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.
Walking Sam is an ancient being, according to Native American lore, tied in closely with spiritual beings known as the "Stick Indians." Stick Indians are the shadow people, or the dark people. Even in childhood, children hear legends of these dark forces, demonic presences that will stalk reservations and try to lure unsuspecting victims to their doom. They have a cloud of death that hangs over them and follows them, no matter who they are stalking.
You may know if one is nearby, because you will hear it whistling to you. If you follow the whistling, these beings may have the ability to paralyze you, hypnotize you, or simply drive you insane. If you were to disrespect them somehow, they would hold the grudge and seek out vengeance upon you, no matter the cost. Some tribes still regard these beings with such fear and respect that they do not speak of them, and thus their full legend isn't known outside the indigenous communities. We do, however, know that Walking Sam is believed to be one of those beings, and that he's one of the most powerful of them.
Walking Sam is particularly malevolent compared to the other Stick People because of the way he tried to get at his victims. He will supposedly approach you, and then find ways to tell you that you are not worthy of life. You will feel the death in the air around you, and will hear voices in your head, telling you that you no longer deserve to be alive. This will continue until he convinces you to take your own life. In particular, his favorite prey is young people, even children, who are particularly susceptible to his ploys.
In depictions, he is shown as having a tall black hat, and is tall and thin in body (sound like any other creepy shadow apparitions you know?). But most frightening, perhaps, is that he carries the bodies of Native men and women over his arms. These are his victims, and he keeps them with him wherever he goes, just waiting to find new people to add to his collection.
Recently, Walking Sam has been very active according to the South Dakota Native American communities, based on the fact that there has been a huge spike in suicide attempts in the last decade. In December of 2015, there had been 103 suicide attempts on the reservation where the Oglala Lakota tribe lives since December of the previous year. That Sioux nation tribe was one that was hit the hardest by these suicide attempts, many of which happened in groups. In fact, that number could possibly be even higher. One local claimed that there had been more than 200 suicide attempts in only three months. There are fewer than 40,000 people living on the reservation.
Luckily, only nine of the attempts had proved successful, but all of those victims had been young. One of them was merely 12 years old, and none of those who died were over 24. Of course, these losses weighed heavily on the tribe, and the attempts have kept coming in more recent years.
These were not individual acts, either. Most of the suicide attempts began with disturbing posts online. Elders and parents began to find Facebook groups of youths on the reservation where they would share suicide techniques and talk about killing themselves together, almost as if it was some after-school activity. There were videos talking about tying nooses, videos encouraging self-harming behavior, and even simple message posts like "Go do it." This sort of sharing indicated that not only were the kids making these attempts encouraging each other to do it, but it also meant that, even if a youth in the community didn't actually attempt suicide, they still might be having suicidal thoughts.
On top of that, there was also a creepy incident involving a different Facebook post. An image was shared of nooses hanging from trees near a small community of only about 1,000 people. The tribal police later said they believed the nooses were left as an invitation, as if encouraging individuals from the community to hang themselves.