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The hidebehind from Fearsome Critters (1939)

A hidebehind is a nocturnal[1] fearsome critter from American folklore that preys upon humans that wander the woods,[2] and was credited for the disappearances of early loggers when they failed to return to camp.[3][4] As its name suggests, the hidebehind is noted for its ability to conceal itself. When an observer attempts to look directly at it, the creature hides again behind an object or the observer and therefore can't be directly seen: a feat it accomplishes by sucking in its stomach to a point where it is so slender that it can easily cover itself behind the trunk of any tree.[5] The hidebehind uses this ability to stalk human prey without being observed and to attack without warning. Their victims, including lumberjacks who frequent the forests, are dragged back to the creature's lair to be devoured.[2][3] The creature subsists chiefly upon the intestines of its victim, and has a severe aversion to alcohol, which is considered a sufficient repellent.[6] Tales of the hidebehind may have helped explain strange noises in the forest at night. Early accounts describe hidebehinds as large, powerful animals, despite the fact that no one was able to see them.[7]

In popular culture[edit]

  • The hidebehind has appeared in a number of novels and stories. Some of these stories have revolved around other characters in American folklore and fakelore. For example, in Pecos Bill Catches a Hidebehind, the creature is captured and donated to a zoo by the cowboy Pecos Bill.[8]
  • Diane Duane's Young Wizards series mentions hidebehinds, and in her wiki that describes the fictional universe they are set in, different species of hidebehind have even been assigned mock scientific names. For example, one of the carnivorous species is referred to as Cryptopsthenis nondescriptis.[9]
    • Her other fictional descriptions suggest that most types of hidebehind are small creatures and that the fear they engender in those they stalk is a defense mechanism.[9]
  • In 2016, the official Harry Potter themed newsite Pottermore by J. K. Rowling released a new story about the wizarding school Ilvermorny, which featured a hidebehind. This "nocturnal, forest-dwelling spectre" was preys on humanoid creatures, but a witch and Pukwudgie working together were able to defeat the creature.[10]


  1. ^ Wyman, Walker D. Mythical Creatures of the USA and Canada.(River Falls, WI: Univ of Wisconsin Riverfalls Press,1978.)
  2. ^ a b Botkin, B.A. The American People: Stories, Legends, Tales, Traditions and Songs. (New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 1977) ISBN 1-56000-984-5
  3. ^ a b Brown, C.E. Paul Bunyan Natural History. (Madison: self-published, 1935.)
  4. ^ Cohen, Daniel. Monsters, Giants, and Little Men from Mars: An Unnatural History of the Americas. (New York: Doubleday, 1975)
  5. ^ Randolph, Vance. We Always Lie to Strangers: Tall Tales from the Ozarks. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1951.)
  6. ^ Tryon, Henry Harrington. Fearsome Critters. (Cornwall, NY: Idlewild Press, 1939)
  7. ^ Rose, Carol (2001). Giants, Monsters, and Dragons: An Encyclopedia of Legend, Folklore, and Myth. W.W. Norton and Company. p. 172. ISBN 0-393-32211-4. 
  8. ^ Blassingame, Wyatt and Vestal, Herman (1977). Pecos Bill Catches a Hidebehind. Gerard Publishing Company. ISBN 0-8116-4045-0. 
  9. ^ a b Duane, Diane. "The Errantry Concordance: The Online Encyclopedia of the Young Wizards Universe". Retrieved 2009-10-08. 
  10. ^ Rowling, J.K. (June 28, 2016). "Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry". Pottermore.