Tag Archives: skinwalker

The Legend of the Skinwalker

Nationality: American
Primary Language: English
Age: 18
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Performance Date: 03/31/2024


“If it is late at night and you hear coyotes howling in a residential area, close your window and do not look outside because it is a skin walker who waits to make eye contact before it strikes.”


The informant, who grew up in a relatively suburban city, recalls hearing this legend from her grandmother when she was a child (about seven years old). Her grandmother, who was rather spiritual, learned it from her mother, and passed the story down. At first it was told as a way to get the informant to close her eyes and go to bed, however, continues to be told today. The informant strongly believes in the story, and maintains that whenever she hears a coyote howl, she feels eyes on her and knows that it is more than simply an animal.


The notion of skin walkers is not isolated to just the part of the United States the informant is from, but is rather widespread. The idea of a “skinwalker” has both been repeated throughout folklore, but has also been a feature of several popular movies. Several Indigenous groups in the United States speak about skinwalkers as well, contributing to their notoriety. This displays a value of cultures in enshrining “villainous” figures (similar to the boogeyman). The value of a figure to warn against also makes these figures common as parents are able to use them to instill lessons upon young children (ie. go to bed when you’re supposed to), however also are lessons in safety as the “truth value” of the legend holds plausibility. While I don’t necessarily believe in the notion of a skinwalker, it is a story I have heard before. Ultimately I think that it is just too unverifiable to holds explicit truth, although I think it is definitely possible. I do think that someone would have caught a skinwalker if they were real (although many argue they would remain in their chosen form).

White Mountain skinwalker

Informant discusses a personal experience she had in Arizona over a decade ago.

SP: I was maybe ten at this point– I think it was probably ten or eleven, and I remember the first thing that freaked me out was my dog growling like crazy at nothing we could see. We were driving from Santa Fe and we crossed the border into Arizona and there’s this mountain chain there called the White Mountains. Super pretty, green, all that. Anyway, we had our dog with us, he was a terrier so pretty small and generally pretty chill, but he started doing this low growl and staring out the window. Almost like he wanted to launch himself out at something.

TK: So what did you see? I remember you telling me about this a while back. An animal, right?

SP: I looked out and there was this tall figure that looked like a mountain lion– some kind of big cat like– umm…it was standing on its hind legs, like a bear might, not natural. Maybe like fifty feet off the road in the woods. Not a bear, for sure.

TK: Did you guys stop or do anything?

SP: I told my parents and they figured it was some kind of illusion. I was reading a book in the backseat like usual and I guess they thought it was my imagination. But I remember being freaked out and the dog wouldn’t stop growling until like five miles later.

THE INFORMANT: The informant is a mid-twenties female who grew up traveling with her family frequently and was always interested in myths and legends at a young age, specifically in cryptids (unproven or mythical animals) due to a childhood fascination with shape-shifting animals. She has never seen anything like this since but has heard similar stories of large animals walking on their hind legs in mountainous or rural regions, often chasing or looking at cars.

ANALYSIS: There seems to be a cultural emphasis on shape-shifters that is especially prevalent around communities of Native American tribes, who call them skinwalkers and usually choose not to talk about them at all due to the belief that discussing a thing will give it power and/or summon it (also seen in the Christian idea of summoning demons and, pop-culturally, in the Harry Potter universe as a protective spell against Voldemort– “he who must not be named.”) The skinwalker is often described as an evil person who got too involved in black magic and lost his or her human form, becoming more of a spirit and sometimes known to shift shape (mostly into animal forms) and often chase cars. Skinwalkers usually are described as being larger than average size, if they do appear as an animal they have eerily human mannerisms such as walking on their hind legs, and those who encounter them often report a true feeling of dread. The informant does not know much about this tradition and cannot say for certain much more about the appearance of the creature.