I am an ethnologist who went looking for Native American folklore in Fort Kent several years ago. I was specifically interested in tales relating to the Wendigo which is the spirit believed by the Algonquian to take possession of vulnerable persons and cause them to engage in various antisocial behaviours, most notably cannibalism.
People are most susceptible when isolated in the woods for some considerable time. The resultant psychosis is well documented and the subject of medical and psychological research.
I met with a trusted source in Saint Joseph's Roman Catholic Cemetery. It was this individual who uncovered a series of correspondence between a doctor Thomas Burton and a Benjamin Wraxall.
July 21 1920
How is life in Great Falls, Montana? It’s been quite some time since we have communicated.
It’s difficult to believe that it has been one year since me and Hannah immigrated from England. Our arrival in Canada was truly satisfactory.
We were greeted with open arms by the townspeople. We set up a medical practice in the community. The townsfolk were overjoyed to have a physician with my qualifications to serve them.
We have tried our very best to become a part of the hamlet. Fort Kent is a remote and peaceful place surrounded by gentle rolling land dimpled with tree fringed lakes punctuated by grassy ridges. The breathtaking fields of green really contrast against the vast blue sky. I know you are unable to travel due to your malaise but I dearly wish you could be here.
Hannah and I settled into a cozy log house in the wilderness. It was recently constructed by some of the best carpenters around. Hannah is absolutely enamoured by a meadow of vibrant sunflowers just a stones throw away from our home. In the centre of the meadow is a massive rose quartz boulder which seems oddly out of place.
We have adopted a handsome Siberian Husky named Oscar. He has a lovely and warm personality. He possesses such icy and piercing blue eyes. There are many acres for him to roam about freely and play although he has a peculiar tendency to avoid the quartz boulder.
The settlement at one point was a rather large community. There was a lot of logging occurring in the area. Once natural resources dwindled the town shrank to a significantly smaller population.
Life in a small town is different. Everyone pulls together when they have to. The kinship among the community is wonderful.
I am eager to start life anew and to put the horrors of the Great War behind me.
July 30 1920
What a wonderful place this is! We just love it here. It’s so peaceful. They say this whole area used to be a sacred place. I think I can see why. The sunsets here are absolutely exquisite. It is dreamy the way the glowing sun bathes the meadow in red and orange light.
Yesterday evening after dinner I was watching the sunset with Hannah. We were enjoying gin and tonic when Oscar came happily bounding out from the sunflowers with an object in his mouth. It was a dirt caked bone.
Upon closer inspection it was what appeared to be a club fashioned from the jaw bone of a large animal. Judging by the sharp teeth still attached to the jaw I’m going to say it came from a bear.
Earlier today I brought it to the attention of a local rancher, Edward Delapore. He speculated that the club might have come from a member of one of the Plains Indian tribes from a bygone era named Black Bear. A ferocious warrior who ate the flesh of his enemies. He was chased out from his tribe by a band of fighters who left him for dead in the wilderness during a particularly harsh winter.
He suggested that I contact the department of anthropology at the University of Alberta.
In the meantime it sits on a bookshelf in my study.
Your affectionate friend,
August 20 1920
I am ecstatic to receive word from you old friend! Life in Great Falls is good. I just wish my health was better. The war has left its impact on my body and soul. Some nights I wake up thinking I’m still in those forsaken trenches with banks of mustard gas slowly creeping towards me. Do you still have your dreams about the war?
My daughters and sons have taken it upon themselves to take care of me and the home. I am so very blessed to have them.
I strongly support the idea of getting in touch with the University. We should do everything we can to preserve the history of the indigenous people. When the white settlers arrived they eliminated the natives languages, ceremonies, songs, dances, tribal laws. All that is left is memory.
Keep me posted!
Your friend and admirer,
August 25 1920
On the subject of dreams,
They have lessened in frequency since me and Hannah have started our new lives in Fort Kent.
I do recall them.
The sound of thunderous explosions roar throughout the area. The night sky glows with blazing lights. A line of inhuman shapes marches on the horizon. The cracks of gunshots and men screaming with rage and agony. And there I am in the trench hovering over a young man with a gunshot wound to his liver. He is losing blood at a terrifying rate and I know in that moment there is nothing I can do to help him.
