UFOs and the Spirit of the Mock-wa-mosa

By Dennis Morrison

There exists in the north east woodland culture an evil that strikes fear into the hearts of many Indians yet today, but especially those of the Chippewa culture. The evil is known as the Bearwalker. Like the Midaywiwin and the shaking tent, the Bearwalker finds its roots in prehistory though it still actively spins its mystical web today. The Bearwalker goes by the Indian name of Mock-wa-mosa and is said to be the Indian equivalent of white man’s witchcraft.

In a video taped interview with Chief John Nahgahgwon of the Mikado Indian Reservation, the chief spoke with some apprehension of his personal memories of the Mock-wa-mosa.

Chief Nahgahgwon explained that the Bearwalker used their powers to settle grudges. It is, however, a grudge settler which reacts only upon the Indians and cannot be turned on whites. The practitioners are said to be very sly indeed. In modern times cult members are known to pose as good Christian church goers but do the Mock-wa-mosa on the side.

The power imbued in the modern practitioners comes down from ancient times and is passed from one generation to another. The manner of transfer is quite simple but varies according to circumstances. When a practitioner feels that he or she is near death’s door they call to themselves a kinsman and simply tell that person, “I have something for you.” The power cannot be refused and the power must be used. Through the use of the Mock-wa-mosa powers the possessor must kill at least one person per year or the power will turn on its possessor and kill him.

Another method of transfer of power was related by Archie Megenuph from Michigan’s upper peninsula to Richard M. Dorson in his book, Bloodstoppers and Bearwalkers.

Megenuph related, “You can catch one if you have the right medicine. You chew and sprinkle the medicine on yourself, and you wait for the bearwalk. Then you put your arms around it, and it is all naked, except for a string of beads around the neck. Then it asks you to let it go, promises you anything, to suckle you, to teach you the bearwalk. Then if you let it go, you go and learn from it, like from a professor. They caught one here once that way. I’d like to be a bearwalk. If you shoot them you can’t ever catch them. You can’t bring them to your premises, they must always go home to die. You don’t find anything when you shoot them either, but they die off some distance.”

Chief Nahgahgwon related that among other things, the person with this power can transform themselves to any shape they so desire.

Most frequently the choice is a bear. In this form they stalk forth to revenge wrongs done to themselves or kinsmen, and they have tremendous power indeed. If in this form they even pass by an innocent bystander, that person (unless of extremely strong constitution) is knocked unconscious by the sheer power concentrated in this being.

Alec Philemon was a personal witness to this incredible concentration of power by which even future events can sometimes be predicted. Philemon related, “When I was thirteen, fourteen, I was going with my mother and sister to visit a sick woman. We left there about eleven o’clock in the evening, and I saw the fire right on the main road (which goes to the church now). My mother and sister fell right over. I caught my mother. She said, ‘That must have been a bearwalk. It was too much for us.’ Then she said, ‘You’ll live the longest.’ My sister fell first and she died first too. They both died of the flu in 1918. That woman we visited, about a half an hour after we got home we heard the bell ring, that woman was dead.”

As illustrated in the above story, brilliant lights are often times associated with the bearwalker. When a person transforms to the bear and walks upright through the forests in search of its victims the beast is ablaze with brilliant light. One of the more common shapes to be assumed is that of a huge fireball. Chief Nahgahgwon recalled one evening watching the barn by his house, “I remember one going down by the woods by my house, you could just see the trees all light up.”

A lady, Nancy Picard, of French Indian descent related that her father died on the night of January 14, 1914. She recalled that she and various other members of her family saw the Mock-wa-mosa light hanging in the woods in the back of the house. She said that it looked like a round ball of light, and that some of the family went to investigate. They were so overtaken by chills that they were forced to turn back. But they all knew it was the power.

Nancy also told that a person who has the power can take all forms, but the favored forms were the bear or the owl. Light generally is present with these manifestations.

I am going to quote again from Nancy Picard, and pay attention in particular to the description of the ball of light. Nancy is speaking about a young girl who took very sick. She related to Mr. Dorson, “People watched all day to keep anyone away. Every night they’d see a light hanging in line with the trees; it would dance around like a flame. An old woman, Mrs. Elijah, tried to get in, time and time again, when the body was in the house. Dan borrowed money to go to Odanah, Wisconsin, to contact a person who had power to counteract the evil. He was afraid the whole family would be wiped out. That new medicine was supposed to kill the effect of the original dose. It was quite a notorious affair. Even the white people in the county were interested.”

Remember the lights and pay attention to that through the rest of these accounts because we will come back to these later.

When the bearwalker makes someone die the family goes to the grave on the fourth night to protect the corpse, and this also provides another opportunity to end the evil power. The Mock-wa-mosa was required to go to the grave four days after in order to get back the medicine she used.

On one such occasion a group of family saw the fireball coming. They were scared and all fainted save for one old man, who by the way died at ninety eight. He reportedly glanced up and saw the bear stomping on the grave and spitting fire. He is said to have grabbed hold of the bear and it vanished, in his grips was an old woman bearwalker. She was said to have bucksin bags all over her, and that she had a bearskin hide on her. It is also believed that whoever the bearwalker kills, it must take a toe or a finger to put into one of these bags.

