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The Skinwalker: A Naturalistic Hypothesis
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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.
These monkeys seem to have adapted quite well to their surroundings, eventually becoming apex predators. Their descendants were forced to venture out of the caves (obviously preferring to do so at night) in search of more and larger prey to satisfy their larger, stronger bodies. I believe that the long arms, dense musculature, and thick loose skin of the skinwalker are adaptations designed to aid in the snatching of bear cubs and mountain lion kits from their dens, and that skinwalkers are capable of fending off angry mothers long enough to get away safely if caught. It's also likely that their advanced vocal systems came in handy for mimicking the sound of mama bear to lure the bear cubs within snatching distance. Anyone who knows what a howler monkey sounds like will see how the skinwalker's early ancestors were able to mimic bear sounds, and from there their vocal systems kept on advancing until they were able to imitate a number of animal calls, including the screech of the mountain lion, which will account for the "unearthly" screeches so often associated with skinwalkers.

About 33,000 years ago, a new species began to populate the caves of North America. This new species was one which the skinwalker was already well-equipped to hunt. These new creatures were similar in size to bears and mountain lions, yet considerably less dangerous if they could be caught alone and unarmed. These new creatures, of course, were humans. Skinwalkers took a natural preference to the hunting of humans, and it wasn't long before they figured out how to imitate the human voice. The imitations were no doubt clumsy at first, but it seems to have been enough to arouse a fatal curiosity in those primitive humans, because over time the skinwalkers kept getting better and better and mimicking the sounds of human speech, with their vocal systems eventually reaching the level of complexity of the modern species.

I doubt that skinwalkers have a real understanding of the words that they say. Most of the stories which mention skinwalkers mimicking voices despict them as simply repeating the words of others exactly as they heard them spoken. To me, this is the best argument for the skinwalker being merely an animal. If skinwalkers were of human intelligence or greater, as one would expect of a corrupted human/evil spirit/alien, they would certainly attempt the far less unnerving feat of luring their prey with coherent conversation. We humans, however, are always eager to anthropomorphize that which appears similar to us, as well as to satisfy our curiosity regarding strange happenings, so the mere parrot-like mimicry of the skinwalker is frequently enough for it to get its meals. Stories of skinwalkers being able to literally take on the forms of those whose voices they imitate are no doubt derived from the exaggeration of second-hand story tellers, or otherwise imaginations that have been over-stimulated by fear.

All right, that's the easy part out of the way. The skinwalker's humanoid appearance is derived from its descent from New World monkeys, its pale complexion is derived from its ancestors adapting to life in caves, its strength and resistance to damage are derived from a diet of bear cubs, and its ability to mimic voices is derived from its relationship to howler monkeys and its strategy of attracting prey. There's just one thing I can't come up with a good explanation for: the stench.
Skinwalkers are very frequently described as having a very strong stench. And if that's true, then it seems like the best argument for claiming that skinwalkers are somehow supernatural. You see, it doesn't make any sense for an animal adapted to hunting humans to develop a scent so revolting to us. Whether it's just their natural scent, or if they make a habit of bathing in excrement or rotting meat, it just doesn't make sense for skinwalkers to evolve to have that kind of smell.

But if it's not an adaptation on the part of skinwalkers, then it must be an adaptation on the part of humans. It makes perfect sense for humans to develop a natural aversion to the scent of an animal whose favorite food is humans. But if that's the case, then the adaptation should only appear in American Indians, as they were the only humans who would have dealt with skinwalkers for most of history. Yet the stench of death is reported in association with skinwalker sightings by White people all the time. And if aversion to the scent of the skinwalker is a universal human trait, it could only mean that the origin of the skinwalker goes back much, much further than the Americas.

People like to say that every culture in the world has its own version of the vampire, but that's not really accurate. The traits specific to the vampire are specific to legends specific to Eastern Europe, and it's a big stretch to call any other legend from anywhere else a true vampire. Generally, the non-European legends touted as being "vampires" just describe any old humanoid monster that feeds on humans in any old way. Frankly, I think it's much more accurate to say that every culture in the world has its own version of the skinwalker. From the Navajo skinwalkers and wendigoes of North America, to the vampires and revenants of Europe, to the aswangs and jiangshis of Asia, all these creatures more or less boil down to the same sort of creature once you cut out the more fantastic elements.

You have a monster that looks almost human. It looks so human, in fact, that it's believed to have been a human before it was a monster. But there's something off about it. Something so off that it can only be assumed that the human it once was must have been evil. It reeks of death, to the point where some even assume it's a reanimated corpse. And death is precisely what it ought to reek of, for death is what it brings. After all, it specializes in the killing of humans.

If these creatures really are skinwalkers, and if the skinwalker really is so universal, it can only mean that there is an animal which has hunted man since man's very beginnings. It can only mean that this animal developed alongside the earliest men, and that every step of its history was a very deliberate step toward the slaughter of humans. It can only mean that there is an animal whose evolution was every bit as much influenced by human beings as the dog's, but that it was designed to be man's worst nightmare rather than his best friend. It can only mean that this animal's aptitude for the hunting of humans was never a mere coincidence. Finally, it can only mean that this animal has followed man wherever he's gone, from Iceland to Japan, from Alaska to Argentina, and adapted to all the same things as man so that it could better kill man.

I think that's ultimately what makes the notion of skinwalkers so terrifying. The fact that, for all our intelligence, there is an animal which sits above us in the food chain is too much for any self-respecting human being to swallow gracefully. In the end, that's why there are legends of skin-changing wizards and cursed cannibals: because it simply is not acceptable that there might be a perfectly natural creature that can treat human persons as mere food. But in the end, there it is. We've locked ourselves away in our modern civilization, but in the dark places of the earth, the skinwalker still lurks. We may be safe for the time being, but how long will it be before it all collapses and we have to return to the natural order? Or worse, how long will it be before the natural order finds some way of returning to us?
>skinwalkers inna cave
Lovecraft wrote a short story called "The Beast in the Cave" and it details a albino white humanoid with jet black eyes.
The story was written by him way back in 1904 and i have never heard anyone really talk about it on /x/.
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.
>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.
Well damn you're right. That pretty much accounts for everything.

Fantasy worldbuilding is okay. This board is supposed to cover /tg/ too after all.