Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Village of the Dead: The Anjikuni Lake Vanishing

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 out-of-the-way area is rich with legends of malicious wood 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.

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 that was nestled on the rocky shores of Canada’s Lake Anjikuni.

Labelle had visited the area before and knew it to be a bustling fishing village full of tents, rough hewn huts and friendly locals, but when he shouted a greeting the only sound that returned to him was that of his own echo and his snowshoes crunching through the icy frost.

Labelle tensed. He had the instincts of a seasoned outdoorsman and he could sense that something was seriously amiss.

Labelle could see the ramshackle structures that were silhouetted under the full moon, but he saw no bustling people nor barking sled dogs nor any other signs of life.

Even within the huts, the expected sounds of laughter and conversation were replaced by a deathly silence. Labelle also noted with a chill that not a single chimney had smoke coming out of it. That was when he spied a fire crackling in the distance.

Labelle, trying his best to remain calm, picked up his pace and headed toward the glowing embers of the dying fire in the distance, eager to find some trace of humanity. 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 embers.

The veteran tracker — having spent so much of his life skulking around shadowy and inaccessible forests — was likely not easily spooked, but it’s difficult to imagine that he was not bathed in a cold sweat as he walked past 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 of the shacks hoping to find telltale signs of a mass exodus, but, much to his chagrin, he discovered that all of the huts were stocked with the kinds of foodstuff and weapons that would never have been abandoned by their owners. In one shelter he found a pot of stewed caribou that had grown moldy and a child’s half-mended sealskin coat that lay discarded on a bunk with a bone needle still embedded in it as if someone had deserted their effort in mid-stitch.

He even inspected the fish storehouse and noticed that its supplies had not been 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 parkas would be utterly unthinkable, no matter what the circumstances might have been to force the tribe to spontaneously migrate.

Labelle then scanned the borders of the village in the hopes of ascertaining what direction the Inuits travelled in. Even though the villagers’ exit seemed to have been relatively recent, and hasty enough to leave food on the flames, 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 had to forgo the comforts of food, warmth and shelter, the trapper considered the risk of remaining to be too great and decided to make haste through the sub-zero temperatures to a telegraph office located many miles away, lest the same nefarious — and, in Labelle‘s estimation, unmistakably supernatural — force that claimed the villagers descend upon him.

The exhausted and frostbit 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 1984’s “The World’s Greatest UFO Mysteries” by Roger Boar and Nigel Blundell, on their way to Anjikuni Lake the Mounties stopped for a bit of rest at a shanty that was shared by trapper Armand Laurent and his two sons. The officers explained to their hosts that they were headed to Anjikuni to deal with: “a kind of problem.

The Mounties inquired as to whether or not the Laurents had seen anything unusual during the past few days, and the trapper was forced to concede that he and his sons has spied a bizarre gleaming object soaring across the sky just a few days before.  Laurent claimed that the enormous, illuminated flying “thing” seemed to changed shape before their very eyes, transforming from a cylinder into a bullet-like object. He further divulged that this unusual object was flying in the direction of the village at Anjikuni.

The Mounties left the Laurent home soon after and they continued on their treacherous journey.
Once they arrived at the scene, the Mounties were not only able to confirm Labelle’s testimony regarding the state of this 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 that 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.

To add an extra pinch of “weird” to the proceedings, witnesses claimed that the earth around the grave was frozen: “as hard as rock.” These reports also suggest that the marker stones had been stacked in two, neat piles on either side of the graves, confirming that this was not the work of animals.

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 another grisly discovery was purportedly made.

According to reports, no less than 7 (though some say 2 or 3) sled dog carcasses were discovered about 300-feet away from the edge of the village. According to Canadian pathologists, these unfortunate canines all apparently died of starvation, whereupon they were covered by snow drifts, which buried them nearly 12-feet deep.

How these animals managed to starve when they were surrounded by huts full of food is yet another unexplained piece of this enigmatic puzzle. There is a single account which claims that 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 that they certainly would not have had time to starve to death between the moment of this collective vanishing and the arrival of Labelle, who reportedly found food still burning over dying embers.

This begs the question: did the villagers allow their own dogs to go hungry intentionally before they slipped into the ether? These invaluable dogs whose very existence was essential to the villagers’ own survival — if so, then why? If not, then what happened?

As if this tale weren’t strange enough, the officers at the scene supposedly reported odd, bluish lights pulsating on the horizon above the village. The men watched until the illumination disappeared, all of them concurring that this unusual light show did not resemble 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 was responsible for making the fire that Labelle saw when he first arrived at the village?

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 on November, 28th, 1930, when special correspondent, Emmett E. Kelleher, published a report of the events in the Canadian newspaper “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, this has led some to discount the whole event.

While most say that Le Pas, Manitoba was the first to the punch, there are others who insist that the initial report was actually published a day earlier by the “Danville Bee.” Regardless of who got the scoop first, it’s the opinion of most researchers that the account that caught the public’s interest the most was printed in the November 29th, 1930 edition of the “Halifax Herald” below 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.”
Labelle himself told reporters that he believed that the Angikuni people were now missing due to a run-in with: “the Eskimos evil spirit Tornrark.

The demonic entity that Labelle referred to 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 who is the leader of a legion of malevolent spirits. It’s 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 make animal sacrifices 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 that the Angikuni natives came to believe that one or more of their precious sled dogs were actually incarnations of this beast?

Is this why they were left to starve?

The premise is thin, but cannot entirely be discounted.

Source: Mysterious Universe

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