Hell’s Hat

There’s a part of Canada with a trapdoor into hell.

Many moons ago, in a time of great famine, a young Blackfoot set out to find buffalo to save his tribe from starvation.

He and his wife and dog travelled down the frozen Saskatchewan river until they reached the place where hell breathed life through the cracked ice.

There, a water spirit in the form of a serpent rose from the steaming water to meet the shivering family.

“Give me your wife and I’ll give you a magic hat,” the beast said. “That saamis will lead you to the buffalo that will feed your tribe.”

“No chance,” said the young warrior. “She’s the only thing keeping me warm at night.”

He tossed his dog into the icy water instead.

“Nice try,” said the serpent, “but no deal. ”

So, somewhat reluctantly, the man threw his wife down the trapdoor to hell.

She only screamed a little. Then she was gone.

The serpent-demon winked a wicked wink and pointed to an island downstream.

“As the sun rises, you will find the Medicine Hat at the bottom of those cliffs.”

And so it was that the town of Medicine Hat found it’s name.

“This part of the country seems to have all hell for a basement, and the only trap door appears to be in Medicine Hat. And you don’t even think of changing the name of your town. It’s all your own and the only hat of its kind on earth.”
Rudyard Kipling 1907