Informant: Okay. So. I’m going to tell you about Skinwalkers. The first time I heard about them was in 7th grade. One of the things is that you’re not supposed to talk about them or think about them because it attracts them, which is very scary, because also I’m in Arizona, which is where it happens, except I’m not near any reservation, which is good, but it’s still very scary, because everybody that I’ve talked to about it just talks about it like it’s a real thing, like it’s a matter of fact, which is actually very scary, and some of these people are people I, like, respect a lot. Anyways. So basically what I know about it is – so, I believe it originates from the Navajo, but there’s also some similar stuff like everywhere, mostly on reservations, and basically, it’s like, these medicine men who go to the dark side. I think they have to do some creepy rituals to, like, give up their humanity, and then they become, like, pure evil and they have the ability to transform into animals, the animals they have the pelts of. They’d generally use predator pelts, which makes it, like, so you aren’t supposed to wear predator pelts in the tribe. Unless you’re a Skinwalker, and you shouldn’t be a Skinwalker.
Anyways. So there’s a bunch of stories about them appearing at night, and one of the things they can do is imitate voices, but like it’s… not right. So, one of the descriptions that comes up a lot is that they can… imitate the voices of animals, but it can morph into a voice of a loved one or a friend so they can lure people out to help – or a child – so they can lure people out. Which is super scary!! And one of the things they’ll do is, if you’re camping, they’ll separate someone, like, bodysnatch them, and transform into that person, and rejoin the group, except something’s off with them, because they’ll, like… mimic what other people are doing? To act as one of them? It doesn’t really make sense if they were human to begin with, but that’s one of the stories.
And the story that really freaked me out was of – if you’re driving at night on a reservation, it says that sometimes they’ll chase your car, or just hop in front of your car to make it crash. But the chasing of the car really scares me, because – and I think I told you about it before – they’ll knock on the side of your car until you think something’s wrong, and you’ll pull over, and then they’ll get you. But another one I’ve heard was where it was running alongside the car, and they looked over, and its eyes were human, and it was an animal running but it got on two legs and was still running alongside the car, like 60 miles per hour! And it’s a very scary concept. And it’s taboo, so people don’t generally talk about it, because talking and thinking about them is supposed to attract them, but I’m not on a reservation, so hopefully, it’ll be okay.
Oh! And the way you’re supposed to… defeat them or destroy them is to know they’re name from when they were a person. Because when they become a… SW, sorry, I feel weird saying the name so much, they are – they denounce their humanity, so if you face them with their name… I don’t know what happens actually, I think they just die or crumble or something.
My informant is a 19-year-old college student at USC, who grew up in a small town in Arizona. She is the youngest of three sisters, who she thinks may have toned down the story elements of various legends or myths to avoid scaring her (although she admits that doesn’t seem quite right with this piece). While she remembers first hearing about Skinwalkers in 7th grade, she doesn’t have a memory of who told her first. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, this piece was collected via an interview that took place over FaceTime.
I’d never heard of Skinwalkers before. I find it really interesting how some stories become so commonplace in a particular area, but then are completely unknown in other parts of the country or the world. I also found it interesting that the informant was still uneasy talking about Skinwalkers, even though she didn’t wholeheartedly believe in them. The fear she had about them hurting her as a child has carried on as she continues towards adulthood, and even after all these years, she was still a bit spooked when she heard noises outside while describing them.