Mystery of the Vanishing Village Sept 19, 2014 23:34:21 GMT -5
Post by Joanna on Sept 19, 2014 23:34:21 GMT -5
The Anjikuni Mystery
Legends of mysterious mass disappearances have cropped up all the world. Without a doubt, the most famous incident in North American history is the unknown fate of the members of the Roanoke Colony, who were last seen alive in 1587, but an even more inexplicable case concerns the whereabouts of the more than 30 men, women and children who allegedly vanished without a trace from an Inuit fishing village.
The trout- and pike-filled estuary known as Anjikuni Lake (also spelled Angikuni) is located along the Kazan River in the remote Kivalliq Region of Nunavut, Canada. The sparsely-populated area is rich in legends of malicious forest spirits and beasts like the Wendigo, but as fascinating as these oft told tales are, there is none more intriguing than the terrifying and controversial mystery surrounding the collective vanishing of the villagers who once lived on the stony coast of Anjikuni’s frigid waters.
Our tale begins on an arctic evening back in November of 1930. A Canadian fur trapper by the name of Joe Labelle was seeking respite from the bitter cold and a warm place to bunk down for the night when he tromped into an Inuit village nestled on the rocky shores of Lake Anjikuni. Labelle had visited the area before and knew it to be a bustling settlement full of tents, rough-hewn huts and friendly locals, but when he shouted a greeting, the only thing he heard was the echo of his own voice and the crunching of his show shoes on the icy frost. He tensed. He had the instincts of a seasoned outdoorsman and he could sense that something was seriously amiss. He could see ramshackle structures silhouetted under the full moon, but there were no humans moving about, barking sled dogs or any other sign of life. The huts themselves were empty and all around was naught but deadly silence. Labelle also noted with a chill that not a single chimney had smoke coming out of it. Then he espied what appeared to be a crackling fire in the distance. Trying his best to remain calm, Labelle picked up his pace and headed toward the glowing embers, eager to find some trace of humanity. But when the trapper arrived at the flames, he was greeted not by a friendly face, but a charred stew that had bafflingly been left to blacken above the coals.
The veteran tracker – having spent so much of his life skulking around shadowy and inaccessible forests – wasn’t easily spooked, but it’s difficult to imagine that he was not bathed in a cold sweat as he walked among the derelict, wave-battered kayaks into the heart of the ghost village, wondering what had happened to its inhabitants. Labelle methodically pulled back the caribou skin flaps and checked all the huts hoping to discover telltale signs of a mass exodus, but, much to his chagrin, he found all the homes stocked with foodstuff and gear that would never have been abandoned by their owners. In one shelter, there was a pot of stewed caribou on which ice was beginning to form and a child’s half-mended sealskin coat discarded on a bunk with a bone needle still embedded within as if a squaw had deserted her sewing in mid-stitch. He even inspected the fish storehouse and noted the supply was not depleted. Nowhere were there any signs of a struggle or pandemonium and Labelle knew all too well that deserting a perfectly habitable community without rifles, food or warm clothing would be utterly unthinkable, no matter what the circumstances might have been to force tribe members to spontaneously abandon their homes. He then scanned the borders of the village in hopes of ascertaining in what direction the Inuits had traveled. Even though the Indians’ exit seemed to have been relatively recent and hasty enough to leave food cooking on the fire, he could find no trace of their flight no matter how hard he searched.
Cold and fatigued as he was, Labelle was simply too terrified to linger in this enigmatically vacant village. Although it meant he must forgo the comforts of food, warmth and shelter, the trapper considered the risks of remaining to be too great and decided to make haste through the sub-zero temperatures to a telegraph office many miles distant, lest the same unexplained – and in Labelle’s estimation, unmistakably supernatural – force that claimed the villagers descend upon him.
Mounties Ride Out. The exhausted and frostbitten Labelle finally staggered into the telegraph office and within minutes an emergency message was fired off to the closest Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) barracks. By the time the Mounties arrived, several hours later, Labelle had calmed himself enough to relate his disturbing tale.
