THE VILLAGE OF THE DEAD
By M.P. Pellicer | Stranger Than Fiction Stories
It was one of the loneliest place on earth, 500 miles northwest of the port of Churchill on Hudson Bay. A whole tribe of Eskimos with their village in the Lake Angikuni country disappeared.
It appeared the barren land had swallowed 25 men, women and children.
At least this is what Joe Labelle a trapper thought when he arrived at the village. Labelle was no stranger to the area since he roamed the wilderness for more than 40 years.
Six tents made of caribou skins were intact; inside clothing, cooking utensils, even rifles were in place. One firearm had been there so long it was all rusty. He knew no Eskimo man would leave his rifle behind.
It was a place which appeared hadn't known human life for months. There were no signs of violence, only emptiness was left behind.
Labelle said that arriving at the village gave him the creeps, and from the moment he beached his canoe on the edge of the lake he sensed there was something wrong. He yelled out a greeting, and only two half-starved husky dogs crawled out and came towards him. There were seven dead dogs lying around which had starved.
He admitted to being jumpy when he went inside the tents, expecting to find a corpse, but there was nothing. He said, "The whole thing looked as if it had been left that way by people who expected to come back. But they hadn't come back."
Labelle walked through the camp, but all signs showed the place had not been lived in for almost a year.
Pots of food, still hung over cold cooking fires. An ivory needle was still sticking in a garment where the act of mending was suddenly stopped. Three kayaks were beached on the shore, one which he knew belonged to the headman
He knew they wouldn't have moved to a new territory and left all their goods behind, especially the guns and the dogs.
The tribe had been camping at this location for many years.
He thought of the Eskimos' "evil spirit" Tornrark who was described as an ugly man's face with two long tusks sticking up from each side of the nose. The villagers lived in fear or Tornrark and wore charms to ward him off.
Then he came across another riddle.
Whoever desecrated the grave stacked the covering stones in two neat piles, which proved it was not the work of scavenging animals.
That season Labelle visited 12 or more Eskimo camps, and none of them provided any answers as to what happened at the deserted camp. Most of the Eskimos blamed Tornrark.
The Mounties took up the hunt. They couldn't find them either and wondered if the tribe may have perished in a blizzard while on a caribou hunt, even though it was unlikely that women and children would have been part of the hunting party. If there was a sickness, bodies would have been found.
A queer clue came to light from a tribe living 150 miles north of the camp. The village adopted a 10-year old Eskimo boy who wandered into camp a few months before, and who didn't belong to any of the nearby villages. The Eskimos were reticent about saying anything else having to do with the boy.
Later an Eskimo known as Saumek was brought to the hospital on the Hudson Bay for treatment of frozen legs. Another Eskimo who spoke Saumek's dialect was found. He was asked if he knew anything about the deserted village but he only referred to Tornrark.
The mystery faded from public view as no answers were ever found.
Than it resurfaced when the story appeared in 1959, in the book Stranger than Science, authored by Frank Edwards. He based it on the story which originally appeared in newspapers on November 27, 1930 written by journalist Emmett E. Kelleher.
Later on, it was claimed the story was not accurate based on a report issued by the Northwest Mounted Police. Sergeant J. Nelson stationed in The Pas, filed a report where he wrote he could find "no foundation for this story." Joe Labelle had taken out his first trapping license that season, which brought into question if he had been in the territory prior to that. He dated one of the photos used in the story to 1909, and observed that Kelleher was known for "colorful stories".
In 1948, Canadian writer and explorer Farley Mowat (1921-2014) visited Angikuni Lake. He found a cairn not built in the style used by the Eskimos of that area. Inside were pieces of a hardwood flattened box with dovetailed corners. He knew the only previous European explorer in the area was Samuel Hearne who visited in 1770. He suspected the cairn was built by Francis Crozier (1796-1848) who was an officer in the Royal Navy and a polar explorer. He was second-in-command to Sir John Franklin who captained the HMS Terror. The expedition which sought to discover the Northwest Passage ended under mysterious circumstances, and all crew on board were lost, but not before some of the crew cannibilized their crew mates.
The Erebus, the other ship in the expedition was discovered in 2014, in 36 feet of water off King William Island, and the HMS Terror was found two years later in Terror Bay, 45 miles away from the Erebus.
Then Dwight Whalen wrote a cover story for the November 1976 issue of FATE Magazine titled Vanished Village Revisited. He concluded the story was an invention of the journalist who wrote the piece in 1930.
A few months later in April, 1977 a challenge was made to Whalen's conclusion by none other than Betty Hill, author of the 1966 book, The Interrupted Journey: Two Lost Hours Aboard a Flying Saucer which is an account of her alien abduction along with her husband Barney.
She described where on a ferry ride with her husband at the Bay of Fundy, they conversed with Captain Larsen, a Mountie who spent close to 10 years investigating the Angikuni Lake mystery. He believed the villagers had been abducted by extraterrestrials.
This idea took off, and the story of the vanished Inuit morphed into an alien abduction story, and the mystery has persisted.
Torngarsuk, (AKA Tornrark, Torngasak, etc) is a sky god in the Inuit religion. He is the master of seals and whales and is considered the most powerful, supernatural being in Greenland. In some instances he is portrayed as beneficent, and in others he is a demon.
He comes in many forms, such as a bear, or a one-armed man. The only ones that can see him are angakkuit which are shamans.
H.P. Lovecraft, used the Tornasuk in his story The Call of Cthulhu (1928), where Torngarsuk is an avatar for Cthulhu.
And yet, as the members severally shook their heads and confessed defeat at the Inspector's problem, there was one man in that gathering who suspected a touch of bizarre familiarity in the monstrous shape and writing, and who presently told with some diffidence of the odd trifle he knew. This person was the late William Channing Webb, Professor of Anthropology in Princeton University, and an explorer of no slight note. Professor Webb had been engaged, forty-eight years before, in a tour of Greenland and Iceland in search of some Runic inscriptions which he failed to unearth; and whilst high up on the West Greenland coast had encountered a singular tribe or cult of degenerate Esquimaux whose religion, a curious form of devil-worship, chilled him with its deliberate bloodthirstiness and repulsiveness. It was a faith of which other Esquimaux knew little, and which they mentioned only with shudders, saying that it had come down from horribly ancient aeons before ever the world was made. Besides nameless rites and human sacrifices there were certain queer hereditary rituals addressed to a supreme elder devil or tornasuk; and of this Professor Webb had taken a careful phonetic copy from an aged angekok or wizard-priest, expressing the sounds in Roman letters as best he knew how. But just 6 now of prime significance was the fetish which this cult had cherished, and around which they danced when the aurora leaped high over the ice cliffs. It was, the professor stated, a very crude bas-relief of stone, comprising a hideous picture and some cryptic writing. And so far as he could tell, it was a rough parallel in all essential features of the bestial thing now lying before the meeting.
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Stranger Than Fiction Stories by M.P. Pellicer