Skinwalker, Yee naldlooshii

To become a skinwalker requires the most evil of deeds, the killing of a close family member. They literally become humans who have acquired immense supernatural power, including the ability to transform into animals and other people.

These evil witches are typically seen in the form of a coyote or wolf – although they do have the ability to turn into any animal they choose.

Skinwalkers walk freely among the tribe and secretly transform under the cover of night. The term yee naaldooshii literally translates to “with it, he goes on all fours."

The yee naaldlooshi can be spotted and singled out from other people, because their eyes glow like an animal's, sometimes even more so, even in human form. In animal form they can be spotted by moving stiffly and unnaturally, or acting strangely.

“Do you hear that?” Katie asked René.

Neither spoke as they tilted their heads to scan the airwaves.

He nodded uncertainly.

“From the west, behind us,” she figured. At first, it sounded like distant thunder, but the consistent rhythm suggested hoof beats.

“It sounds like a jet in the sky,” René decided.

She shook her head.

There were no contrails; nothing moved above them in the starry blackness, only cold twinkling stationary stars. The noise increased. It was like the sound of horses galloping in from the west.

“It sounds like a herd of horses,” he hoped.

“It isn’t! Just keep going, now!”

Suddenly, something hit the truck on Katie’s side.

“Oh my God!” she screamed in panic and slid next to René.

“What happened? Did we hit something?”

She leaned over and rolled up the passenger window as fast as she could and moved even closer to René. “Keep going straight ahead,” she said, her throat muscles constricted in terror when she tried to talk.

“Just keep going René, don’t stop.”

“It may be a dog. We may have hit a dog.”

“No, it’s not a dog.” As she spoke, a black shadow covered the window on the passenger side. Katie trembled. “It’s hanging on the car, René, go faster, keep going, look straight ahead, and focus on driving.”

The thing started thumping the top of the truck letting out a high-pitched scream. When Katie dared look to her right, she saw the black shadow diminishing.

“It’s off the car now. Can you go any faster?”

But it didn’t matter how fast they went. The shadow moved faster too and stayed even with the truck, toying with them

It let out a scream again, louder and shriller and Katie squeezed so close to René he felt she was going to crawl inside his shirt. Then, at last, it fell away. René looked for it in the mirror, but he only saw inky blackness. “Oh my God, Katie! What was that?”

“A skinwalker.” She spoke so softly he didn’t hear her.

“A what?”

“It was a skinwalker, a Navajo boogie man. It’s like a Yeti or the abominable snowman. They live in the hills on the rez.”

Because skinwalkers wear the skins of the animals they transform into, it is considered taboo to wear the pelt of any animal. In fact, the Navajo are only known to wear two hides, sheepskin and buckskin, both of which are only used for ceremonial purposes.

Those who have talked of their encounters with these evil beings describe a number of ways in which a skinwalker will try to inflict harm. Some describe hearing knocks on the window or banging on the walls. Others have spotted an animal-like figure peering in through a window. According to Navajo skinwalker legend, they are seldom caught. Those who do track a skinwalker and learn of their true identity must pronounce the name of the evil one in full. Once this happens, the skinwalker will get sick or die for the wrongs they have inflicted against others.

Or another story from the desert town of Tuba City, Arizona near Monument Valley, where a building contractor is doing repairs on an old ranch home. Thinking himself alone, the man is surprised to hear laughter coming from somewhere off in the sheep pens. Following the noise, the man turns a corner to the edge of the sheep pen where before him the entire flock is huddled shivering into one end of the pen while on the other a lone ram stands separated. He is standing upright, his two front hooves across his chest and his horned head thrown back in gleeful, maniacal laughter that is unmistakably human. Watching this, the man jumps and suddenly the ram spots him. For a fleeting moment the two lock eyes and, just like the laughter, the ram’s eyes are familiar and anything but animal. The ram falls back down to all fours and mills along as if nothing had ever happened.