Column: Legends, Lore, Superstitions, and more
Famine has plagued people all over the world, from Europe to Asia, and even the Americas. Sometimes there is no preventing it either, but sometimes there are ways to stop people from going hungry. The Shoshone Native American tribe in what is now Idaho has experienced famine before.
The story goes, the Shoshone tribe experienced such a severe famine that they decided they could not feed everyone, so they had to kill some of their own babies. They thought they would rather have the babies go by drowning than by being starved. Mothers of newborn babies were forced to go to rivers and lakes and drown their babies.
The babies survived in the lake by growing gills to breathe and tails to swim. They ate small fish and tadpoles to survive. It’s said they want revenge.
In Utah, the Ute Native Americans passed on stories about small people living in the Utah Lake. They called them water babies. The water babies often lured people to the lake by making the sound of a crying baby. When the people couldn’t find the baby, they would make their way into the lake, and that’s when the water babies struck. They would drag the person to the bottom of the lake and the person would usually meet their fate and drown in the lake. Sometimes, these water babies would instead play simple tricks and pranks on humans near the lake.
These water babies were also seen in Nevada. In Nevada, the story is a little different. It’s said that the Shoshone tribe drowned sick and deformed babies, but the babies got really mad and overtook the lake. Every year, these babies drown a white man in Pyramid Lake in Nevada.
All versions of the story of the water babies have the same plot, babies who died too young and someone who had to pay the price for it.