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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.

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Featured Horror Books Horror Mystery and Lore Scary Movies and Series

Inuit Spirit of Death: The Keelut

What is the Keelut?

Aggressive Keelut, Inuit Spirit of Death
Photography by Nick Bolton

This creature is an Inuit legend, one who hunts people during the winter, but it’s not actually a predator in the strictest sense–it’s a spirit of the Netherworld. The Keelut (key-loot), also known as the Qiqirn (key-kern) is sometimes referenced as a spirit of death or an evil earth spirit. While it is actually a spirit, it takes the form of what some believe to be a true cryptid. To be honest, it’s hard to say which is a more frightening aspect of this creature, that it’s an immense, malevolent, black, hairless dog with the sole purpose of preying upon humans, or that it’s also a spirit so it doesn’t necessarily abide by the laws of physics. The Keelut’s mythological cousin is the Church Grim or Barguest of Great Britain, who stalks those traveling in the night which results in an untimely death.

The major difference between the Church Grim and the Keelut is the fact that the Keelut doesn’t have any hair, except for on its feet. They say that this makes their tracks in the snow disappear easily, which gives the advantage of stalking prey without being noticed. Aside from their predatory nature, these creatures have other similarities that transcend the separation of culture—both are known to act as a harbinger of death, and otherwise feast upon the dead. In Inuit folklore, the Keelut is known to attack lone travelers, the sight of one would cause disorientation, then eventually hypothermia and death.

Hold the Dark (2018): Bringing Alaskan Horror Legends to Life in a New Way

Hold the Dark Horror book featuring Keelut

This Alaskan creature of terror was made to take the sidelines in William Giraldi’s book Hold the Dark: A Novel (2014) and now a Netflix original film Hold the Dark (2018) when the residents of Keelut, a remote (fictional) Alaskan village, have been the unfortunate targets for a dangerous pack of wolves. These wolves have successfully taken three children before the main story takes place.  It’s certainly a spin to the original tale of the Keelut, but it pays special homage to the Inuit folklore wherein it was born.

While it certainly didn’t get rave reviews from this critic, I have a personal bias when it comes to films that include Alaska and the surrounding culture, even if it’s not terribly accurate.

Categories
Horror Mystery and Lore

Is the Adlet the Werewolf of the Far North?

What is the Adlet?

The Stalker - Adlet, the Werewolf of the North
Artwork by Mary Farnstrom

Not a true werewolf—but they are the closest thing you’ll see to one in Inuit folklore. The Adlet (ah-dlit), also known as the Erqigdlet (urk-kig-dlit) in Greenland, is considered the arctic counterpart of the well-known werewolf and for good reason. Although they are not shapeshifters and the moon has no effect on them, their physical appearance is enough to make anyone believe they’re one and the same. In their own lore, they are considered a ferocious man-eating beast, originating from an unnatural mating between an Inuit woman and a dog. This woman ended up birthing a litter of ten—five of which were dogs, and five that were half-human, half-canine monstrosities which began their history of terrorizing the frozen north.

Many accounts of this murderous race of humanoids, have described them as having a more human upper-half and a fully canine lower-half, but there are more who say that they resemble the more infamous werewolf of European lore. What all of these descriptions have in common though is the details of their monstrosity. The Adlet, in particular, possesses a mouth full of razor-sharp teeth, a rusty-red coat, a pronounced canine snout, pointed ears, piercing eyes, and a long, wolf-like tail. Other than the known ability of a werewolf to transition back into a human form after a full moon, they both seem rather similar, don’t they?

Adlet stalking victims in the dark
Photography by Neil Rosenstech

Origin of the Adlet


It would be negligent to speak at length about the Adlet, without giving an explanation of where this creature originated from within the Inuit culture, luckily there are recorded tales from the late nineteenth century that help to fill the gap of our knowledge on this particular cryptid.




Uinigumissuitoq married a dog. One night she was found outside the hut sleeping with the dog. She gave birth to ten children, one half of them dogs, the other Adlet. The children grew up. Every time their grandfather had got a seal, he loaded it upon his kayak and carried it to them. His grandchildren were very voracious. Therefore, he selected an island for their place of abode and carried them over there, his daughter, the dog, and the children.

The Adlet; looking into the eye of the beast
Photography by Virginia Johnson

Their father, the dog, swam every day to the old man’s hut to fetch meat in a pair of boots which he had hung around his neck. One day the grandfather filled them with stones instead of meat and thus drowned the dog. When he was drowned their grandfather continued to send them food.

The mother, however, said to her children, “Watch your grandfather, when he goes out in his kayak, and attack him!” They killed him. Then she searched for her children, and after having cut a sole for herself, she transformed it quickly into a boat, in which she ordered them to travel across the ocean. She sang, “Angnaijaja. When you have arrived on the other side, you will make many little things. Angnaija.”

Excerpt from Journal of American Folklore v. 1-2 (1888-1889): Eskimo Tales and Songs