This is not my story, but rather my Popa’s. A couple of years ago, he and I were talking about going hiking in Algonquin Provincial Park, somewhere that he had been many times and had grown up near. Unfortunately, his health was failing and our trip was cancelled. He told me that it was likely for the best, since he wouldn’t be able to protect me from the windego if we saw it.
My Popa is half First Nations, with his mother being Cree and Herron and his father Scottish. Because his mother was removed from her home as a child and placed into the Schools, she lost her status as First Nations and wasn’t allowed to live on the Rez, but she lived just outside of it near Algonquin Povoncial Park. Popa has many friends who lived on the Rez and would often go with them into the park to hike and hunt when he was a young man. They saw many strange things in the deepest parts of the forest; however, this is the story he shared with me that day.
Popa was hiking with a friend, let’s call him Ben, when they were in there late 20s. They had already been out in the park for several days, camping at nightfall and continuing in the morning, and were rather deep in the woods. It was late October, and getting colder as the days went on, but they were prepared for that and often camped in the dead of winter. One night, as the temperature dropped below freezing, they decided it was time to set up camp and start a fire. They were starting to gather wood when Popa heard something. It was the crying of a baby or small child. Popa had grown up during the Great Depression and had heard stories of people abandoning unwanted babies and children in the forest. He started to follow the crying when Ben grabbed his arm.
“Don’t go over there John, it’s not what you think it is.” Ben said, looking a little pale. “We should move our camp, or that thing will just keep wailing and getting closer.”
Popa was confused, not understanding what his friend meant.
“But what if it’s someone in need? What if it’s the kid of another camper who got lost?” He broke free from his friend’s hand. “I can’t leave until I check it out.” Ben sighed but agreed, loading his hunting rifle and telling Popa to do the same before they went to check it out.
The forest was in twilight now as they moved towards the crying. As they broke through a thick patch of trees they came to an old campsite, and there laying on the ground was a child that looked to be no older than a year. Popa started towards it, but Ben stopped him, telling him to wait. As Popa looked back, the child began to change. It stood up, the legs under it growing long and bent as if it had two sets of knees, each bending in different direction. It’s arms were much he same, with two elbows per arm, one bending forward and one back. It’s torso grew to the size of a large man, but it’s ribs were protruding as if threatening to tear through the skin. And it’s head, it’s head grew to the size of a man’s with its large mouth taking up most of its face. It’s jaw unhinged and it let out another round of crying as if to draw them even closer. Ben began to chant and the beast screamed as if in pain before running off; knowing that this was not going to be the easy meal it wanted. Popa was frozen to the spot. “What…what was that, Ben?”
“That, John, was a wedigo. It was the spirit of a person who became lost in these woods and starved. Overtime the spirit became twisted and evil. You must never approach one without protecting yourself first. Now let’s go move the camp, this is it’s hunting grounds and it will be back.”
Popa is now in his late 80s and every time he tells this story, he still looks terrified. He is now palliative, meaning his days are numbered and he as asked me to take his ashes to Algonquin park as he did with Ben’s, and scatter them in the woods. But he reminded me not to go alone, lest I come face to face with the windego.