For thousands of years, cultures all around the world have told stories of the dead returning to life from the grave. These creatures are known by many names: vampires, revenants, zombies, wraiths, and so on. However, most know them collectively as the Undead. But although this phenomenon is largely confined to Europe and Asia, it is not unheard of in the Americas. One such creature is known widely among various indigenous tribes of North America, but it is particularly feared by the Wabanaki. They call it Skadegamutc, the Ghost-Witch.
The Skadegamutc (pronounced "skuh-deh-guh-mooch") is an undead
monster with both anthropophagous and vampiric tendencies. It is believed among
the Wabanaki that this creature was once an evil sorcerer or a practitioner of
black magic who has died and refuses to stay that way. However, according to
some tales, anyone may become a Skadegamutc after they die. This revenant
hungers for the blood and the flesh of living humans, and will kill and devour
anyone who gets in its way. There is no way to escape the creature short of
During the day, the Skadegamutc appears as an inert, harmless human corpse. But
by night, the corpse reanimates and wanders off in search of human prey. To
accomplish this, the Ghost-Witch takes the form of a ball of light, which
enables it to cover great distances quickly. Once the monster has found a
victim, it attacks from above. It then slaughters its prey, feasting on the
victim's warm flesh and blood. However, the Skadegamutc isn't just a menace
from the sky. Many legends speak of a group of hunters or warriors taking
refuge for the night somewhere near a recent open-air burial or within a short
distance from a corpse. At nightfall, the corpse revives itself and begins to
kill the members of the group, one by one. It should be noted that the
Skadegamutc prefers to target individuals who are alone or have been separated
from a group. It is unknown if large groups frighten the creature or if it
likes to torment potential victims by picking off one person after another.
During his or her lifetime, the Skadegamutc was a powerful sorcerer or a witch.
And even in death, the Ghost-Witch still wields the power of black magic. One
of the creature's favorite antics is to curse her victims. But in addition to
her sorcerous powers, the Skadegamutc has unnatural strength, and is able take
the form of a ball of light. In this form, the creature is able to fly great
distances in a fairly short amount of time, and this is how the revenant finds
its prey. And according to legend, the Ghost-Witch is able to camouflage
itself, enabling it to blend into any background. This allows the monster to
seemingly appear and disappear at will, and in this way, the Skadegamutc is
able to ambush its unwary prey. This also allows it to hide from its enemies
(like hunters) and also to deal with each person one at a time.
Much like the Vampire of Eastern and Central Europe, the Skadegamutc is
vulnerable during the day. The only problem is that, according to Wabanaki
folklore, the Skadegamutc cannot be harmed by weapons. In some legends, it is
said that arrows may ward off or even frighten the creature away, but the
reason for this is unknown and may not even work. The only way to destroy the
Ghost-Witch is to burn the creature to charred ashes and scatter the ashes to
the four winds. This is the only way to prevent the revenant from returning and
wreaking its revenge upon the would-be monster hunters.
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