Mythical Monday: The Valley of Headless Men by Mae Clair

The Nahanni Valley is tucked in the MacKenzie Mountain region in Northwestern Canada, a beautiful place by all accounts, but steeped in in the dusty annals of folklore and myth. First settled nine to ten thousand years ago, the area has since been dubbed “the Valley of Headless Men” due to a series of unexplained beheadings.

Looking up from the ground at spooky trees in a twilight forestAccording to legend, most native tribes avoided the region, believing it to be haunted. Rumors spread of ghosts and devils, of strange creatures that lurked in the forests. The Naha people, an inherently violent tribe, settled there regardless. During frequent raids outside of the valley, they were known to claim the heads of their victims. Their blood-soaked legacy came to abrupt end when the entire tribe inexplicably disappeared. No trace was ever discovered what became of them.

Fast forward to the 18th Century. Prospectors and miners descended on the region, lured by rumors of gold. In 1908, like many before them, brothers Frank and Willie McLeod arrived to seek their fortune. The pair gathered their gear and headed into the wilderness, but never returned. A year later their bodies were found along a riverbank, minus the heads.

Another prospector, Martin Jorgeson, burned to death in his cabin in 1917. When his skeleton was found among the charred remains, his head was missing. In 1945, a miner from Ontario was discovered dead in his sleeping bag. Like the others, he had been decapitated. In all cases, the missing heads were never found.

Had the ghosts of Naha warriors returned to inflict retribution on those who ventured into their domain? Whoever—or whatever—the culprit, the legends of beheadings left a permanent mark on the valley. Macabre place names are common. Headless Creek, Funeral Range, Deadman Valley and Headless Range, all speak of the grisly tales from which they sprang.

But unexplained beheadings aren’t the only unsolved occurrences to plague Nahanni. Many people have simply vanished without a trace. Others fortunate enough to return speak of an unseen presence, constantly watching. Rumors of mysterious lights, Bigfoot sightings, and UFOs are common. Some whisper the Nahanni Valley is a thin spot—a rare location where dimensions are easily breached by crossing through a fragile veil. Others believe the region may harbor a secret entrance to the Hollow Earth.

Riddled with hot springs, caves and gorges, this rugged terrain is frequently shrouded in mist. Perhaps a warning to stay away. Despite the gorgeous scenery, the “Valley of Headless Men” certainly isn’t a name to encourage tourism.

Hmm…would you venture there and risk the wrath of the Naha warriors?

Mythical Monday: Scotland’s Dog Suicide Bridge by Mae Clair

In searching a topic for today’s Mythical Monday, I happened upon a strange tale that will certainly strike at the heart of any pet lover.

Many people love to take their dogs for a walk. Whether it’s a turn around the neighborhood, a stroll down a country lane or a jaunt through the park, it’s a relaxing experience for owner and companion. If you have a dog, you may have even meandered across a bridge or two, your best friend trotting happily at your side. The image certainly conjures a quaint picture.

Unless you happen to be walking your pet on the Overtoun Bridge in Scotland. 

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Looking across Overtoun Bridge. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia. Lairich Rig [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Tucked into the countryside, near the town of Dumbarton, the Overtoun Bridge is a gothic looking structure that carries a much darker name—the Dog Suicide Bridge. Built in 1895, it soars fifty feet over a placid stream below.

Since the 1960s more than fifty dogs have leapt to their death from the bridge. Making that anomaly even stranger is the fact all of the dogs have jumped from the exact same spot, and each apparent “suicide” has occurred on pleasant, sunny days. All of the dogs involved have been “long-nosed” breeds—collies, labradors and retrievers.  A few, fortunate enough to survive the fall, returned to the top of the bridge and leapt from the same spot again, as if compelled by a supernatural force.

Why this horrifically odd behavior from man’s best friend? Is it possible a dog can suffer depression and commit suicide? Or is the bridge cursed, as some speculate?

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Overtoun House, Photo courtesy of Wikimedia. By dave souza (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

It’s long been believed animals have a keener sense of the spirit world than humans. Perhaps the dogs in question sensed a malevolent presence in Overtoun House, a nearby residence rumored to be haunted. Or perhaps they detected something extraordinary in an area considered a “thin place.” According to legend, Overtoun exists in a region where Heaven and earth are nearly joined.

The most practical explanation to date involves the presence of mink below the bridge. In marking their territory, it’s believed the mink emit a scent powerful enough to lure the dogs to their death. Overcome by the odor, the dogs react instinctively. Blinded by the wall rising beside them, they fail to realize the height from which they plummet.

Why, however, would any animal that survived such a fall, willingly return to the bridge and jump again?

Perhaps the answer will never be known. Thus any dog-owner should be wary when taking their pet for a stroll across Scotland’s Overtoun Bridge. I certainly would!