The wendigo is a demonic spirit rooted in Algonquin-based Native American folklore. In some scary stories, this supernatural creature can curse and possess humans, causing them to suffer from cannibalistic urges and psychosis that can never be sated. It’s believed many different individuals can be infected by this single ancient evil, serving as multiple extensions of it. These tales are believed to be the world's first zombie stories.
The myth originated as a way to prevent those facing starvation in times of famine from resorting to cannibalism for survival. The Wendigo mythology later morphed into a way to encourage moderation and cooperation within tribes. Anyone guilty of greed or jealousy, or anyone who had ever tasted human flesh, was considered tainted and prey for the beast. Tribes began to appoint Wendigo-slayers-for-hire, and those who were believed to be transforming into a Wendigo would be put to death.
The earliest version of the Wendigo legend came from Algonquin-based Native American tribes and describes it as an evil spirit or demonic entity that was able to possess humans and in some cases, even transform into human beings themselves. Those who had previously been driven to commit cannibalism as a desperate act of self-preservation during a harsh winter could be affected by the evil entity, as could anyone with harboring feelings of greed.
This malevolent spirit is driven by its insatiable hunger for human flesh, so any human possessed by it would slip into a savage state like some mindless, flesh-craving zombie.
While earlier Native American cultures spoke of the Wendigo as a spirit, eventually it took on the shape of a physical beast. This beast could also infect a person if that person was tainted by greed or had committed the sin of consuming human flesh. Like the spirit, the creature was able to poison the minds of humans, turning them into a Wendigo and forcing them to constantly crave the meat of other humans.
The emaciated creature - topped with a stag skull head, sunken eyes, and skin stretched impossibly tight over its bones - is known to give off the stench of death and corruption. This shambling skeletal beast is similar to a zombie not just in its seemingly mindless hunger, but also in its form. It’s strikingly tall yet seems fragile and haggard, falling apart from decomposition as it moves.
Whether in the form of a beast or a spiritual entity, the Wendigo possesses supernatural abilities that make it impossible to escape. Despite its gaunt figure, it is unnaturally large, fast, and strong, with heightened senses and endurance. The Wendigo is a hunter, immune to even the harshest climates.
It stalks its prey and can mimic human voices, so its favorite pastime is luring people away from safety and driving them mad deep in the wilderness in order to consume or possess them.
Some say the Wendigo infects its host slowly, tormenting them as it takes over the mind and body. It begins with strange odors that only the victim can smell. Then they are plagued with nightmares, their sanity melting away from their sleep-deprived minds. They’ll experience an unbearable burning sensation throughout their legs and feet and usually end up stripping down, running naked through the forest like a madman.
This is usually the last anyone sees of those cursed by the Wendigo. The few who have returned from the woods after suffering Wendigo fever have been said to come back utterly insane.