According to The World’s Greatest UFO Mysteries by Roger Boar and Nigel Blundell, on their way to Anjikuni Lake, the Mounties stopped to rest at a shanty that shared by trapper Armand Laurent and his two sons. The men explained to their hosts they were headed to Anjikuni to deal with: “a kind of problem and inquired if the Laurents had seen anything unusual during the past few days. The trapper was forced to concede that he and his sons had witnessed a bizarre gleaming object soaring across the sky just a few days before. The enormous, illuminated flying “thing,” they claimed, seemed to change shape before their very eyes, transforming from a cylinder into a bullet-like object and it seemed to be flying in the direction of Anjikuni.
Dead Dogs, Grave Robbers and Mystery Lights. The Mounties left the Laurent home soon after and continued their treacherous journey. Once they arrived at the scene, the Mounties were not only able to confirm Labelle’s testimony regarding the state of the now desolate village, but – according to some sources – they made an additional, even more arcane, discovery on the outskirts of the community.
Various accounts verify the officers conducting the search were alarmed when they stumbled across a plethora of open graves in the village burial ground. In fact – if some of the more outrageous statements are to be believed – every single tomb had been opened and, even more puzzlingly, emptied. There are also less dramatic, though no less baffling, reports that it was just a single tomb that was violated. Either way, desecration of a grave is a taboo among the Inuits, so why were these bodies, or even a single body, moved? To add an extra pinch of “weird” to the matter, witnesses claimed the earth around the grave was frozen “as hard as rock.” These reports also suggest the marker stones had been stacked in two, neat piles on either side of the graves, confirming the disinterments were not the work of wolves or bears.
Needless to say, the Mounties at the scene were perturbed by these discoveries and a substantial search party was organized posthaste. During the search, no additional clues as to the villagers’ whereabouts were turned up, but there was another grisly discovery. According to reports, no less than seven (though some say two or three) sled dog carcasses were discovered around 300 feet from the edge of the village. According to Canadian pathologists, the canines all died of apparent starvation, after which they were covered by almost 12-foot snow drifts. How these animals managed to starve when they were surrounded by huts full of food is yet another unexplained piece of this strange puzzle. There is a single account which claims the ill-fated animals were tied to “scrubby trees,” which would explain their inability to scavenge for food, but this does not resolve the issue of why they succumbed so quickly. Logic seems to dictate the dogs certainly would not have had time to starve to death between the time of the collective vanishing of the villagers and the arrival of Labelle, who reportedly found food burning over dying embers. This begs the question: did the villagers allow their own dogs – animals that were essential the survival of the villagers – to go hungry intentionally before they slipped into the ether?
As if this tale weren’t strange enough already, the officers at the scene supposedly reported seeing odd, bluish lights pulsating on the horizon above the village. The men watched until the illumination disappeared, all of them agreeing this unusual illumination was not the aurora borealis.
After two weeks of investigation, the Mounties – based on some berries they found in one of the cooking pots – came to the somewhat dubious conclusion that the villagers had been gone for at least two months. This presents yet another question: if the Inuits really had abandoned their homes eight weeks before, then who made the fire that Labelle saw when he first arrived at the village?
Stop the Presses! Fact and folklore have a notorious habit of interbreeding when bizarre events such as the one that transpired at Lake Anjikuni occur, nevertheless, the first official account of the missing village is alleged to have been printed November, 28, 1930, when special correspondent Emmett E. Kelleher published a report of the mystery in the Canadian newspaper in Le Pas, Manitoba. As there were no available images of the Anjikuni settlement, this article – as was standard procedure at the time – was accompanied by a stock photo of a deserted Cree tent encampment taken in 1909, which has led many to discount the entire incident. While most say Le Pas was the first to report the story, there are others who insist the initial report was actually published a day earlier by the Danville Bee. Regardless of who got the scoop, it is the opinion of most researchers that the account that captured the public’s interest was published in the November 29, 1930, edition of the Halifax Herald beneath the undeniably sensationalistic headline: “Tribe Lost in Barrens of North – Village of Dead Found by Wandering Trapper, Joe Labelle.”
