Windigo Island is a scary story for kids about a group of hunters who go out to trap some animals on a lonely island during the winter. It is based on an old poem called “The Windigo” by William Henry Drummond and an old story called “Red-Headed Windego” by E. W. Thomson.
“Go easy with the paddle and steady with the oar.
Let every man be quiet. Don’t let them sing no more.
Give the rudder to the best man we’ve got among the crew.
When you see Windigo Island rise on Lake Manitou.”
It was the Winter of 1869 and we planned to do some hunting. There were twelve of us on the crew that day as we rowed out on the lake. The men stopped singing and there was an eerie silence when Windigo island came into view. If you don’t know it, it’s a small island in the middle of a lake, in the middle of another island, off the coast of Canada.
“Above us in the sky there, the summer clouds they float
But something down below us could rock the strongest boat.
Around us on the water, the ripples never show,
As we approach the island of the dreaded Windigo.”
Windigo Island was a good place for hunting. The area was crawling with all kinds of wildlife, from wolverines and otters to musk-rats and beavers. The indian hunters never set their traps there. They were too scared to venture close to the island, because they believed in the Windigo.
The Indians say the Windigo is an evil spirit that can take many shapes. Some say it’s a giant with a heart of ice, others say it’s a swirling whirlwind made of snow. Most say it’s a demonic cannibal monster that can lure you out into the snow and eat you whole.
We landed on the shore at a clearing among the spruce and pine trees and set about repairing an old wooden cabin that had been abandoned the year before. The trees were looming above us and the sky overhead was growing dark. We were struggling to finish it before nightfall.
Cyprien Palache was the foreman of the crew. He was a fat man with little weasel eyes that watched everything we were doing, but he would never lend a hand. I never met a man who was so mean and cruel. He had no respect for anyone.
Whenever he got angry, he would curse and swear at us at the top of his lungs. He wore a silver whistle on a chain around his neck and he would blow it in our ears all the time. It was enough to make the teeth rattle in your skull. We got to hate the sound of that whistle.
When night fell, we managed to get the roof fixed and we settled down in the cabin. The men were ill at ease. Outside, the wind was whistling through the trees and it sounded like voices calling out to us. None of us wanted to admit it, but we all heard it.
After we ate our meagre supper, Pat Clancy took out his fiddle, Jimmie Charbonneau took out his concertina and we sang a few tunes to help us forget our fears. After a while, Cyprien Palache told us to knock it off. We blew out the lamp and lay down to sleep.
There was a young Indian boy on the crew that Winter. I forget his real name, but we called him Injun Johnny. The year before, some of the men had found him floating, half-dead in a river. His father and his mother had been trying to sail downriver in their canoe, but they ran into trouble. They got stuck in the rapids. The canoe overturned and they both drowned.
The boy was left all alone to fend for himself in the wilderness, so the only thing he could do was join up with our crew. Sometimes, I think he would have been better off to take his chances with the wolves and the bears than to fall into the clutches of Cyprien Palache.
I don’t know how the boy could stand it. I wondered why he never ran away. Cyprien Palache treated him like he was a slave. A dog would have gotten better treatment. He would yell orders at the boy day and night and if he didn’t come running fast enough, he would get a terrible beating.
Cyprien Palache would beat the poor boy black and blue almost every day. You see, not only was he mean and cruel, but he was a racist as well. He hated Indians and said they were worthless and good for nothing.
The boy never said anything. He had bruises all over his body, but I never once saw him cry. Still, I could see the hatred in the boy’s face whenever Cyprien Palache was around. I had a feeling that something bad was going to happen. Before the winter was over, someone was going to wind up dead.
One morning, I saw the boy burying something on the shore. Later, when I went by and scraped away the snow, I found a dead rabbit. The boy had caught it the day before. For a moment, I was scratching my head, wondering why he had buried it. Then I realized what it was and a shiver ran down my spine. It was an offering for the Windigo.
The next day, there was a big storm. The snow was piled up so high against the cabin that you could only see the chimney. While the others set some traps, I went off with Cyprien Palache to collect some wood for the fire. We had only been gone a few minutes when the wind started kicking up again. There was another storm was on the way, so we headed back to the cabin.
When we got back inside and started taking off our boots, Cyprien Palache suddenly started cursing and yelling, saying he had lost his whistle. Sure enough, all that was left around his fat neck was the chain.
He grabbed Injun Johnnie by the hair and told him to go out and find the whistle, storm or no storm. He told the boy that if he came back without it, he’d beat him within an inch of his life. Then, he threw the boy out into the storm and locked the door. We didn’t like it, but we were afraid to step in and stop him.
The wind rose up and the cabin creaked and groaned. It was like a hurricane outside. The stove was red hot, but we were all shivering with the cold. It sounded like there was something crying all around us everywhere. Cyprien Palache looked pale and white.
The fire in the stove started dying out. Cyprien Palache started yelling for someone to go out and fetch some more wood. No matter how much he yelled, none of us would go. Pat Clancy said he could hear the voice of something outside calling to him and he wasn’t going to take a chance out there.
Jimmy Charbonneau said he saw a face in the window. At first, he thought it was Injun Johnny, but he realized it couldn’t be. The face was too big. It filled the window from top to bottom. He said it was grinning from ear to ear, an evil, malicious grin and the eyes were like ice. When we heard that, it sent a shiver down our spines.
Even I began hearing something calling out my name. I thought I was imagining things. It sounded like the voice of Injun Johnny, so I ran over to the window and looked out. Through the driving snow, all I could see outside was the stump of a big pine tree in the clearing. In the dim light, it looked like a tombstone rising out of the snow.
Not a man among us would budge from the circle around the cold stove. Cyprien Palache shook his fist in our faces and threatened us, but it didn’t do any good. Finally, the fat man gave up and lay down on his bed in the corner, glaring angrily at us.
The cabin began to shake with the force of the wind and we were all afraid it was going to fall. The breeze came whistling down the stovepipe, scattering ashes all around. Suddenly, through the howling wind, we heard a knock on the door and someone was blowing a whistle outside.
“That’s the Injun!” Cyprien palache cried. “He’s come back and he’s found my whistle!”
The fat man jumped up from his bed, ran over to the door and pulled it open. As we watched in horror, it seemed as if the the wind just sucked him right out. Jimmy Charbonneau swore he saw a huge hand, made of swirling snow grab the fat man and drag him out into the storm.
The door slammed shut and Cyprien Palache was gone.
At last, morning came and the storm died away. When we opened the door, there was no sign of anyone outside, just a fresh blanket of snow that covered everything. In the shelter of the tallest pine, Jimmie Charbonneau found a huge footprint. It was as big as a sleigh, with huge toes like claws. He called us over to take a look.
I looked at Pat Clancy, he looked at Jimmy Charbonneau and he looked at me. None of us wanted to ask the question we were all afraid to ask. We knew the mark had been left by the Windigo.
Later that day, the men found Injun Johnny. He was perfectly fine. They met him upriver. He was catching mink and beaver and acting like nothing had happened, but there was a big smile on his face. We started to tell him what had happened to Cyprien Palache, but somehow he already knew.