(PfCoCAfRL Spotlight) The Valley of the Headless Men

TristramEvans

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As the title of the thread indicates, I was originally going to post this in the Premises for Call of Cthulhu Adventures from Real Life thread, but it seemed like a big enough subject to justify spinning it off into it's own thread.


Located in the far north of Canada are the aptly named Northwest Territories, a massive swath of land that is virtually uninhabited. Consider that the country of Germany has a population of around 83 million people. The Northwest Territories are over four times the size of Germany but with a population at any given time of only around 50,000. In addition to being this huge and mostly unoccupied space, the northwest territories are almost completely wild, covered in dense forests, huge mountains, and massive rivers and lakes.

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Even for highly experienced outdoorsmen and women, the Northwest Territories is a truly hazardous place, and within this truly hazardous place there is one part that is the most dangerous. Located right in the middle of the territories is an 11, 000 square mile stretch of pure wilderness called the Nahani Valley.

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In 1976 the Nahani Valley was declared a "national park", but don't let that fool you. This isn't the kind of place anyone can simply go hiking though or camping with their families. There are no tourist accommodations and there are no roads that lead into this park; the only way you can get inside this valley is by chartering a private plane, by boat up a treacherous white rapid river, or by a long, very stressful and difficult overland hike taking weeks. But for those who are able and willing to make the effort to get inside of this valley, you have the opportunity to explore one of the most beautiful places on the planet, because this section of the world is almost completely untouched by Man. It really is nature at its purest form.

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However, there is a catch...

Over the last 10 000 years the handful of native tribes that have attempted to settle inside of the Nahani Valley have all either quickly fled (claiming they were being terrorized or stalked by white wolf-like creatures lurking in the forest the Natives called Wahilas) or suddenly disappeared without a trace (like the Naha tribe that literally overnight just was gone, leaving behind their shelters, food, and supplies).

Now of course this just sounds like folklore and it may very well be, but starting in the early 1900s some very strange events occurred in the Nahani Valley that is not folklore, these were real, horrifying events and they might, depending on your viewpoint, give credit to some of the theories that the native tribes people have about this valley, which is there's something dangerous and evil lurking out in those forests...
 
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TristramEvans

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THE FIRST INCIDENT

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In 1898, a group of prospectors consisting of six people gathered supplies, all the necessary equipment for gold mining, weapons, and went in search of riches unseen before in the Nahanni Valley. These six did not return, an their disappearance was a mystery, albeit not a notable one. People disappeared in the wilderness all the time. However, several years later, a hunter who happened to be in the valley made an unusual find; the site of a small camp, and what were declared by authorities to be the skeletal remains of the miners. The strangest thing was that the skeletons were embracing guns, and missing their heads. The heads themselves, or rather the skull, were neatly folded at the feet. The RCMP declared the deaths from exposure, and the weird position of the skulls due to animals who had picked away at the bodies.

The incident was, at the time, not widely reported and few took notice, the only surviving record being an incredibly short note in a Yukon newspaper, that didn't even name the victims. It would have been entirely forgotten if not for what happened next.
 

TristramEvans

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THE SECOND INCIDENT

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In 1904 three brothers, Willie, Frank, and Charlie McLeod, who all lived in the Northwest Territories, decided they wanted to go looking for gold in the Nahanni Valley. They figured as so few people had ever been inside of this valley that if there was gold there then it certainly hadn't been found yet. And so after a very long and arduous journey, using sled dogs and homemade boats, they finally slipped into the valley and found themselves on what's called The Flat River which runs right through the centre of the Nahanni valley.

The Flat River is kind of ironically named because it's anything but flat - it's actually more like a rapid at certain points - but either way, the three brothers
make their way up into the valley via this river and at some point they pull off onto the riverbank and set up camp and, figuring this is as good a spot as any to start, they go down to the river and they put their gold sluices in the water.

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A gold sluice is this long skinny box, made of wood back then, but still used by amateur prospectors today with newer ones made of aluminum or other lightweight metals. It has a strainer on one side, and gold miners will put it in the water submerged and they will kind of shovel the sediment on the bottom of the water into this little funnel and the big stuff will get stopped by the strainer and the dirt and water will just kind of flow out the side, so you can trap
gold nuggets inside of the sluice.

And so the three brothers, they get their sluices up, and almost immediately they hit pay dirt. The river is teeming with gold. All day all night they sift out this gold, and the next morning they do the same thing, and by the time all their containers are filled to the brim with gold, they decide to head back with this initial find and stake a claim, and come back with more men and equipment.

They pack up their campsite and load everything back in their boat, and they get out onto Flat River and at some point very early on in their journey back the boat capsizes and actually breaks apart from the strength of the rapids. Losing most of their supplies and a all the gold they collected, they drag want they can to shore. They're devastated at the loss of the gold, but they're alive they have enough supplies to survive and so they figure all they can do is maybe try to go back to their original site try to get some more gold (as they did manage to hold onto one sluice), and then get out of there and regroup before coming back. They knew the gold was there, now, they just needed to get out, hopefully with enough to finance a larger expedition.

Using some of the lumber they recovered from their broken boat and then also by cutting down some trees, they literally fashioned another boat and then hopped back on the river and they went back up to that site of their original camp. Only this time they didn't find any gold. Having already lost all their gold and way too many supplies, and now now unable to find gold despite setting up the sluice in the same pot that yielded the previous returns, that night when they went to bed exhausted and frustrated, and decided that the next day they were just going to leave.

So the next morning, they pack up and they hop back on The Flat River, a little more wary and cautious this time, and they're able to make their way out
of the valley.