Labelle did not mince words when he described his harrowing discovery to reporters: “I felt immediately that something was wrong … In view of half cooked dishes, I knew they had been disturbed during the preparation of dinner. In every cabin, I found a rifle leaning beside the door and no Eskimo goes nowhere without his gun … I understood that something terrible had happened.”
Of course, it wasn’t long before the Newspaper Enterprise Association wire service was feeding this astonishing story to its papers and readers across North America were given a firsthand account of what would, arguably, be the greatest unsolved mystery ever investigated by the RCMP.
Frank Edwards vs. the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. After a brief media blitz, this bizarre event was filed away under a heap of unsolved cases until 1959 when journalist and author Frank Edwards dug up the tale and included it in his tome Stranger than Science. While Edwards was not shy about reporting the unusual, he was not prone to over-sensationalism and there are no accounts of this reporter ever outright fabricating a tale, yet this is just what the RCMP accuses him of doing on a webpage dedicated to this mysterious case. According to RCMP, Edwards manufactured the entire affair for his book no such event ever occurred. As printed on the RCMP website:
“The story about the disappearance in the 1930's of an Inuit village near Lake Angikuni is not true. An American author by the name of Frank Edwards is purported to have started this story in his book Stranger than Science. It has become a popular piece of journalism, repeatedly published and referred to in books and magazines. There is no evidence however to support such a story. A village with such a large population would not have existed in such a remote area of the Northwest Territories (62 degrees north and 100 degrees west, about 100 km (62 miles) west of Eskimo Point). Furthermore, the Mounted Police who patrolled the area recorded no untoward events of any kind and neither did local trappers or missionaries.”
I’ll be the first to admit there’s a distinct possibility the case of the missing Anjikuni Inuits is little more than an infectious fable. There can be little doubt the alleged missing person count offered in many reports – including that in The World’s Greatest UFO Mysteries, which placed the figure at a ludicrously whopping 2,000 – have been massively exaggerated, but it seems as if the RCMP’s stance is a little dismissive, not to mention simply incorrect. To begin with, as mentioned above, the first known accounts of the incident were not published after Edwards’ 1959 book, but in the same year this unexplained occurrence was said to have occurred. This means there is no way he could have concocted this legend. Additionally, there are records of at least two separate investigations into the subject by members of the RCMP.
Sergeant Nelson Cracks the Case ... Almost. The first investigation – following that of the Mounties who responded to Labelle’s initial report – was launched January 17, 1931, just months after the incident in question. The man in charge of the case was Sergeant J. Nelson, an inquisitive RCMP officer with the Le Pas detachment. Nelson became intrigued by the unusual reports hailing from the region and decided to make what he qualified as “diligent enquiries from different sources,” however, it is unclear whether or not his investigation was sanctioned by the RCMP. Nelson would go on to declare that he could “find no foundations for this story.”
According to information gleaned by Chris Rutkowski and Geoff Dittman for their book The Canadian UFO Report: The Best Cases Revealed, Nelson’s assumptions were based on a single conversation he had with the unnamed owner of the Windy Lakes trading post who told him he had not heard about the deserted village from any of the trappers that came through his store. The gossipy store owner even went so far as to say he had heard that Labelle originally hailed from the south of the Northwestern Territory and had likely never been with a hundred miles of Lake Angikuni. According to Nelson: “Joe Labelle, the trapper who is alleged to have related the story to Emmett E. Kelleher, the correspondent, is considered to be a newcomer to this country… and doubts are expressed as to whether he has ever been in the territories.”
Nelson attempted to strengthen his version of events by casting aspersions upon the journalistic integrity of Kelleher, saying he had a “habit of writing colorful stories of the North and very little credence can be given to his articles.” This being noted, he did admit not having interviewed the reporter, but claimed he intended to do as soon as the opportunity allowed. Again it is uncertain if he ever actually spoke to Labelle or even bothered to travel to Angikuni Lake to investigate the site for himself. One must assume the state of the village had not changed much in the less than two months since Labelle stumbled out of there in a panic. Despite the fact Nelson seemed to be reporting hearsay, he would terminate his inquiry by saying: “The case for the vanished village rests upon the story of an inexperienced trapper told to an imaginative and not too conscientious newsman.”
