S. E. Schlosser
The great chief Quaquahela lived in peace with his people on the banks of the River Styx where it entered the lake waters. Their lives were busy and full. The warriors hunted and fished, the women cooked and cared for the old and the young, and all lived in peace with the natural world around them.
Quaquahela determined one day to visit with a tribe far to the south of their village. He set out at dusk, paddling across the lake, and then walking inland towards the lodge of a friend, where he would spend the night before resuming his journey. He had gone only a few yards from the lake shore when he heard a terrible snarling, and a huge bear came bursting forth out of the bushes nearby. Quaquahela was well-armed with his war club and his hunting gear, but the bear was his totem, and so it was forbidden for him to kill the creature. Thus he fled back toward his canoe, intent on escape. But the enraged bear threw itself forward and knocked him to the ground.
Desperate now, Quaquahela wrestled with the bear, beating it repeatedly with his war club, trying to drive it off. Blood stained the ground from many wounds as the bear fought with the mighty chief. At last, the chief drew his knife and stabbed the bear repeatedly around the head and throat until it released him with a final, blood-chilling growl. Quaquahela crawled away from the bear and collapsed on the ground. His body was torn and broken, his wounds grievous. He turned himself over with great effort and looked toward his enemy, his totem. The bear was dead. With a moan of contrition and despair, Quaquahela's head fell back to the earth as he succumbed to his injuries. He died a moment later.
The friend of the great chief, not knowing of his intent to stay with him, did not know anything was amiss until two days later, when he discovered the body of a great bear laying near the lake. The chief's canoe was beached nearby, and Quaquahela's bloody war club and totem and knife told a grisly story. Of the chief's body there was no sign, but wolves' tracks suggested that his friend had been dragged away by the local pack. Quaquahela's friend summoned more warriors and they searched for the remains of the chief for many days, but it was never recovered.
About a month later, on the night of the full moon, Quaquahela's clan saw a strange mist spiraling up the side of a nearby hill like the smoke from a fire. The conditions were clear and the night bright as day, yet the strange mist solidified before their eyes and stayed, unmoving, in that one location in spite of the strong wind that sprang up and rustled the trees around it. The clan was mystified by the strange apparition, and wondered why it had appeared to them.
That night, the great chief Quaquahela appeared in a vision to his medicine man. "It is I," he told the man, "who have appeared in the mist on the hillside. I have killed the great bear who took my life, and so am barred forever from entering the spirit realm. Rather than roam the earth, I have determined to stay near my clansmen, and so have erected a spirit lodge on the hillside in the place which you saw tonight."
The great chief promised the medicine man that he would accompany his people on all their expeditions, ensuring their safe leaving and returning. If they ever doubted his presence, all the must do was look to the hillside. The mist that gathered in that one place was the smoke from his spirit lodge ascending to the treetops. Thus they would be reassured of his spirit eternally dwelling with them. And if they ever called over to him, he would answer them.
The medicine man conveyed the words of his spirit-chief to the clansmen the next morning. There was much joy in the knowledge that their beloved Quaquahelm was still among them. Many the people whooped and shouted towards the hillside where he made his spirit lodge, and always a reply would echo back to them. Thus was confirmed the vision of the medicine man.
To this day, the spiraling, misty smoke from Quaquahelm's spirit lodge may be seen rising above the hillside in damp or wet weather, and anyone giving a friendly shout to the great chief will hear his voice echoing in reply.
Read more New Jersey folklore in Spooky New Jersey by S.E. Schlosser.