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20 Terrifying Facts About the Skinwalker Legend

Beware a stolen face...

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  • Photo Credit: KRQE / YouTube

Skinwalkers—otherwise known as evil shapeshifters—are a mainstay in Navajo tradition and legend. More recently, they’ve also become the subject of legends and terrifying stories in the culture at large. Due to their elusory nature, many people have questions about these terrifying creatures. What is a Skinwalker? Are Skinwalkers real—and if so, has anyone ever seen one or documented one? And if a wandering unfortunate soul was unlucky enough to actually encounter one of these terrifying creatures, how would they protect themselves? Do Skinwalkers have any weaknesses? 

We also crave the answers to these mystifying questions.

Understandably so, the Navajo people tend to keep their culture to themselves—and indeed consider it dangerous to speak openly about the mythical creatures with outsiders for fear of supernatural repercussions. Still, some of the eeriest rumors about Skinwalkers have managed to creep out over time. We have scoured the darkest corners of the internet to find them—and collected these terrifying facts about the Skinwalker legend to answer these burning questions. 

What is a Skinwalker?

1. Skinwalkers are actually known as witches in Navajo culture, and they used to be humans. 

2. The word for “skinwalker” in the Navajo language is yee naaldooshii, which roughly translates to “he who walks on all fours.”

Related: What Is a Pukwudgie? If You See One It’s Best to Stay Away 

3. Skinwalkers are most commonly known as shapeshifters, often taking the form of an animal or a human. They are seen most frequently as wolves, coyotes, foxes, eagles, owls, or crows. 

4. When they’re not transformed into animals, witnesses have described skinwalkers as “hollowed out” creatures that look a little like dogs. 

5. In the Navajo tradition, Skinwalkers are medicine men who have decided to use their magic for nefarious purposes. 

Skinwalker facts

6. There are many different theories on how Skinwalkers come to be, but the most prevalent speaks of an official ceremony where people become Skinwalkers through a gathering with specific charms and chants. 

7. One of the ritual acts to become a Skinwalker involves killing, and then eating, someone close to them. By performing this act, the soon-to-be Skinwalkers lose any humanity left in them. Beware: once you’re a Skinwalker, you can’t undo it. 

8. Yeah, they want your face, and some traditions suggest they'll steal your very skin. Skinwalkers can transform into any kind of animal. Including you. 

Related: Trail of Dead: The Horrifying, Real-Life Case of the Beast of Gévaudan  

9. Don’t even think about looking at a Skinwalker in the eyes. That’s how they absorb themselves into your body and then control your every move. 

10. Skinwalkers can run far greater distances than normal people—they’re said to be able to run for 200 miles at a time.

11. Skinwalkers aren’t allowed to enter a home unless invited. It’s common decency, people! 

Are Skinwalkers real?

12. Skinwalkers are widely considered to be nothing more than the stuff of legend, but that hasn’t stopped sightings over the years. 

13. Over the years, there have been many sightings of shockingly fast animals running alongside moving cars. Sometimes, so the stories go, these animals will turn into men who will bang on the hood of the car. 

14. There’s a ranch in Utah called Skinwalker Ranch because there have been so many sightings. Originally owned by the Sherman family, residents of Skinwalker Ranch have been terrorized by animalistic creatures since the mid-1990s. 


How do I know if a Skinwalker is near?

15. Skinwalkers are known to leave a foul stench wherever they go. 

16. Skinwalkers like to hang out in graveyards while they dig up graves quickly.

Related: 21 Creepy Mythical Creatures from Around the World That Terrify 

17. But why dig up a grave? Some Skinwalkers can take the powder from corpses and then use the dust as poison on their victims.

What is a Skinwalker's weakness? 

18. Skinwalkers can only be fought with the magic they used to become a Skinwalker in the first place. A blessing from a medicine man can prevent encounters with Skinwalkers and generally these medicine men are the only people who know the correct spells and rituals that can combat their dark magic. 

19. If you can get past their endurance, shape-shifting abilities, and possible coven, it’s also said that you can kill a Skinwalker by calling them by their true, pre-Skinwalker name. 

20. You can also kill a Skinwalker by using a bullet or knife dipped in white ash. Though you must strike the Skinwalker in the neck or the head. 

Featured still via: KRQE / YouTube