***

As soon as they get back home the two younger brothers, Willie and Frank, start making plans to go back into Nahanni Valley, having confirmed there is gold there, despite the setback of the failed second attempt, they are eager to get back out there. However, Charlie, the older brother, felt that it was too close a call with the boat capsizing, and decides to stay behind. Instead, Willie and Frank find another third, a friend of theirs named Robert Weir who agrees to join them, and they spend that winter making preparations, planning to go out for an extended period of time and bring back as much gold as they can. In the spring of 1905 they're ready and the three of them they make their way back up into the valley.

Weeks turned into months turned into a year and no one's heard from them but Charlie assumes that they most likely struck it rich and they have provisions to stay out there long-term, plus all three are experienced woodsman, so he doesn't get overly worried. But another whole year would goes by
and this point Charlie decides that he needs to go out there and make certain that they are OK. So he rounds up four other people from his town and mounts an expedition to head back into the Nahanni Valley to find his two brothers and Robert Weir. After yet another long and arduous journey, the search party makes its way onto the Flat River, and follow the treacherous rapids, the whole time scanning the left and the right riverbanks hoping to see some sign of life or any indication that these three men are out here and just fine. But they didn't see any sign of them and so they finally made their way all the way up to the very end of Flat River (or, I should say, the beginning of the river) where it breaks off from a much larger river called the South Nahanni River,
where the route they're on takes a very sharp turn.

It's actually called the big bend and it's about a 45 degree turn and as soon as you make that turn it dumps you into this 10 mile stretch of river called " "second canyon".

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Along the South Nahanni River, which is about 350 miles long, there are these four canyons that the water passes through, and these canyons are massive, with sheer cliffs on either side of the river that shoot up 3000 feet, and in some parts the water is actually just as deep.

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Second Canyon itself is unique because the cliff faces are incredibly sheer and almost butt up exactly up against the water, so there's mostly no shoreline on either side. So once you enter this 10 mile stretch you're basically boxed in. You have thousands of feet of water below you you have these massive cliffs on either side and there's really nowhere to go. You need to get all the way through this section of the river before you can effectively get onto the shoreline and take a break.



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Along these cliffs are these openings you see high up all over the cliffs on both sides that are entrances to a massive cave systems inside of these thousands of feet tall cliffs, and because of how difficult it is to, not only get to Nahanni Valley, but also to get up to these different cave openings, nobody's ever explored them.

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Moreover, as soon as Charlie and his search party entered into Second Canyon it would have immediately gotten darker, because these huge cliff walls
obscure the sunlight, and it's incredibly windy inside of the canyon and as they made their way down this 10 mile stretch they would have been looking on either side at periodic little strips of shoreline for any sign of human activity, but they didn't see anything.

As they're getting closer and closer to actually entering into first canyon the sides of the river start to get slightly larger, where you could actually beach your boat. There's some trees and on the left hand side right before exiting second canyon they notice there is actually a tent perched within some trees,
and so the search party goes to the shoreline. But as soon as they step foot on land and they have a clearer view of this tent they notice there is a body
clearly lying on the ground in front of the tent.

Charlie and the search party they run over and as soon as they're up close they can see that this body is missing it's head.

The clothes on this body are charred as if burned, and whoever this was they were reaching with their right arm when they died, and right outside of the of their reach was a rifle propped up against a tree.

Walking around this body, they go around towards the back side of the tent where the opening is, and they find another body, positioned halfway in and out of the tent. This body is also missing its head.

They continue to search around the camp, but don't find a third body or any sign of the heads so they can identify them, but they eventually gather the courage to search the pockets of the first body and inside the tent, and find some personal effects that would confirm that these are Charlie's brothers.

As for Robert Weir, he was not at the campsite, and in fact he would never actually be found officially. However, a little ways down the river an partial skeleton was found several months later that was attributed to Robert, though never confirmed.

The only other interesting thing that was found at this campsite was a carving in a nearby tree which just said "we have found a fine prospect", indicating
that Charlie's brothers must have found gold. However, there was no gold either on them or in their camp, and no sign of the sluices they brought with them.

The search party would leave the valley and get in touch with the mounted police, who would came out to the campsite to investigate. Ultimately, the RCMP declared that all three men starved to death and after they perished animals had taken their heads.

Charlie never believed this official explanation, which didn't account for the strange position he found the bodies in nor other unexplained elements like the charred clothing. He believed they had been attacked by native tribes in the area, but the police dismissed this theory.

Unlike the first incident, the story of these decapitated men made national headlines and for a time the public people went crazy for the story, many coming up with their own theories about what had happened. Some suspected the skeleton found later was not that of Robert Weir and he had murdered the two brothers and stolen the gold for himself. Many brought attention to the story of the six prospectors who had been found several years earlier. Others circulated the old native folklore of the area and the idea the Valley was cursed, or home to some large, as yet undiscovered form of animal, with speculation that some prehistoric form of wolf of wildcat had survived in the wilderness.

Regardless, pretty much everybody at the time who heard the story, combined with the events of the earlier incident, became terrified of the Nahanni Valley, and that stretch in Second Canyon where the two brothers had been found got renamed "The Valley of Headless Men", later shortened to simply "The Headless Valley", a name that wasn't simply descriptive, but would come to be prophetic...
 

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THE THIRD INCIDENT

Despite the fear whipped up by the brief public mania over the death of the McLeods, the story also led many to believe there was an unclaimed chache of gold hidden in the Nahanni Valley, some going so far as to call it "The Canadian El Dorado".

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So in 1913 a gold prospector named Martin Jorgensen decided that he wasn't going to let some scary stories get in the way of getting ahold of that gold
everyone was certain was up there, and all on his own Martin made the arduous overland trek to the Nahanni Valley, and found a spot along the Flat River about 70 miles upstream of the Headless Valley.

