Every culture has scary stories about mysterious beings, and Native Americans are no exception. The Navajo legend of the skinwalker is particularly chilling because so many individuals claim to have had real-life encounters in the present day. Modern stories of encountering a skinwalker mostly take place in the American Southwest, but they've also been reported as far away as Australia.
You may be wondering, what is a skinwalker and why are they so scary? According to legend, a skinwalker (also known as yee naaldlooshii) is a witch or medicine man who specializes in shapeshifting and wields supernatural powers to prey on others. Commonly confused with other myths, such as werewolves or wendigos, the legends of skinwalkers tell a different a tale in which evil humans can change into any animal just by using that animal’s skin.
Some say the legend of the skinwalker is very real, and others refuse to speak of them in fear of tempting them to appear. Whether you are a believer or a skeptic, stories about skinwalkers can be terrifying. If you’re looking for a new nightmare or two, check out these scary skinwalker stories and decide for yourself whether the legends are true.
From Redditor /u/Neptune420:
My Father owns a small delivery service that operates out of Farmington, NM. We mostly deliver small packages out to the middle of nowhere that are too much of a hassle for the larger delivery companies to bother with. My Dad is the only employee and we have a few pickup trucks and a trailer.
One day we get a delivery out to Window Rock, AZ, on the Navajo reservation about two hours from Farmington. My Dad gets the call for the job while he is chilling with his Navajo friend, Travis and his girlfriend. Travis mentions how he's got family in Window Rock that he hasn't seen in ages and suggests they go with him.
I was about six or seven at the time and it was the summertime so Dad decides we'll go down together, he can do his delivery really quick, then while Travis sees his family we can go check out the Window Rock (big rock face with a large hole in it that goes to the other side, pretty cool.)
We had to convoy in separate trucks since my Dad's was loaded down with freight. We decided to bring along some talkie talkies so we could communicate with one another.
We spend our time in Window Rock, everything is generally uneventful and we start heading home along the old highway with my Dad and I in front, and Travis and his girlfriend in their truck behind us.
I honestly don't remember most of the Window Rock trip but this next part I can never forget.
We're somewhere on the highway between Window Rock and Gallop, NM. It had just rained earlier in the day and the road was kind of slick so we were taking it pretty slow. On the left of the highway there is nothing but sandstone cliffs and on the right there is a huge field separated from the road by a small barbed wire fence.
We crest the top of this hill and down at the bottom of the hill we see what appears to be a very large dog, sitting back on its haunches in the middle of the road, facing the cliffs.
My Dad calls over the radio "Hey Trav, do you see that big ass dog?" Travis starts yelling back over the radio "That is not a dog! Speed up right now and hit it!" He sounds almost hysterical. He just keeps screaming "Hit it! Jj you have to hit it! Please! PLEASE! Hit that f*cking thing right now!"
So my Dad starts to speed up and as we get a bit closer I can begin to see it a little more clearly. It's covered in this brown, wiry, matted hair that appears to have dried blood all over it. It's still facing the cliffs but the moment our headlights hit it, it turns and looks at us and it has a...face
I don't know how else to describe it other than a mix between a bear's and a humans' face. It looks twisted and distorted and almost in pain. As we get closer to this thing we start to realize it's actually f*cking huge. Though it was still sitting on its' haunches it is about shoulder height with the hood of the truck.
We get literally inches from hitting it when it lets out this scream that sounds like someone screaming as their lungs were filling with water and it leaps backwards, towards the field, landing just on our side of the barbed wire fence. Then with another leap it was gone from sight.
Travis is comes over the radio again, "Holy sh*t! Keep driving! We have to get out of here! We have to go faster!" he kept repeating that last part. We have to get out of here and we have to go faster.
Pretty soon we a speeding like crazy and just as we start to come near the outskirts of Gallup we get pulled over. Travis pulls his truck over with us. Naturally this makes the cop, a Navajo man himself, very on edge and he immediately asks why Travis felt the need to pull over as well. Travis says "We just saw a skinwalker a few miles back and it's been following us!" The officer immediately turns white, stammers something about a verbal warning gets in his car and takes off. We do the same.
We didn't see anything else that night but when we got home Travis refused to let us leave without taking some kind of Navajo totem thing that was supposed to keep it away.
