American horror stories start with the people who first walked on this continent. While certainly overlooked, the Native American mythological system deserves as much attention as Greek mythology- especially given its paranormal and disturbingly thrilling nature. Native Americans have inhabited the Grand Canyon for thousands of years, passing their stories and practices down through the generations.
Today’s topic – skinwalkers.
While skinwalkers are phantoms of Navajo legends (Hopi, Utes, and other tribes have their versions as well), there’s more than one account of terrified hikers experiencing what sounds like encounters with these shape-shifting beings. Hey- maybe Stephenie Meyer’s version of Quileute legends aren’t so fictional after all…
In traditional Native American legends, skin walkers are highly skilled medicine men who went to the dark side once they accumulated enough knowledge and power. These skinwalkers choose to exploit their powers in the name of evil rather than use it for its original healing intentions.
In order to gain shape-shifting powers, a practicing medicine man must kill one of his close relatives. The skinwalker in Native American mythology is a purely evil being. In order to gain its powers, the witch must kill a close relative, usually a sibling. For their dark deed, they are endowed with the ability to travel in supernatural ways, usually in the shape of an intimidating animal or drawing upon otherworldly speeds.
Sightings of skinwalkers around the Grand Canyon usually involve that last trait- speed. Dozens of visitors leaving the park have spotted a man-shaped figure running at the speed of their vehicle towards them or easily leaping across ledges that have cost many mortal men their lives.
Other chilling encounters involve skinwalkers clinging to doors of vehicles while visitors are driving through tribal territory or being stalked by a shadow in their peripheral vision while hiking late in the afternoon.
While these legends will definitely add some thrill to your next Grand Canyon adventure, there are entire forums dedicated to skin walker encounters if you care to spook yourself.
In case you do run into one, keep in mind that skinwalkers rarely attack non-indians and you can kill one by calling out its full name- that is, if you recognize the human within the animal.