In the American Southwest, the Navajo, Hopi, Utes, and other tribes each have their own version of the Skinwalker story, but basically they boil down to the same thing - a malevolent witch capable of transforming itself into a wolf, coyote, bear, bird, or any other animal. To the Navajo, yee naaldlooshii is "with it, he goes on all fours", a practitioner of Frenzy Way. The witch might wear the hide or skin of the animal identity it wants to assume, and when the transformation is complete, the human witch inherits the speed, strength, or cunning of the animal whose shape it has taken.
"The Navajo Skinwalkers use mind control to make their victims do things to hurt themselves and even end their lives," writes Doug Hickman, a New Mexico educator. "The Skinwalker is a very powerful witch. They can run faster than a car and can jump mesa cliffs without any effort at all."
The Navajo believe that Skinwalkers have the power to steal the “skin” or body of a person. That if you engage eyes with a Skinwalker they can immerse themselves into your body. Skinwalkers avoid bright light and their eyes glow like an animal’s when in human form. When in their animal form their eyes don’t glow as an animal’s would.
In the ancient Hopi culture there was a ritual ceremony once performed, called the Ya Ya Ceremony. In this ceremony, members would convert themselves into assorted animals utilizing the hides from the animal they selected, and the members use certain animals for their attributes. The coyote skin is for high-velocity, precise sense of smell, and the acute agility. The bear skin is for brute force, but not a good choice for speed.
When in animal form the Skinwalker will retain their wits and because of this they make a really dangerous adversary. Also unlike the werewolf, they have a whole bag of tricks that includes immobilizing powder, mind control, and even disease.
The following narratives are from the many we have received over the years:
As a teenager, I would visit my grandma at her home on the Navajo rez for several weeks every summer. I loved to spend time with her, eat her delicious fried bread, and hear her tell us stories. Every so often my grandma would hire a worker (the harmless town drunk) to do odd jobs around her house and property. One evening right before the sun went down, I was asked by my grandma to take him home, which was about four miles out of the valley where she lived. I was more than happy to, seeing that I was only 14 years old and was asked to drive a truck! Mind you that on the rez, nobody cares that you're only 14 years old and driving around. Hell, there's hardly anybody around to see you anyway! So my 9 year old brother jumped in the truck cab with me while this "worker" and my dog shared the tailgate of the truck and we were off. After I dropped the worker off at the shack that he and his brothers called a house, we headed back down the road to grandmas. As I mentioned before, it was evening and the sky was a deep red as the sun began to set behind us. We were leaving a nice dust trail from the dirt road and the radio was playing music from the only radio station that could be picked up from the nearest town of Holbrook, Arizona.
There was nothing unusual, nothing weird. It was at this time that my eye caught movement of something in the bushes a little up the road to the right of us. I remember slowing down thinking that it was one of the many free roaming sheep in the area that would dart out in front of the truck. As I passed where I thought I saw it, I sped up thinking nothing else of it. Then out of nowhere I just felt this dark feeling of fear and dread. I had no idea why I was feeling this way but I definitely felt that something was wrong.
As I play this memory back in my mind, there are only a few clear memories that I have of that evening. I clearly remember looking in my rearview mirror and seeing the dark silhouette of something very tall and very skinny that seemed to be covered with some kind of hair or fur running behind the truck after us! Whatever it was, it wasn't a normal human or human at all. I remember hearing my brother crying and my dog barking ferociously at whatever was chasing us. I remember speeding very fast and shaking violently as the truck bounced on the washboard dirt road. I distinctly remember that this thing was only getting closer as my brother cried "it's coming up on your side!" I remember being as scared as hell and thinking that I didn't want to die. At the moment that I thought would be our last. I remember speeding around a bend in the road and seeing a car coming towards us in the opposite direction. At that moment I felt instant relief and felt that whatever was following us was gone.
Shaken up but alive, we made it to grandma's house wondering what the hell had just happened. We ran inside not looking back, hoping that whatever was chasing us had not followed us home. As we told my grandma about our experience she didn't seem too surprised, which surprised us. She continued by repeating stories that we had already heard at one point or another about black magic, witches, and something that the Navajos call Yee Nadlooshii or Skinwalkers. Needless to say, I didn't even want to look out any of the windows at all the rest of that night. As a matter of fact, I never drove on the reservation at night until I was 21 years old.
Without going too deep into explanation, I'll just say that these Skin-walkers are evil men and spirits that use black magic for evil doing. I tell you that as farfetched as it may sound, they are real! I believe that if God and his greatness are real, the devil is equally as real and also has his ways of showing himself.
This may not sound very scary to some readers and that may be due to my lack of writing skills. But what happened that evening really did happen and scared the living crap out of me. I invite anybody to visit this part of Arizona if you have any doubt or want huge scare. I promise you that you won't be disappointed.
I hope that you enjoyed my story and I look forward to sharing other experiences soon. - Tracker337
My family never mentioned Skinwalkers or witches to me so I knew nothing about them. My grandpa died a few years ago so my parents sent me to live with my Grandma to help her around her ranch. I brought my cat along. Well just after two weeks of living there my cat went missing. I figured that he would come back but he never did. I called him and looked for him but nothing. So I went to go put some hay behind the barn for the horses when I saw my orange cat's remains. I thought maybe something attacked him like a coyote so I picked it up and I saw that there were no bones just skin and the outside of his fur there was red and yellow even white paint on the outside of him. I couldn't figure out what it was.
