Pukwudgies – Little People of Massachusetts and Great Lakes Region
Of all the well known Little People across the world, the Pukwudgies come in a close second place to the Leprechauns of Ireland. [see Leprechauns The Little People of Ireland] The name Pukwudgie has become a common name used to describe any of the diminutive persons found anywhere in the Americas and Canada. If you have listened to any of the podcasts I have had the privileged to be a guest on, I have mentioned how dangerous these little people are to humans. In this blog I’ll go back to the beginning of their legend and clear up the urban legends.
Their primary territory is in Massachusetts within the Bridgewater Triangle [see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bridgewater_Triangle], a hot spot of paranormal activity that also includes the sighting of UFOs, a giant snake, and a giant bird. The triangle includes the towns of Abington, Rehoboth and Freetown at the points of the triangle, with Brockton, Whitman, West Bridgewater, East Bridgewater, Bridgewater, Middleboro, Dighton, Berkley, Raynham, Norton, Easton, Lakeville, Seekonk, and Taunton within the triangle.
Pukwudgies have also ventured into the Great Lakes region, a bi-national Canadian-American region that includes portions of eight U.S. States: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. And a portion of the region encompasses the Great Lakes Megalopolis [see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Lakes_Megalopolis], including the Canadian province of Ontario where I call home.
Pukwudgies are described as being troll-like creatures, standing at two to three feet tall, grey skinned, with large fingers and noses and coarse black hair. They are said to control Tei-Pai Wankas which are wisp-like lights that are supposedly the spirits of humans they have killed. They are also said to glow, have the ability to change into animals, push people off cliffs, use small bows with poisoned tipped arrows as well as clubs. More recently, they’ve been told to have the ability to possess people, though reports of such are limited.
Pukwudgies are a part of the Wampanoag tribal mythology dating back to 12,000 years ago, involving their creator God Moshup, whom they believe created most of Cape Cod. Moshup was also a giant whose stories are filled with fantastic deeds and humor.
When Moshup was trying to build a bridge between Martha’s Vineyard and the mainland, a crab bit one of toes, as he jumped around he left footprints all over the area. In another version, he gets so irritated, his feet turn fiery red before he stomps his footprints about. He was also known to have a bad temper, like most giants, and that in one of these rages he threw rocks all over Connecticut and thats why the area is so rocky. Moshup could be also be lazy at times but had a softer side to his personality. When his family or the Wampanoag people needed food he ventured out into deep water to catch whales to feed them. Despite his personality quarks he was greatly loved and admired by the Wampanoag people.
The Pukwudgies were not always considered bad or evil. At one time they where friendly little people who tried to help the Wampanoag people. Their help was always appreciated even though most of their efforts to help would have the opposite effect. They seemed to compete for the same affection as the people gave to Moshup and it was this affection for Moshup that angered the Pukwudgies. They became mischievous and began to torment the Wampanoag people until they could take no more of it. They asked Squannit (a little person known as a Makiawisug) who was the wife of Moshup, for assistance with the Pukwudgies. Moshup collected as many as he could and he shook them until they were confused and then tossed them around New England. Some died, but others landed, regained their minds and made their way back to Massachusetts.
Satisfied he had done his job and pleased his wife, Moshup went away for a while to attend to other things, and in his absence, the Pukwudgies returned and were worse then before. They kidnapped children, burned homes or even whole villages to the ground and chased many of the Wampanoag deep into the woods and killed them. Squannit again stepped in, but Moshup being very lazy, this time sent his five sons to deal with the Pukwudgies. But Pukwudgies being clever, lured them into deep grass and killed them by shooting them with poisoned arrows.
In one version of the story, enraged at the loss of their sons, Squannit and Moshup set out together and killed every Pukwudgie they could find, but many escaped and scattered throughout New England. The Pukwudgies again regrouped and tricked Moshup into the water and shot him with their poisoned arrows, killing him.