A cloud of yellow mist is creeping towards us. The enemy are bombarding the trenches with poison gas. A shape emerges from the cloud wearing a gas mask pointing a rifle at me. An explosion rocks the place and everything goes black.
Shifting to a different subject.
During a lovely stroll through the meadow Hannah and I discovered numerous stones with what I would describe as possessing characteristics of artificial arrangement. They seem to form a spiral among the sunflowers with the giant rose quartz boulder being in the centre.
Another thing to note is that each of the smaller stones have human handprints painted on them with white pigment.
I have taken a closer look at the quartz boulder. It stands about four metres tall and three metres wide. The rock is split to form a east west passage and a third section has slid across the passage to form a kind of pillar.
There are faint incised markings on the walls of the cave like passage. They can only be seen at sunset when the angled sunlight enters the passage and hits them.
They resemble human figures reaching upwards to the sky with sorrowful expressions. Beneath them is another human form with malevolent features. It is clawing up at them. I can’t help but be chilled from the imagery.
Hannah with her eagle vision caught sight of something sticking out of the soil. She pulled the object out of the ground and scraped off the dirt.
To our delight and wonder it was a wooden mask. Perhaps it was used by the indigenous people during their religious ceremonies. It inspires awe and fear.
To end on a comical note our furry little friend, Oscar, still refuses to go anywhere near the large standing rock. He whines and whimpers with his tail tucked in between his legs at the very sight of the stone. Maybe a wild animal marked its territory there. With that in mind we must be vigilant!
September 1 1920
I have a disquieting tale to share with you.
It starts with a dream.
In the dream I found myself attending evening mass at an old church in Leicestershire. Oddly enough there was not another soul in sight.
There was music playing softly in the background. I don’t know where it was coming from exactly but I was familiar with the song. I’m sure you know it. The title is Oh! How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning.
A priest approached the pulpit and read a passage from his bible.
“...and why dost thou not pardon my transgression, and take away mine iniquity? for now shall I sleep in the dust; and thou shalt seek me in the morning, but I shall not be.”
The priest stopped his sermon and looked directly at me.
“It is eternal. It can move with the wind and leap great distances. It can do many things. It’s got the power. It can see into your mind and visit you in your dreams.”
The priest turned his back on me just as the music stopped. A suffocating sense of dread began to wash over me. The atmosphere became oppressive and foreboding. I felt like something was staring at me from behind.
I heard whispers in my ears. It was in a language I was unfamiliar with. It then changed into English.
“I want to thank you.”
A deep guttural rumble came from behind me.
A hand was placed on the backrest of the pew right next to me. A hand that was extremely pale. White like bone. As if all pigment were removed from the skin. The finger nails were long and sharp.
“Aren’t you going to look at me?”
A loud crash like an avalanche.
I awoke from my dream.
I looked at Hannah and saw that she was asleep. I looked onto the floor and saw Oscar curled up comfortably on the wool rug.
I gently got up and out of bed. I brewed a warm cup of tea to calm my nerves. I grabbed my peacoat and stepped outside onto the deck behind the house. I sat down on the rocking chair while I sipped from my cup of tea.
A faint ghostly green light danced in the starry night sky above. It was the northern lights. The ribbons of perpetually shifting luminescence flowed like a ribbon entrancing me with its spectacle.
I softly hummed Oh! How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning to myself.
Bands of emerald green twirled up above the world so high.
My humming of the the song changed into a whistle.
The vibrant shades changed intensity becoming brighter like fireworks. It was hypnotic.
I stopped whistling when I noticed a drastic change in the movement of the lights.
My attention was brought down back to the Earth in the direction of the meadow.
A whistling sound. Someone else was whistling the same tune that I was just a moment ago. I perked up and tried my best to scan the area. I couldn’t discern anything in the darkness. Against my better judgement I nervously called out. My voice trembled.
“Hello who’s there?”
The whistling stopped.