The desecration of the corpse was further borne out by Archie Megenuph who related the following in Bloodstoppers and Bearwalkers, “If you don’t have the right medicine they put you to sleep even if you have a gun, and walk right past you to the patient. It’s as if you were paralyzed. They go every fourth night and on the sixteenth the patient is finished. You can be in a room with your wife, and you’ll fall asleep when the bearwalk comes in. You can hear him go out. They can take any shape, fowl or animal or insect. That grasshopper you kick may be it. On the fourth night after they kill the patient, they go to the grave, and you can hear the carcass rise right up out of the casket, and they cut off the fourth or fifth finger and the tongue tip and put it with their victim set.” The eye, finger, or tongue tip must come from the right side of the victim. If for some reason the Mock-wa-mosa cannot get to the grave it will die after a period of four months.

One last eye witness account is on my desk which involves the mysterious light phenomenon connected with the Mock-wa-mosa. Alec Philemon told that, “There were three of us, one a couple years older, coming back from Bark river at nighttime. We saw a flash coming from behind us. The older fellow said, ‘It’s a bearwalk, lets get it. I’ll stand on the other side of the road and you stand on this side.’

“’We stood there and waited. I saw it about 50 feet away from us. It looked like a bear, but every time he would breath you could see a gust of flames. My chum fell over in a faint. When the bear walk all the ground wave, like when you walk on soft mud or on moss. He was goin’ where he was goin’.’”

I asked you to pay particular attention to the description of the “ball” lights. The north east woodlands have always been particularly prone to UFO sightings. Many of these sightings match or are similar to phenomena associated with the Mock-wa-mosa. Of course, not all UFO activity in the large area of the United States and Canada can be attributed to this, but it is quite possible that some can be. After all, the bearwalk is still commonly practiced but is unknown to most whites. When the ethereal light is seen the native mind would attribute it to the bearwalk. However, UFO would promptly flash into the minds of most others.

This calls to mind a time when my wife, then fiancÚ, Kathy and I were driving a desolate stretch of Old U.S. 23 near Tuttle Marsh, Michigan. Tuttle Marsh is a good place to stay away from, particularly at night.

We were driving along and observed a bright flash of red light come from the north, heading south then arching down into the woods where it hung briefly before disappearing. Not being familiar at that time with the Indian culture I thought right away of UFOs.

In 1966 the Native Americans may have been sitting back while having quite a laugh at the expense of the general American populace which was anxious and nearing panic.

In 1966 the United States was undergoing a truly large UFO flap that seemed centered in the north east. You could not turn on a TV or radio without hearing about the phenomena. Particularly affected was Michigan and New York. Perhaps you remember? At that time in our travel through history, the government felt people were incaptable of hearing the truth about UFOs (come to think of it, years later not much has changed in that respect).

The government, being pressed for an explanation from all around, hired Dr. J. Allen Hynek to play the dupe for them. He announced to the world that the ignorant folk up in the north east were seeing nothing but swamp gas, an explanation that was rejected by most of the thinking public. No satisfactory explanation has ever been published as to what was really being sighted.

Rather than something from outer space, perhaps it was something quite down to earth which finds its origins in the ancient powers of the north east woodlands, and in the powers of the mind.

Let me relate to you one sighting of hundreds that sound in modern terms very much like the balls of light associated with the Mock-wa-mosa.

It was on March 20, 1966, in south east Michigan. The Mannor family was sitting down to Sunday dinner in their two-story, white farmhouse on McGuiness Road. A hollow and a creek separated the house from a 300 acre swamp. Present that evening were Mr. and Mrs. Mannor, two of their married daughters and their husbands, and Ronald, Frank Mannor’s 19-year-old son. They were already seated at the table when the dogs began howling in the yard.

Mort Young, in his book UFO Top Secret (Essandess/1967) best captured the mood of excitement surrounding the events. Mort reported: “Mannor went outside to quiet the dogs but they were in a frenzy. A ball of fire arched across the sky. Mannor decided it was a shooting star, until it halted it plunge in midair, just above a cluster of trees in the swamp. Lights flickered at either end of the fiery ball. Then it plummeted behind the trees, a ruddy glow marking its location.

“The rest of the family joined Mannor outside. They could see the faint glow, see the brush painted red by its reflection. Without waiting to take flashlights or guns, Frank and Ronnie Mannor started down the gentle rise to the swamp. They knew every inch by heart, having hunted deer in it.

“Frank and Ronnie Mannor plodded through knee-high muck, barely able to see where they put their feet. Ahead, a flickering glow silhouetted a knoll.

“At eye level, 500 yards in front of them, a football-shaped grey object the length of a car shimmered in the darkness. It rested on a cushion of haze, about eight feet above the mud. The object suddenly burned bloody red and then the lights blinked out.”

The incidents of that spring and summer will long be etched in the minds of many. One should not over look the possibility that at least these sightings had their origin right here on good old planet Earth.

Editor’s Note: This thought-provoking article by Dennis Morrison originally appeared in Tim Beckley’s UFO Universe (Fall 1993). It is reposted here with permission of the author (who is the subject of this month’s recent and exclusive interview feature, sharing stories and details never before presented to the public).