Another ending to this tale tells that Moshup was so saddened by the loss of his sons that he left New England disappearing from the Wampanoags mythology. What happened to Squannit? She is alive and well and has apparently returned to her people.
The Makiawisug Little People and Squannit
Makiawisug are the Little People of the Mohegan and Pequot tribes. They can be dangerous if they are disrespected but are generally benevolent. They are described as being two-feet tall. The name Makiawisug comes from the Mohegan-Pequot word for the whippoorwill bird, with which they are associated. The leader of the Makiawisug, is Squannit, a powerful healer or shaman.
When the English settlers came and disrupted the traditional way of Mohegan life, many forgot to help the Makiawisug and as a result, many Mohegans and Makiawisug fell ill. At this time of Bad Spirits, there lived a medicine woman. One night, during a terrible storm, she heard the whip-poor-will. When she looked outside, the bird wasn’t to be found, but a small boy stood in the rain on her doorstep. It turned out he was a grown Makiawisug named Weegun, who told her to come help someone who was sick.
Though the storm was fierce, he led her a long way through the woods. Suddenly, the storm seemed to stop and somehow they began to descend into the ground, where they entered the realm of the Little People. Weegun led her to a beehive shaped chamber of rocks, where inside, a very old woman lay in bed, extremely ill. The Makiawisug told the medicine woman that this was Squannit, who must be made well. Squannit is very powerful and is known to cause storms when she argues with her husband, Moshup, though her illness was the reason for this storm.
Healers often look to Squannit when the need is dire for help in healing the very ill, and here she was the one who was sick. The medicine woman treated Squannit for nearly a moon before she got better. In return for restoring Squannit’s health, the Makiawisug gave the medicine woman a basket of gifts and told her to remember them. She was then blindfolded and taken back home. Only when she arrived home did she open the basket, finding that inside were quartz crystals, painted skins and bunches of herbs.
Getting back to the Pukwudgies, if we look to the “Song of Hiawatha” (written in 1855 by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow) we find more evidence of their fiendish way with the murder of a giant named Kwasind. Kwasind, came from a clan of cannibalistic giants called Weedigoes, and was admired by the natives for his strength and didn’t seem have the same cannibalistic tendencies of his clan.
“The Death of Kwasind”
Far and wide among the nations Spread the name and fame of Kwasind; No man dared to strive with Kwasind, No man could compete with Kwasind. But the mischievous Puk-Wudjies, They the envious Little People, They the fairies and the pygmies, Plotted and conspired against him. “If this hateful Kwasind,” said they, “If this great, outrageous fellow Goes on thus a little longer, Tearing everything he touches, Rending everything to pieces, Filling all the world with wonder, What becomes of the Puk-Wudjies? Who will care for the Puk-Wudjies? He will tread us down like mushrooms, Drive us all into the water, Give our bodies to be eaten By the wicked Nee-ba-naw-baigs, By the Spirits of the water! So the angry Little People All conspired against the Strong Man, All conspired to murder Kwasind, Yes, to rid the world of Kwasind, The audacious, overbearing, Heartless, haughty, dangerous Kwasind! Now this wondrous strength of Kwasind In his crown alone was seated; In his crown too was his weakness; There alone could he be wounded, Nowhere else could weapon pierce him, Nowhere else could weapon harm him. Even there the only weapon That could wound him, that could slay him, Was the seed-cone of the pine-tree, Was the blue cone of the fir-tree. This was Kwasind’s fatal secret, Known to no man among mortals; But the cunning Little People, The Puk-Wudjies, knew the secret, Knew the only way to kill him. So they gathered cones together, Gathered seed-cones of the pine-tree, Gathered blue cones of the fir-tree, In the woods by Taquamenaw, Brought them to the river’s margin, Heaped them in great piles together, Where the red rocks from the margin Jutting overhang