Here he actually built himself a one-room cabin, as he intended to stay there through the winter, with the plan to meet his business partners in Yellow Knife the following summer. Shortly after building his cabin and setting up his prospecting equipment, he travelled down river and sent word back to his partners
that he had made it rich. As such, his partners were really excited to meet up with him that summer and began making preparations to travel back with him into the Valley.

But that summer rolls around and Martin never shows.

His partners wait for several weeks, but after nearly two months they decide they need to go into the valley to check on him. Hiring a Native guide, they made their way up Flat River roughly to the area where Martin was supposed to be staying based on his earlier message. They actually found his cabin or, I
should say, they found what was left of it.

Jorgensen's cabin had been burned, and laying on the ground next to the blackened structure was the burned-out remains of corpse, once again missing its head.

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The police did a thorough investigation but they were never able to determine what actually killed Martin. The police did not connect Martin's death with that of the McLeod brothers 9 years earlier, despite the decapitation. Once again, this was dismissed as animas taking parts of him away.

Likewise no sign was ever found of any gold in the remains of Martin's cabin.

Once again, Martin's death made the news and it caused a sensation, despite the police assuring everyone that his death was not connected to the earlier incidents.

But Martin Jorgensen was far from the last to brave the Nahanni Valley in search of gold, greed outweighing any cautionary tales...
 

Acmegamer

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Definitely a interesting read. Those who are finding the bodies and repeatedly claiming animals took the heads away are fucking being either dishonest or are stupid as shit. That's not how it works, the bones would be more spread about if animals were at them and the first choice wouldn't be the hard bone/skull head. As an aside I also found myself mumbling something about clan McLeod forgetting that their can be... only one. (I'll see myself out)
 

TristramEvans

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THE FOURTH INCIDENT

Seven years later, in 1921, trapper John O'Brien, a very experienced woodsman, is found frozen to death in the Nahanni Valley, a few miles upstream from the Headless Valley. This would not be so notable if not for what the authorities described as very odd aspects of how he was found.

O'Brien was positioned in front of this obviously previously lit campfire. He wasn't hunched over and he didn't look like he was in pain, nothing on his face that indicated discomfort or fear, and he was even holding the matchbook in his hand it was like he was just sitting there enjoying the fire when something caused him to suddenly freeze. In fact witnesses would say it looked like he had been flash frozen; as if it had happened in a matter of seconds. In other words, it simply didn't look like he (this very experienced woodsman) had reacted properly to freezing to death.

However odd it was though, ultimately a trapper freezing to death in the Canadian wilderness isn't reason to suspect any foul play, so there was no further investigation.
 

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THE FIFTH INCIDENT

Five years later, in 1926, a Metis girl named May Lafferty disappeared while on a hunting trip in the Nahanni Valley. Her disappearance remains one of the strangest episodes in the Valley's history to date.

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May ("Annie") Lafferty was the younger cousin of Poole Feld's wife, Mary. She was, by all accounts, a strange little girl who one woodsman described as "neurotic". In the summer of '26 he accompanied Poole and Mary Field and a group of Natives from Fort Simpson on a hunting trip into the Nahanni Valley. The group had just spent the winter trapping deep in the Mackenzie Mountains, and were on their way to one of the trading posts on the Laird river.

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One day, while the party was following an old Indian trail along a southern branch of what would one day be called Mary's River (this waterway, named in honour of Poole Field's wife, enters the South Nahanni in the Third Canyon), May Lafferty suddenly disappeared. Initially, it was presumed that the little girl had simply wandered into the bush to answer the call of nature, and little was thought of her absence. However, as the day drew on, Mary became increasingly concerned that something had befallen her younger cousin.

Eventually, Poole set out into the wilderness with 5 native hunters - Diamond C, Boston Jack, Charlie Yohin, George Tesou, and Big Charlie, all of them hunting veterans. In no time, the men picked up Mary's trail and followed it into the woods. At first, it simply appeared as if May had lost her way.

Incredibly, these Native trackers soon found themselves hard-pressed to keep up with May's trail, whose slender moccasin prints seem to indicate she had plunged through the wilderness "as if on the wings of the wind". Field and his companions followed May's trail for a total of nine days. Along the way, they found articles of her shredded clothing hanging from tree branches at irregular intervals; it appeared as if the Metis Girl had gradually divested herself of her attire as she ran until she was completely naked. The Mosquitoes at that time of year were innumerable, and would have made short work of even the hardiest hunter had he been similarly exposed, yet May's trail went on and on, winding it's way up into the mountains.

As described by Dick Turner in his book Nahanni (1975):

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Field and his five companions followed May's trail for four more days before giving up. May Lafferty's body was never found, despite the fact that it should have been impossible for her to survive more than one night, let alone over a week, naked in the freezing wilderness.

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But the strangest part of this story would come several months later. When the Poole party returned to civilization and reported the disappearance to authorities, the story eventually made it's way into the local newspapers. At which point, a hunter (only identified as "Charlie") came forward to the police and told them of an incredible experience he had one night while he was hunting out near third Canyon. He'd set up camp overnight on the shore of Flat River and was awoken in the late evening by the sound of rock falling into the water. The river is dark, but lit by moonlight, and there maybe a hundred yards away, he sees a naked girl on all fours running up the side of the cliff. He described her movements as "like an animal", but what he remembered most was the expression on her face when she would periodically stop and look around, before continuing up the sheer rock, knocking pebbles into the water below. "Charlie" described it as a "rictus grin, like the expression was frozen on her features, and her eyes wide and wild".

