Adventure (September 15, 1934) has given me the final key to Paul Annixter’s Windigo (1964). In that issue is a story called “The Watching Eyes”. The idea behind it is familiar to me both because I have read Jane and Paul Annixter’s novel and from George T. Marsh’s “The Valley of the Windigo” (Scribner’s Magazine, June 1917).
Seventeen years after Marsh’s tale of a French Canadien trapper who faces a mythical monster, Annixter pretty much duplicates the plot but with his own special flare. Guyles Le Brunnec is a young trapper who has hopes to marry the young and beautiful Fanchon. To do this he decides to trap in a valley that is reportedly haunted. A man died there in his own cabin, his throat ripped out.
Le Brunnec takes over the abandoned cabin, fixes it up. That night a strange visitor surrounds the cabin, screaming like a banshee. So begins a contest between trapper and monster. Le Brunnec’s traps are robbed and stolen. The trapper builds his own deadfall traps to catch the windigo. All of these are sprung and useless. The monster even invades his cabin, taking his food, tearing his bedding and stealing the last of his traps.
Tracking the beast by moonlight, Le Brunnec fails victim to the monster’s cunning, stepping into a double spring bear trap. The locks to open the trap reside in the monster’s pocket. The trapper tries to free himself but he can not. He sits down to await his fate. A figure appears and he shoots it twice. Panicking, thinking he may have killed an innocent, he gets the trap chain off the log by sawing through it with his knife, then drags himself, trap still biting into his leg, to the dead body.
The bear-skin clad figure is the Windigo, a native man dressed in bearskin and claws to simulate the weird tracks and looks of a monster. The locks are in his pocket. Le Brunnec is saved. Later he finds the man’s secret hideout and gets his traps and food back. The following summer he and Fanchon marry with four thousand dollars in his pocket.
And the last piece of the puzzle falls into place. The Windigo/villain in the novel is named Le Brunnec and could be the same character years later. The story even takes place in the same region of Quebec, Kinnebec. Adding the wolverine from “Gulo the Devil” (Adventure, January 1, 1932) and making his protagonist younger, the Annixters had everything we need for Windigo. In a way the novel was written in the pages of Adventure, thirty years earlier.