In nearly all cultures, myths and legends can serve as cautionary tales, keeping one foot in practical reality and the other in the realm of the supernatural… and it’s no surprise that the most effective cautionary tales are also the scariest.
The ancient lore of the indigenous peoples of North America are as varied and far-reaching as the continent itself, and unless you’re well-versed in native lore, you might not realize how many of those tales are populated by horrifying spirits, ghosts, witches, demons and monsters… and since we’re in the scare business, we’re going to share the most nightmarish ones with you.
Many of the frightening creatures listed below span multiple tribes — and in some cases, hundreds of generations. So if you investigate their origins further, you’ll see they have many different names and traits, depending on where their tales are told.
In other words, there are evil forces lurking everywhere… so you’d better do your homework!
Camazotz: The Death Bat
This ferocious creature originates with the ancient Mayans, who depicted him as a powerful god-monster from the hellish domain of Xibalba, where he presides over swarms of bloodthirsty vampire bats. Though powerful enough to destroy entire civilizations, Camazotz made a treaty with human beings to bring them fire… but in exchange, he demanded human sacrifices.
Chenoo: The Ice Giant
Though some tales describe the Chenoo as a Bigfoot-like creature, the original legend from the Wabanaki people tells that he was once a human, but at some point committed a horrible crime, for which the gods cursed him and turned his heart to ice. His frozen spirit was then trapped within the body of a lumbering, troll-like monster, who devours any human he can get his hands on.
Kanontsistonties: The Flying Heads
Iroquois myths include some nightmarish tales, but the Flying Heads are the creepiest by a long shot. There are many stories about these evil creatures, most of which portray them as a kind of vampire, and they vary in size from tiny to humongous. The most familiar story involves one of the beasts attacking a woman who was roasting chestnuts; the creature accidentally ingested a hot coal from the fire, which burned it to ashes.
Mishipeshu: The Water-Panther
The story of the Water-Panther spans multiple tribes, including Cree, Algonquin, Ojibwe, and Shawnee. It’s usually described as a giant dragon-like feline, and the most common element is the monster’s aquatic habitat; it lurks in lakes and rivers, waiting for humans to come close to the water, then pulls them under and drowns them. It’s even said to have a snaky, prehensile tail that aids it in snaring its prey.
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