LEGENDS OF MICHIGAN
The Witchy Wolves of Omer Plains
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 1970s 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 divided by the Rifle River. If you travel down Jose Road, it will take you to 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, 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).
In the 60s and 70s, this legend was spread by high school kids in the area who partied in 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 60s and 70s, 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 90s, it was still common to party out there in the woods.
Well, back in the ’60s and ’70s, 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 backyard every Fall and Winter and used the apples for deer feed. It was never much work and took about twenty minutes. Well, one day I was picking up apples 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 dog’s shadows crossed right in the area that is supposedly haunted by the Witchy Wolves.
Fast forward 15 years. 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 our past.