Sioux live. Even the Sioux people sometimes refer to Walking Sam as "Stovepipe Hat Bigfoot," in reference to the hat some people see him wearing. Some people who work in cryptozoology also believe that his sightings are simply more Bigfoot sightings, though this doesn't explain him encouraging teens to kill themselves.