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Featured Horror Mystery and Lore

7 Terrors of the Far North

The frontier of the far north is typically regarded with mystery and a sense of trepidation. Even if you have lived through it all, there is always something about the place that can feel rather unsettling. The standardized phobia of the dark is exacerbated by the long, cold winters of Alaska—a place where nearly half the year is shrouded in the dark bitter cold. Those of us who live in a place that is constantly trying to kill us can attest to the harshness of the environment, at least during the winter, where temperatures often plummet to thirty degrees below freezing. To say that the cold and dark are our sole worries would be a farce, but that’s only because we have all heard the stories about what lurks in the darkness of the Last Frontier.

Don’t be mistaken—you don’t have to be a Sourdough to be wary of the beasts abound in the frozen tundra. Stay for a couple of days in a rural cabin during the darkest part of the year and you’ll soon be wondering if those are really are the eyes of the Adlet glimmering at you from the shadows, or if it’s just light shining off of the crystalized snow. Was that shadow under the the water the Tizheruk or something else? Turn your back and you’ll likely feel as if you’re being watched by a deadly monster waiting to attack.

The Monsters of Alaska Native Culture

Every culture has its own unique beasts that torment the locals—the farther you get out of the urban atmosphere, the closer you get to what keeps people from roaming unnecessarily into the shadows.

The Stalker - Adlet, the Werewolf of the North

1. The Adlet: The Werewolf of the Far North

The murderous Adlet is considered the arctic counterpart to the well-known werewolf. Believed to be the unholy descendants of an Inuit woman and a dog, they have an upper body of their human brethren, but their lower half is fully canine. They are considered to be a full-fledged race of humanoids, who after their initial creation were sent to a remote island away from humans, so as not to satiate themselves on local tribes—except that didn’t last.

Keelut Evil Earth Spirit

2. The Keelut: The Evil Earth Spirit

A mixture between a cryptid and the paranormal spirit—the Keelut (key-loot) is considered an earth spirit who primarily takes the shape of an immense black, hairless dog. It’s often compared to the Church Grim of Great Britain and stalks travelers at night, often attacking and killing them.

Qalupalik, the Inuit Siren or Mermaid

3. The Qalupalik: The Inuit Siren

If you live by the arctic ocean you will have undoubtedly heard about the Qalupalik (kah-loo-pah-lick), a creature that stems from Inuit culture and haunts the nights of children as they’re sleeping. She’s described as being humanoid, with green skin, long hair, and even longer fingernails. Like a siren, her home is the sea and she hums to lure children to come closer to the water, but what does she do with them?

Thunderbird Alaskan Lore

4. The Thunderbird: An Avian Nightmare

From Southern Alaska all the way to the Pacific Northwest, there are legends that speak of the mythical Thunderbird. As large as a small plane, stories have been told by Natives as well as bush pilots who can confirm the existence of such a monster. Considering the reputation that even the bald eagle has for snatching up small dogs, it’s not too much of a stretch to fear for your children with such a gigantic vicious bird of prey in the skies above.

Tizheruk Sear Monster of the Arctic

5. The Tizheruk: The Sea-Monster of the Arctic

Not unlike the lore that brings us Loch Ness, the Tizheruk (te-zer-ook) is described as being a sea serpent that is approximately fifteen feet long. Where Loch Ness is considered to be less of a threat and more of a mystery, the Tizheruk is known to snatch their unwitting victims from docks and piers.

Alaskan Bushman The Tornit

6. The Tornit: The Alaskan Bushman

Even Alaska has its own legends about Bigfoot—we reference it as the Tornit (tore-nit), or the Alaskan Bushman. Another monster from Inuit folklore, the Tornit is nearly indistinguishable from a bear except for the ghastly skunk-like smell they exude. They mostly keep to themselves out in the bush, after their troubled history dealing with humans, who can blame them?

Read our original story about this beast and his fateful encounter with an Inuit boy.

