The Fearsome Flying Heads - By Jeffrey Goddin

Excerpt from FATE Magazine Issue 736

Weird monsters abound in Native American lore, but among the weirdest and most dangerous are the Flying Heads of the Eastern Woodland tribes, horrible disembodied heads that rush through the air in search of their human prey. These entities viciously attack, and eat or suck the blood of the unwary, and even to just see one can lead to a person’s doom. One of the earliest references in English to the Flying Heads, here called Ko- Rea-Ran-Neh-Neh, appears in C.F. Hoffman’s Wild Scenes of the Forest and Prairie (London, 1839.). As the story goes, this Flying Head originated to avenge an un- speakable crime. In the area around Lake Sacandaga, at the Headwaters of the Mohegan (Hudson) River in New York State, a tribe of Indians lived. Although this was an area frequented by the Mohawks while making excursions hunting food or their enemies the tribe in this legend is unnamed. As though cursed, this tribe was be- deviled by a lack of game to hunt, and even of fish to catch in the great lake, and was suffering from famine. A young member of the tribe spoke out in Council that the tribe should leave the area, but he was overruled by the elders. In a fit of rage, the young Indians rose up and killed the seven elders. The elders were decapitated, and their bodies burned. Their heads were thrown in the lake, though the young Indian who’d slain the first elder was drawn from his boat into the lake and drowned when he threw the heads in.The Indians stayed on the shore and nervously watched the waters. On the first day after the heads were thrown in the lake a stain appeared on the surface, which gradually became more greenish, then evolved darker streaks and coalesced into a mass of many trailing fibers. In six days, the stain had become a huge fibrous scalp and on the seventh day it swelled upwards into a giant gruesome head glaring balefully at the Indians from the waters. Bat-like wings emerged from the side of the head, and it rose from the lake and floated towards the horrified Indians sit- ting on the shore. The head began to stalk the Indians, following them wherever they went and tormenting them by day, even tracking them when they sought refuge in underground caverns and appearing in the shadowy caves. By night the creature lurked in their dreams. The ultimate fate of the Indians is unknown, although according to one version of the tale they fled West, still pursued by the vengeful head, which was particularly active at times of wind and storm and rain. According to another version of the story, the guilty Indians were turned to stone, and their weather-worn shapes can still be seen in the stone formations near the headwaters of the Hudson River. A more recent legend has it that the village of these treacherous Indians was once located on a certain hill behind the modern County Building of Hamilton County, New York.

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