I've been wondering about skinwalkers lately. Specifically, I've been wondering if there's any truth behind them, and whether or not that truth can be boiled down to a so-called "rational explanation." Now when I say "skinwalker," I'm referring more to the creature that frequents greentexts on /x/ and /k/ than I am to the Navajo legend. And even then, the creature I've come up with probably has more in common with the wendigo. However, I believe that these three traditions may be rooted in a common cause: specifically, an animal which has evolved to specialize in the hunting of humans. I am not a professional or specialist in zoology, archaeology, or anthropology, and I certainly do not claim that the explanation I'm about to lay out is necessarily the truth. It may be that the animal in question has completely different properties or a completely different origin from what I'm about to propose, and it's even quite likely that such an animal never existed in the first place. Who knows? Maybe it really is evil spirits or just a baseless legend. Whatever the truth is, I hope that the line of reasoning I've come up with gives you some interesting food for thought.
Call it a skinwalker, a fleshgait, a wendigo, or whatever you want. Skinwalker seems to be the most popular term for it on imageboards, so that's what I'll be calling it here. The essentials of the creatures in these stories are essentially the same, and this gives us the basis of the creature we have to explain here. Firstly, the skinwalker is roughly humanoid in shape. Secondly, the skinwalker differs from the typical human form in that it's very tall, thin, and pale in comparison, as well as being seemingly hairless. Thirdly, the skinwalker is much stronger than a human being, and is much more resistant to injury, as evidenced by the many stories of anons shooting the thing without killing it. Fourthly, the skinwalker is an exceptional mimic. For the purpose of this discussion, we'll discount the literal shapeshifting as being too fantastic to be true, but I'm perfectly willing to consider voice mimicry as a real property of the animal. Fifthly, and in my opinion most oddly, the skinwalker is often credited with having a terrible odor. These characteristics are common to both internet skinwalkers (in their "un-transformed" form) and wendigoes. Contrary to what many people on the internet claim, this description is also very too far off from the Navajo skinwalker in its "un-transformed" form, which is often described as looking emaciated and deformed, and often with loose skin and the ability to mimic voices. Thus, I propose that these three legends have a common origin in an animal with the characteristics I have described. It's possible that there are multiple species, perhaps a southern "Navajo skinwalker" and a northern "wendigo skinwalker," but for now it's enough to say that it's essentially the same kind of animal.
The biggest problem with describing the skinwalker as a natural animal, of course, is the same problem that arises from describing the bigfoot as a natural animal. Specifically, its humanoid appearance indicates that it's a primate of some kind, and the fossil record does not attest to the existence of primates other than humans north of the Rio Grande for millions of years. Where could such a creature come from? And how could its ancestors have dodged paleontologists so effectively? Bigfoot proponents appeal to gigantopithecus, claiming that it may have crossed the Bering Bridge into North America from Asia. Skinwalker theorists, of course, cannot possibly make the same claim. The highly robust gigantopithecus would certainly not have evolved into the highly gracile skinwalker. To find a progenitor for skinwalkers, we must instead look in the opposite direction, to South America.
About 2.7 million years ago, an event known as the Great American Interchange occured. In short, the isthmus of Panama is thought to have rose up from the sea to connect North and South America, and as a result a large number of species were able to migrate between the two continents. It may be supposed that creatures native to the jungles of the south would be unable to survive in the frozen north, and vice versa, but this is apparently untrue. The terror bird - a massive, flightless, carnivorous bird - came from the rain forests of South America, but the last surviving species of the terror bird family lived in North America. Sabre-tooth tigers migrated to the south and rapidly out-competed the South American marsupial lion to extinction.
Around the time of the Great American Interchange, there was a monkey in South America called protopithecus. Weighing in at 50 pounds, protopithecus was the largest monkey known to have existed in the New World. A close relative of the spider monkey, it had the same long, thin limbs. A close relative of the howler monkey, it's thought to have had the same complex vocal system. I propose that protopithecus or some closely-related monkey found itself in southern North America at some point during the Interchange. How exactly it got there or why it ended up staying is unclear. What is clear is that it was unaccustomed to the comparatively barren climate, and that it probably took to sheltering in caves for protection and comfort. Its fossils haven't yet been discovered because the environment of caves is not well suited for fossilization, and there's nobody looking for monkey bones in Arizona caves anyway. At any rate, these monkeys were certainly omnivorous to begin with, as is the howler monkey, and the sparse ecosystem of the desert caves probably drove them more and more toward the status of full-blown carnivores. Over time, these meat-eating, cave-dwelling monkeys took on those adaptations which one would expect of a cave monkey: the loss of body hair, the pale complexion, the reduction in prominence of the eyes, and and loss of the tail.