the river. There they lay in wait for Kwasind, The malicious Little People. `T was an afternoon in Summer; Very hot and still the air was, Very smooth the gliding river, Motionless the sleeping shadows: Insects glistened in the sunshine, Insects skated on the water, Filled the drowsy air with buzzing, With a far resounding war-cry. Down the river came the Strong Man, In his birch canoe came Kwasind, Floating slowly down the current Of the sluggish Taquamenaw, Very languid with the weather, Very sleepy with the silence. From the overhanging branches, From the tassels of the birch-trees, Soft the Spirit of Sleep descended; By his airy hosts surrounded, His invisible attendants, Came the Spirit of Sleep, Nepahwin; Like a burnished Dush-kwo-ne-she, Like a dragon-fly, he hovered O’er the drowsy head of Kwasind. To his ear there came a murmur As of waves upon a sea-shore, As of far-off tumbling waters, As of winds among the pine-trees; And he felt upon his forehead Blows of little airy war-clubs, Wielded by the slumberous legions Of the Spirit of Sleep, Nepahwin, As of some one breathing on him. At the first blow of their war-clubs, Fell a drowsiness on Kwasind; At the second blow they smote him, Motionless his paddle rested; At the third, before his vision Reeled the landscape Into darkness, Very sound asleep was Kwasind. So he floated down the river, Like a blind man seated upright, Floated down the Taquamenaw, Underneath the trembling birch-trees, Underneath the wooded headlands, Underneath the war encampment Of the pygmies, the Puk-Wudjies. There they stood, all armed and waiting, Hurled the pine-cones down upon him, Struck him on his brawny shoulders, On his crown defenceless struck him. “Death to Kwasind!” was the sudden War-cry of the Little People. And he sideways swayed and tumbled, Sideways fell into the river, Plunged beneath the sluggish water Headlong, as an otter plunges; And the birch canoe, abandoned, Drifted empty down the river, Bottom upward swerved and drifted: Nothing more was seen of Kwasind. But the memory of the Strong Man Lingered long among the people, And whenever through the forest Raged and roared the wintry tempest, And the branches, tossed and troubled, Creaked and groaned and split asunder, “Kwasind!” cried they; “that is Kwasind! He is gathering in his fire-wood!”
When the first settlers arrived in New England they were warned of the Pukwudgies with their hate of all human kind. The settlers brought with them Christianity and saw the Pukwudgies as imps or little demons and given the nickname “Satan’s little helpers”. The Europeans also brought diseases and guns with them and shot at the Pukwudgies at every encounter, unfortunately they also shot or shot at many of the other little people who crossed their paths including good little people like the Yunwi-Tsunsdi (Cherokee little people) and the benevolent Nikommo. The Yunwi-Tsunsdi have been known to bring back lost children, help lost people find their way home and even heal the sick and injured. The Nikommo simply like humans, especially the children and would help in anyway they could.
Like the Natives, the little people did not have the necessary anti-bodies to fight off many of the diseases the settlers brought with them. They retreated into the deep forests, wood lands and even further underground away from the new comers. This also effected the Pukwudgies decreasing their numbers and no doubt fueling their hatred of humans even more.
– Other Little People often confused for Pukwudgies –
In Scandinavia and Norway there are two kinds of trolls, the giants ones called Jontar and the little trolls called Huldrefolk. These two-foot tall, big nose, big ears, wide gaping mouths with razor sharp teeth, large wide eyes, big hands and feet, wire-like hair and have a variety of skin colors from black to orangeish to blend into their environment. Tolls are dim-witted but just as malicious as Pukwugdies, perhaps in some ways more-so. A Pukwudgie has never been reported of eating household pets or scavenging through garbage cans, whereas trolls are notorious for it. In old tales they where known to snatch up sleeping babies for lunch, and they look much like a Pukwudgie. They have a pension for dark damp living places and bridges and are also known to be habitual hoarders of junk.
