Into the Valley of the Headless Man

The Nahanni River surges through the Nahanni National Park Reserve in Northern Canada. This National Park is every nature lover’s dream with its deep canyons, wonderful hiking trails, and majestic waterfall that is near twice the height of Niagra. But deep in this remote wilderness something strange lurks.

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Much of the Nahanni Valley is a sacred and protected place and many areas are closed off to the general public, so much of the valley remains veiled in mystery. According to the myth of the first peoples that once tried to make a stake near the valley, there are Mountain Men that inhabit the land. Mountain Men were described as being bigger than any man, hairy, and primitive, even resorting to eating humans. These Mountain Men allegedly hunted all those who dared entered the valley and separated their heads from their bodies. These Mountain Men are, allegedly, protecting an incredible hoard of gold. Although its land has been charted, photographed, and even filmed and the treasure has never been discovered it doesn’t stop people from trying.

One of the most prominent stories begins in the early 1900s with the McLeod brothers. In 1908 Willie and Frank McLeod decided to head to the Nahanni Valley in search of gold. Although they left excited and seemingly prepared the brothers never returned. Two years later they were discovered...but not alive. Their bodies were discovered on the banks of the powerful Nahanni River. The two men appeared to have been murdered...and decapitated.

Nine years after the McLeods’ fate was discovered, in approximately 1920, Martin Jorgenson set off a similar hunt for cold. Shortly after he left he made an effort to stay in communication when he could. He even sent out letters exclaiming that he had struck gold! However, when the letters stopped people grew curious and set off for his cabin. They found the cabin inexplicably burned to the ground. In the ashes, Jorgenson’s remains were discovered. And, just like the McLeod brothers, his body was also found without a head.

Decades later, the valley revealed another headless victim. A miner from Ontario body was discovered in 1945 headless in his sleeping bag.

For this is forbidding country, which has been disastrous to both white man and Indian. According to the U. S. Geographical Survey, virulent meningitis once wiped out an Indian village in the area. Some Indians say the valley’s haunted. At any rate, no one lives there now. Of the relatively few whites who have explored and prospected along the Nahanni, three have been murdered, another may have been murdered, and almost a dozen, including a girl, have simply vanished.

There are a few theories and stories behind how these men and who knows how many others have met this disastrous fate. One of the most popular ideas is that wolves decapitated the men, who likely died of natural causes or the elements. Another theory is that this terrifying folklore was spread by those in the Nahanni region to further dissuade more white men searching for gold on their land. These stories soon infected the prospector camps and those who had recently arrived to the area.

The featured image is by true person and is licensed under Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0).