I buried him behind a hill with a little stone with his name carved on it...I was so heart broken. My grandma said she could get me a new cat but I didn't want a new cat. Pretty soon enough I kept hearing meows outside the hogan and scratches at the door. My grandma doesn't have any other cats so I would open the door and find nothing. Then one day, I went to go check on my cat's grave and dig it up to make sure he was still there. He was gone...but his bones were there. I just couldn't believe it! Why were his bones there? I thought I buried his skin? Ever since I have lived there I have experienced some of the strangest things in my life. I don't want to go back. I can't even share what kind of crazy things happened to me because from there I drew the line. I was confused and scared about these people but at the same time I knew I was one of these people. I have a greater respect for the Navajo people which is why I don't think getting involved with Skinwalkers is a good idea, Just don't mess with them and they wont mess with you.
Sixty years ago, when I was young, I knew these two men that were cousins. They tried to become Skinwalkers by drinking the blood of the firstborn son. They both were firstborn sons so they drank each others blood. One cousin's name was Troy, who became an eagle and the other was Cody who became a wolf. Troy was good and helped people while Cody killed people. They had an argument one night and decided to gather six other people and have one on one battles to decide who was right and who was wrong. Finally the last battle was Troy vs. Cody one-on-one. Troy tried with all his might to fight Cody off, but it just wouldn't work. Cody was too strong. Troy possessed tonfa while Coy believed in just pure strength. Cody transformed into his wolf form and hurt Troy very badly. Troy then revealed his secret power. His skinwalker power let him create eagle feathers anywhere. He surrounded his tonfa in eagle feathers and his tonfa became very powerful. Troy defeated Cody and Cody's evil tyrany was over. Now still today, Cody and Troy walk amongst us disguised as humans...but they are Skinwalkers.
There are too many weird encounters that went on the year my husband and I started dating. It was as though 'someone or something' did everything they could to keep us apart....for instance.
It was a summer evening and the sun had started to go down and we took a short stroll just outside my house. As soon as we started walking, I saw a shadow quickly appear and walk behind a huge cedar tree. Once I noticed this I told my boyfriend and he threw a big rock at it. As soon the rock hit the tree, a huge bird or owl flew out of the cedar tree. I have never in my life seen anything this big! The wings on this thing had to have stretched out at least 7-8 feet across. It was dusk, but still enough sun out to see in front of me and I know for a fact I saw something. I believe whatever hid behind that tree turned into a bird and flew off. It was so weird. After that, we had a very unsettling summer of this strange "shadow visitor" making it's appearance every now and then.
My first encounter was when I was about 13 years old. My family always has a peyote meeting on New Years Eve and into New Years Day. On this particular New Years Eve my family was blessing the new year, all my cousins and I were sleeping in my Mom's hogan while most of our parents and guests were in the tepee praying. They said that a man saw something outside the tepee and he told the fire chief, and he told my uncle. My uncle woke up my older brothers and they got out the guns and our spotlight to look for whatever was creeping around our houses.
We live in a small valley in the highest part of our part of the reservation, near Pinon. All of a sudden I heard a loud gunshot, my brother's 30-30. It scared the hell out of me since I was fast asleep, but my sister was the only one in the house with us and she already had burned some cedar and had said a protection prayer for us. My brothers and one of my cousins were outide shooting at some sort of creature that was running around in an arroyo about half a mile from our house. My niece and I had gotten out of our beds and were watching from the window. They were sure that they had shot it a few times but it would just get and run off again.
When my mother and father smeared white ash on the bullets they started shooting again the creature left our valley. It is a very taboo to do any sort of hunting or shooting during blessing ceremonies but something had to done that time. That is as close as I have ever come to a skinwalker, as far as I know.
According to University of Nevada-Las Vegas anthropologist Dan Benyshek, who specializes in the study of Native Americans of the Southwest, "Skinwalkers are purely evil in intent. I'm no expert on it, but the general view is that Skinwalkers do all sorts of terrible things - they make people sick, they commit murders. They are graverobbers and necrophiliacs. They are greedy and evil people who must kill a sibling or other relative to be initiated as a Skinwalker. They supposedly can turn into were-animals and can travel in supernatural ways."
Anthropologist David Zimmerman of the Navajo Nation Historic Preservation Department explains: "Skinwalkers are folks that possess knowledge of medicine, medicine both practical (heal the sick) and spiritual (maintain harmony), and they are both wrapped together in ways that are nearly impossible to untangle."
Among the Navajo, for instance, medicine men train over a period of many years to become full-fledged practitioners in the mystical rituals of the Dine' (Navajo) people. The medicine men have shown themselves to be effective in treating a range of ailments according to the U.S. Public Health Service. But, there is also a dark side. Witches follow some of the same training and obtain similar knowledge as their more benevolent colleagues, but they supplement both with their pursuit of the dark arts, or black magic. By Navajo law, a known witch has forfeited its status as a human and can be killed at will. The assumption is that a witch, by definition, is evil.
The cautious Navajo will not speak openly about Skinwalkers, especially with strangers, because to do so might invite the attention of an evil witch. After all, a stranger who asks questions about Skinwalkers just might be one himself, looking for his next victim.
Hunt for the Skinwalker: Science Confronts the Unexplained at a Remote Ranch in Utah
Skinwalkers: Witches of Navajo Country [DVD]