Bagwajiwinini (buh-gwuh-jih-nih-nee )
Most often confused with Pukwudgies and very similar in appearance. The Bagwajiwinini have a playful good natured attitude, but can be mischievous and plays trick on people because they are playful. They are not considered dangerous. Perhaps these are the Pukwudgies who never recovered from Moshup’s assault or perhaps they learned their lesson and now behave themselves.
Benevolent Nikommo (Ni-Ko-mo)
They are benevolent little people who live in the forest, Nikommo do not cause death or destruction, instead they bring good fortune and assistance to those who treat them respectfully. Feasts are held in honour of the little Nikommo.
They are small riverbank-dwelling little people who are generally benign creatures, but will sometimes blow canoes astray or steal things when they are not shown their proper respect. They have even been know to help people who give them tobacco and other gifts. Most often the Memegwesi are described as being child-sized and although they are hairy, they are mistaken for Pukwudgies, pains or Appleswitches (Apple Snitches). They tend to be harmless unless provoked.
– Sightings and Reports of Pukwudgies in modern days –
There are around 34 different types of little people across the Americas, including Gnomes (Tomte/Nisse), Redcaps (the anti-Gnomes), goblins, hairy little people (like homo-florescence, known as The Hobbit) which are often mistaken for Sasquatch/Bigfoot young, small elves, small trolls, native little people, and the Pukwudgies. Here are a few of their stories.
Joan and the Pukwudgie
One of the internet famed encounters comes from a woman named Joan. Joan was walking her dog named Sid through State Forest in Freetown on a cold April day. As she and her dog, Sid, walked down the path, Sid became anxious and strayed a few feet into the woods. Joan followed him in, and stopped short. Her dog was lying completely flat in the leaves, and on a rock ten feet away was a Pukwudgie. She described him as looking like what she would describe as a troll; two feet high with pale grey skin and hair on his arms and the top of his head. The monster seemed to have no clothes, but it was difficult to tell because his stomach hung over his waist, almost touching his knees. His eyes were a deep green, and he had a large nose and mouth.
The Pukwudgie stood watching her, staring straight at her with no expression, almost like it was stunned to see her. Joan froze and remembers thinking the air in her lungs had been pushed out. Sid finally came to and ran back towards the trail, dragging Joan who was still holding the leash tightly.
Although the whole exchange took less than thirty seconds, it remains with Joan ten years later. She has not gone back to the forest, but feels that might not be enough. Three times since the event she has woken up to find the Pukwudgie looking at her through a window. It has never attacked her or spoken to her, staying just long enough for her to notice him.
Susan and the Pukwudgie
On October 2017 around nine-thirty at night Susan and her husband were just outside Brockton, Massachusetts near Ames Nowell State Park when they realized they had a flat tire and pulled off the road to change it. Susan had gotten out of the car while her husband Carl jacked up the car and she had the intense feeling of being watched so she asked Carl to try and hurry. He had problems loosening a couple of the tires lug nuts which took longer then Susan liked. There were no noises, no birds or crickets, nothing just the wind in the trees and she was becoming more and more nervous. Carl had gotten the tire on and was wrestling with the lug wrench as he tightened the bolts. Susan turned her face from the wind and that when she saw a small creature walking down the middle of the road. There was just enough moon light to see some features, it was about two-feet tall, grey to darkish skin, large eyes, nose and and a wide mouth. It walked towards Susan and her husband like it was taking a stroll, then suddenly stopped and jutted its head forward and stared at Susan. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing and called to Carl “Look look!”. He was as shocked as Susan was to this thing standing on the road not moving a muscle, just staring at them with its large eyes. Carl told his wife to hurry and get in the car and she quickly complied. Carl quickly put the car down off the jack and shoved it off the road and jumped into the car. When he turned the car on and the lights came on, the little thing was gone. The couple sped off leaving the jack behind on the side of the road. Susan looked behind them as they drove by but didn’t see it again. Susan and Carl started looking into what they had seen and they believe it was a Pukwudgie.
