The Legend of the Witchy Wolves
Written by Lindsey Russell
The Witchy Wolves is an old Chippewa Legend that has been passed down for generations. According to legend, there is a spirit animal - half dog and half wolf - that protects the souls and the graves of Native American warriors. It will attack anyone that disturbs the final resting place of Chippewa warriors.
Somewhere along the line, the legend became well-known in the mid-Michigan area and became associated with the Omer Plains. There are stories of teenagers in the 1970’s driving out to the Plains in search of the mysterious “Witchy Wolf”. For those who don't know the area, the Omer Plains is a rather eerie area. It is mostly forested, undeveloped and is divided by the Rifle River. If you travel down Jose Road, it will take you through the heart of the Omer Plains. Oh, and did I mention that there is a cemetery along that road - an old one?
An Encounter With the Witchy Wolves?
First off, you need to know that I grew up right on the edge of the Omer Plains, which is the only place I've ever heard the Witchy Wolves legend referenced. It’s an area of dense forest and dirt roads near the Rifle River in Arenac County.
I first heard this legend from my Dad when I was around 6-8 years old. While it did scare me, I chalked it up to something my Dad had just made up to scare me. He loves to tease and is an outdoor lover. I first remember him telling me the story when we took a walk in the woods (right in the middle of the plains).
I never put much stock into it until I experienced something unusual myself and then fifteen years or so later, so did my boyfriend.
The legend is that the Omer plains are haunted by the Witchy Wolves. They are dog/wolf spirits that are said to protect the spirits of Chippewa warriors. It is true that there are Native American burial grounds in the area (This isn't unusual as I've been told that the Chippewa tended to bury their dead near water. The Plains are cut in half by the Rifle River). There is also a newer cemetery in the area as well.
In the 60’s and 70’s, this legend was spread by high school kids in the area who partied in the Plains. Even when I was in high school in the late 90’s, it was still common to party out there in the woods. Well, back in the 60’s and 70’s, this legend took the form of teenage girls getting scared by these “wolf spirits”. Kids from out of town were scared to get out of their cars according to first hand accounts of this written online. Knowing when my Dad grew up, this just reinforced the idea that it was completely made up.
Now on to what I experienced. When I was in elementary school during the Fall season, I would go gather apples that had fallen from the old apple trees that were in our front yard. It was one of my chores. My Dad fed the deer in our back yard every Fall and Winter and used the apples for deer feed. It was never much work and took about fifteen to twenty minutes. Well, one day I was picking up apples off the ground and saw what I thought was a pack of dogs cross the road at the top of the hill (we lived in a river valley right on the Rifle River). While it was quite far away, the "dogs" looked large and appeared to be just shadows. It scared me horribly, especially after hearing the legend of the Witchy Wolves years before. The wolves their shadows crossed right in the area that is supposedly haunted by the Witchy Wolves).
Fast forward 15 years or so. I had chalked the childhood experience up to an active imagination and had pretty much forgotten about it. My boyfriend and I were home for Christmas after having moved to Texas after college. He was driving from my parent’s house back to his parent’s house in Bay City when he swears he saw the same type of shadow that I saw as a child and in almost the exact same area. He did know of the legend when he supposedly saw something, but also had his doubts about its veracity.
To this day, I can't say for sure what we saw, but it just made me think that there might be something to this old Native American legend. Today, people in the Omer area used the legend to create a series of runs that take place in the Omer plains. This legend is very much alive and well.
I'm not saying that I believe that there is a Witchy Wolf, however, I do think that legends such as that of the Witchy Wolf should be preserved. They were created to teach lessons and are a connection to the past. The legend of the Witchy Wolf has become infamous due to the Witchy Wolf Run.
The Witchy Wolf Run of Omer Plains
In 2005 the first Witchy Wolf Run was held. In the two years since its inception, it has spawned the Iron Wolf and the Winter Wolf. All of the events are unique. They play upon the well-known area legend and have helped spread it to the surrounding area. Interest in the running events is very strong and many runners from across Michigan appreciate the unique setup and feel of the run.
The original Witchy Wolf Run is held during Labor Day Weekend and is run at night. Runners chart a course through the infamous Omer Plains (lair of the Witchy Wolves, according to Chippewa Legend). What is so unique is that there are people hiding along the route howling like wolves and scaring people. It adds quite an adrenaline rush and makes the series of races stand out from a myriad of other running opportunities.
The Iron Wolf, held over Memorial Weekend, involves kayaking the Rifle River - upstream - as well as biking. The Winter Wolf, held in January, brings a whole new perspective to the series of runs. In addition to creating a unique series of events, the Witchy Wolf Runs are known for their unique awards, events, and promotions. The small community of Omer, which has badly needed such an event for years, has embraced the Witchy Wolf Run. It is gaining popularity across Michigan. Hopefully it will be around for years to come. If you are interested, there is plenty of additional information on the Witchy Wolf Run website.
Enjoy the Michigan Uncovered videos by these young filmmakers.