Though this encounter was disturbing, in the morning Charlie dismissed it as a dream, until he saw in the paper the story of May Lafferty, and realized this was around the same time and close to the same area he had been in the Nahanni Valley.

The police dismissed this story - even if it were true, there was no way anyone could survive naked in the mountains, so it was never investigated.

After the incident, the creek in which she disappeared was named "May Creek" in her memory.

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The McLeod Brothers Three
a folk song by Nils Asfeldt

It was 1904 and the McLeod brothers three
Set out to find gold on the Ol’ Nahanni.
Willie and Frankie and Charlie all came
Didn’t they know they would earn deathly fame?

If you’re going on a trip, you ought to go in style
So they took the scenic route to make it worth their while.
They took the train to Vancouver, a boat to Alaska
And mushed up Stikine River, by dogsled, to go faster.

From Telegraph Creek, they crossed Dease Lake
And the Continental Divide, not an easy path to take
Down the Dease River, then along the Liard
Finally up the Hyland, they’d been mushing quite hard.

At last they had made it, those three brothers bold
To the grand Flat River, where there was rumoured to be gold.
They fixed up old sluice boxes that were lying all around
And sluiced and panned all day and night ’til shiny nuggets they found.

Once they found their riches, they built themselves a boat
Didn’t matter what it looked like, as long as it could float.
They pushed off down Flat River which, despite its soothing title
Was known for dangerous rapids where a good canoe was vital.

The Cascade of the Thirteen Steps was more than just some waves
By the 13th step there was nothing left of the McLeod’s boat to be saved.
Their scow was destroyed, and to their great displeasure,
They were left with but a rifle and not a hint of their treasure.

Rifle in hand, they hiked back upriver
To pan some more gold though they only got a sliver.
They built a new boat, and this time knowing better
Portaged ’round the Cascades, not getting any wetter.

They returned to the city and started to plan
A second trip to the North, and more gold to pan.
Charlie, of course, being the older, wiser brother
Decided not to come, and was replaced by another.

His mysterious replacement was a Scottish engineer
They never even knew his name, maybe Wilkinson or Weir?
Off they went Nahanni-bound, for better or for worse
Not long thereafter, they caught Deadmen Valley’s awful curse.

But Charlie didn’t worry, until waiting two more years
When he mounted a search party to help allay his fears.
He searched high and low with help from RCMP
And found their remains, which weren’t pleasant to see.

The bodies were headless, and what was left was rotten
But strangest of all, there was no sign of the Scotsman.
The only clue left was carved into the wood
It read: “We’ve found a fine prospect”, not that it did them any good.

As you can see, the McLeod’s deaths are a mystery
Perhaps, if we try, we can fill this gap in history:
Was the police report right? Did they die of starvation?
If that were true, does it explain decapitation?

Or maybe it was bloodthirsty headhunting Naha folks
But quite frankly, my friends, that sounds like a hoax.
Perhaps the Scotsman shot them down and fled to Vancouver
Is that what he was, a murderer and looter?

Could it have been wild beast, a bear or wolverine
That killed Charlie’s brothers and picked the bones clean?
Whatever the truth, there’s no doubt in my mind
Gold on the Nahanni is better left behind.
 

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INTERLUDE:
THE TALE OF YUKON FISHER


One of the most fascinating and enigmatic characters known to frequent the Nahanni Valley was a veritable giant of a man known only as "Yukon Fisher". Fisher was a stampeder who made his way to the Klondike via the Ashford Trail, a miserable, grueling route through British Columbia. In some Yukon saloon, the enormous sourdough got into an argument with the bartender and opened his head with a bottle. "There was blood all over," recounts Billy Clark, a prospector from the area, "[Fisher] was certain he'd killed this fellow, so he took off into the bush".

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For years, Yukon Fisher lived as an outlaw in the wilderness of the Northwest Territories. "He survived in total isolation, avoiding Indians and white men alike" (Hammerson Peters, Legends of the Nahanni Valley). On rare occasions, the fur-clad giant would hazard a visit to one of the more remote northern trading posts, such as Poole Field's store on Ross River, where he would stock up on tea, salt, matches, and ammunition, before disappearing again into the wilderness. Poole Field, who had more contact with the wildman than any of his contemporaries, said that Fisher "had developed the senses of a wild animal as a result of his primitive lifestyle, and could easily tell a moose, caribou, bear, ad man apart by the sounds they made walking through the brush."

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According to Phillip H. Godsell (The Curse of Dead Man's Valley, 1950)

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TristramEvans

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THE SIXTH INCIDENT

In April, 1929, three prospectors headed into the Nahanni Valley, once again in search of gold. The partners were named J.M. Gilroy, Andy Hay, and Angus Hall. They decided upon an unorthodox route, boating their way to the Laird river, and the South Nahanni beyond, via Fort Nelson. They reached the South Nahanni river by May, wherepon they were beset by a series of flash floods. The three prospectors tackled the South Nahanni's waters head on and managed to make it beyond Second Canyon to the mouth of Scow Creek before their motor gave out.

Following this setback, the three managed to paddle to shore and headed up the creek on foot. After setting up camp, the men began to argue, and Angus Hall stormed off into the woods in a fit of temper. Later that day, they caught a glimpse of Hall climbing, away up a long valley. His companions expected Hall to return after blowing off some steam, so even when nightfall came they weren't terribly concerned and simply went to sleep, expecting to find Hall back by morning. The next morning however, there was still no sign of Angus.

