Mischievous Spirits of Legend

Most paranormal phenomena generally fall into a handful of categories, with most appearing to have a connection to UFOs, ghosts, human psychic phenomena, or the wide range of cryptids out in the world.  But occasionally a story comes across that doesn’t necessarily fit into these categories.  Often these creatures and phenomena go unlabeled, but sometimes they are referred to as “skin walkers” or trickster spirits.

The idea that a supernatural force may be at work somewhere in the universe with the sole purpose of tricking humanity may sound odd at first, but considering the vast wealth of reports of seemingly supernatural creatures, it may deserve a second look.  The navajo believed in a spiritual creature that could transform itself from a human into a wide variety of shapes.  It would often use this ability to trick those it encountered, making them believe it was something it was not, and generally throwing peoples’ lives into disarray.  The yee naaldlooshii, as they were called, were often regarded as trouble both for their incredible abilities, and their tendency to disrupt the day to day lives of the people it visited.

Once upon a time, these creatures were said to use their powers to mimic the cries for help of the relatives or friends of a victim, making them think their friend was in some sort of trouble.  The trick was generally used to stray the victim far from safety into unfamiliar territory or otherwise cause social unrest.  While the creatures stalked the lands at the edge of civilization, they would occasionally walk into the village posing as someone else.  The stories of this caused a great deal of trouble for those of the tribe.  In addition to their uncanny ability to change their appearance to mimic others, the creatures were said to be able to even read human thoughts making it even more difficult to determine who was real and who wasn’t.

Motivations for the creatures were limited or at least not well understood.  While they traversed the countryside in search of victims, the creatures caused mischief and trouble – much like the legends of fairies in western Europe.

In Western Europe fairies were often spoken of as beings who were not entirely unlike the skinwalkers.  They were said to collect in groups in the forest and emulate the speech and appearance of people known to them, often adding the ability to induce sleep when it served their practical jokes.  In the middle east there were stories of the Jinn, spirits who comprise one of the three sentient entity types on Earth (the other two being humans and angels) and whose name translates roughly to “the hidden ones.”  Stories of the Jinn, leading all the way back to the 1,001 nights were said to be sometimes good and sometimes evil, and have a tricky spirit – one that would fool humans either to impart to them valuable lessons of life or destroy them.  The wish granting abilities of the fiery Jinn are the origins of the modern understanding of the Genie.

Are these stories about actual creatures existing at the edge of our understanding who commit acts against its victims to fool them into thinking things aren’t quite as they expect?  Or are they merely the creatures of legend?  Few things seem more impossible to prove than an entity designed to deceive people.