The wendigo is a superhero villain in the Marvel comics universe.

It is the title of a 2002 fright flick that a review in “The New Yorker” described has a “creepy ‘Deliverance’-like” feel.

It is the horror depicted in Algernon Blackwood’s book of the same name.

It is the principal monster in Stephen King’s “Pet Sematary.”

It also may be, according to a Canadian researcher, the identity of the creature hit by a car in Turner on Aug. 12.

Stephen King declined to speculate on what the animal might be, but Michael de Sackville was eager to share his thoughts.

de Sackville, whose pen name is David Bradley, has written 23 nonfiction books on history and anthropology, including texts on the Holy Grail. A guest lecturer at Princeton University, Yale University, Vanderbilt University, York University, the University of Toronto and Kennedy-King College, among others, he is immersed in cryptozoology, the study of unusual creatures.

For de Sackville, the analysis is simple. Dogs have four toes only. Members of the weasel family, which includes the wolverine, have five.

A photograph of the creature killed in Turner shows five distinct toenails, with the far left toe hidden from view. Two of the toenails are paired together on the animal’s dewclaw. Does that make six toes, or four toes with a deformed dewclaw on an otherwise ordinary dog?

There are strong suggestions that the animal is a feral dog or some kind of wolf-dog hybrid.

de Sackville acknowledges either is possible, “but it could also be a little monster long known to the Algonkian-speaking Aboriginal peoples of northeastern North America as the ‘wendigo.’

“The northeastern Indians told tales of the wendigo entering villages by night and breaking into individual longhouses where it often carried off small children. This reminds one of the much more recent tales told by Turner residents about the ‘beast’ that would skulk around farmhouses at night and attack pets left outside,” de Sackville explained.

The wendigo – also called the “night elf” – is, by most accounts, a mythical beast.

Many names

According to Trevor Mendham, who hosts, “There is some confusion over the names wendigo and windigo. Most people use the two terms interchangeably, others say they are actually different, one being a living creature; the other a spirit.”

Mendham asserts “there have been many wendigo sightings over the years, especially in Minnesota where the creature is believed to live in the woods and prairies. In particular, there was a rash of well-publicized sightings around the beginning of the twentieth century.”

According to an online tale told by Troy Taylor at, the Inuit Indians in and around Minnesota called the creature “by various names, including Wendigo, Witigo, Witiko and Wee-Tee-Go, but each of them was roughly translated to mean ‘the evil spirit that devours mankind. Around 1860, a German explorer translated Wendigo to mean ‘cannibal’ among the tribes along the Great Lakes.”

de Sackville also reports that there have been sightings of the wendigo in the mountains south of Quebec, in New Brunswick and along the St. John River in Maine. The animal is, in Indian lore, the “personification of winter famine,” deSackville said.

Mendham claims the animal is also known as the “spirit of the lonely places,” a lone creature that represents the “casting out of those who break tribal taboos.

“The wendigo hides in the forests and tracks you silently, always just out of sight. It waits, biding its time until it can pounce,” according to Mendham.

de Sackville is pretty confident in his suggestion that the animal in Turner is not a feral dog.

“There is one known animal that more or less fits the Turner ‘beast’s’ size and reported descriptions, although it must now be very rare in Maine. And that is the wolverine, not a member of the dog or wolf family, but a representative of the Mustelidae (badgers, ratels, weasels, pine martins and wolverines), one of the fiercest families of predators on the planet,” he said.

These animals were, according to de Sackville, “well known to the early French trappers who avoided them if at all possible, claiming that they were more dangerous than a bear, wolf or cougar.”

As far as the toe evidence, de Sackville describes mustelidae as having five toes, and not four like cats and dogs (and wolves). He asserts that a five-toenail Sun Journal photo “indicates that the ‘beast’ is probably not a ‘feral dog,’ but on the other hand it doesn’t look exactly like a modern wolverine either.”

Piercing blue eyes

The animal found in Turner was said to have unusual blue eyes and, before it was killed, stared at humans with a strange fierceness. Wendigo lore describes the same kind of eye-locking stare between beast and human, a blue- or red-eyed fiery stare that could hold a man still.

June Stevens of Greene reported such an encounter in 2004. Driving onto her property in the middle of the afternoon, she saw a strange animal behind an outbuilding. “It appeared larger than a dog, had a bristly looking coat, sort of a mottle gray and black. It was not a bit timid, started right at us.” It frightened her dog so much, she quickly drove into the garage and shut the door.

She never saw the animal again.

Also in 2004, Leo Doyon described his uneasy encounter with an unidentifiable animal in Auburn. He saw the animal while on his deck and, despite years of hunting in the Maine woods, had never seen such a creature. “It was no wolf. It sure as hell wasn’t a fisher and it wasn’t a coy dog,” he said. “To tell you the truth, I don’t know what it was.”

Sightings of similar animals have been reported in Wales, Litchfield, Sabattus, Turner, Lewiston and Auburn, with many of the reports describing a hyena-like animal.

In Wales, such an animal killed Leo Michaud’s 16-year-old Doberman pinscher. At the time, Michaud described the attack as savage. The dog’s head was ripped open and her neck appeared to have been chewed.

After his dog was killed, Michaud found a den near the doghouse, which was just 40 yards from the entrance to the Oak Hill High School campus. And, nights later, he saw the creature in the yard. It was, he said, a large animal, black, gray and brown with wild eyes and a bushy tail.

Like Doyon, Michaud has hunted in Maine for decades. “I’ve spent a lot of time in the woods,” he said, and “I’ve never seen anything that looks like this.”

While there was some speculation the animal was a wolverine, Maj. Thomas Santaguida of the Maine Warden Service guessed it was a fisher, an animal similar in size and shape to a wolverine, but much more aggressive and mean. These animals can, Santaguida said, “live very nearby without people even knowing it,” suggesting that people might be surprised to know how prevalent they are in the wild.

Other experts believe these sightings are probably variously colored coyotes with mange. Trapper Cindy Johnson told the Sun Journal, if a coyote starts losing its hair from mange, “they may drag their rear end when they walk. It will look odd,” she said, and may explain the hyena-like appearance.

de Sackville is unswayed. “There is little doubt that the Algonkian wendigo was a wolverine,” he said, “and that is also what the ‘beast’ of Turner, Maine, may prove to be as well, but it may be a rare form of wolverine that supposedly became extinct during the last Ice Age.”

We’ll know in a couple of days whether the creature is otherworldy or of this earth, and then dreamers and skeptics can put the speculation to rest.

In the meantime, an Eastport artist is trying to cash in.

He has carved a vision of the Turner Beast out of wood and is offering it for auction on eBay. Starting price? $100, plus $7 shipping and handling.

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