Northern America is home to some of the world’s most breathtaking national parks such as the Yellowstone National Park, but as beautiful as these destinations are, it’s not uncommon to hear people worry about getting lost in the woods. Show of hands, hikers (especially the ladies!), how many of you have been asked about how scary the mountains are? Chances are, you even have your own creepy nature story.
While most eerie events in the wilderness are just strange sounds and critters hunting at night, there are some unexplained mysteries with gruesome events attached to them that will leave you scratching your head. Aside from the Yuba County Five, a mystery where five disabled men disappeared in the mountains of the U.S., there’s the mystery of why corpses keep turning up without heads in Nahanni Valley, which has been nicknamed the Valley of the Headless Men.
Nahanni Valley Lies in the Northern Regions of Canada
Nahanni Valley is located in the Northwestern territories of Canada. It is a place of steep mountains decked in lush, towering trees that look virtually undisturbed for centuries. Crystalline rivers cut through the valley, dividing it between its major canons. Well, that’s inaccurate. The truth is that the river of Nahanni Valley is so strong and ancient that instead of wearing its way through stone and earth, it is the mountains that have grown around it.
For a place where people suspiciously turn up dead without their heads, Nahanni Valley is popular among tourists, though getting there may be a little harder than you’d want a weekend trip to be. According to National Geographic, you have to take a floatplane from Fort Simpson (one of the cities nearest Nahanni Valley) to get to national park or drive for 18 hours along Mackenzie Highway.
For your efforts, Nahanni Valley will reward you with the most relaxing views of its pristine mountains and rivers. You can even kayak through the rivers and look up at the cliff faces as you paddle through. That said, you might want to steer clear of the Naha people, a tribe that the local Dehé people claim reside in the mountains of the valley of the headless men.
Why Are People Disappearing and Reappearing Without Their Heads in Nahanni Valley?
The Dehé aren’t the only tribe to keep away from Nahanni Valley. Local legends say that the Naha people are extremely violent and decapitate their victims during raids on other territories. Nahanni Valley mystery solved, right? Except it can’t quite explain why headless men continued to appear long after the Naha had disappeared.
According to the Dehé tradition, a number of warriors from their tribe had ventured into the Nahanni Valley a long time ago in order to preemptively strike against the Naha. They were likely prepared to meet resistance and maybe even lose their lives, but to their surprise all they found were scattered teepees. It was almost as if the Naha had vanished over night and since then, the Dehé have not seen their enemy tribe.
Legends about the Nahanni Valley’s dwellers say that some of them are cannibalistic giants who follow a pale-skinned female chieftain. These legends gained more reach as white settlers began to disappear in the valley of the headless men
A notable case of these Nahanni Valley disappearances was that of the gold ‘Stampeders’ who came to mine gold in Klondike. The 766 Stampeders split up along the way, with many taking a shortcut through Nahanni Valley via South Nahanni River. Of the Stampeders who passed through Nahanni Valley, only two made it to their end destination.
Some men who had gone to Klondike in search of gold left the place empty handed and turned their attention towards Nahanni Valley. Willie and Frank McLeod set out for Nahanni in the early 1900s and were never heard from again. Charlie McLeod, their younger brother, decided to search for them.
Charlie found his brothers on the banks of Nahanni Valley, specifically the area now known as Deadmen’s Valley, with their heads mysteriously missing. The incident spread throughout the Northern regions of Canada, quickly earning the area its nickname ‘The Valley of the Headless Men’.
There were more headless men in the years to come. In 1922, WW1 veteran John O’Brien was found near Deadmen Valley with his head missing. What was even odder was that he held a matchbook in his hands, as if he was just about to light the nearby pile of tinder before his head was unceremoniously struck off his shoulders.
People Still Go Missing and Die In The Valley of the Headless Men In Modern Times
While it’s easy to dismiss the incidents of headless dead men in Nahanni Valley being nothing more than early people trying to explain the explainable with folklore, the legends of Nahanni Valley’s headless men survives today because of the continued mysterious disappearances in the area.
On June 16, 2005, Rod Guderson arrived at the cabin where he saw David Horesay and Frederick Hardisty alive just four days earlier. While smoke was still coming out of the chimney, there was no sign of the men. They could not have gone hunting either as they had left their firearms behind. By June 18, authorities got involved in search of the missing men but quickly dropped it, leaving locals and family members to continue the search in June 23. They quickly found the body of David Horesay just 3.7 kilometers away from the cabin. A search team was brought in to look for Frederick Hardisty who was later found in the river. The authorities claimed that the two had died of hypothermia and growing, respectively, but that doesn’t explain the bullet shots that riddled the cabin or, even without that, how two experienced bushmen could fall prey to rookie mistakes.
When pressed by family members of the deceased as to whether they would investigate the case further, authorities told the family members that they would not be doing so as the civilian search party had supposedly contaminated the evidence.
But Hey, You Can Still Take An Eerie Trip Through Nahanni Valley
“They call that the Last Chance Harbour.” Pilot Sergei Mjatelski told Uphill as he pointed at a section of the Nahanni Valley river called the Náįlįcho, a waterfall that towers over its more famous cousin, the Niagara Falls, at 92 meters tall. The Nahanni Valley’s relative lack of fame makes it a rather quiet vacation spit even in the busiest summer months. If you go up there right now, the best things to check out at Nahanni Valley are the Little Nahanni, the Moose Ponds, and Rabitkettle Lake, not counting the Náįlįcho. It is also a fairly popular hiking spot where hikers from around the globe flock to, however the steep and rocky terrain make it difficult for new mountain adventurers so you might want to temper your enthusiasm if you’re a new hiker.