A bipedal creature lurking in the forests around the US, prominent deer antlers on their head. Are they half human, half deer? Or the product of legend and lore? CryptoVille investigates this cryptozoology puzzle to see if this monster is the real deal, or not!
Most of what I read about the Deer Men of the world is firmly based in Native American legend, lore, and tradition. Are these stories clues to something real? And what about sightings in recent times? Let’s see what we can make of all this.
Legends and Lore
It seems there are two basic stories about Deer People, one concerning a Deer Man and the other a Deer Woman.
In an old Cherokee legend, people and animals could communicate long ago. Things went well as long as the people only harvested the animals they needed for food, clothing, and shelter. As time went on, the people got a bit greedy, or some might say, bloodthirsty.
That’s when they started killing animals indiscriminately. The animals tried to rebel but couldn’t overcome the human hunters. Finally Awi Usdi, Little Deer and leader of his “people,” met with the hunters and told them that from that point onward, they had to perform a ceremony before their hunts, asking the animals permission to kill one of their own. Then the hunters must ask for forgiveness from the sacrificial animal and respect it.
At first not all of hunters agreed to the terms and they continued to hunt indiscriminately. Awi Usdi hunted them down and afflicted them with severe rheumatism so they were no longer able to hunt. Soon after, all the hunters followed the terms of Awi Usdi and peace descended on the land once more.
The Deer Woman story is a bit different. It reminds me of a Grimm’s fairytale with its cautionary overtones and morality tale undertones.
Wendy Froud refers to this legend as the “Horned Woman” and said that among the Southeastern tribes of the United States (Cherokee, Muskogee, Seminole, and Choctaw), the legend is pretty much the same. She mentions that the Dakota and Lakota tribes have stories about this Deer Woman that are a bit different, but still similar to those of the Southeastern tribes.
Another tribe, the Karuk, use the story of the Deer Woman more as a spirit associated with fertility and maturation as a means to prepare young women for marriage.
The stories of the Southeast tribes primarily warn against marrying someone who was not approved by one’s family and society. The society felt that arranged marriages ensured the survival of their culture and propagation of their people.
The main story revolves around a young man who is seduced by a beautiful young woman and he leaves his home and family, and tribe for her. If he continues to be with this young woman, he will fall more deeply under her spell and stay with her which ultimately results in “depression, despair, prostitution, and death.”
The only way to discover the real identity of the enchantress is to look at her feet. If she is the Deer Woman, her feet will be hooves and knowing that should break the spell for the enamored young man.
According to Wendy, “Her [Deer Woman] tales are morality narratives: she teaches us that the misuse of sexual power is a transgression that will end in madness and death. The only way to save oneself from the magic of Deer Woman is to look to her feet, see her hooves, and recognize her for what she is. … Deer Woman instructs us that sexual attraction does not a proper marriage make; it is the societal and cultural responsibility of each tribal member to choose a mate wisely — therefore ensuring tribal survival into the next generation. Both the Karuk stories and the Southeastern stories illustrate this cultural responsibility.”
According to Wiki, Deer Woman can also appear as an old woman or even a deer. She is sometimes described as having the upper body of a young woman and the lower body of a deer. When compared with other similar tribal legends of dangerous women, these females all have a physical deformity and lure men to their deaths.
In the 50s and 60s, a columnist named Jerry Moriarity popularized the legend of the Deer Man in his column, “Mostly Malarkey.” It’s important to note that malarkey means “Speech or writing designed to obscure, mislead, or impress.” So his columns were clearly fiction and entertainment.
Another journalist named Dave Clarke wrote several articles about this creature in the Star Courier. Dave believes the Deer Man is local to Kewanee, IL and that if you see it three times, you die.
Finally, in 2005, an episode of the Masters of Horror TV program featured the Deer Woman, probably unrecognizable from the original legends.
So are the Deer people real? Are they flesh and blood cryptids? I think not. There’s a very clear folklore component to the stories and it’s easy to see how they are cautionary tales to help preserve the culture and traditions of the native peoples. (Think about all the “old wives’ tales” we all heard growing up as well as Grimm’s fairytales, not to mention Aesop’s Fables.)
Is it above someone to make a headdress with deer antlers and call themselves the Deer Man or Woman? I wouldn’t put it past some hoaxer to do so, as we’ve seen with Bigfoot videos, ad nauseum. But back in the world of reality, I don’t expect anyone to find a real creature like this Deer Man or Deer Woman anytime soon.
What do you think about the Deer Man or Woman?