Welcome to the Valley of the Headless Men: A Nickname Well-Earned

As hard as it is to believe, there are still many corners of the Earth left virtually unexplored by modern civilization. One of these corners is the Nahanni National Park Reserve, located in Canada’s Northwest Territories.

Image source: National Geographic

Image source: National Geographic

The area is approximately 11,000 square miles of extreme wilderness, home to a diverse list of natural wonders – giant sinkholes, towering spires, a pounding waterfall twice the size of Niagara, raging rivers, spectacular canyons, ice caverns, treacherous mountain ranges, and vast forests of spruce and aspen.

Given its geographical complexity, Nahanni is only accessible by boat or plane. Despite being a well-known national park and a World Heritage Site, relatively few people have ever stepped foot inside the Valley, adding to the area’s overall sense of mystery.

For six thousand years, the Dene tribe has lived in and around the Arctic lands surrounding the park. Their oral history contains many references to a bizarre second tribe known as the Naha. A fearsome band of warriors, the Naha are said to have dwelled in the twin peaks of what is known as the 200 Mile Gorge.

According to Dene tradition, the Naha descended periodically from their mountain hideaway to savagely attack the adjacent lowlands. Decapitation was their grim calling card. Their tactics were so brutal, their weapons so powerful, that the Naha were regarded as supernatural creatures – demonic giants adorned in otherworldly armor, leaving hundreds of headless corpses in their wake.

One day, for reasons still unknown, the entire Naha tribe simply vanished into thin air.

It would be easy to dismiss these tales as simple fiction, the result of stories told and retold over many generations, but the gruesome deaths beginning in the early 20th Century are not as easy to ignore.

The 200 Mile Gorge was rumored to contain an incredible amount of gold. Lured by the promise of unimaginable wealth, prospecting brothers Willie and Frank McLeod set out for the Valley.

Even today, the only photos of the gorge have been taken from the air - never the ground. Image source: listverse.com

Even today, the only photos of the gorge have been taken from the air – never the ground. Image source: listverse.com

Two years passed without a single communication from either one of them. Another prospecting expedition eventually stumbled upon a pair of dead bodies, soon identified as the McLeod brothers.

Both of them had been decapitated.

The doomed Frank and Willie McLeod. Who - or what - killed them? Image source: travelcreepster.com

The doomed Frank and Willie McLeod. Who – or what – killed them? Image source: travelcreepster.com

in 1917, Swiss prospector Martin Jorgenson had actually been living inside the gorge for some time. He’d managed to build a cabin and a small mining operation. His skeleton was later discovered without his head. The cabin had been burnt to the ground.

In 1945, an unknown miner from Ontario set out to survey the infamous gorge. He was later found in his sleeping bag, decapitated – just like the McLeod brothers and Martin Jorgenson before him.

Soon afterwards, a trapper named John O’Brien was discovered frozen to death right next to his camp. Inexplicably, he still had the matches to his campfire gripped in his rigid, lifeless hands. To the people who had found him, it seemed as if O’Brien had actually frozen to death within a matter of seconds.

Although information varies, there may have been as many as 44 unexplained deaths in the gorge over the years. What happened to these lost adventurers? Are grizzly bears responsible, as some skeptics claim? Rival prospectors, perhaps? The harsh environmental factors? Are the decapitations mere coincidence?

To this day, the Dene refuse to venture anywhere near the 200 Mile Gorge, believing a great evil haunts those dramatic peaks.

The gorge itself remains an enigma. Geological studies have only ever been conducted by air – no one has actually entered the gorge in recent years. The studies have unearthed a massive network of underground steam tunnels and hot springs, suggesting the gorge might really be home to a tropical lost world.

Deepening the strangeness, there is speculation that “bear-dogs” – an extinct species of terrestrial carnivores – still inhabit the gorge. Others speak of Sasquatch sightings and a possible entrance to the mythical Hollow Earth.

What's really lurking in the Valley? Image source: http://weirdwildandwonderful.ca

What’s really lurking in the Headless Valley? Image source: http://weirdwildandwonderful.ca

Since no one has ever attempted a land-based survey, the gorge remains a fascinating – and ultimately unsolved – mystery.


One response to “Welcome to the Valley of the Headless Men: A Nickname Well-Earned

  1. Very mysterious and a little frightening to visit I would say! No wonder no one lands there. A great story can come out of this valley! Are you writing one?
    Thanks for sharing yet another fascinating place and mystery.

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