; Phantoms and Monsters: Pulse of the Paranormal

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Skinwalker Chronicles

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 videos from J.C. Johnson of Crypto Four Corners offer some interesting perspective to the Skinwalker phenomenon:

Click for video - "Chief Dan Talks About Skin Walkers & The Furry Ones"

Click for video - "The Skull"

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.

NOTE: "Hunt for the Skinwalker" (Paraview Books), by Colm Kelleher and George Knapp has a wealth of information on the subject...Lon

Click for video - "Skinwalker"


I live close to the reservation just outside Mesa, Arizona. I have a couple of Native friends who I just recently went camping with around 20 miles outside the valley to a place they call Three Poles. This place is considered holy land in their eyes and is close to a river. There are numerous stories I know about this place, such as the flute player you can hear at night or the boulder-sized splashes you hear in the river. But the most notable are the stories of the skinwalkers.

We arrived at the camping site around 9 p.m. It was already dark, so we started to unpack and made a fire. Once that was done, my Native buddies put up the barriers and puffed the smoke of tobacco upon us as a personal barrier. They told me never to go anywhere alone and that around 3 a.m. is when the spirits are the most active. Around 2 a.m. the beating of a drum became very clear; this is a sign of the skinwalker, they told me. At around 3 a.m., the smell of wet dog became apparent. This is the sign of either two things: Hoofy, an extremely evil spirit; or the skinwalkers.

The fire grew small and we could see the shadows of animals. We all decided to move to another site in the morning. As first light dawned, we packed. I sat in the back of his truck to hold down the stuff. As we left, I saw a rottweiler walking on its hind legs straight to the middle of our camp. It was easily 5 feet tall and had bright orange eyes. I freaked out and screamed as it was running at us, still standing up. It disappeared into a bush after we turned the corner.

Later on at our other camp, an old man with his face covered up by hair visited us and acted very strangely. We ran out of drinks, so a friend and I decided to head out on foot (no car; a friend had to take it home). We saw a car. As it approached, it slowed down to a halt and the same man asked if we wanted a ride. We said no because by this time my friends had told me the man was a skinwalker. He grabbed my arm and pulled me by his car and looked straight at me. As my friend ran up to grab me, the man took off in his car.

Once we got back, I relaxed. It was around dawn when just behind me the man appeared about 10 feet away and asked if I could help him with something back at his camp. As he did, two trucks came around the corner to head further into the grounds. He watched them as they passed and then all of a sudden he bolted after them. I was astonished seeing this 60-year-old man chasing down a car. My native friends put up a salt barrier. I heard sounds all night, but never saw anything after that. - Levi D. (paranormal.about.com)


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


Between Crownpoint, New Mexico and Borrego Pass on Navajo Tribal Road 48. I am a non-Native American who has lived and worked on the Navajo Indian Reservation as a school teacher on several different occasions. The most recent gig was from November, 1997 to June, 2000. As a life-long resident of New Mexico, I have driven hundreds of thousands of miles, with tens of thousands of those miles at night. I consider myself a very experienced night time driver, where I have seen just about every type of mammal and animal, both wild and domestic, that New Mexico has. I've seen deer, elk, cattle, horses, sheep, dogs, cats, rabbits, mountain lion, badgers, skunks, porcupines, etc., while driving at night. I recognized them all.

When I first started working at Borrego Pass School in 1997, I was making a home visit to one of my students. His name was Billy (named changed). Billy was a very intelligent boy, with a higher than average I.Q. He told me on that visit that their neighbor (a mile away) was a "skinwalker". I scoffed at Billy and said something like, "There is no such thing." But Billy insisted, saying that the neighbor changed into an animal and came to their house and looked into the windows. This was all very interesting to me, but I pretty much forgot about what he said.

Around 1998, I started teaching night classes at Dine College in Crownpoint. Teaching astronomy, class would end around 10:00 p.m., and I would head back home to Borrego Pass, 18 miles to the east. One night after class, about 10:15 p.m., sometime in the spring (April or May) of 2000, I was driving my 1998 Ford Escort on Navajo Tribal Road 48. I drove about 50 mph because of the possibility of horses and livestock in the roadway. I always noted Billy's house off the road at about the halfway point to my home. It was one of my "waypoints".

It was about this time that suddenly something weird passed from right to left in front of my car's headlights. This was the strangest creature or object I've ever encountered on the road. It was a large, shapeless hole that did not reflect any light whatsoever. My car's headlight's simply disappeared and were swallowed into the darkness of this mass. I saw no definite shape, no legs, no head, no eyes -- just a shapeless black hole. I have never seen anything thing quite like it, before or since, but whatever it was, gave me the creeps.

I remember getting scared and speeding up. I pushed the car's speed up to 65 mph and got to my little duplex at Borrego Pass ASAP. I got into the apartment as quickly and locked the door behind me. I then sat in the living room, trying to figure out what I saw.

The next day, I told one of my Navajo friends what I saw. His jaw dropped. He immediately said it was a skinwalker, but I had nothing to worry about since they can't harm white men. Still, it was weird. I have told this story to several Navajos and they have all pretty much come to the same conclusion that it was a skinwalker. Weird stuff, for sure. A logical explanation says it was a black dog or black bear, but it's more fun to think of it as a skinwalker.

This happened one night, but not the same night as my skinwalker encounter: One night, when driving back from Gallup, New Mexico, I was being tailgated by a Ford Bronco (the old original type) that was driving without headlights. I wrote this off as a guy using me as his lights since his didn't work...or he was drunk...or both. I sped up as fast as I could to shake him. I don't remember what happened, but obviously he did not follow me back to Borrego. - MM (paranormal.about.com)