Scary Kushtaka hand

7. Kushtaka: The Otter People

The Otter People are most often seen in the Pacific Northwestern region of Alaska known as the Kushtaka. These tall, ape-like creatures are known to be aggressive and deadly and chase and kill their victims. Described as being horribly ugly, covered in long coarse hair, scabs, scars, and have enormously long claws. Their scream is high-pitched and terrifying, they have a strange whistling call that also alerts people to their presence.

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Horror Mystery and Lore

Arctic Sea Serpent: The Tizheruk

Folklore on the Tizheruk

Meet the Tizheruk, fighting with a polar bear
Artwork by HodariNundu

There are so many cultures that have tales of Sea-Monsters—particularly of the serpent variety, that it would almost be a shock to learn that the Inuit culture didn’t possess one. It is only natural to fear what we do not know—the list of phobias that have spawned from not knowing what is there is fairly long—the dark is a prevalent one for many people which is why it’s such a commonplace tool for creators of horror movies and scary stories, another is the depths of the sea. The common theme is that many fear not only what they do not know, but what they cannot see, a trait that makes the habitat of the Tizheruk (tiz-zer-ook), also known as the Pal-Rai-Yûk (pall-rye-yook) that much more frightening.

Not unlike the Loch Ness Monster, the Tizheruk is described as being a sea-serpent; its visage is quite interesting, with a head that is purportedly seven feet long, it is said to be estimated at only fifteen feet in total length. In some cases, the Tizheruk is said to have a fishtail, while still in others it is said to be more of a flipper, but those aren’t the only inconsistencies that make up the lore of the Tizheruk. As can be observed in the pictures that accompany this article, there are a wide variety of different accounts of what the Tizheruk actually looks like.

Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology

According to Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology by George M. Eberhart the Tizheruk has thick fur, a snake, or a crocodile-like head, short horns, and a long tongue. His version of the Tizheruk has three pairs of legs and three dorsal fins—his version also has the description of a flipper for a tail. He also references that the Tizheruk could be an evolutionary off-shoot of a long-necked seal that ventures from the shores of the arctic ocean to the fresh-water rivers that fork inland from Key Island in Alaska.

Without a doubt, the most terrifying form that the Tizheruk is said to have is that of a giant eel-like creature with transparent skin and flesh, which not only allows the observer to see still-digesting victims but also allows the creature to be less visible when stalking its prey. This version of the Tizheruk can also venture into water as shallow as one foot deep; that means it can compress its body small enough to fit in such a space, this makes it easier for it to ambush predators and snatch prey, it also results in any still-living victims in its belly being brutally crushed.

Tizheruk drawing
Tizheruk by Felipe Krull

There is surprisingly not a great deal of lore about the Tizheruk available to give the full extent of this creature’s history, but there have been quite a few sightings, which have led to the possibility of it being caught on camera. NBC News even did an article about Alaska’s Loch Ness Monster being captured on tape. While I couldn’t locate the footage that supposedly resurfaced in 2009, I did find a more recent clip from when I first arrived in Alaska in 2016 filmed by the Alaskan Bureau of Land Management.

Having watched the clip, it’s unclear what it really is, but as the video shows the Department of Fish and Game did their best to debunk this sighting. What are your thoughts on this water-bound cryptid?

Interested in other Alaskan cryptids? Take a look at these fascinating creatures of the arctic!

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Horror Mystery and Lore

Ghost Tales of the Arctic: Don’t Take What Belongs to the Dead

While attending college in the Interior of Alaska, at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, I was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Yup’ik—a Central Alaska Native language—on Halloween of my second year, my professor deemed it appropriate to tell us Alaska Native ghost stories. Hearing these stories in Yup’ik gave unique perspective on the particular experience of growing up in such a harsh environment, his soothing rhythm and melodious speech gave it all an otherworldly feeling. It’s important to keep in mind that while this story is told as a folktale, but all folktales begin as oral stories and all of them have honest beginnings.