It goes without saying that skeptics cite this as the final word regarding this event, but (with all due respect to Officer Nelson), one has to wonder how in-depth his investigation actually went. It seems as if he were a skeptic from the beginning and never had any intention of actually digging for the truth. It also bears mentioning that just because he never spoke to anyone who could confirm the event does not constitute proof of non-existence.
None of this, of course, proves or disproves the incident, but one needs to remain skeptical toward both those who support unconventional theories as well as those who strive to debunk them out of hand. Sadly, it seems any Tom, Dick or Harry who cries “hoax” is given instant credibility in the media while those courageous enough to look at the evidence in an unbiased manner are dismissed as gullible or worse.
In the November, 1976 edition of Fate Magazine, this mystery was dusted off in an article entitled “Vanished Village Revisited” by Dwight Whalens. The piece confirmed there were records showing the RCMP had investigated the case again in 1931. These Mounties admitted discovering an uninhabited settlement, but deemed it to be either a seasonal or permanent abandonment of the site without mysterious overtones and (perhaps conveniently) declared the case closed. While it is known that many Inuit tribes were still semi-nomadic in the 1930s, they would never have deserted their homes – temporarily or permanently – in the dead of winter without their prized rifles and essential provisions.
When one considers all of the ramifications of this case, it is difficult to blame law enforcement officials for wanting the whole Anjikuni debacle to disappear. The RCMP’s inaccurate disclaimer is an obvious attempt to distance the organization from an esoteric cold case that does not necessarily reflect highly on the RCMP and, more significantly, is almost 75-years-old. Even if there are members of the RCMP interested in the case, the trail has long since gone cold and it is doubtful they could convince any of their superiors to dedicate either the time or resources necessary to for such a futile effort.
Okay, so if we admit that at least 30 people went missing on that fateful day, then the big question is ....
What the Heck Happened? Now all we are left with is the colossal conundrum of who or what was actually responsible for the shocking disappearance of these people back in 1930. This has always been the primary point of contention between among those who believe the Anjikuni tribe mysteriously vanished.
It is difficult to imagine what sort of force could compel a seasoned tribe of Inuits to leave the safety of their homes without taking the tools, food, weapons and animals necessary for their survival in the harsh sub-arctic climate. The fact there were no signs of a struggle nor indications of violence only compounds this already inexplicable mystery. If the Inuits of Anjikuni were murdered or taken by force, then surely there would have been some indication of the mêlée remaining. This combined with the fact that experienced trackers could find no indication of the path the villagers took in leaving their village has stumped researchers for decades. So if we can’t find a logical explanation, then we’re forced to begin looking outside the proverbial box. Along these lines comes the first – and in many ways the most popular – theory, and that is the villagers were the victims of ....
Alien Abduction. In the latter half of the 20th Century, numerous UFOlogists speculated the residents of this remote Canadian village might well have been unwitting victims of one of the largest mass alien abductions in history. This hypothesis is based in no small part on the Laurents’ observation of the cylindrical, bullet-shaped object hurtling toward Anjikuni, as well as the bizarre blue lights seen by the Mounties in the night sky above the village. While the evidence supporting this theory is circumstantial at best, the thought is intriguing ... as well as utterly horrifying. One must admit that simply contemplating the notion of extraterrestrials swooping down and absconding with the entire population of a village is the stuff of which nightmares are forged. On one hand, this would explain how every living soul in the village managed to evaporate without a trace – apparently while engaged in the ordinary chores of daily life – without so much as a footprint to show for it. On the other hand, we might be giving our celestial comrades a bad rap by pinning this on them with nothing more than a single strange object and some vague lights as proof.
Okay, so if we rule out aliens, then we have to deal with an even more disturbing hypothesis which advances the idea that the Angikuni fell prey to a ....