Pukwudgie and the GPS
This story was told to me by someone who wishes to remain anonymous, who believes she saw a Pukwudgie, so for the purpose of the story we’ll call her Cathy.
In 2015 Cathy and her boyfriend were in Ashburnham, Massachusetts coming home from a friends house. Cathy’s friend lived far out in the woods near a couple of lakes, so after leaving her friend’s house her boyfriend pulled over to the side of the road to put Cathy’s address into the GPS navigation. That’s when her boyfriend turned around and told her to look behind them. She turned her head and this three-foot tall looking troll was walking towards their car. He was walking in the middle of the road and coming right for their car. He was standing on two legs the whole time, so she knew it wasn’t an animal. The creature was greyish in colour and Cathy always had described him as a troll. Half human half animal, but then she heard of Pukwudgies within the last few years and the description fit what she had seen. Cathy does some research and learns that they are native to Massachusetts and they like swamps and water and when they had the encounter they were right near some swamp/lake. This happened in Ashburnham, Massachusetts which is a small town in central Massachusetts.
Pukwudgie in my Bedroom
Again, the teller of this story wishes to remain anonymous, so we’ll call her Jane.
When Jane was fifteen years old she and her family moved to Massachusetts, the house was old and would creek every time the wind blew, and would wake her up the first couple of weeks she lived there. It was in September, she remembers how excited she was to be going to a new school. It was late one night and she and her sister had finished watching a movie and were going to bed. Jane’s sister who is older, had a bedroom next to her own and always waited at Jane’s door until she was in the bed before her sister went to hers. Jane opened the door and standing by the window in her bedroom was a little grey troll-looking thing. Jane screamed and her sister slammed the door shut. They both ran into their parents bedroom, waking them up and told them what they had seen. Just as many parents would, they of course didn’t believe their children, so Jane slept in her sisters bedroom for a week afterwards. Every time the house creaked Jane was ready to run to her sister’s room. After meeting some new friends at school Jane described to them what she and her sister had seen, and was told that it was a Pukwudgie. They said it was a local myth but what Jane and her sister saw was very real.
The legend of the Pukwudgie has adapted over the years to include their supernatural abilities, never previously mentioned in their original lore. We have read how clever, cunning and intelligent they are and about their use of camouflage such as animal skins like porcupine or raccoon is something they likely would have learned to do from the natives. Not all sightings including glowing skin, and again the original stories don’t mention glowing skin at all, this is something which has been added to their legend later.
They seem to prefer to use poisoned tipped arrows, but pushing people of cliffs is something they would do if given the opportunity. Many little people are notorious for their thievery, stealing items like clothing directly off clothes lines, squeaky pet toys, glow sticks, tennis and golf balls, lawn decorations and other oddities including one set of holiday lights. Some even go as far as stealing chickens, rabbits and other small animals, not for pets I’m assured.
As for possessing people, that would have been the easiest way to subdue Mushop or Kwasind to end their lives but they did not and nothing is written of them having that ability. As with any of colourful adaptations given to them later to make them even scarier and turning them into more of an urban legend and less fact.
What could be scarier then the adaptations added to their lore over the years? Their true adaptation they have learned over the years which include calling out for help to lure you closer, or stalking you, learning your habits, finding out your name so they can call to you when you walk your dog at ten o’clock at night, “Help me Joe” or “Hello Joe” is something reported to me several times. Riding on each other shoulders is another trick they’ve learned (also a favourite trick of Redcaps), what a great way to grab your arms and legs while others spring from the bushes.
Pukwudgies work in a uniformed group with each having a specific job to do. A single Pukwudgie may not be much of a threat, but that single one is just a scout ready to alert the others lurking nearby. Where there is one Pukwudgie there is more and their numbers can easily overwhelm.
My advice when it comes to Pukwudgies its to do what the Wampanoag do and completely ignore them, even if they appear to be friendly, just remember it is only a trick to lure you into a trap from which no one is ever seen again.