They travelled further up Bennet Creek where, on the Creek's shore, they discovered a solitary footprint made by a hobnailed boot, the type of footwear their missing companion wore. Gilroy and Hay met up with another group of four prospectors, Fred Hassler, Billy Hill, W. Cochrane, and George Spangler, and, after sharing a meal together, the group went looking for Hall, to no avail.

The body of Angus Hall was never discovered, the single footprint the only trace of him that ever turned up in the Nahanni Valley. According to Andy Hay, the man had disappeared "as utterly as though the earth had swallowed him".
 

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You mentioned Hammerson Peters - as well as his books, his YouTube channel is a goldmine for this stuff.

There's also expedition footage on YT from the 50s to modern day to give an idea of the logistics of travelling there, and the uncompromising nature of the terrain.

Thanks for compiling the stories and the amazing photos - absolutely beautiful!

Me? I'd be there in a shot!
 

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THE SEVENTH INCIDENT

One year after the disappearance of Angus Hall, a trapper named Phil Powers arrived in the Nahanni Valley. Hailing from Fort Nelson, those who knew him described Powers as "a tough, honest, and extremely competent frontiersman". Powers built himself a cabin at the mouth of Irvine Creek, across the Flat River from Old Pot Hot Springs, and established a trap line.

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Some distance beyond the spot where Jorgensen had met his sudden and mysterious death, they came upon the first signs of a disaster; skeleton of lynxes and foxes caught in traps that were set but never tended. Further on, and the confluence of the Caribou and Flat Rivers, the came upon the remains of Powers' 22 foot canoe. Finally, making their way to the mouth of Irvine Creek and proceeding on foot, they came to the site of Phil Powers' cabin, or what was left of it.

Similar to Martin Jorgensen's, Powers' cabin had burned to the ground. Among the ashes were the fire-blackened bones of Phil Powers.

There are conflicting accounts as to the condition of the corpse. Some say that Powers was found headless, his skeleton clutching a si-shooter revolver in it's blackened, bony fingers. Others maintain that the trapper's skull was found at his feet.

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The RCMP investigators blamed a faulty stovepipe for burning down the cabin and cremating Powers, but prospectors have been quick to point up several flaws in this theory. In the first place, Powers was an experienced prospector, who, in common with all sourdoughs, built his cabin so there was plenty of room for the stovepipe to go through the roof without touching the timbers. Further, if the pipe had ignited the roof, causing it to cave in, the poles and dirt would fall inside the cabin, helping to extinguish the fire and leaving several charred logs. The fire that destroyed Powers’ cabin was so intensely hot that it left only the bottom log and very little of Powers. Moreover, Powers’ cache was untouched except that the cans of gasoline which he needed for his power boat were empty. It has been suggested that somebody standing outside the window shot Powers as he lay on his bunk, then burned the cabin down.
 

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Along these cliffs are these openings you see high up all over the cliffs on both sides that are entrances to a massive cave systems inside of these thousands of feet tall cliffs, and because of how difficult it is to, not only get to Nahanni Valley, but also to get up to these different cave openings, nobody's ever explored them.

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I am reminded of certain similar caves said to be located in another canyon along the Colorado river in the US. I'm sure I'll think of the canyon's name in a minute. Meanwhile, these other caves, if they exist, are said to contain artifacts from a long-lost, possibly Egyptian-influenced culture.
Regardless, pretty much everybody at the time who heard the story, combined with the events of the earlier incident, became terrified of the Nahanni Valley, and that stretch in Second Canyon where the two brothers had been found got renamed "The Valley of Headless Men", later shortened to simply "The Headless Valley", a name that wasn't simply descriptive, but would come to be prophetic...
I had hoped, when I saw the thread title, that this would be about the Blemmyes, but this is shaping up to be pretty good, nonetheless.
Definitely a interesting read. Those who are finding the bodies and repeatedly claiming animals took the heads away are fucking being either dishonest or are stupid as shit.
I doubt they're stupid. The question is whether they're lying to the public, or themselves. Probably some of each, but what are the former trying to protect? Already primed to think about cover-ups of mysterious Western finds, I can't help but draw parallels to the US government's behavior surrounding things like alleged giant graves. But I'm sure there won't be any giants associated with this story.
. . . veritable giant of a man known only as "Yukon Fisher".
Crap.
The RCMP investigators blamed a faulty stovepipe for burning down the cabin and cremating Powers, but prospectors have been quick to point up several flaws in this theory. In the first place, Powers was an experienced prospector, who, in common with all sourdoughs, built his cabin so there was plenty of room for the stovepipe to go through the roof without touching the timbers. Further, if the pipe had ignited the roof, causing it to cave in, the poles and dirt would fall inside the cabin, helping to extinguish the fire and leaving several charred logs. The fire that destroyed Powers’ cabin was so intensely hot that it left only the bottom log and very little of Powers. Moreover, Powers’ cache was untouched except that the cans of gasoline which he needed for his power boat were empty. It has been suggested that somebody standing outside the window shot Powers as he lay on his bunk, then burned the cabin down.
The implied use of the gasoline as an accelerant implies that the cabin was burned down by someone who knows about gasoline and its properties. On the other hand, some of the other bodies also showed signs of being burned.

I hesitate to ascribe any theory to the real events, but if I was running this as a game there would totally be a tribe of giants in that valley, tacitly protected by elements of the Canadian government. Yukon Fisher was either an exile or a spy for this group, and they might have control over strange technologies that cause insanity or combustion at a distance (access to these technologies might be what they traded for protection by the authorities).
 

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I am reminded of certain similar caves said to be located in another canyon along the Colorado river in the US. I'm sure I'll think of the canyon's name in a minute. Meanwhile, these other caves, if they exist, are said to contain artifacts from a long-lost, possibly Egyptian-influenced culture.

