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The Nahanni Valley, better known as the Valley of the Headless Men

In the polar region of Canada, in the so-called Northwest Territories, there is a picturesque place called Nahanni National Park. Its more famous nickname, the Valley of the Headless Men, has turned this park into one of the creepiest places in North America.

At first glance, there is nothing sinister about Nahanni Valley. It’s filled with beautiful landscapes of forests, waterfalls, cliffs, and hot springs.

There are no human settlements here, and if there were any in the past, they were many centuries ago because the local Indigenous people try to avoid entering this valley even when pursuing deer.

The reason is that they believed this valley to be a place where the spirits of brave warriors go after death. They believed these spirits wander there with some “magical” tribes in the company of giant man-eating animals. White settlers, of course, laughed at the “Indian tales” but also feared to venture there.

The story that gave Nahanni Valley its sinister nickname began in the summer of 1900 when an Indigenous man named Little Nahanni arrived at Fort Liard settlement in the Yukon, carrying a bag filled to the brim with gold nuggets.

By that time, the gold rush had already swept through California and the Klondike, so many were eager to know where Nahanni had found so much gold. Reluctantly, he disclosed that he found it in a valley near the South Nahanni River.

Incidentally, it’s not surprising that the Indigenous man was named after the river; among Indigenous tribes, this was a common tradition.

In an attempt to pinpoint the exact location, a group of locals began secretly following Little Nahanni to catch the moment when he would go for gold in that valley again. But he first spent the gold on delicacies, trinkets, and fine clothing, and when it ran out, he took to fishing. He never went back to the valley a second time, allegedly because he was very frightened when he went there the first time.

In 1903, another Indigenous man arrived at Fort Liard, also carrying a bag of gold. When questioned, he too indicated that he found the gold in the valley near the South Nahanni River, specifically in Bennett Creek.

Three local adventurers immediately set out to find the gold. These were the three McLeod brothers – Willie, Frank, and Charlie. They were experienced in many endeavors, including gold prospecting in different places. In January 1904, they rode horses into Nahanni Valley, found Bennett Creek, which flowed near the mouth of the Flat River, and began panning for gold there.

By winter of the same year, they had accumulated quite a lot of gold sand and decided to return the next year. However, for some reason, Charlie refused to go back to the valley a second time, and instead of him, Willie and Frank hired a day laborer whose name did not survive in history.

They were supposed to return by winter but didn’t. They didn’t show up the next year either. Only in 1908 were the remnants of the McLeod brothers’ camp found on the edge of Nahanni Valley. Frank and Willie’s skeletons lay headless, and as for the body of the hired worker, some rumors said he fled with the gold to Vancouver, while others claimed his headless body was found nearby the brothers’ bodies.

Rumors spread throughout the region that someone had killed and decapitated the three prospectors. Whites accused the Indigenous people, while Indigenous people claimed it was the revenge of the spirits who didn’t like them digging in their lands.

In 1910, a prospector named Martin Jorgenson, who was a big skeptic when it came to the supernatural and therefore didn’t believe in spirits, went to Nahanni Valley in search of gold. Two years later, his headless skeleton was found near the cabin he had built at the mouth of the Flat River. The cabin was burned to the ground.

In 1928, an adventurous woman named Annie Laferte ventured into the area and upon hearing about gold in Nahanni Valley, decided to go there. She never returned, and what happened to her remained unknown. Later, local Indigenous people claimed they saw a naked woman running down the mountainside screaming. “The spirits took her,” the Indigenous people were sure.

In 1929, a man named Angus Hall went to Nahanni Valley (which by then had earned the nickname Valley of the Headless Men) and never returned. Those who went to search for him found only what was presumably his boot print in the sand by the river.

In 1931, a fur trapper named Phil Powers went to hunt in the Valley of the Headless Men. A year later, his body was found in a burned-out cabin, headless.

Several years passed, and two men, J. Mulholland and Bill Esper, went to the valley for gold. When they didn’t return by the agreed-upon time, they were searched for, but neither alive nor dead were found. Instead, an almost “fresh” body of an unknown man was found. Also headless. His identity was never determined.

By the 1960s, it was believed that more than forty people had disappeared in the Valley of the Headless Men, some without a trace, while others were later found headless. Who or what kills and mutilates people in this valley is still a subject of lively debate.

Some researchers are sure that there is indeed a lot of gold in the valley and that the local Indigenous people simply don’t want it to be accessed by outsiders. Therefore, they kill them, and decapitate them to make it harder to identify the bodies.

Others speculate that it’s not Indigenous people or bandits attacking people but local Yetis, for whom the Valley of the Headless Men is one of the last refuges.

There’s also something suspicious about the fact that UFO sightings are very common in these areas. Could headless people be victims of extraterrestrial experiments?

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