From Redditor /u/Navajo_Joe:
I was a kid when this happened... My uncle and I were finishing up chopping/gathering firewood for my grandmother because it was getting dark. Driving back on a dirt road at about 30mph (give or take 5mph) I had this awful sense of being watched. Before I could turn to look out my window (passenger side) my uncle quickly shouted, "Don't!" I completely froze. My heart felt like it was beating out of my chest then completely stopped when I heard a tap tap on my window. My uncle sped up and was loudly praying in my native language. I didn't know what was going on and thought it was over till our truck suddenly dipped from the bed. My uncle then started saying, "Look at me" and "Don't turn away" over and over. Then I heard it again, tap tap but from the window behind me. It was getting harder for me to breathe and I wanted to cry. A minute or two passed and the truck dipped again. My uncle looked around and sighed. It was quiet besides the truck and the road. He looked at me and said, "We will ask your father to do a prayer in the morning. So the evil will forget our faces." (Navajo to English equivalent). I remember curling up on the seat and just staring at the radio watching the time. Listening to my uncle sing an old prayer till we got to my grandmother's house.
I called my uncle because I had a nightmare about that night. We talked about it for a bit. He said, “I didn’t see faces. Just eyes. Like brake lights you see on the road. It watched you.” (Navajo to English equivalent) Before hanging up I tried joking with him about it. "Why didn’t you just step on the brake when it was in the back?" No laughter. Just a pause. “Because it wasn’t alone.”
From Redditor /u/Iron_Jesus:
Anybody that has been on the Navajo reservation has either probably heard of some creepy things or have experienced pretty creepy things. Namely skinwalkers. I have only seen one. Here is my story.
I come from a small town in northern Arizona that’s sandwiched between the Paiute reservation to the north and the US’s largest Navajo reservation to the south. My high school being so small (a 1A high school that has, on average, 80 students enrolled every year.) always had to travel south about five to 10 hours one way to play another high school in any sport. This means that we traveled A LOT on the Navajo rez. And we also usually stayed at hotels when we would head out to play and come home in the morning but this trip was a little bit different. I remember the basketball coach saying that the school didn’t have enough money to put up the teams in a hotel that trip so we were going to be on the road for a total of about 12 hours.
I was the only male senior to play basketball that season. We had just got done playing our game and headed home on our bus “Big Blue.” We were headed out and it wasn’t long, about two hours of driving, before we had entered the rez. By this time, everyone was asleep with it being about two in the morning. When we had crossed the rez’s border I noticed the bus driver had sped up and was now going about 85 mph. I thought this was a little weird because he never exceeded the speed limit, at least not in my high school career. For some reason, I couldn’t fall asleep like the rest of my teammates, and I just sat at the back of the bus staring out across the desolate desert landscape that was lit up by the full moon.
As I looked out, I could see a figure running towards the bus at an angle of pursuit…and keeping up with the bus at 85 mph. As the figure got closer I saw that it was a humanoid form. As a matter of fact it looked exactly like a human, only that the face was painted half black and half white with glowing eyes. Glowing eyes like a rabbit’s eyes reflecting light from a spotlight. I immediately thought, “Holy crap! It’s a skinwalker!!” The skinwalker ran up to the edge of the road and just kept up pace with the bus hurdling sage brush and rocks while staring at me. After I made eye contact with the thing, I COULD NOT look away.
It was as if something was holding my head and eyes in place. The skinwalker just smiled at me this inhuman smile that went ear-to-ear, showing crooked, yellow, pointed teeth. I felt like I was going to throw up and I was panicking through the whole ordeal. The skinwalker started to crumple down on to all fours, still keeping up with the bus. I could see his bones crack and reform, hair started appearing all over the skinwalker’s body and in about 3 seconds was now a coyote and it ran off back into the desert out of view. As soon as it was gone, I ran to the onboard bathroom and puked a mixture of food and blood.
I didn’t want to tell anyone for fear they would think I was crazy. I confided in my Navajo friend. She told me that I needed to see the chief, who also happened to be a friend of mine, and get a blessing. I saw him the next school day in the parking lot. He just came up to me and mumbled something in Navajo while waving a feathered scepter-like thing, turned around, got in his truck and drove away. To this day, I haven’t seen another skinwalker. It might be due to the fact I moved away from that town and rez, and, if I do have to go south, I go around... WAY around.