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Shit mate I didn't even think about that. Though the beast was pretty hairy if I remember correctly.
This is all very well written. I love this X-files type sci-fi and we seem to have a shortage of it in current media. Most of it is pew-pew lasers and FTL spaceships, but your posts here demonstrate very well that you don't need any of that to write with a scientific basis and expand it into just the right amount of fiction through logical speculation. Well done.
You have a writing quirk, by the way.>The essentials of the creatures in these stories are essentially the same>often described as looking emaciated and deformed, and often with loose skin
It's word repetition, but not throughout the whole text. Only in the same sentence, (or same thought spread throughout a 2-3 short sentences), but when you move onto the next thought, you begin to use some synonymous words / phrases to substitute the previously used ones. You do avoid repetition, just not when still within the same thought. And for artistic reasons, I fucking love it. It is odd at first, but gives some additional, almost rhyme-like structure to your paragraphs. You're likely not even doing it on purpose, but it does have its weird charm.
Ah yeah I usually try to edit that out. I was tired as hell when I wrote this because for some reason I felt compelled to get up at 3 in the morning just to do it.
Heh, I get those too sometimes.
Anyway, luckily it worked out quite well. As long as the text you write is long enough for you to demonstrate that you do avoid repetition, erm, "globally", then it could be a legit artistic choice to choose not to avoid it on smaller scales (until the thought is fully articulated and you are ready to move on), and I have never considered this until I have read your 3 am s̶c̶h̶i̶z̶o̶ ̶r̶a̶m̶b̶l̶i̶n̶g̶s̶ skinwalker essay.
But about that, now I feel I should add some things from my own weird mind. You begin with positing that the species itself originates from the Americas, but then you move on to speculate that it could be much older, considering global exposure and extrapolating from that. Wouldn't that open up the possibility of more sophisticated mimicry, as it had more time to evolve (along humans no less, adapting at every step) and select for more complex behaviours? I mean things such as tool use or wearing clothes, or even some rudimentary understanding of the voice patterns they repeat. Basing all this on what certain monkeys are capable of. They can be trained to put on and wear clothing, they can use tools (or simply just carry around shit that humans carry with them in heir hands, even if they don't know what for), and most animals have some basic concepts of a greeting, a signal for help, a signal to attract potential mates, those sorts of things. It wouldn't be too much of stretch to suggest that a species could use some or all of the above for the purposes of hiding or attracting prey.
A skinwalker crying out>please someone help me
could very well understand that it is broadcasting a "help me" signal without having any concept of words or sentence structure. Same goes with any seductive lines a hooker would throw at you from the side of the road. Is she just a really ugly whore, or is it a skinwalker trying to lure in food via mimicking the mating signals of its prey?
The wearing clothes thing also ties nicely into smelling like death. Firstly, they were peeled off of dead bodies, secondly, they aren't washed. Just worn. Possibly until they just sort of fall off.
That's a good point about the mimicking. I read somewhere that parrots can actually have a general idea of what they're saying, and it stands to reason that a talking primate would have at least as much understanding of words as a talking bird. But based on most alleged eyewitness accounts, it does still seem like they don't have a fully human-level comprehension of language, which was more or less all I meant to posit. Discounting some of the more fanciful stories like the "I wouldn't worry about it" one, skinwalkers are pretty much portrayed as just repeating things exactly as they heard them. So yeah, they probably would understand that "help me" is a distress call, but they wouldn't know how to use it appropriately in a conversation. It'd be interesting to find out if they could be taught proper language though. Gorillas and other apes can be trained to use sign language coherently, so a skinwalker in captivity could possibly be trained in vocal language.
As for tools and clothes, I can't really think of any stories that portray skinwalkers as using those, except again for the "I wouldn't worry about it" type stories where your friend suddenly has to re-learn how to use his phone or something. It's definitely conceivable though.
>>135649>I can't really think of any stories that portray skinwalkers as using those
Me neither, for stories that actually use the name "skinwalker", that is. But you suggested that all of these vampire-esque legends all over the world might as well be attributed to this same primate species and I was mainly exploring that angle with the whole clothing thing. An animal that can sort-of talk and sort-of wear clothing properly, to the point where someone could mistake them for an "undead" human on a surface level inspection, maybe strengthened by some trauma associated with the encounter. And now that I think more about it, it would perhaps also make sense for these "vampires" to sometimes make their nests in abandoned crypts, not just for the easy access to clothes but to mask the stench that follows them around.
But this is quickly getting into fantasy worldbuilding territory, so I guess this is a good place to stop for now. I'll still totally use it if I ever want to make sci-fi vampires though, it just has so much potential, and fits together so nicely.