Native American Tales

A Journey to the Skeleton House

A Journey to the Skeleton HouseA Journey to the Skeleton House


A young man wondered where the dead went on their journey. As it turned out, there was someone who could help him satisfy his curiosity. Badger Old Man had the medicine that would help the young man discover where the dead went. There were certain rituals to be followed. The young man had to put something on his face. He had to wear a white kilt. Badger Old Man put medicine in the young man’s ears and heart. He also ate some medicine. He was prepared as if dead. After a time, it seemed that the young man was dead.

He got up and left his body and walked along. He met an old woman who told him the way to Skeleton House. She had to wait because she did not go on the straight road. She had not listened, and as a result, she could go a little ways and then stop, then a little ways, and then stop. It would take her a very long time to get to the Skeleton House.

He came to a cliff. There was a chief. The chief said skeleton house was not far off, but a great amount of smoke blocked the way. The chief took the young man’s kilt and put it flat on the ground and then put the young man on top of it. He then threw it across the chasm. The kilt floated to the other side.

The young man met Skeleton Woman who told him that the smoke was bad people who had been thrown in there. He made it to Skeleton House and someone pointed him in the direction of his ancestors. They had their own dwelling. He could not go up the ladder though, he was too heavy still. They fed him food, as best they could. They told him that he had to go back. He still had much salt left in his life. They also told him that he could serve a purpose. He could tell his people to make offerings to the ancestors and the dead. In return, the people would be helped with their crops and life in general.

The young man saw people walking around with heavy burdens. He was told that some people had to do this as a penance for what they had done.

After the young man’s curiosity was sated, he left. He got back on his kilt when he got to the chasm and went across. His family had been mourning for him, but he came to. They fed him and he told them all he had learned. From that point forward the dead and living began to work together.


All the different descriptions of the afterlife are quite interesting. What I find interesting about this one is that families stay together. The young man’s ancestors lived in the same dwelling. His family was not parted at death. That’s a comforting thought, even if the young man didn’t really like being dead.


We all kind of desire to know what happens after we die, but very few of us know what happens, at least very few of us who are alive; those of us who are dead probably know very well what happens. We have all these conflicting stories about what an afterlife is like. We also have conflicting stories about what punishment of bad people is like, or the praise of good people. This young man wanted to know for sure and no one could tell him, so he went to the land of the dead, himself. In essence, he was dead.

He did find out what the land of the dead was like said that no one should want to go there because it’s dark.

I think it’s human to want to know what the next thing is like. Is there a next thing? If there is a next thing, what’s it like? What happens to bad people? What happens to good people? What and what and what?

Is Skeleton House real? Heck if I know, I’m not dead, but Skeleton House is a belief that the Hopi hold. Their version of the afterlife is probably just as valid as any other version of the afterlife.


Flying kilts, that’s pretty great.

Weigh In

Do you think the idea of having your entire family together in the afterlife is a neat idea?

Everyone, good or bad, seemed to go to the same place in this story; do you think that’s likely?


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