...you get a lot of Egyptian influence in Colorado?
I doubt they're stupid. The question is whether they're lying to the public, or themselves. Probably some of each, but what are the former trying to protect? Already primed to think about cover-ups of mysterious Western finds,

There's a thought that the RCMP themselves didn't want to spend anymore time in the area than they absolutely had to. But also, after Nahanni was declared a National Park, large sections of it were officially closed off to the public. Some believe they are protecting a type (or several types of) cryptid, something I'll get into more when I go into the Native folklore of the region, something I've only touched on thus far.

I can't help but draw parallels to the US government's behavior surrounding things like alleged giant graves.

lol, I like to think I have my finger on the pulse of many of the weirder fringe conspiracies in North America, particularly of the Fortean variety, but I haven't heard of that one


But I'm sure there won't be any giants associated with this story.

Crap.

Actually more giants to come, believe it or not...
 

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THE EIGHTH INCIDENT

Sometime after Christmas, 1935, a bush pilot named George C.F. Dalziel flew two trapping partners, Joe Mulholland and Bill Epler to Britnell Lake, a boy of water deep in the Nahanni Valley nestled in the shadow of a set of sheer cliff faces known as the Cirque of the Unclimbables.

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The two trappers had brought several yards of canvas with them, that they planned on fashioning into a watercraft in the style of an Indian skin boat, in order to bring whatever furs the accumulated down the South Nahanni River in the following spring.

It was Joe Mulholland's brother Jack that first noticed that the two never returned in the Spring, and after speaking to some of Epler's associates, a search party was formed, that ended up hiring Dalzial, the same pilot that originally took Epler and Mulholland into the valley. Dalziel flew them to the area where he'd originally dropped off the two trappers months earlier, where the party made an ominous discovery. A short distance away stood the remains of a cabin which, just as the previous cabins of Martin and Powers, has burned to the ground. Searching the vicinity of the cabin, no sign of Epler nor Mulholland were found. The search party were in fact unable to find any sign of the two men, and after several days they left. Though other searches would soon follow

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The clues were as follows:

Back in May of 1936, a group of hunters who had previously spent the last few weeks camping at Irving Creek, waiting for the ice to thaw, arrived at the mouth of the Flat River. There, at the confluence of the Flat and Nahanni Rivers, at the base of what is known as Direction Mountain, they came upon the remains of a campfire that was determined to be only a few days old. As the proceeded down the South Nahanni, they came across a number of trees felled by axes, and as Mulholland and Epler were the only other people known to be in the valley at the time, after their disappearance it was presumed that the campfire ashes and axe cuttings constituted their last traces.

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The following winter, two hunters named Al Lewis and Harry Vandale, entered the Valley and stumbled upon a strange series of camps in the vicinity of Rabbitkettle Lake, located at the Northern tip of the Nahanni. Lewis described it as a sequence of caches that each included a section of neatly folded tarp, along with various items arranged on top of them - from empty tobacco cans, to, in one case, the leg of a wolf. The almost ceremonial-sounding caches were spaced randomly miles apart, and seemed especially odd to Lewis as "Trappers and prospectors are not in the habit of leaving tarps wherever they happen to stop along the way".

The disappearance of the two trappers sparked numerous rumours and speculations, but ultimately no further sign of them was ever found and they were simply another two people swallowed up by the Valley.
 

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MINOR INCIDENTS

In 1940, the Edmonton Journal published an article stating that an aeronautical engineer named William Gilbertson was found dead in his cabin somewhere in the Nahanni Valley. Little is known of Gilbertson or the nature of his demise.

That same year, a frontiersman named Ollie Holmberg disappeared in the Nahanni Valley.

In 1945, Walter J. Tully made a prospecting expedition to the Nahanni Valley with two partners that was immediately cut short when the three discovered a badly decomposed body of a man lying in a sleeping bag on the banks of the Flat River, his head severed. RCMP determined the remains were of a 40-year old French Canadian prospector named Ernest Savard that was well known in NWT trading posts. As to the cause of death, they suggested "Hunger made him tired, so he crawled into his sleeping bag and died. Animals couldn't get at the rest of the body, so they gnawed away at his head."
 

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THE NINTH INCIDENT

In the autumn of 1946, a prospector named Frank Henderson returned to civilization from the wilderness of the Nahanni Valley with a poke containing 30 ounces of gold and a chilling tale.

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Henderson was the nephew of Robert Henderson, one of the three co-discoverers of gold that had launched the Klondike Gold Rush, and had spent most of his life in the Canadian Northern wilderness moiling for gold. In spite of this , the seasoned frontiersman was visibly shaken when he recounted his experiences in the Nahanni Valley to journalist George Murray of Fort St. John.

That fall, Henderson explained, he'd planned to prospect with his longtime partner, John Patterson, at Watson Lake, Yukon, situated near the Laird River a short distance northwest of Lower Post, BC. Patterson was another man with considerable backcountry experience, well known among traders in Vancouver and Calgary, reportedly served as advisor on the Alaska Highway.

Henderson and Patterson planned to meet at Virginia Falls in the spring of '46, whereupon they would travel down to Watson Lake together. Henderson came from the Northwest Territories side, travelling by dog sled accompanied by a group of five First Nations guides, while Patterson was coming from the east, by way of the Mackenzie River. As was custom between them, the two would leave messages carved in trees at designated spots for one another. Henderson arrived to the meeting spot first, and, when Patterson did not arrive on time, left his message on the tree before travelling on into the valley, assuming Patterson was delayed and the two would rendezvous en route.