The Ghost’s Tea Kettle

Snow covered graveyard
Photography by Joy Real

There once was a Yup’ik man and a white man who were traveling from one city to another, during one cold January, by dogsled. The two men came upon an abandoned fishcamp alongside the river, and wishing to avoid the harsh cold of the evening, they made camp in one of the houses for the night. They had forgotten to bring a teakettle, but longed for hot tea to provide relief from the chill of the night—the white man recalled having passed a graveyard near the fishcamp, in which there were several teakettles sitting beside some grave markers. Upon hearing the idea, the Yup’ik man told the white man that it was dangerous to take something out of the graveyard, but this advice fell upon deaf ears.

Once the white man had gotten back from retrieving a kettle from the graveyard, he began to boil snow for their tea, but the Yup’ik man refused to drink any. The two companions began to ready themselves for bed when they heard a snapping sound, the house began to shake, and fog began to drift in through every crack in the house. The white man panicked, he didn’t know what was happening, but the Yup’ik man explained to him that a ghost was trying to get into the house.

Rusty old tea kettle
Photography by Jørgen Håland

Suddenly, the door burst open violently, the ghost seeped into the house like a dense white mist, and the door slammed with a bang behind it. The white man screamed and attempted to run in fear, but his escape route had been sealed off by the ghost and he was trapped. The Yup’ik man approached the ghost without fear and put his hand on the ghost’s head—the ghost was so cold, his hand went numb, but he refused to remove it, knowing what he had to do. He gently applied pressure on the ghost’s head and the ghost began to sink slowly into the ground, but soon he grew anxious and tried to push the ghost down faster, this didn’t work to the Yup’ik man’s benefit and the ghost started to come back up.

The Yup’ik man steadied himself, took a breath, slowed down and pushed down once more with a steady and firm hand, until the ghost slowly disappeared into the ground entirely. Unable to stay in the house any longer, the two men packed up all of their belongings, the Yup’ik man told the white man to return the tea kettle to the grave from which it had been taken. They believed that returning the kettle that it would give them freedom from the ghost, but it continued to follow them as a glowing red orb—the Yup’ik man stopped and made markings in the snow, these prevented the ghost from following them, but ended with them becoming incredibly sick. Once they got to the next village, the Yup’ik man had them roll in garbage to throw the ghost off of their scent and then according to traditional practice when dealing with ghosts, they both urinated around their house to keep the ghost away. Eventually they recovered from their illness and left them with the experience that would help teach others to not take what belonged to the dead.

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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

Ghost Tales of the Arctic: The Frozen Spectre

Haunted Boardwalk
Haunted Boardwalk

One Halloween night, as the sun slipped beneath the horizon, the young children were coming back from their rounds through the little Yup’ik village on the tundra in Southwest Alaska. The teenagers had waited their turn and eagerly squeezed out of their home, as their mother told them they were allowed to leave. They raced through to each of the small houses that dotted the dark, decrepit, and narrow boardwalks that snaked through the village. Not all of them donned costumes and there was still not yet a flake of snow on the ground, a rare occurrence for such a chilly autumnal night. The tall grass line the boardwalk like two moving walls that whispered with the winds that rushed through the spaces between the houses. They grabbed candy within the first house, then came back out and started back off; at each of the doors, they held their plastic grocery sacks aloft, and they became more heavily laden with candies and treats.

After coming out of the fourth house they spotted something strange emerging from the tall grasses onto the boardwalk behind them—it was a traditional Yup’ik parka, the hood was up and the ruff obscured the view of the face within. It wouldn’t have been strange except for the fact that it had no visible feet or hands. The teenagers sprinted to the next house, scared to death and unsure of what the seemingly floating parka had really been, but they were unwilling to say anything about what they had seen to the adults that were now handing them candy.

Ghost Parka
Photography by Joe Leahy

Between each and every stop for candy, the teens stepped outside and the floating parka had appeared again, as if it was just waiting to scare them. They had all grown up hearing the traditional stories of ghosts and ghouls—all meant to teach them to be cautious in one way or another, as a way to keep them safe in their unforgiving lands. They had a sense that they were being pranked—as if to test their knowledge and preparedness, but not a single one of them could muster up the courage to approach the floating apparition or to try to figure out who was toying with them.