Something caught my attention. Two points of blue-white light appeared in the meadow. They shimmered like starlight. The lights periodically winked in and out of existence.
I stood up.
I withdrew an electric torch from my coat pocket and shined the light on the location of those glowing orbs. Nothing was there.
A cold serpent slithered around my spine. A knot in my stomach. Fear and dread. I rushed back into the house and locked the door.
I awoke in the morning after a restless night. Me and Hannah went through our usual routine in preparation for the oncoming day. We left the cabin to make our way to the clinic when I noticed something about the meadow. More specifically the rose quartz boulder with the secret etchings. The entire thing had collapsed.
I don’t know what to make out of all this. Tell me your thoughts.
September 7 1920
I can be a bit superstitious at times, but your previous letter has concerned me. There is a saying among First Nations that it is unwise to whistle at the northern lights in the night sky because you risk drawing the attention of the evil spirit that devours mankind.
Combine that with your dream and the artifacts you found in the area has got me thinking.
Or maybe I am overreacting. Perhaps what you saw in the meadow was a mountain lion. They’re ubiquitous in the region.
Do keep me up to speed!
All my love to you and Hannah,
September 12 1920
Edward Delapore showed up at my clinic in an absolute state of hysteria.
This is his recollection of events.
During the night he was sitting down in his home after a long day of work on the ranch. Suddenly he was startled by a cacophony of animal cries. He could hear them stampeding around the corral in a storm of fear. His dogs were also barking their heads off. His first thought was maybe a bear or mountain cat was spooking them.
A weak whimper sounded from outside the door. A gentle pawing sound. One of his dogs wanted in. Edward opened the door and was shocked. The dogs hind legs had both been torn off. A trail of blood indicated that the dog had dragged itself from the corral in an attempt to escape from its attacker. It rested it’s head on the ground and let out one final mournful cry as life slipped away.
With rage and grief in his heart he grabbed his rifle and ran outside to confront whatever was tormenting his animals. He burst into the corral and saw several of his horses had been killed by something. Their throats were torn out. Some of them were dismembered. All of them had deep lacerations on their bodies
He heard whispers coming from behind him. He turned around to face the forest and heard the whispers coming from somewhere in the trees.
Then he saw it.
A shape standing among the trees. It was the silhouette of a man. He could sense that something was very wrong. He couldn’t exactly put it into words. One thing that he did say resonated with me. He said that the man had bluish silver lights in his eyes.
He shouldered his rifle and shot at the man. There was no reaction from the individual. Edward retreated into his home and locked the door and closed all his window blinds.
Every now and then he would see points of light appear in the spaces between the window blinds. He kept the rifle at his side for the duration of the night.
Throughout the dark night he could hear tapping and scraping sounds on the outside walls of his home. Distant laughter would periodically fill the night air.
Apprehension fills my soul.
October 1 1920
I must write this letter in haste.
Things have taken a turn for the worse. Smallpox is beginning to ravage Fort Kent. Striking both young and old in staggering numbers. I am doing everything I can with the limited resources at my disposal. The epidemic is growing at an alarming rate. I am unable to deal with the ever growing number or patients.
I have sent off a young mister Carter for supplies. He should return to Fort Kent shortly.
Hannah is showing early symptoms of the disease. My beloved wife has collapsed and is now too weak. My heart is heavy.
It waits in the sunflowers.
That is the end of the correspondence between Thomas Burton and Benjamin Wraxall.
According to eye witness accounts it is known that Hannah Burton died within days and that Thomas locked himself in the house. He was in shock after losing his wife.
The townsfolk visited the house begging for help. Thomas refused to answer the door as the smallpox disease continued decimate the town.
In the morning mister Carter returned from his trip for medication and supplies. He found a grizzly scene in Fort Kent.
Everywhere he looked he saw dead bodies. All of them were savagely mutilated and partially eaten. It was a horrific sight. The only body not found was that of Doctor Thomas Burton.
Mister Carter contacted the RCMP. When they completed their investigation the evidence concluded that Thomas Burton was the murderer. Even though he was never found, in his absence he was convicted and sentenced to death.