Demonic Attack. Labelle himself told reporters he believed the Angikuni people were now missing due to a run-in with “the Eskimos’ evil spirit Tornrark.” The demonic entity to which Labelle was referring appears to be a misspelling of “Torngarsuk” – also known as “Torngasak, Tornatik, Torngasoak, Tungrangayak and Tor-nar-suk” – who, according to Inuit legend, is a powerful sky deity and the leader of a legion of malevolent spirits. It is worth noting that Labelle, a supposed stranger to the region, was apparently familiar enough with its indigenous people and their customs to mention one of their most maleficent entities by name. Said to be invisible to all but Inuit shamans – who were known to recite incantations and sacrifice animals in order to keep this so-called “great devil” at bay – this malicious being was said to occasionally appear in animal form, such as that of a bear. Could it be the Angikuni natives came to believe one, or more of their precious sled dogs were actually incarnations of this beast? Is this the reason the animals were left to starve? The premise is thin, but cannot entirely be discounted.
Barring demons, there is the possibility we might be dealing with other supernatural creature such as ....
Vampires. I’ll admit this is not one of my own personal theories, and, frankly, not my favorite. In fact, this wild speculation likely stems from one too many readings of Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith’s wonderfully creepy 30 Days of Night. Still, when exposed to the sort of prolonged darkness that occurs when living in the land of the Midnight Sun, who knows what insidious beasts are lurking in the never-ending night? Nevertheless, the distinct lack of blood or any other signs of a struggle at the scene of the “crime” would seem to counter-indicate this suggestion.
So if we’re not dealing with aliens, forest demons or modern vampires ravaging the village with their unholy rage, then we must consider the possibility that they simply slipped into ....
Another Dimension. Historical records are chock full of tales of people who just mysteriously vanished. There’s the astonishing case of a shoemaker from Warwickshire, England, by the name of James Burne Worson whose penchant for bragging about his long-distance running abilities had finally worn down the patience of his drinking buddies. Hamerson Burns and Barham challenged their mate to run the 40-mile distance from Leamington to Coventry. Worson accepted the bet and within the hour, the three were on their way with Worson jogging and Burns and Wise following close behind in a horse-drawn cart. The incredibly fit Worson seemed to be enjoying himself, running at a solid pace and joking with his buddies, until he tripped just 20 feet ahead of his friends. Burns and Wise watched in abject horror as their friend fell forward with “an awful cry of terror,” then vanished before their very eyes. Despite an extensive search, Worson was never seen nor heard of again.
I could go on and on with cases like this, but you get the point. Suffice to say there is a genuine precedent for unexplained disappearances ... one that even eyewitnesses are at a loss to explain.
Conclusion. I am a fan of campfire stories. I love the chills and thrills and mysteries that surround these ostensibly “true” legends, but I also have an incredulous side and realize a lot of the information in this case is difficult, if not impossible, to substantiate. It is clear that a lot of the specifics surrounding these events have become twisted and exaggerated with each retelling over the past seven decades, resulting in a strange jumble of fact and fiction. Nevertheless, as skeptical as I am about unconfirmed reports, I am just as skeptical about those who purport to debunk those same reports based on contrary evidence that is just as “sketchy” and scant as that upon which said legends are based. Still, if we trim the astonishing number of 2,000 missing persons to just the original 30 souls that were said to have vanished and scale back the scores of desecrated graves to just one missing corpse, what remains is still one of the most intriguing mysteries of modern times.
Whatever their fates may have been, the fact remains that sometime during November of 1930, approximately 30 men, woman and children – who just a day before were working and playing, surrounded by loved ones and the comforts of home – apparently abandoned their abodes and vanished from the face of the Earth. Despite the vociferous protestations of debunkers worldwide, this mystery is alive and well and while we may never find out whether or not these poor souls were murdered, transported to another world, or simply slipped into the ether of a different dimension, we can collectively hope that wherever they are, they ended up in a better place.
Source: Bob Morphy, MysteriousUniverse.