Ever had that strange sensation of being followed while hiking out in the woods? Ever feel like someone is watching you from behind? Well then, you may have been stalked by the elusive and predatory Hidebehind. A lesser-known creature of folklore spoken of throughout the northern border region of the United States and Canada. This creature has been frightening those who venture off into the woods for the better part of a century now, but what exactly is it?
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19th century American Folklore, the Hidebehind. Tales of this creature seem to spring up around lumber communities within North America, and particularly with lumberjacks.
During this period of time, Lumberjacks had a lot of things to worry about while out on the job – physical injury, bears, mountain lions, falling trees…and, of course, the Hidebehind.
According to the lore, the Hidebehind got its name from how it would stalk its prey – hiding behind it. This creature would hide behind trees in the forest and stalk its prey as it concealed itself amongst the surrounding environment.
Whenever someone’s back turns to it, it would creep closer. When it finally was close enough to its victim it would instantly gouge out the stomach and intestines of the victim. The Hidebehind would then feast on the raw meat of its kill. Assaults by the Hidebehind are so instant, that even if not to be successful in killing, the victim often dies of fright due to the ordeal.
The Hidebehind’s physical description is hard to nail down since so few people see it. However, those who have glimpsed this horrid creature describe it as being wraith-like, canine, and in some cases vaguely humanoid.
The body of this creature was undeniably slender, though, as it was able to conceal itself behind a whole variety of trees. Additionally, one would have to guess that it has fearsome claws in order to rip apart its victims instantaneously. Due to the vast amount of descriptions that people give relating to this creature, as well as the detail that it can hide behind any form of object or material; many have theorized that the creature may have some form of shapeshifting abilities or a body that is highly malleable.
The Hidebehind is often making the odd and spooky noises that can be common near campsites late in the night. The creature also represents the underlying anxiety that comes with being in a natural, and in some cases unfamiliar, setting. This being the sensation of fright and peril for the unknown.
Being such an elusive creature, with some extreme predatory skills, how would one possibly think about avoiding one? The simple answer, drink a lot of beer. Seriously. According to most accounts, this particular creature hated the smell of alcohol. So in turn, if you were to fill yourself with alcohol, the creature wouldn’t exactly prefer to dine on you.
So, that being established, the lumberjacks drank as a way to protect themselves when they thought they might be on the hunting grounds of a Hidebehind. However, as you would likely expect, many saw this solution as an excuse to drink more.
In most accounts, fire seems to also be a weapon against the hide behind. Keeping a bonfire going during the night is a good way to keep the creature away from your campgrounds.
But how did this tale really develop? As we mentioned earlier, these stories took place within logging countries throughout North America, although mainly within the Northern United States, states like Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan. These places during the 19th century still had vast regions of wild forested land.
Being a lumberjack within this region was a rather taxing profession, with a myriad of dangers to contend with every single day. One theory is that perhaps the Hidebehind was simply a story created to keep men vigilant for bears and other wild animals that may be lurking in the woods. Or, on a broader spectrum, that this isn’t an animal-specific threat and just a grander reason and reminder for lumberjacks to stay vigilant at all times in order to avoid vulnerability.
However, it might also be a way to deal with mysterious disappearances and deaths of fellow lumberjacks. The book by Carol Rose, titled Giants, Monsters, and Dragons: An Encyclopedia of Folklore, Legend, and Myth, describes the creature as “A predatory cannibal beast that lurked around the loggers’ camps until one was alone long enough to be grabbed and carried away to be consumed.” Perhaps this creature was a way for logging camps to deal with the fear of accidental kills, lost men, and fallen friends.
This is actually an interesting point to bring up, as it sort of has some relations with stories pertaining to the Missing 411 phenomenon. Which is something that we may look into in the future, but overall relates to mysterious disappearances of individuals within the woods.
The first written report of the HideBehind appears to be from 1939 writing from Henry H. Tryon, titled Fearsome Critters; which seemed to support the idea that the creature had rather aggressive behaviors, the report also noted that the creature could apparently last seven years without consuming any food, however, it prefers not to and is oftentimes out hunting for new prey.
The creature also seems to have popped up in early 20th century newspapers and magazines, in which people report hearing the creature out in the woods, or have spotted a small glimpse of the Hidebehind lurking about.
In more recent years, the Grand Haven Tribune from Michigan, recounted some eyewitness accounts from the years 2000 and 2007, with both of the reports matching those from centuries past. In both of these recent cases however the witness claims that the creature had been stalking them to some degree. With each person catching a small glimpse and reporting that the creature had wild black fur and fiery red eyes.
The Hidebehind, although not being the most popular mythical monster, still pops up quite a bit within popular culture. Stretching across literature, movies, and television series across the years.
The Hidebehind is the focus of the 2006 horror/suspense novel of the same name, by Charles H Snellings. In which rafters on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho encounter one of the creatures.
The creature appeared in Pecos Bill Catches a Hidebehind, where it is captured and donated to a zoo by the cowboy Pecos Bill.
Hide-behinds are mentioned in Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series. In the series, they are described as being mostly small creatures, with the fear they engender in those they stalk being a defense mechanism.
They also popped up in 2016, within the official Harry Potter-themed new site Pottermore, written by J. K. Rowling, in which the American equivalent of Hogwarts featured a Hide-behind. In this series, the creature is a “nocturnal, forest-dwelling specter” who preys on humanoid creatures. They are also in the new edition of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
The Hidebehind appeared in the Gravity Falls short “Dipper’s Guide to the Unexplained: The Hide Behind”. In the show, the creature is a slender, humanoid figure that, aside from stalking hikers, is otherwise mundane.
The Hidebehind features in the 2018 short horror film, “The Hidebehind”, by Parker Finn.
American Myths Legends and Tall Tales by Christopher R Fee. and Jeffery B. Webb
Mythical Creatures of the USA and Canada by Walker D. Wyman
EP 40 – The Hidebehind | The Bane of Lumberjacks. Produced by Shane Cummings; Audio Editing & Research by Shane Cummings.
Intro & Outro music “Creepy Regrets” by AnMo.
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