The first night in the Valley, Henderson was awoken by strange wailing sounds. They had made camp on a rock outcropping about half a mile up from the river, and the strange sounds seemed to be coming from the riverbed. He found his Native companions already awake, and seemingly terrified. They motioned for him to stay down and make no noise or movement. They'd already frantically put out and covered the fireplace with a pot. The wailing continued for several hours. When they finally ceased, it took some effort for Henderson to get his companions to provide some sort of explanation, all he could glean from the reluctant Natives was that they had seen "white giants" by the river. Henderson said that whatever the source, he would never forget those chilling sounds, unlike the sounds of any animal or man he ever encountered.

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His guides were obviously spooked and so they detoured immediately out of the valley to the east, rather than continuing down the South Nahanni River. This way Henderson also intended to meet with Patterson on the path towards the meeting place that he was presumed to be taking. At this point Henderson came upon a message from Patterson carved into a tree at one of the points along the path, indicating that he had entered the Nahanni Valley. So Henderson wanted to go back into the Nahanni Valley and find him, but the Natives accompanying him refused.

When Patterson failed to meet up with them anywhere along the way to Laird river and never showed by August, Henderson decided he needed to go back into the Nahanni Valley to search for him, but still his Native companions refused to re-enter the area, and so eventually Henderson went by himself. Henderson spent the rest of the season alone, searching the haunted vale for his partner. Though he never again encountered the White Figures that had spooked his former Native companions, "All summer," he said, "I moved with utmost caution, mostly a night."

No trace of Patterson was ever found.

Author Pierre Berton wrote, "Frank Henderson himself, a man who perhaps has good reason not to want too many people rushing into the valley, was quoted as saying, on his return from the area last fall, 'There is absolutely no denying the sinister atmosphere of that whole valley."
 

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Most accounts of the Curse of the Nahanni Valley end with the tale of Ukranian trapper John Shebbach, who bizarrely starved to death despite being an experienced hunter and his body found less than a mile upriver from a well-stocked cabin he certainly knew about. Shebbach's corpse was found mutilated. "It was just a mess," claimed Gus Kraus, a guide hired by the RCMP when they carried out their investigation into the death, "scraps of clothing and bones had been gnawed and dragged around". Apparently by the very wildlife that the area was teeming with, that Shebbach was unable to catch. A journal was found near Shebbach's corpse, most of it unreadable due to exposure to the elements, but authorities were able to make out the final entry, dated February 3, 1946, which just said that this was the 43rd day since Shebbach had last eaten, in and of itself a nearly unbelievable claim.

However, deaths and disappearances associated with the Valley continued to be reported. In 1957, Leonard Brunchnik entered the Nahanni Valley in search of the lost McLeod goldmine. Several months later, his body was found on the shelf of a cutbank of the South Nahanni, lying facedown in a matt of dried blood and vomit.

In 1962, a pilot named Angus Blake MacKenzie disappeared while flying over the valley. An RCAF search and rescue team set out to look for him, but after 40 days, no trace was found and he was given up for dead.

That same year, a bush pilot named Kenneth Stockwall flew three men named Victor Hudon, Gunther Goertz, and Henry Busse into the Nahanni Valley for an expedition. Month's later, the remains of Stockwall's plane and the corpse of Victor Hudon were discovered near Virginia Falls. The bodies of Stockwall, Goertz, and Busse were never found.

On June 22, 1963, three Swiss canoeists, named Martin Wuethrich, Fritz Weismann, and Wolfgang Mihncke set down the South Nhanni River in a canoe. In early August a Mountie patrol found the body of Martin Wuthrich trapped beneath a wall of the Figure Eight Rapids with a poncho wrapped around his head. The corpse was in a state of almost complete preservation due to the icy water, but the cause of death could not be established, as he apparently died before entering the water rather than drowning. Weismann and Mihncke were never found.

In 1980, German magazine Spiegel became enamoured with the stories and decided to finance a new research expedition to the ominous valley. The management of the publishing house hired three former US Airborne Troops. Their task was to stay in the Valley of the Headless for a month, documenting everything that happened.

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However, despite possessing combat experience and practical skills to survive in extreme conditions, the team soon found they faced insurmountable difficulties. Two days after arriving in the Headless Valley, the former paratroopers sent a radiogram, which said that the valley and they themselves are enveloped and tightened by something like a fog. After that, the connection with the detachment was interrupted and the veterans disappeared without a trace. A rescue team was sent to help the paratroopers, but it also disappeared.

And check out this news story from 2005:


And that is, all in all, just the modern recorded history of the Valley, what is verifiable through research.

Next, let's discuss the Native history and folklore surrounding the Nahanni Valley, and why no tribe would ever settle in the area...
 

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FOLKLORE OF THE NAHANNI VALLEY

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The oldest stories of the Nahanni come from the traditions of the Dene Tribes.

The Dene people (/ˈdɛneɪ/) are an indigenous group of First Nations who inhabit the northern boreal and Arctic regions of Canada. The Dene speak Northern Athabaskan languages (Dene is the common Athabaskan word for "people").

Dene are spread through a wide region, from the Mackenzie Valley (south of the Inuvialuit), to west of Nunavut. Their homeland reaches into heo western Yukon, and the northern part of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alaska and the southwestern United States .Dene were the first people to settle in what is now the Northwest Territories.

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Prior to European exposure, the Dene people were highly mobile around the Deh Cho (Mackenzie River) region. They subsisted mainly on hunting, fishing and trapping using a variety of tools taken from the natural world around them. Their lives engaged and intertwined completely with nature, following migratory patterns of animals. Men were mainly hunters, women were mainly homemakers. Usually people would travel in smaller extended-family groups, but a few times a year multiple groups would meet up and trade and celebrate.

