In the far north of Canada, Lake Anjikuni can be an inhospitable place. Covered with snow and ice for half the year, the lake forms part of a string of waterways which the local Inuit used to sustain their communities through fishing and trade.
Several villages existed along the shores of the lakes, home to the Inuit and a welcome resting point for the fur trappers who braved the far north to hunt beaver and caribou. But something happened to one of the villages in 1930 which remains a mystery to this day.
A news reporter in The Pas, Manitoba, reported about a small Inuit community off the coast of Lake Anjikuni in 1930. Joe Labelle, a well-known fur trapper in the community, was passing through the area when he stopped at the village, only to discover that all of the people had left. According to the story Joe Labelle discovered an empty camp with six tents, but of the 25 men, women, and children who lived there, there was no sign.
This story has been retold many times and many theories have been put forward to explain the disappearances, from the plausible to the outlandish. What happened to the small Inuit community out there in the freezing north of Canada?
The Village that Vanished
Joe Labelle, a Canadian fur trapper, was wandering near Anjikuni Lake in the Northwest Territories of Canada on a freezing November day in 1930. He entered the village in search of lodging after learning of an Inuit settlement nearby, only to find it utterly deserted.
Whatever had happened had taken the villagers completely unawares. During his search, he discovered incomplete garments with needles still in them, as well as food hung over fire pits, but no traces of violence or a conflict that would have explained the people’s absence.
Moving though the village, Labelle found seven sled dogs still tied to their posts: they had all starved to death. These dogs would have been vital to the survival of the community and to leave them behind would have been almost unthinkable.
But then, on the edge of the village, Labelle found something even more chilling. A human grave had been recently dug up. Because the stones encircling the burial were undisturbed, Labelle recognized it couldn’t have been an animal. A human had done this.
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He informed the North-West Mounted Police, who launched an investigation into the disappearances. But no one from the village was ever located: it was as if they had vanished into thin air.
An Unexplained Mystery
This unsolved mystery has attracted many investigations over the years. Brian Dunning of the Skeptoid website investigated this instance and tracked it back to the original newspaper article written by Emmett Kelleher on November 29, 1930.
He pointed out various discrepancies in the original tale, such as the fact that the missing Inuit kayaks would not be “battered by wave action” if the lake was frozen at the time. He also highlighted that in succeeding retellings, the village’s alleged population grew larger, and other details were inflated.
Later stories add even more unlikely details. Nigel Blundell and Roger Boar’s book World’s Greatest UFO Mysteries talks of three trappers who saw a UFO in the vicinity, along with gross exaggerations such as a thousand people missing and whole graveyards full of exhumed burials.
The police team eventually determined that the Inuit had been missing for about eight weeks before Labelle arrived, but they never found out why the entire village had evacuated the area. As if the story wasn’t already bizarre enough, while examining the incident, RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) officers reported seeing mysterious pulsing lights in the sky over Lake Anjikuni.
Lights in the sky of northern Canada are not unusual. The Northern Lights are stunning natural phenomena that can be seen from even the farthest reaches of the country, but the lights this search and rescue personnel discovered were nothing like the natural beauty they were used to viewing.
Unlike the Northern Lights, the lights they observed on the horizon were blueish and pulsing. The lights, like the rest of the enclosure, were never explained, nor was any link to the missing villagers established.
However, various ufologists speculated in the late twentieth century that the residents of this village may have been the unwitting victims of one of history’s largest extraterrestrial abductions. Despite the fact that the evidence supporting this idea is anecdotal at best, the assumption is both intriguing and terrifying.
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Could aliens have taken an entire village? It would explain their sudden disappearance and the failure of the RCMP to find any trace.
Of course, skeptics will look for a more down-to-earth explanation for the disappearance of the villagers, starting with questioning the original story. Labelle claimed to have been a seasoned trapper who knew the region well, but records show that he had never taken out a hunting license before 1930.
Kelleher, the journalist who broke the story, had been accused of exaggeration in his writings before and one of the pictures used in his article was proven to be decades old. Based on these questions and the lack of proof as to the village, the RCMP dismissed the story as fabricated in 1931 and closed the case.
And just like that, the villagers disappeared for a second time – first from their homes and then from the history books. The evidence for it being a fabrication is only circumstantial, and no doubt welcomed by the investigating authorities as a quick solution to their mystery.
The lack of a trapping license does not mean Labelle did not know the region, or the village. There were plenty of trappers operating illegally at the time, as well as traders and merchants operating between the villages.
Kelleher may have been discredited in the past but this alone is also not sufficient to dismiss the story. He had many years of experience as a journalist and his interest in the sensational may have been the very thing that led him to Labelle’s account
And if these two men were telling the truth about what they saw, then an entire village disappeared and nothing was done to investigate. What were the strange lights in the sky? Where did the people go?
Why were the dogs left to starve? And, most chillingly of all, who had been in the empty grave? Native American myths are filled with evil creatures, cannibals and monsters, who haunt the forests and badlands of their great continent.
Maybe Labelle had just missed encountering such a monster, in the frozen wilderness of the north.
Top Image: No trace of the missing villagers was ever found. Source: J. J. O’Neill / CC BY-SA 4.0.
By Bipin Dimri