The far north side of the village is where the last batch of houses resided—the travel between where the teenagers were and where their last glimpse of the prized sweets laid was a lengthy weaving, dismally unlit sprawling boardwalk. This path took them directly past the hauntingly abandoned teacher’s quarters that the entire village regularly avoided being near and even speaking about in passing. They made their way down the boardwalk towards this last remaining treasure trove of candy, when the little parka appeared behind them once again. One of the teens looked behind them as they crawled into the artic entry of one of the houses and saw its silhouette looming alone between the spirit-infested teacher’s quarters and the house they entered, blocking their dark and dreadful passage home.

The teenagers reappeared cautiously from the house, but the little parka was nowhere to be seen–each house they exited they huddled together in fear that the ghostly figure would leap out of the shadows and attack them from the front or back, but it didn’t. Then one of the teens gasped and pointed, there it was in the darkness beneath a building, huddled behind one of the steel posts that propped it up from the permafrost–it sat upright, waiting for them. All at once, it sprang up toward them with a hideous scream and chased the teenagers down the boardwalk, growls emanated from the unending abyss of the hood. As the spirit overcame them, they recognized the dead black eyes that sat deep in his sunken frostbitten features; it was the village boy whose snow machine had broken through the ice on the river. The boy had then managed to climb out from what would have been a certain death only to succumb to the elements before anyone could find him, only a year prior.

Broken Ice
Photography by Eberhard Gross-Gasteiger
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Horror Mystery and Lore

Ghost Tales of the Arctic: The Red Skeleton

Like many other folktales of the arctic region, Yup’ik folklore emphasized keeping children safe from the elements and the dangers of being alone and ill-prepared. This folktale is no different, but it definitely gave me goosebumps the first time I heard it over an early-winter bonfire.

Red skull wall
Photography by Jayberrytech

A very long time ago, in the Cape Prince of Wales, in a village off the shore, there once lived a poor orphaned boy with no one to look after him—because he had no one to care for him, he often found himself being forced to do the bidding of all the other villagers. Every single villager treated him cruelly, especially when they all gathered in the kashim—the men’s communal building where they gathered to stay warm, eat, and keep company during the cold winter months. One particularly blustery night, while the snow was falling harshly upon the village, the other villagers told him to leave the kashim to see if the weather was getting any worse. Due to the fact that he was an orphan, he had no one to make him skin boots or warm clothes, so he objected. It was too cold and the boy did not wish to go outside but was driven out of the kashim anyway. Upon returning inside, he told the others that it had stopped snowing, but the weather had gotten even colder. Every so often, the men would drive him back out into the elements, just to torture the poor boy.

Finally, the boy came in, stating that he had seen a ball of fire that looked like the moon coming over the hill to the north, but the men simply laughed at him. They accused him of seeing things and told him to go back out and to look again, that he might see a whale coming over the hill instead. When the boy quickly returned inside, he looked scared and reported that the red ball had come nearer to the kashim and that it was right outside of the house. Once again, his words were met with laughter, but the boy was truly frightened and hid within the kashim. As the men were still laughing, a large fiery figure appeared on the gut-skin covering over the vent in the ceiling and it appeared to be dancing. The men were both scared and captivated by the figure and did not notice the figure creeping through the passage into the room on its elbows and knees. The figure was a frightful sight—a human skeleton that with a brief wave of its hand somehow caused all of the men in the room to follow it, as it crawled through of the passage to the outdoors. Under the spell of the skeleton, the men followed it to the edge of the village until every last one of them had died of the elements, at which point it vanished.

 Other villagers returned from fishing to find the rest of the men of the village had died, bodies scattered over the snowy landscape. They entered the kashim finally, finding the orphan boy who recounted the entire story and how the men had died—investigating where the tracks of the skeleton had come from, they followed the tracks through the snow, up the side of the mountain. The tracks ended when they came upon an ancient gravesite—it was the grave of the boy’s father.