Friday, October 16, 2015

Hoostradoos and You

I recently found this October 1982 issue of The Missouri Conservationist. 

I recall this issue from my childhood because of a particular story inside.

Typically, the magazine focused on forestry and wildlife, but perhaps as a nod to Halloween, this issue included a story entitled "Hoostradoos, Big Trees and Old Houses".  In it, the author of the story, James R. Duncan, reminisces of his childhood fear of his home's basement. The article fascinated me, being a fan of all things spooky and knowing too well the dread of going down into my own basement.  The task of going to the basement freezer to get something for my mom became a race to outrun whatever was down there.  And of course, you were most vulnerable as you began the ascent up the stairs because IT WAS RIGHT BEHIND YOU! I think I took the steps 3 at a time going up.

The author attributed his dark basement presence to an evil spirit known to the Eastern Native American Wyandotte tribe as a Hoo' Stra Doo'.  The art, which adds a creepy vibe to the story, was also done by the author.

I remember this rendition of a Hoostradoo particularly freaked me out.  The over-sized Native American head, the big nose, the fangs, the claws all combined for a disturbing vision of what might be in my own basement.

There is surprisingly little information about this legend on the internet.  The only mention I found comes from the website:
The Hoo’ stra doo’ were giants covered with stone and so they were called the Stone Giants. They were very strong and had magic power. Whenever they could, they killed Indians and ate them. So all the Wyandot were in great fear of them.
There came a time when the Hoo’ stra doo’ were not seen any more in the forests. The Indians thought that they had left the earth. But this was not true. They had only changed their form.
But their new form was worse than the other. Instead of being Stone Giants they were now wicked spirits. In the daytime they could do nothing. But at night they would enter the body of some dead Indian, which then became alive. They were very strong and cunning. It was a brave warrior, indeed, who could escape from them. If the body could be found and burned during the day while the Hoo’ stra doo’ had no power, the wicked spirit was killed.
One day three young warriors went into the forest to hunt. They saw a bear but it kept just beyond the reach of their arrows. It led them a long way. Then they lost sight of it.
Night was corning on. The warriors looked for a place to sleep. They found a beautiful lodge. This surprised them, for they knew no one lived in that part of the forest. A curtain of skins divided the lodge into two rooms. In one room lay the body of a dead chief.
The warriors built a fire and cooked some meat. When this was eaten they went to sleep in the outer room.
During the night the warrior nearest the door wakened. He saw the skin curtain move. Then he knew that the dead body of the chief in the other room was a Hoo’ stra doo’. He knew that he must be very careful if he wished to save his life.
He acted as if he had not seen the curtain move. He threw another stick on the fire as though he was cold. He did not look toward the curtain, but he knew the Hoo’ stra doo’ was behind it and was watching him.
“Before I lie down to sleep again, I will go to the spring and get a drink,” he said in a low tone. He was talking to himself, but he meant that the Hoo’ stra doo’ should hear what he said.
He arose and went slowly out of the lodge. But once outside he ran as fast as he could toward his own village. He was the swiftest runner in the tribe. But the Hoo’ stra doo’ came close behind him, and it screamed in a way to make the blood run cold. But the frightened Indian only dashed more quickly through the forest.
At last the Hoo’ stra doo’ came close. In another minute it would seize him. Just then he saw a light ahead. It was his own village. The sight gave him fresh strength. He ran faster and was soon safe at home.
The other Indians had heard the screams of the Hoo’ stra doo’ and had come out of their lodges. They were standing around the fire. The Hoo’ stra doo’ could not face so many people. So it slipped away.
As soon as it was light all the men of the village set out to see whether the other young warriors had been killed. But they had heard the sounds of the chase and had slipped away from the strange lodge before the Hoo’ stra doo’ got back. They came home another way.
So the Indians went on to the lodge. As it was daylight the body of the dead chief lay there as before. They burned the lodge with the Hoo’ stra doo’ in it. So it could never again harm or frighten anyone.
Should you find yourself alone in your basement one of these chilly and damp Fall days, beware. That noise you just heard might be a hoostradoo.  Head for the stairs quickly and trust me, take them 3 at a time.


  1. We had one of those creepy basements full of bugs and shadows. My older sisters always told me there was a decapitated corpse in the far back room. I shared a little tortoiseshell kitty who spent the night in the basement with my sister. Every other evening was my turn to feed Monkey. I used to set that cat food bowl down and sprint up those stairs 3 at a time to outrun that corpse. Gives me the willies just thinking about it.

    1. Fear of the basement must be inherent in kids. My own are afraid of our basement and it's no where near as creepy as mine was growing up. The light in our basement was on a pull string and you had to walk halfway into the room before you could get to the string. I just knew something was going to leap out of the darkness before I reached that string!


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