From Redditor /u/NordicAlchemist:
As many of you might already know, many Navajo people (including my own family), are very reluctant to speak about skinwalkers because it is believed to attract their attention. Well, I however, grew up away from the Navajo Nation and was very naive about the subject. When it came to skinwalkers, I was an absolute skeptic. My mom used to tell a story of how back in the 80's when she lived with her siblings and my grandparents (still in Shiprock, but the southern outskirts) about how she and my aunt saw a skin walker just outside their driveway under a street light. She described it as a black dog with dirty fur, a twisted noodle-like front leg, and these unnatural eyes with a soft burnt orange glow. Me being my own closed minded self doubted every word, but I never said my doubts aloud.
BUT, these doubts totally changed last year when I went to my grandparents house last October. Me and my family had just finished scourging the carnival at the Navajo Nation Fair and called it night. The house was close enough where we could walk home in just 10 minutes, so we did. When we got there it was about 9 at night where we stayed up until about 2 catching up about family affairs and the local news. It was during that time that I just decidedly opened my mouth and blurt out the question, "Hey are skinwalkers real?".
Just as I was settling and finally getting relaxed for sleep, I started to hear something moving outside. I get up from the couch and start wandering over to the kitchen window. In the trailer, all of the rooms have the lights out so the only visible light that can be seen is from the porch light out front. I was thankful for this because I told myself if it really was a skin walker outside then hopefully it wouldn't notice me seeing it. So I muster up the courage and take a quick scan of outside. From the porch light all I can see is the dusty ground and the vehicles that my family drove along with some old metal trashcans that stood beside the road. Looking for about a good 5 seconds, I wasn't able to see anything so I was getting ready to turn around and walk back to bed thinking it was just a stray cat or something. Only have taken two steps, I hear what sound like a distorted scream coming from outside, definitely close by. Fear rising, I look outside again and there I see it! A coyote-like figure was staring at my direction from behind the cars, just outside of the reach of the porch light. Only it looked, awfully wrong, and gave off an evil vibe just from seeing it. It was grey with very disheveled hair and a horrific orange-red soft glow came from its eyes. I noped the hell out and ran back to the bedroom. It was at this moment I had begun to also notice an awful stench in the air that smelled like rotting meat. I started trying to wake up my mom who was like, "omg, its almost 3am, what do you want?". I immediately began in a shaken voice, "there's something scary outside!". Then she said (now annoyed because I woke her up), "Ugh it's probably just a stray animal or something, it's the rez, animals wander all the time at night." She obviously wasn't getting the drift of what I was saying so I screamed, "THERE'S SOME BLAIR WITCH PROJECT SH*T GOING ON OUTSIDE, MA!!!"
that got her attention
"What?! What the hell are you talking about??" she said. Then we heard it, the thing outside started making more of it's dreadful like screams and started what sounded like thrashing outside on the ground. "Hear that?! That's what I'm talking about!" So both her and I got back up looked outside the window and the coyote-thing was making it's way to the door. It walked with an odd limp and dragged it's back right leg as if it has handicapped. We could hear it start to scratch against the door and make this odd muffled moaning sound. My mom went and got my dad and they both started shouted in Navajo all sorts of words telling the thing to go away and saying it's not welcome here. Well all this commotion was enough to get the rest of the trailer up as they came out into the hallway. The only thing my mom did was turn to them and said "skin walker" while proceeding to point to the door (noises STILL happening). Apparently they already knew exactly what to do as my grandfather got out a handgun from a drawer and a bag of ashes. He coated a few bullets and loaded them into the gun and went straight to the door. Yelling out more Navajo that was too fast for me to comprehend he swung open the door and fired twice. Nothing. The thing managed to escape before my grandpa could put a bullet in it. "That's the fastest one I've ever seen", said my grandpa. Next thing you know my aunts and my parents are freaking out about what just happened saying stuff like, "What if it comes back tomorrow?" and "It saw us, does that mean we're targets now?". Afterwards my grandparents calmed everyone down (myself included) saying we'll be fine and we all went to bed (around 3-ish)
Morning comes and my grandparents call one of their neighbors and explain to them what happened. Apparently one of them was a medicine man who used to partake in Yei Bi Chei's (Navajo ceremonies used for healing and curing sickness) and came over to bless each family member and the grounds outside.