Almost every culture around the world has some type of transformation myth, and almost every commonly found animal (and some not-so-common ones) probably has a shapeshifting myth attached to them. Usually, the animal involved in the transformation is indigenous to or prevalent in the area from which the story derives. It is worthy to note that while the popular idea of a shapeshifter is of a human being who turns into something else, there are numerous stories about animals that can transform themselves as well.
Notable shapeshifters in European lore would include the werewolf, Beauty and the Beast, Kissing a frog who then turns into a prince. Don't forget many of our comic book and movie super heroes.
Many Native Americans tribes believe in the "skin walker" which is a "shape shifter" in their culture. A "skin walker" is not something you can find out about by talking to a Native American because they will not talk to anyone they don't trust when it comes to this topic. They fear that you may possibly be a skin walker in their eyes.
There are Native Americans who believe they are skin walkers and they hold secret ceremonies in locations that won't be stumbled upon by others on accident.
The skincrawler or shape shifter that was discussed in this case though was referred to as "Stageny" by OSBI Agent Dick WIlkerson, (It is likely that Harvey Pratt told this information to Dick Wilerson) and then later Wilkerson attempts to discuss this with the Medicine Man who in the documentary is named "Crying Wolf."
In this uncomfortbale exchange Agent Wilkerson pushes this issue with the reluctant Crying Wolf. Crying Wolf first tells Wilkerson that he does not know what a Stageny is... Read in the next column how this dialogue continues.
"By the way, Crying Wolf, do you know what a Stageny is?"
"Well let me tell you what I know about the Stageny. I have heard that it is a great medicine owl which sleeps under the cedar tree. I have also heard that Gene Hart has the ability to change himself into the Stageny. Personally I believe this is ridiculous, but I would like to get your thoughts on it."
"First of all, I will not discuss the Stageny with you becuase that is something of which you should not know.
The belief in this transformation is quite prevalent. A great number of Cherokee people believe that a person can transform himself into another being, whether they want to hide under a leaf, go into a rock, or whether they literally want to become an owl or any other animal."
"Do you believe Gene Hart could do this?"
"No, I don't believe he could. He may, however, use these legends to his own benefit. He is not the quality of person who could perform these deeds. But he could enhance his image by using the terms and knowledge of the old Cherokee ways so that he may give the appearance that he is performing these deeds. Opportunities to use these tricks would simply enhance his image."
"You're not going to talk to me about the Stageny, are you Crying Wolf?"
"No, I am not. Again, these are things you should not know about.
(Taken from: Someone Cry for the Children by Michael and Dick WIlkerson, The Dial Press, New York; 1981. pgs. 194-195)
In the European story of Beauty and the Beast a curse has been placed on the prince that he is to be transformed into a monster. He eventually is returned back to his human form.
The Incredible Hulk transformed itself from human to green superhero. This only occured when the human side of this dual personality was made angry.
The werewolf legend as it is shown here from the movie "American Werewolf in London" showed the actual metamorphosis was not at all pleasant but in fact quite painful.
Is Agent Dick Wilkerson asking a question of Crying Wolf here or is he just playing a game with the Medicine Man?
Is he just letting Crying Wolf know that he knows more than the normal cop knows about Cherokee Medicine?
Was WIlkerson at a point of desperation in the case where he is starting to believe that perhaps Hart is capable of shape shifting? This would explain the tracking dogs behavior when chasing after a scent out into an open field
and then simply losing that scent as if what they were tracking just flew away or disappeared into the air. It would perhaps explain the experience that Agent Pratt and his brother had out in the darkness of the Cookson Hills when a cat suddenly and unexplainably pounced onto Agent Pratt's chest and then darted off back into the nightime . More simply, it would explain why the OSBI, the FBI, 400 volunteers, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and local law enforcement could never seem to even get close to Hart during the manhunt?
There was tremendous pressure, personally and politically, to catch and convict someone. The agents involved had placed all their eggs in this one basket, Gene Leroy Hart. Was Hart a man capable of becoming a Stageny or perhaps becoming any number of animals? Was Hart a shape shifter? A skin crawler, able to change form in order to evade capture? Had Hart come employed the help of a Medicine Man who was able to help him bring about this physical metamorphosis?
Click the image to see the entire preliminary hearing transcript and associated court documents.