Along with the more peaceful Dene, the local oral history contains many references to the Naha tribe.

According to Dene tradition, in ancient times, the Nahanni Valley was inhabited by a nomadic, warlike tribe known as the Naha. The Naha were ferocious warriors who frequently descended from their mountain homes to raid Dene settlements in the lowlands surrounding the Liard and Mackenzie Rivers, carrying away women and supplies.

After suffering a number of devastating incursions, a conglomeration of several Dene tribes banded together to travel into the Nahanni and take revenge upon the Naha. The large group of braves took to the warpath, travelling into Nahanni country. They sent scouts to find the Naha settlement in the mountains. They found it by going through horseshoe canyon nearby Tło Dehé (Prairie Creek, a secluded, difficult to access location. The Dene scouts returned and fetched their warriors and then lay in wait until nightfall, preparing their attack. In the middle of the night they surrounded the Naha settlement on all sides, sneaking closer and ready to strike. Once they were right alongside the teepees, they hurriedly threw open the tent flaps, weapons at the ready and…no one was inside. Silence. Fires were smoldering, sleeping bags were laid out, but there wasn’t a single human around. They had disappeared completely.

The Dene, fearful, quickly retreated from the area and marked the lands as cursed. The Naha were never heard from again.

Present day similarities between local Dene dialects and the Navajo language in the southern United States has led to speculation that the Navajo are possibly descendants of the missing Naha.

When the tales of the headless corpses and strange deaths in the Nahanni Valley began to circulate in the early twentieth century, some took this as evidence that the Naha still inhabited the region, living in isolated secrecy in the vast unexplored cave systems of Second Canyon, a xenophobic and violent primitive tribe of headhunters.
 

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Present day similarities between local Dene dialects and the Navajo language in the southern United States has led to speculation that the Navajo are possibly descendants of the missing Naha.
Wow! Read a few papers there and they're all part of the one Athabaskan language family. To tie into the thread, not only that but the original "Proto-Athabaskan" language was spoken in Western Canada, so the Navajo did come from Canada at some point and have myths about being driven South. Here's the distribution, thanks I'll be reading for days!

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Millions of years ago the Lagacho Sunblood and Ragged Ranges rose up around the South Nahanni, sheltering it from the enormous destructive ice sheets that reshaped the face of North America throughout the four ice ages of the Pleistocene Epoch.

Due to its unique geological makeup, the Nahanni Valley has remained unaffected by glaciation for at least a hundred thousand years, and over the millennium all manner of flora and fauna have taken refuge in this secluded haven in the Mackenzie Mountains. Some have left behind fossil evidence of their habitation. In fact, some believe that the region may contain the oldest fossil records of animal life in the world, after the recent discovery of a sponge-like animal fossil estimated at 890 million years old.


Intriguingly, Native and frontier legends suggest that descendants of some of the prehistoric animals that made their homes in the Nahanni, including particularly massive Pleistocene monsters, may have survived up until recent history.

In many of his articles on the Nahanni Valley, Philip Godsell relates the account of Frank Worth Beaton, a Scotsman who left the Orkneys to join the Hudson Bay company when he was 17, and later served as the chief factor of Fort St John until 1945. Beaton oversaw numerous topographical, geological, and naturalist studies of the area in the early 20th century. It was one such group of scientists that encountered an Native guide by the name of Chakina, who told them that his father "once travelled North to the river country, where he fell in with a primitive tribe armed with bone-shard javelins and clubs made from the jawbones of the moose. Around their fires these stone-age people had told of a medicine valley to the north inhabited by monsters of fearful size and ferocity".

One of the father's new Dene acquaintances produced a scrap of buckskin from his medicine bag on which had been burned the image of one of these monsters. The Father managed to acquire this charm and treasured it for years, until eventually passing it down to his son. Chiquina showed it to the scientific party, and the scientists told an incredulous Beaten that the figure depicted on the buckskin scrap was a dinosaur, drawn in flawless anatomical detail.

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The story isn't entirely outlandish. Quite a few dinosaur skeletons have been recovered in the Northwest Territories, particularly in the Bear Rock Sinkhole, formed by the collapse of a vast subterranean cave.

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"white giants"
:shock:
Most accounts of the Curse of the Nahanni Valley end with the tale of Ukranian trapper John Shebbach, who bizarrely starved to death despite being an experienced hunter and his body found less than a mile upriver from a well-stocked cabin he certainly knew about. Shebbach's corpse was found mutilated. "It was just a mess," claimed Gus Kraus, a guide hired by the RCMP when they carried out their investigation into the death, "scraps of clothing and bones had been gnawed and dragged around". Apparently by the very wildlife that the area was teeming with, that Shebbach was unable to catch.
So, another decapitation, then?
 

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So, best system for survival horror? Just thinking out loud here...
 

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So, best system for survival horror? Just thinking out loud here...

Hmmm something gritty, something that handles tests of endurance well, and the effects of weather, seasons, and exposure. Something that accounts for limited supplies, overland and over water travel. Hiking, climbing, spelunking, swimming, hunting, trapping, and prospecting. And psychological effects.
 

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Hmmm something gritty, something that handles tests of endurance well, and the effects of weather, seasons, and exposure. Something that accounts for limited supplies, overland and over water travel. Hiking, climbing, spelunking, swimming, hunting, trapping, and prospecting. And psychological effects.
Laughter will ensue, but my first thought was Mythras. The only flavour of BRP I really like. The % system seems right and psychological effects are a dime a dozen to port in. My next thought would be something OSR flavoured, rules light but with enough of a skill system to make it work. Into the Wryd and Wild has some good survival and psychological stuff going on.
 
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