history, photography, Uncategorized, Wyoming

The Face of Water Ghost Woman

Water Woman

This is the Water Ghost Woman and my contribution to Weekly Photo Challenge: Face.  As a photo, there are many things I could improve upon.  But as a story for telling your children late at night, she’s perfect.

Water Ghost Woman is Pa waip, a spirit woman of Shoshone stories.  Water Ghost Woman is lives in the Torrey Valley near Dubois, Wyoming, along with a number of other petroglyphs from the Sheepeater Indians.

Legend has it the Water Ghost Woman was a spirit that would lure young men to their deaths in a lake or other body of water.  She would wait until night when the men were asleep, then assume the voice of a maiden in distress.  She would cry and wail and call out for help.  When the warrior would rise and wander near the water to offer assistance, Water Ghost Woman would grab him with her arms and tentacles you see here and drown the man.  She is also rumored to grab children and bite their heads off.


Water Ghost Woman is just one of hundreds of amazing petroglyphs believed to be left by the Sheepeater Indians.  The Sheepeaters were a branch of the modern Shoshone Indians we learned about in high school.  They were proficient at hunting bighorn sheep, and thus became known as the Sheepeaters.  They are also known for their obsidian tools, sheep traps and hunting bows made from big horn sheep horns.  Hundreds of their petroglyphs can still be found in western Wyoming.  Sheepeater Indians were purported to visit petroglyph sites as part of their vision quests.

I don’t know what kind of vision Pa waip here helped the Sheepeaters have.  But her story, as recounted to me around a campfire in the middle of the Wyoming wilderness, gave me pause.  I saw her face in my dreams for weeks.

Modern men in the valley who aren’t particularly superstitious have reported hearing a woman crying for help in the middle of the night.  When they get up to investigate, no woman can be found.  One man even claims he woke up knee deep in the lake outside the dude ranch cabin where he’d been visiting.

So if you’re ever camping in western Wyoming near a body of water, keep your men close and your kids closer.  Water Ghost Woman might be getting lonely.



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