Owls and the paranormal seem to have gone hand-in-hand for centuries. Native Americans across North America, in particular, have bountiful lore about owls and their powers and prowess. One of them is the Stikini, of Seminole folklore, which is also known as the Man-Owl.
Stikinis were said originally be human witches that grew more terrible and powerful the more evil they bestowed upon people and the world. One of their most notable powers was the ability to transform into owl-like humanoids to terrorize local villages.
It is said that by day the Stinkini looked like other Seminole people, but by night they changed completely. Unlike a vampire turning into a bat which seems like a seamless transition, the Stikini had more of a werewolf-like transformation. Once the moon came up they would vomit up their souls, internal organs, and blood and transform into undead owl-monsters that feasted upon human flesh.
Based on my research, I cannot tell if this transformation was purposeful or forced by the coming moon, but either way it does seem wholly unpleasant. There seems to be some routine to it, though, as it is often said that they would purposefully travel deep into the woods to transform away from prying eyes. Furthermore, it was also said they would hang their internal organs high in trees to prevent wild animals from snatching them. This also means that if you are in the forest late at night and spy some organs dangling above you...you should leave them alone and head to safety. It is believed this transformation represents the spiritual being of the Stinkini and the ‘human’ appearance it wears during the day is simply a mask.
It should be noted that in its human form, while resembling Seminole people, it also rejects cultural norms and may seem standoffish or strange to the people it comes in contact with.
The owl-humanoids have tremendous strength and power and can rip a grown man apart with ease. The word itself is so powerful that among some Seminoles it is believed simply speaking the word aloud would attract Stikinis to you, or that you yourself would risk becoming one. Often, Stiniki lore was only spoken aloud by powerful Medicine Men and Women in the community, as they could protect themselves against these hateful creatures.
In addition to their habit of eating hearts, they also take on a banshee-like role. It is said the cry of a Stikini is very guttural and horrible. If you hear the cry of one, it is said to be an omen of coming death.
There are some ways to protect against the Stikini. For example, if you fear one is using your town as hunting grounds venture into the forest and try to find where they hung their organs. Once found, you can destroy them leaving the Stikini unable to return to its human form. They, like vampires and other creatures of the night, will be killed or grievously harmed in direct sunlight without the option of retreating to their human form.
The above image is from Flickr User Katja Schulz and taken on the Kolokee Loop Trail in the Seminole State Forest. Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)