Hello, this is Luke Lore! A companion piece to The Ghost Story Guys podcast, where I share some of the folklore surrounding the stories the main episodes tell. Today I'll be taking a look at <<Wendigo>> folklore, as a companion piece to episode <<04: Call of the Wendigo>>. What, exactly, a Wendigo is can be a little vague because there is a lot of Native American folklore covering them. This will likely have a second Luke Lore episode at some point as I dig deeper into the topic. The Wendigo, Windigo, or Windito is either a Spirit of the Lonely Places, or else it is a curse a person can receive from resorting to cannibalism.
Or sometimes something even weirder!
As I mentioned on Bonus Episode 07: A Guide to Recognising Your Ghost Story Guys the stories of the Windigo from the Ojibway take the form of a bogeyman to scare children into good behaviour. I would love to collect some directly, I’m only aware of them by reputation, but these seem similar to European ogre fairy tales. This aspect of folklore? The practical lessons passed on to children in story form? Utterly fascinating to me.
The Minnesota area Wendigo could be flat, pretty much a 2D projection onto the physical world, and therefore not visible except from certain angles. They can also have a blue star on either the head or body, which is a pretty unusual detail that I would not be surprised tied back to the spiritual side of Wendigo tales.
Around Berens Lake near Ontario the Wendigo is "an amphibious monster like an alligator with bear's feet or cloven hooves." which seems to be the most divergent depiction of what a Wendigo can be, although I would love to be proven wrong there and find some even stranger local variations. It was the Alconquin Indians who told the stories of the cannibalistic spirits which have gone on to be how pop culture views the Wendigo. The idea that eating human flesh will curse someone to become a ravenous monster is what most people will think of when you mention “Wendigo” now, although sometimes that feels like it can lose what makes this folklore special and the Wendigo is just being diluted down to “flesh eating ghoul, but in the cold”.
It looks like Algernon Blackwood was a big early impact with 'The Wendigo' in 1910, published in 'The Lost Valley and Other Stories’, but one of the biggest pop culture influences over the years from the Wendigo has been in Marvel comics.
During the 70s a writer for The Incredible Hulk liked the stories of the Wendigo and thought they were pretty tragic, which would make for an interesting antagonist of the early more horror influenced Hulk. Appearances continued through various comic lines up to as recently as 2015. Marvel depicts the Wendigo as a curse which transforms people into a hairy white bigfoot/werewolf mash up.
While the long running TV show ‘Supernatural’ also uses the Alconquin version of the folklore, the real recent breakout popularity of the Wendigo is most likely from the videogame Until Dawn, both people playing this sleeper hit and from a lot of people watching YouTubers play it. Wendigo stories have been everywhere in recent years on the back of Until Dawn’s success, although the videogame depiction does lean towards the generic “flesh eating ghoul, but in the cold” and that seems to be skewing a lot of these stories in that direction now.
Recent made up allegedly true stories are pretty easy to spot as they follow Until Dawn’s take on a wendigo. Tall, gaunt, loudly snarling, and with vision based on movement like a T-Rex in Jurrasic Park. Even T-Rex’s didn’t have vision based on movement, no apex predator blunders from tree to tree in a blind rage, so if you hear a “true” story on YouTube with that then someone is definitely telling porkies.
Until Dawn has a more recent Virtual reality prequel which, full disclosure, I worked on as a quality assurance tester. The prequel did not find a market like the original release did and as critically underwhelming as it ultimately ended up, it did attempt to depict the more spiritual side of Wendigo folklore in the first act of the game, something the original was lacking. At the very least watching a playthrough of the first part of The Inpatient could prove interesting if you’re curious to see how that plays out and there should be plenty on YouTube to pick from.
One last bit of Fun Wendigo trivia I blundered into a while back: according to ancient-origins.net the plural of Wendigo is Wendigoag.
If anyone has any Wendigo folklore to share, I would love to hear from you. This is a massive and fascinating area of mythology that I have only a surface level understanding of, and I will always want to learn more!
That’s all for Luke Lore this time. I will be back in a month with another topic, followers on Patreon get this early so check out patreon.com/ghoststoryguys for that and plenty more cool stuff if you want to support us directly, but just listening is plenty of support in and of itself. I hope you enjoy my companion show and please feel free to reach out to either the show or myself directly via email or social media if you have any questions, feedback, or requests for Luke Lore. The show email is ghoststoryguys@gmail .com, and I am Luke Greensmith on both Twitter and Facebook. We also have a very active Instagram account full or fun things we’ve found around the internet and even occasionally news and peeks behind the scenes.
Goodbye for now.