Cryptozoology, BioForteana, Zoological Oddities, Unusual Natural History

BioFortean Review, (September 2009, No. 20)

The "Dirty Angel" and Other Nevada Paiute Folkloric Creatures

Chad Arment

In 2003, I ran across a website with notes on some anthropological research in the Margaret M. Wheat (1908-1988) Papers, Special Collections, University of Nevada's Reno Library. This library archive includes a large audio collection of interviews that Wheat set up with Paiute from northern Nevada. Of particular interest, the site related several brief points in interviews where folkloric creatures were described. As the website has long since disappeared, these stories (though brief) may be useful to researchers investigating mystery animals in this region. They also suggest that anthropological interviews held in libraries across the country may be an untapped source of cryptozoological information.

Segment 1

Elder 3: Did she [Elder 4] tell you about our great grandmother, how she used to travel right over the mountains? When she was coming through the mountains over there, she was cutting through a canyon, she smelled an awful smell, an awful odor coming from the west, there was a real breeze. The juniper trees were thick and she was wondering what that smell is. "Must be a dead sheep some place," kept on coming to it, kept on coming to it, and here was an angel setting on a juniper tree. When the angel saw her coming up she look like the angel was going to take off, raise his wings, then finally [the wings] went down again, and she was so scared she went clear around. And, it smelled an awful smell, she said, that Indian. She used to tell my father, "The white men when they draw the angels are always nice and fancy, and just like a human being, except the wings, that's the way the white man draw, but the one I seen didn't look like that," she said, "and the wings were just like a bat," she said. "They were webbed, you know how bat's wings is, and the fingernails like a hook, toenails same way, and big eyes and dirty, dirty face—never washed his face, and stinked." That's the kind she seen on those mountains.

MW: What color was it?

Elder 3: Oh, it was so dirty, kind of a dark gray. Then another time she seen a big snake, oh, about that big around [12 inches] and head like a horse face, big nostrils and hair whiskers and from here [top of head] kind of a mane all along the back to the end, and sound like it was a bass drum, she said. She seen that kind in the canyon too.

MW: Those are great stories.

Elder 3: Did my cousin tell you about my father when he was trapping for otter? There used to be otters in this lake a long time ago, and he was trapping. Must be way up on other side of Pyramid, some place, long time ago. He make a round through his traps after windy day. I guess my father feel kind of lazy and he try to get his brother to go. "You go round and look after my traps." I guess my uncle was a real young fellow. He said he was scared of those things and didn't want to fool with them. "You go round and make rounds yourself." So after the storm he went around. He had two traps set. His traps were all unscrewed and piled up on one little heap. Some are kind of riveted so the nuts won't come off, and they were riveted. And my father think some kind of animal got caught in there and unscrewed them. They must have been something like human beings to screw nuts. And there was blood all over. When it first been caught in one of those traps it must have been going round and round like that. My father went down to the shoreline, it was nice and sandy, a little baby's tracks. Waterbaby. He used to tell it but lot of people won't believe it. No such things exist like waterbaby. But that was a long time ago before I was born. That's all I know. Sure must have had some strength to unscrew those screws. And they were all piled up neat in one pile. [Tape #46]

Segment 2

[Regarding a group that traveled to Pyramid
from the north from Summit Lake, Susanville.]

"Always travel around lake. No good road then. Rough road. They come from Fort Bidwell. That takes long time to get to Nixon with horse and wagon. Getting nighttime when they get to the lake. They going to stop on other side this lake, stop over night. Those Indians roam around catching fish, take their guts out, sling them beside lake along shore. They stop over night and early in the morning, just about sun coming up ... (one man) heard something come out of that water, water dogs come out of this lake. Ears long, brown-looking and white-spotted dogs. Pretty good-sized dogs. And when they got to the shore they eating that waste, cui’ui [fish] waste. Make funny kind of noise ... and then he wake those other sleeping people and look over there, dogs coming out of the lake, fifty or sixty. Quite a bunch ... just like dogs, with floppy mouth, floppy ears, all slick, light brown. When those people get up they make noise looking at them. Those dogs see them looking at them. Got surprised and run back into the lake. Never come out again ... long time ago!" [Tape #91]

In Tape #98, another storyteller mentions these animals: "The Nini'i dogs had four feet, spotted just like bird dog."

Segment 3

And great big snake long time ago crawl along and make hills like a deep canyon with high walls.
And lots of people trail 'em through the grass.
And he crawl along and into a big lake place and Indian know there's a snake.
Indian know there's a big snake in there in that big round place, great big snake, and the Indian start to make fire all around that snake.
And the fire started to roar around.
Big hill in there with lots of bushes.
And the fire coming toward the snake makes big noise.
And, gee, the fire making a roaring noise all around, even the trees shaking, and the snake make it do that.
He been laying in the thick grass, moving the trees and the fire came and burn the snake up.
And the next day the Indian came back and look in there and snake burned up and bones laying here.
Great big bones.
That's where they kill big snake, all coiled up burned.
That's where old-times kill snake long time ago.
Frank's grandpa and his grandpa's grandpa, them days, saw it.
There is another snake in Oregon somewhere crawl into the lake.
They saw the tracks.
In Oregon somewhere saw another snake.
Long time before white people Indian can tell snake crawl along this way all over up and down.
They know how he crawled.
Somewhere in Cedarville along side a mountain there's where snake been overnight.
Those indians can tell snake trail.
They can tell where coiled up overnight by mountain.
Then the snake crawl along toward Gerlach and then go toward the Summit Lake.
And then go into the lake there.
There's a lake there, a pretty good-sized lake.
He been crawled into that lake.
He been crawl into that Summit Lake, and he sit down under that water and his eyes shine like a star. [Tape # 91]

Segment 4

[Two women and an older, blind aunt are walking near a lake.]

"They came along the road with that blind woman. She had stick. They make her walk on good side, so she won't fall. Walk along slow. Way down here by Sutcliffe somewhere. They walk along slow and they heard a splashing noise, way down. Lot of noise going on. They wonder what that noise is. The young ladies leave that old lady stay there, tell her they going to see what that noise is. They peeked at it. Here was two little human beings, water babies. Tiny people, short, naked ones. Got no clothes on. Dark hair all hanging down. They stood there, look at them so surprised. They know it's water babies. One of those little water babies look back and saw those ladies looking at them. And he get so scared, run to the water and splash into the lake and the other followed and they go way in there and never come up again ... that woman right away know. She whisper slow, 'That's a nini'i. Let's go quick.' They kept on walking faster 'cause they got so scared ... there is such a thing in our lake. Long time ago when everything's quiet. Now all gone 'cause too much noise and smell. Funny kind of car smell. Snake, they don't like that (either). They disappear or died off"

References:

  • Notes originally found on http://www.wncc.nevada.edu
Cryptozoology Bigfoot Stories Giant Snakes Blue Tiger Missionaries and Monsters Lake Champlain Monster
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