What is a Skinwalker?

Shapeshifters are a common motif in folklore. They often appear in tales about werewolves and witches and have been linked with mysterious messages, cattle slaughter, and UFO sightings.

Native American tribes have their version of these terrifying figures, known as skinwalkers (yee naaldlooshi), who can be harmful and evil witches. Discussing skinwalkers among Navajos is taboo due to fear that discussing them with outsiders could provoke their revenge on these entities.


Folklore often revolves around shapeshifters – from werewolves and vampires to witches who change into cats or other animals; the concept has pervaded many cultures throughout history.

Navajo peoples, though, have their take on these terrifying monsters: skinwalkers. Generally considered malevolent witches with animal forms that can change, skinwalkers are widely feared within Navajo communities, and many fear their appearance. While skinwalkers can take any appearance at will – from cat or bear forms to human voices and behaviors – skinwalkers use all these tricks to lure people into traps set for them.

Legend has it that to become a skinwalker, an individual must commit the most heinous crimes imaginable – typical murder of an immediate family member, such as a sibling – to gain supernatural abilities and immortality. Once transformed, these savage creatures form an underground society that meets in dark caves or remote locations for ceremonies and performs black magic rituals to harm people from a distance using black magic, necrophiliac acts, cannibalism, and grave robbing activities.

Skinwalkers are believed to be swift and agile creatures who are difficult to catch or kill, leaving behind large tracks in the dirt. In addition, they reportedly go glowing eyes with glowing pupils and a bright, twisted appearance. According to legend, these savage witches possessing supernatural powers can also change into coyotes, wolves, bears, foxes, and other wild animals to reside within them and often wear their skin to show affiliation with them.

Contrary to myths surrounding other supernatural beings like Wendigos or Bigfoots, Navajo people tend not to discuss their version of such monsters with outsiders and are even wary about discussing any connections among themselves for fear that doing so may draw in any malign forces that inhabit Navajo lands. Yet these boogeymen have gained increasing fame thanks to works like JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books and movies such as 2002’s Skinwalkers featuring predominantly Native American actors cast.


Skinwalkers are frightening shape-shifting creatures said to possess the ability to take the form of various animals, such as wolves and coyotes, with fearful orange-red eyes that gleam with malevolence, menacing physique, fast legs, fiendish cries, and almost impossible to kill – blamed for everything from crop failures and marriage problems through sicknesses and sudden deaths, grave robbing and soul theft by black magic practitioners. They have even been linked with black magic practices.

People outside the Navajo community have long been intrigued by stories of skinwalkers. Sci-fi series The X-Files popularized this legend for non-Native Americans through its 1994 episode “Shapes,” where Mulder and Scully investigate a killing on a Native American reservation and discover a skinwalker.

Recently, Navajo people have become more open about their experiences with skinwalkers. They urge the public to respect their culture and avoid spreading misinformation about these mysterious beings. A Cherokee Nation author warns outsiders who use skinwalker legends to risk misappropriating culture.

Some may doubt these mysterious Native American legends, yet others claim to have experienced symptoms associated with skinwalkers. People have reported seeing strange lights in the sky or hearing what sound like coyotes or wolves howling at night – they have even managed to identify one by shining a flashlight onto them and seeing their eyes light up with red hues when illuminated with a flashlight!

Many visitors of Skinwalker Ranch have reported issues with their electronic equipment not working correctly and feeling disoriented at the property, along with unexplained illnesses or an unsettling presence they believe resides there. Bigelow or any other paranormal investigator might want to acquire it; however, the current inhabitants don’t seem interested in selling their property because they believe a skinwalker resides there instead. However, they explain why their property seems haunted: They say a skinwalker is living there!


Skinwalkers can be easily identified by their feral appearance, often exuding malevolence. According to Navajo tradition, these beings live alone and rarely interact with humans; However, they possess an intuitive understanding of human behavior; they often defy tribal rules and customs and act independently from them, constantly breaking into homes or terrorizing families targeted for abuse or harassment.

According to Navajo tradition, anyone can become a skinwalker after committing one of the worst sins – killing an immediate family member. Once accepted into this secret society, individuals gain supernatural abilities that allow them to shapeshift into coyotes, wolves, bears, or any other animal they desire – often wearing animal fur and sporting skulls upon their heads.

Once transformed into their animal forms, skinwalkers can be extremely powerful and dangerous. Able to read minds and manipulate other local wildlife, skinwalkers are nearly impossible to kill or capture – some believe if a skinwalker is shot with a bullet or knife dipped in white ash, it will transform back into human form rather than animal form.

Skinwalkers are known for creating illusions of animals that no longer exist – “wolf illusion.” When encountering skinwalkers, it’s not unusual for one or more members of their party to be witness to images of wolves appearing suddenly before them.

Since centuries ago, Native Americans and non-Natives alike have been intrigued by stories of mysterious creatures known as werewolves or ghosts. Many have been taken by the legend of Navajo werewolf depictions in movies and TV shows; it should be remembered that members of their tribe do not share their beliefs outside their tribe because doing so could bring harm or be taboo; discussing such subjects brings people closer together than previously imagined.


According to legend, evil witches gather in dark caves or other remote places to plot their activities and perform black magic, harm people from a distance with black magic, perform dark ceremonial rites, and engage in necrophilia, cannibalism, incest, and grave robbing; according to another account they engage in necrophilia, cannibalism, incest, and grave robbing as well. Shape-shifting creatures described by legend appear human-like but leave animal tracks when leaving animal tracks behind.

There are various theories about how a person becomes a skinwalker, which vary from tribe to tribe. Some traditions believe a skinwalker may come about due to an abusive medicine man abusing their powers for evil; other tribes believe social transgressions or breaking tribal taboos could turn someone into one. Although skinwalkers can theoretically be killed through direct shooting to their heads or necks, it has proven impossible due to their near-immortal nature.

When confronted by a skinwalker, it’s best to remain calm and back away slowly to give yourself time. Reducing their ability to follow you makes it more likely they won’t attack again, though carrying medicine bundles or pieces of turquoise may help as protective charms against this beast. Another tip from some Navajo is spreading bark from cedar or juniper trees around campsites, which can ward off skinwalkers when camping.

If you’re lucky, a skinwalker might be scared away by you and return to human form. Otherwise, some Navajo believe burning sage, cedar, or juniper in a campfire will deter them. Corn pollen, juniper berries, and cedar bark have also been known to discourage skinwalkers. Finally, try not to stare into their eyes directly as this allows them to absorb themselves into your body and control you; also, it would be wise not to venture out after dark in isolated places where skinwalkers might lurk – they might take control over.